“The only ability Subaru Natsuki gets when he’s summoned to another world is time travel via his own death. But to save her, he’ll die as many times as it takes.”
Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World- Chapter 2, Volume 1 kicks off the next segment in Subaru’s story and can be read without having read the preceding chapter. Chronologically I’d call this volume 3 in the series, but because Subaru has managed to reach a new waking-up point with his power, “Return by Death,” it’s literally a new chapter in his life—hence the chapter/arc divisions. While Tappei Nagatsuki and Shinichirou Otsuka are still responsible for the original story and art design respectively, Makoto Kuugetsu is the artist responsible for Chapter 2 in the series, replacing Daichi Matsuse. This volume even comes with a short story at the very end!
After a somewhat confusing and rushed recap (in an author’s note, Kuugetsu admits he had trouble summarizing what happened in “A Day in the Capital”), Subaru wakes up in a lavish mansion. A bit of exploring reveals that the corridor is trapped in a continuous loop, and Subaru’s experience and expertise in video game logic helps him to figure out that opening the right door will break the spell. The correct door leads him to Beatrice (Betty), a powerful loli—I mean, mage—who uses a magic to mess with his mana, knocking him out. The next time he wakes up, he meets the maid sisters Rem and Ram, and Roswaal, Emilia’s patron, introducing the last of the characters that are going to play an important role in this volume.
At first, the pacing is a little weird, bouncy and almost hyper while Makoto Kuugetsu finds his own rhythm for adapting the source material, but eventually evens out to successfully do a whole lot of worldbuilding.
Subaru gets a better picture of the kingdom that’s he’s been sucked into, and more importantly, why! A discussion over breakfast with the rest of the household reveals that he’s been dropped into a country without a king (or heirs to take the throne), and that Emilia is a candidate for the throne. The badge that was stolen in chapter one is what qualifies her to compete to rule, and it was stolen in an attempt to keep her from ruling. Somebody is trying to stop her from becoming queen, and thus Subaru has found his official mission. In exchange for rescuing Emilia, he requests to be hired in the mansion so he can stay close to her.
After the Super Important Discussion, the rest of the book makes good on Chapter 2’s subtitle; “A Week at the Mansion.” (a.k.a. Subaru adjusts to life and picks up some necessary skills to function as… well, a functioning person.) Rem and Ram train him in activities needed to take care of the mansion. (He can handle a knife and peel a potato now!)
Despite the hard work that comes with the job and often unkind comments from the rest of the staff, Subaru finds that he’s enjoying his time with the twins… until he wakes up one morning only to realize that (spoiler alert!) somebody has murdered him in his sleep. It’s a hell of a cliffhanger, and heartbreaking once Subaru realizes that these people he’s come to care about don’t even remember who he is.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Subaru’s such an endearing character and his humble requests in exchange for his heroic deeds are a testament to the purity of his personality. Sure, he downplays his decisions by joking about being a perv, but his physical attraction to Emilia always comes back to that first life and the kindness she showed him when he was attacked by thugs. As Roswaal says, “there is beauty in earnestness.”
Emilia is also obviously smitten with him (albeit reluctantly), though she’s perplexed by the logic of his requests. In a world where Emilia has hinted at being hated for being a half-elf, his optimistic attitude is as good as a boom box outside of her window. Though it’s important to remember that this is much more than a love story, as Subaru’s most recent murder acting as a not-so-gentle reminder.
Kuugetsu’s art style is so similar to Matsuse’s in Chapter 1, which makes for a smooth transition between the volumes. The noticeable difference lies in Kuugetsu’s use of chibi characters to add an extra element of humor—which I am grateful for. The chibi expressions only enhance the lighthearted tone Subaru develops with the members of the mansion, giving them all more personality. It makes the betrayal in the end all the more emotional.
Even though this volume comes with its own recap, I would recommend reading the other volumes in the series first. It’s a cute story, but to appreciate the evolution of the storyline, it helps to have read the whole story.
Story: 4 out of 5 stars
Art: 5 out of 5 stars
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars
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