What happens when you take a brilliant concept, from a stellar light novel and condense it into a manga, but go too far with the condensing? You get a confusing introductory story that leaves you wanting for more from other mediums.
Re:ZeRo is a manga about a boy who blinks and finds himself in a fantasy world filled with magic, elves, and other medieval tropes. Subaru ‘the idiot’ as he shall be known for ever more, finds himself in a fantasy world, and decides to test the boundaries of his abilities. This results in his inevitable death, but unlike normal folks that stay dead when they die, he comes back to a set point before his death. Sort of like a checkpoint in a video-games. When he learns of this ability he uses it to save the life of a cute half-elf girl name Emilia. We won’t delve into why she needed saving in the first place; however, let’s just say that she’s more important than she initially seems. After being saved by Subaru, she carries him back to her home, a mansion where he meets her companions: A tsundere lolly, a cat spirit thing, twin maids, and an eccentric nobleman.
Note that I’m being very vague about the plot, and characters on purpose. That’s because of how condensed it is, especially in the first chapter. If I mention the tiniest of details I believe I’ll spoil too much of the book for those that actually want to read it. It’s got an interesting concept, but because of how little of the original story is portrayed in the manga, it comes off as unfinished. The manga is missing so much that it’s even admitted to being a mess in the book itself at the end of the first chapter, and that’s saying something. And though it does get better in the later chapters, it’s still missing a lot. After talking to a member of our team who has seen the anime, I was made aware of just how much is missing from the manga, and now I want to see the anime to fill in the blanks. A glimpse of how good the manga could be is given at the end with an extra chapter in light novel format. I found this confusing, because here you have an interesting story, but it’s not being told in its entirety.
The characters are compelling enough to gather interest in knowing them, but due to the lack of initial development they leave you with a sense of longing after they are introduced. In the first volume the focus was on the maids and Subaru, yet if you ask me to tell you about them all I can say is that Subaru is an idiot with an innocent demeanor, and the twins have a weird bond, and like their work a lot more than any maid should. There’s not much more I can say about them as characters, because we’re not given enough about them. My assumption is that more about them will be explored in later volumes, but that’s a risk given that the first volume felt so rushed.
As for the art in this manga, it’s good. It’s very well illustrated in a neat detailed way. I’ve mentioned before in previous reviews that I do not tend to like manga that have cluttered cells. Re:ZeRo is one that isn’t cluttered, and that’s one of the things that I liked the most about the manga. Characters like Subaru, and Emilia are well detailed, even the side characters that only make an appearance on a couple pages have gotten enough attention that warrants praise. It’s a good looking book, and if not for the messy adaptation I think it could have become one of my favorites.
Re:ZeRo has an interesting plot with great art, and compelling likable character, but the manga suffers from a messy adaptation that seem to try to fit the plot into as little chapters as possible. This results in a book that I found uncomfortable to read. It does pick up after the first chapter, but I doubt most people will be willing to suffer through the confusing first chapter just to get to the later ones. Taking all these factors into consideration, I would have to recommend watching the anime or reading the original light novel instead of the manga, unless you are a fan of the series and want it for your collection.
The copy of Re:ZeRo Volume 1 used for this review was supplied to us by it’s publisher, Yen Press.