By Tappei Nagatsuki and Shinichirou Otsuka. Released in Japan by Media Factory. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jeremiah Borque.
This review is, by necessity, going to be divided into two parts. The first part, above the cover art, covers the first three quarters of the book, which goes up to the end of the anime. The second part, after the cover art, spoils the last quarter of the book, which the anime did NOT adapt. If you want to be surprised, stop reading early.
This was a very solid ending to Re: ZERO’s third arc, which ended up being six books long. Subaru comes up with a different plan after the last one went a bit pear-shaped: take out the Fingers and do the evacuations first, THEN go after Petelgeuse. It also relies on Subaru putting his trust fully in Julius, who he still dislikes on principle, but you can tell that it’s the dislike that “rivals” have for each other, and I would be very unsurprised to hear there’s slash of them on AO3. The fights are strong, Subaru actually gets to be cool and intelligent for once, and he even gets to have a dramatic confession. Plus, Emilia lap pillow! You can absolutely see why the anime wrapped it up here – it’s a great, heartwarming ending that resolves most of the plotlines of this arc.
And then we see why, when asked why Season 2 of re: ZERO has not been greenlit, fans who follow the webnovel tried to avert their eyes and hem and haw. So yeah, not QUITE the happy ending we envisioned. Two more Witch Cult members attack Crusch, Rem, and the others heading back to the city, and the outcome is dreadful. Half the force is killed, Crusch loses an arm and also all her memories, and Rem’s body remains sleeping, but everyone else has forgotten HER – including Ram. This was foreshadowed a few times in the book earlier, where Ram looks puzzled at Subaru implying she has another sister, but it does lead to the beautifully dramatic (it gets a full page all to itself) “Who’s Rem?” from Emilia. Even worse, the author really drives in the knife by giving Rem fans a short story that shows off what would have happened if she and Subaru HAD run away together – they’re both happy, have two kids, joke about his libido – it’s the sweetest thing you can imagine. And also not what actually happened.
I was very impressed with the final chapter, which skipped Subaru finding out about all this and went to the aftermath, where he looks over Rem’s comatose body and tries to figure out what to do next. We hear about his despair – he kills himself to try to “return” to save Rem, but finds his savepoint is him looking at her body, so that’s out. Worse, after what’s happened to Crusch, Ferris is ready to break their alliance, and has to be talked down by Wilhelm and Crusch herself, who is a lot meeker and milder than the woman we love, but is just as determined. More importantly, Emilia has her groove back, and is ready to move forward with Subaru at her side. The next arc is implied to give her the character development that Rem got in earlier books.
The trouble is, of course, that we’re not sure how long the books will have Rem in a coma. Rumor has it there will be a long wait – the next arc is supposed to also be six books long. Good news for the EMT fans, but given how for 95% of all anime fans Rem is the only thing to care about in Re: ZERO, you can see why producers have been vacillating. That said, here it is, and it’s well written, and… sorry, Rem fans? Enjoy the Rem Natsuki story, if nothing else.