The Spring 2017 Manga Guide
Re:Zero Chapter 2 Vol. 1
What's It About?
Tappei Nakatsuki's light novel series, Re: Zero – Starting Life In Another World, gets its second manga adaptation in Chapter 2: A Week at the Mansion. The manga, which is written and illustrated by Makoto Fuugetsu, adapts the second story arc of Nakatsuki's series and is thus a sequel to Chapter 1: A Day in the Capital. Volume one begins by recapping Chapter 1, in which high schooler Subaru Natsuki is suddenly transported to a land of fantasy, Lugunica, where whenever he dies, his life is reset to an earlier point in time. After becoming indebted to a kind-hearted mage, he utilizes his ability to save her life and learn her name, Emilia, before being seemingly mortally wounded. When he awakens in Chapter 2, he finds he has been nursed back to health in a gigantic mansion, which belongs to a noble magician named Roswaal. Subaru learns that Roswaal is backing Emilia to be the next queen of Lugunica, so in order to stay near Emilia, Subaru asks to become employed at the mansion. He falls under the supervision of the twin maids Ram and Rem, whom he has mixed luck getting along with before suddenly discovering a new deadly plot. The volume concludes with an extra short story written by Nagatsuki detailing one of Subaru's days working at the mansion.
Re: Zero Chapter 2: A Week at the Mansion volume 1 (5/23/2017) is available for $13.00 from Yen Press. The original light novel series and first manga series are also available for purchase from Yen Press, and you can check out the anime series on Crunchyroll.
Is It Worth Reading?
Reading Re: Zero was an odd experience as I first felt indifference, then more indifference, and then suddenly intrigue. It's a rather unbalanced series in which the overall plot, with its use of video game style restarts from a set point for the main character, is laid out effectively. There's strong foreshadowing and an excellent twist reveal at the end of the volume that had me wanting to find out what happens next, despite the fact I hadn't cared for the first two thirds of the book at all. The main issue with Re: Zero is Subaru, who will probably be the biggest factor in determining who likes and who doesn't like the series. He comes off as a stereotypical ‘nice guy’ harem protagonist, specifically one you might find in a bad visual novel. Despite being taken from his home he seems bizarrely unconcerned with his circumstances, and he spends a large portion of his time making unfunny genre savvy comments about the events surrounding him or privately thinking about how sexually appealing the girls around him are. As Subaru is the point-of-view character and the manga is based off of a light novel, he serves as narrator and provides a lot of his inner thoughts to the reader, so it's impossible to get away from the commentary that Subaru provides on everything happening to and around him. Whether readers find him charming or annoying will almost exclusively define their enjoyment of Re: Zero.
At points, Re: Zero has a strong story. The pacing is good, with details being revealed to the reader at a deliberate pace that nicely changes their perception of the events that have transpired up to each revelation. When it's absolutely crucial, Subaru comes off much more sympathetically than he normally does, such as his very human reaction to the volume's ending twist. It's all the in-between stuff where the series struggles, the parts of the story that are meant to be light-hearted and humorous when nothing particularly dramatic is going on. There's a joke where Subaru doesn't realize who Roswaal is when he first appears, a joke that goes on for four whole pages and doesn't get any funnier than the panel it starts on. As this type of content makes up the bulk of the volume, it really struggles, despite some well-done hints of some characters’ hidden motivations. It's also distracting how Ram and Rem are much more difficult to tell apart in the manga than they would be in the novel – Subaru can tell who is who by the color of their hair, but their hair parting to different sides is the only way to distinguish between them in the black and white illustrations of the manga.
Re: Zero Chapter 2 is very much a take it or leave it series for anyone not into the genre. Competently done all-around, it should cater to fans of the franchise or of ecchi romantic adventures, but won't have much to offer otherwise.
As the first volume in what's essentially the second adaptation of a popular light novel, Re:ZERO Chapter 2 may seem an odd starting point for a reader new to the series. However, at the start of this limited series, Fuugetsu works hard to make Re:ZERO neophytes feel welcome with a condensed adaptation of the first arc in the overall franchise. In truth, it's almost too condensed—although it does give an overview of the basic gimmick and introduce both Subaru and Emilia—but most interested readers will have likely begun with the first manga series anyway and they may find this repeated material tiresome. Nonetheless, once the rushed prologue is over, the story begins in earnest and the pace slows down considerably, covering a single day throughout the volume. Although it's odd to be following characters given only a rushed introduction at that point, this volume is also the introduction of some of the other Re:ZERO main and secondary characters, including Rem and Ram, Betty, and Rozchi.
Their introduction unfolds almost too slowly, with too many moments of traditional harem/man-transported-to-fantasy-world tropes, including Subaru's insatiable perverted fantasies involving mostly Rem and Ram (although it's clear he has a bigger crush on Emilia). However, at the same time, Fuugetsu and original storyteller Tappei Nagatsuki play around with expected tropes as Subaru often looks about to make a very inappropriate request, only to turn readers’ expectations on their head and instead ask for something more benign. In fact, his continued requests for “rewards” far less worthy of the things he's done to deserve them make for humor throughout. While none of the characters are particularly fleshed out this early on in the arc, there's enough intrigue to the inhabitants of the mansion in particular to make the ending of the volume particularly shocking as the tone reverts back to the danger and mystery present in the prologue.
Fuugestu's art is attractive, in many ways quite similar to Shinichirou Otsuka's art from the original novels, but still adding a layer of polish to make the style more in line with the typical manga in this genre. Backgrounds are often detailed and in the case of the mansion setting for most of the volume, even opulent in a slightly restrained way. Re:ZERO Chapter 2: A Week at the Mansion volume 1 may not be the ideal starting place for someone new to the series, but it's not a bad one, either. Although the conceit of Subaru's resurrection powers allowing him to repeat the same day has yet to be used effectively in this arc, the seeds for a compelling story are there and are bound to pay off in future volumes.
Of the three versions of Tappei Nagatsuki's Re:Zero story that are out there, the manga is probably my least favorite. That doesn't mean that it's bad, just weaker than the original novels or the anime adaptation, and on the whole I feel like this first volume of the story's second “chapter,” Subaru's week at Roswaal Manor, is not quite as good as the manga version of chapter one. In part that's because this introduction to the new storyline is notably less exciting (and a little less interesting) than it later becomes and than what precedes it – it's a bit of a let-down to go from fighting the ruthless Elsa to Subaru fawning over Emilia while learning how to peel veggies.
Presumably it's intended as a bit of a break from the intensity of the previous chapter, but it has perhaps been too long since chapter one was released for this to function in that way. It also retains the speech elements of the original novel that didn't quite work written out, such aaas Roswaaaaal's draaaawl and Betty's speech pattern, which are kind of annoying to read, I suppose. More importantly, the pacing is slow, to the point where parts of the story that are meant to be sweet (Subaru and Emilia hanging out) or lightly humorous (Subaru and the twins in the kitchen) simply feel like they're dragging, and Betty's sections don't appear to serve any purpose. Of course, if you've seen or read beyond what this volume covers, you do know why everything is there, but on the assumption that you aren't familiar with the story, the pacing really functions as a detriment.
This chapter of the manga features a new artist, and while the characters are all recognizable under Makoto Fuugetsu's pen, there's in general more fanservice, from Emilia's dress somehow becoming more revealing to a couple of panty shots and a general increase in buxomness for the ladies. He has some trouble with chapter zero, which is a recap of the events of part one, but given that he's redrawing scenes from someone else's manga, that makes sense – and he's also fully aware that he's struggling with that section.
The book also includes a prose short story by the original author. It's short and silly, about Subaru accidentally dressing in a maid's outfit instead of a manservant's, and while it doesn't really add to the volume, it's still fun. That's basically how I feel about this volume – it isn't much beyond light fun, and is probably best read alongside volume two when it comes out.
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