Light Novel Review: Re:Zero [Volume 1]

Subaru Natsuki was returning from his trip to the local supermarket when he gets transported to an alternate world filled with magic and fantasy beings. For an ordinary boy that has been influenced by anime and video games, he isn’t surprised when he meets a beautiful silver haired girl…after he almost gets killed.

In order to repay her, he dedicates his time to help her search for a item that was stole from her. Unfortunately, things take a turn for the worse when the both of them get assassinated by a mysterious figure…

…and the next thing Subaru knows is that he’s right back at the start-right when he was first summoned to this world.

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If you were an sent to an alternate world and didn’t have any particular skills besides a heavy background in fantasy elements, chances are you would be a lot like Subaru.  Told from his perspective, Re:Zero covers his first experiences adapting to this new world. There isn’t anything too surprising; from the fantasy elements, to the types of characters, or even Subaru’s new power. However if you take a closer look at these individuals, they are much deeper than what they appear to be.

At first glance, the story doesn’t seem too intriguing. A boy gets summoned to an fantasy world and after horribly dying, he gets traveled back in time in order to save the girl. He encounters various types of people; a merchant, a thief, an appraiser, a knight, and even an fairy. Unfortunately for Subaru, at the end of the day, he gets killed by an enemy, only to be returned back in time to the beginning of the day.

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After three iterations of Subaru’s “Return by Death” as he puts it, he realizes that he can use his ability to correct his mistakes in order to change the future. While this is a good move for this type of story, it takes a long time for Subaru to actually think about his future actions. With each “Return by Death”, character interactions and relationships are reset. After spending time with a character and getting to know them personally, it really feels like a waste to just throw all that time spent aside. Subaru may have made our mysterious girl smile in one time iteration, but in another, he gets scorned from her like nothing ever happened.

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This leads our main character Subaru to use whatever information he’s gathered to his disposal. Through his previous encounters, he can slowly figure out what each person’s personality is or their ulterior motives, while stating what Subaru thinks of them. Instead of a side character developing, Subaru’s perspective of them changes to reflect who they really are, leading to change when they begin to open to him.

At least during the fourth run through…

In order to reach that point though, Subaru has to interact with these individuals to get to know them…through his outgoing jokester personality. Subaru is very loud person. There are many moments in the story where he’s commenting at the situation at hand or expressing his opinion about people, jokingly of course. Additionally, Subaru will spout out meta jokes comparing his ideal fantasy world to this one. This happens very frequently throughout the light novel as both Subaru and the story interjects passages explaining his fantasies. As a result, the meta commentary drags on for portions of the story, especially during conversations.

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While his outgoing personality carries Subaru through his interactions, the story addresses Subaru’s previous life in the other world through small excerpts; and yet, it reveals a lot about the type of person Subaru is.

Subaru used to act as if he thought pity and compassion were stupid. It wasn’t that he thought of it as an act, however. He just thought of himself as someone who didn’t really care all that much. That was, no matter what situation he found himself in, he was able to keep himself from getting too emotional about it.

It didn’t matter to him if a few people died. At least, that’s how he used to think.

With Subaru coming into contact with the rest of the cast, there are implications of Subaru comparing himself to them. Each character he runs into has a specific trait or characteristic that benefits them. On the other hand, Subaru has nothing of the sort. The exception is that troublesome ability of his to basically redo his mistakes. On the outside, he proclaims his own pathetic self as a joke, but that might as well be a defense mechanism, as he secretly concluding to himself that other people are far better that him in comparison.

One of the first people Subaru meets is Satella, a silver-haired girl with a cat fairy companion. So far the only information we know about her is that she’s desperately looking for a badge and that she doesn’t mind helping people. Unfortunately, we don’t really know her any deeper than that, and we can attribute that to Subaru. Stella clearly doesn’t trust Subaru, as noted through their interactions, and only begins to get on friendly terms with him at the end of the novel. Additionally, there’s also a chance that our perspective of Satella is skewed due to his Subaru’s high opinions of her.

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The supporting characters Felt, Rom, and Reinhard each have their own distinct roles and personalities in the world of Re:Zero: Felt is an orphan living her life as a thief, Rom is an item appraiser/bartender, and Reinhard is your knight in shining armor. Like I said earlier, there’s more to these characters than what looks like on the surface and that get reflected through Subaru’s interactions with them.

The illustrations were drawn by Shinichirou Otsuka. Each character depicted in the illustrations looks distinct from one another; each with a specific characteristic on their outfit or body structure and those characteristics definitely fits the setting of the world.  The character’s unique body posture also helps to reflect the emotion of said character.

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Re:Zero – Starting Life in Another World appears to be a simple tale about an ordinary boy being summoned to an alternate world and encountering the fantasy elements that come along with it. However as the story continues, there are hidden themes and messages behind the cast of characters. Even our own main character has his own complicated background, in addition to his wild card ability. There is more to this story than what the first volume leaves you with, and I would recommend reading the next volumes to fully understand our main two characters.

Rating: Recommended


Author: Tappei Nagatsuki

Illustrator: Shinichirou Otsuka

Translator: ZephrRz

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One Response to Light Novel Review: Re:Zero [Volume 1]

  1. Pingback: Light Novel Notes (September 2016) | English Light Novels

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