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Re: Zero Vol. #05 Light Novel Review

4 min read

Subaru continues to take a turn for the worse

Creative Staff
Story: Tappei Nagatsuki
Illustrations: Shinichirou Otsuka
Translation: ZephyrRz

What They Say
It’s been three days since Subaru and Emilia separated on the worst possible terms. Subaru has fled to Crusch’s mansion, letting Rem tend to him while his heart festers. Gloomy and distraught, Subaru ignores his instructions to stay put and returns to Roswaal’s manor. But what he finds when he arrives brings the spiral of death and despair even closer.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The first chunk of the book is dedicated to Subaru’s time in Crusch’s care. And naturally, part of this time is spent on developing the various characters living there as things progress. Of course that includes a pretty nice scene with the lady of the manor herself, but I’m also pretty interested to see where things go with Feris, as the character seems to get placed as an intriguing sort of parallel or contrast to Subaru. The real trick, though, is that Subaru clearly hasn’t learned his lesson from last time, and actually seems to be getting worse. That’s perhaps the biggest thing that needs to be discussed with the book as frankly, our hero is still in something of a downward spiral. And I’ll go ahead and say now that that doesn’t change over the course of the book, and it’s clearly intentional. It’s a bold move that’s sure to irk some readers, but I’d say it’s successful at what it wants to do and I applaud the unusual direction. I mean, normally you’d want your hero to have the realization and turn things around ASAP, but the series is instead committed to making this a fully drawn out, proper arc.

Anyway, things hit a breaking point when Rem’s twin powers alert her that something’s wrong with Ram and everyone back in the Mathers dominion. After some debate on how he shouldn’t be doing it, Subaru insists on breaking the contract between Emilia and Crusch to try to go aid the half-elf girl in her hour of need. Rem comes along with him… but ends up ditching him for his own good. Naturally, he doesn’t realize the hypocrisy of feeling betrayed when she was just acting to try to protect him despite him wishes like he often tried to do, which just isn’t a good look for him here. But when he tries to catch up after her, he does meet a traveling merchant named Otto, and as always I love when the series fleshes out the world a bit more by giving us some time with such a minor character. And heck, the conversation also touches on the theme of the racism against half-elves, which has been a nice subtheme throughout the book that works well for further worldbuilding and also fleshing out what Emilia faces. We don’t just see one angry racist, but rather get the topic from a variety of perspectives, which is much appreciated.
Anyway, when he finally arrives, Subaru finds himself in the midst of a bloody hell once again. And this time, compounded with everything else… it literally breaks him. Fortunately, the book sells it big time, with some fantastic pacing just showing everything steadily dawning on him as his world collapses.

This leads to Rem getting a big focus, as our hero’s power sends him back to her with his mind in tatters. It’s another good sequence in that it gives you a real nice contrast between how she cares about Subaru, versus how his feelings have twisted. Because as we see, she’s not entirely selfless, nor is she perfect, but her manner of dealing with all that is a whole lot more healthy and balanced.

Eventually, Subaru is thrust into the grasp of a villain and claws his way back to sanity… but he still hasn’t reached a healthy mental state. Will he finally have his revelation next time around, or will our hero keep on falling down this neverending spiral?

In Summary
This volume is a real interesting one, as quite frankly, it spends a whole lot longer on this character arc than I would’ve expected. Which is to say, Subaru continues to spiral downwards and is frankly a pretty unlikeable person here, rather than the book doing the usual thing of having him just learn his lesson and get back to being a goofy charming hero ASAP. This’ll definitely turn some people off, as the book really can be rough throughout in a lot of ways beyond just the gore that has popped up in the past. But in the end, I have to applaud the book for not taking the easy way out and instead sticking to its guns and playing the long game. We’ll have to see if it sticks the landing, but it’s at least a bold and interesting move that has me wanting to see what comes next. And fortunately, outside of that, I’d say the book still does a solid job, giving us some nice development for the rest of the characters and world along the way. Just be warned, you’re going to be in for a real rough ride with this one.

Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: N/A
Packaging Grade: A-
Text/Translation Grade: B+

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: October 31st, 2017
MSRP: $14.00

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