Also known as Re:Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu in Japanese and simply Re:Zero for short, the fantasy light novel series was originally written by Tappei Nagatsuki with illustrations by Shinichirou Otsuka. The story is aimed at a male demographic and the English version was translated and published by Yen Press on July 19, 2016. It’s currently available on Right Stuf for $10.49 USD.
The story goes that an otaku named Subaru Natsuki who was living a hikikomori (shut-in) life was transported to a very different world after visiting a convenience store at night. This new world is similar to that of the fantasy video games he’s played, but he has no idea why or how he ended up in such a place. While pondering what’s happened, he ends up getting attacked in an alley by three thugs, and a beautiful girl with silver hair rescues him. It becomes obvious that the girl is in need of help, as something she owned was stolen. Naturally, Subaru insists on giving her a hand with finding her lost item. However, things go horribly wrong when Subaru and the girl die together in the city’s slums, so close to returning the girl’s belonging. Fortunately for Subaru, he appears in the same location he started, with all of his memories intact!
The major thing to keep in mind here is that the protagonist, Subaru, restarts his new fantasy-world life every time he dies. Every time his life is lost, he travels back in time to the same point in front of a fruit stand in a bustling city. This is the most unique detail about Re:Zero, and thus it is the most important key to selling the book. The cherry on top is that Re:Zero actually goes about time travel pretty well. It’s definitely no Endless Eight of the Haruhi Suzumiya anime series. Every time Subaru is revived, he does things differently, and little changes make for big changes, somewhat adding a butterfly effect to the plot.
I enjoyed the writing, and Yen Press’ translation was well-done. At the very least, it was much better than any free fan-translation I’ve ever read for a light novel. The descriptions were also not repetitive or boring in any way. If I were to criticize anything about the writing, it would be that sometimes the timing of certain descriptions were a little odd. However, there were so many subplots going on in the story that it was a lot to keep track of! It was hard to notice awkwardly-placed descriptions like that, I found, unless I paid close attention. Overall, I enjoyed the writing quality and I definitely give a thumbs up to Yen Press for their awesome translation.
Speaking of the many subplots, there really was a lot going on in Re:Zero. In the short time frame lived multiple times by Subaru, a lot of interesting things were happening, and since Subaru did things a little different each time, we got to meet many interesting characters. All the people we got to meet had their own thing they were doing, and it was planned out pretty well. It was very intriguing to see how everyone’s different schedules eventually intertwined to meet.
I really enjoyed the diversity in the characters’ personalities and designs in Re:Zero! It’s always a treat to see a line-up of characters that don’t look or act anything alike, yet all manage to form a well thought-out story. That is actually my number one seller for getting into a title. I can read or watch almost any kind of plot, but if the characters are unique to each other and stand out, I’ll probably enjoy it thoroughly.
I believe that artwork also plays a very important role in a light novel’s quality, despite the limited quantity of pictures that appear in light novels. Volume 1 of Re:Zero had beautiful artwork, especially of the colored variety. The colorless images were very nice as well, although they weren’t what I’d call amazing. In any case, they were enough to get across the messages of how the characters and scenes looked. There was one time, however, when a character was introduced without an accompanying artwork anywhere near that event. It bothered me slightly. I knew how that character looked because he was introduced in the beginning of the novel, and I’ve previously watched the anime. However, I really felt that that scene should have had an image of the newly-introduced character, especially since that character’s looks were mentioned in detail at that time. He was supposed to be very beautiful, yet the reader could only see him from the front of the book in a short introduction. It just seemed like bad placement to me.
Re:Zero could be compared to other light novels such as Sword Art Online or Log Horizon in that the protagonist gets sent to another world to live. However, Re:Zero is less based on a game world and more of a fantasy world in general. I’d say Re:Zero is more similar to the light novel series No Game No Life, but much less ecchi and artistic. I would definitely recommend Re:Zero to fans of any of those titles, though, as well as fans of the “strange world” theme in general. Also, if you’ve watched the Re:Zero anime and are wondering if the light novel is worth reading, I feel that it is worth it, if only slightly. The anime did a good job of taking most of the details out of the first volume of the light novel; I personally did not see much difference between the light novel and the anime. However, after watching the anime myself, I did find that the light novel was still very enjoyable to read. I think it depends on how much you enjoy the activity of reading.
My conclusion is that the first volume of Re:Zero is worth a read, even if you’ve seen the anime! I enjoyed this book thoroughly, and while there are a few hiccups here and there, I think the good heavily outweighs the bad.
Where to get it? I recommend Right Stuf, especially if you plan to buy the newest volume or pre-order the next one. Right Stuf usually gets their light novels in and shipped before the sale date listed on Yen Press’ website, so if you’re like me and you can’t wait, that’s a great opportunity! Also, if you live in the US, you’ll qualify for free shipping if you spend as low as $49, further increasing the deal.
Wherever you get your copy of Re:Zero Volume 1, I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did!
This was my second review on Kyun! Anime. Again, I’d appreciate any feedback you could give me to help me improve my writing. Have you seen the Re:Zero anime? Have you read the light novel? What did you think of either? Drop a comment below!