Third year deadbeat Subaru is on his way home from the convenience store when he suddenly finds himself in a fantasy world. Out of his element, Subaru falls prey to a gang of thugs, but he’s rescued by a young, silver-haired woman. Subaru falls hard for the mysterious girl, who introduces herself as Satella, and he agrees to help her track down the thief who stole her badge. In the process, both of them are murdered, and Subaru finds himself back where he started. But Subaru isn’t giving up: he’s going to save Satella using what he’s got, which consists of a bag of junk food and the ability to re-spawn in the same time and place.
The first two volumes of Re:ZERO serve as an introduction to the main characters and their situation. For the most part, the story flows smoothly, although sometimes action scenes can be a little unclear. Because Subaru is forced to go through several restarts, certain plot elements do repeat, but his attempts to change things keep it fresh. Coupled with plenty of action and laugh out loud moments poking fun at common story tropes, writer Tappei Nagatsuki sustains the reader’s curiosity with plenty of hints that suggest a bigger story and world. Among the puzzles are the reason for Subaru’s appearance in the fantasy world, and Satella’s identity.
Re:ZERO‘s strong cast and immersive setting make for an engaging read. The cast is colorful and entertaining: Subaru’s mix of determination and self-deprecation make him a relatable character and the main vehicle for the story’s humor. In addition to Subaru and Satella, the reader also meets Puck, a powerful spirit; Felt, a clever thief with big dreams; Rom, a giant who acts as a mediator in the stolen goods trade; Reinhard, a gallant swordsman; and Elsa, a terrifying and sadistic woman. Artist Daichi Mosuke effectively depicts the characters’ expressions, and although the reader doesn’t actually learn much about the world in these volumes, his detailed backgrounds convey a strong sense of place.
Shinichirou Otsuka’s fresh character designs also contribute to the story’s charm, and though they borrow from traditional manga tropes, this is balanced out by the characters’ actions. Despite some fanservice in the female character designs—for example, Elsa fights in a dress with a very deep neckline—women play key roles in this story. In order to be successful, Subaru and allies of both genders must work together, and that collaboration is what makes Re:ZERO so compelling, particularly in the second volume.
Re:ZERO is a fun series with a lot of potential, and it should appeal to teen and adult readers seeking an engaging fantasy adventure. This series would be especially attractive to someone who is looking for a story with plenty of adventure and a lighter tone.
Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-, Chapter 1: A Day in the Capital, vols. 1-2
by Tappei Nagatsuki
Art by Daichi Matsuse
vol 1 ISBN: 9780316315319
vol 2 ISBN: 9780316398541
Yen Press, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: Teen