So I have a confession to make: I just received the memories of having lived through a bad future in which the world was destroyed, and the only way to prevent catastrophe is to cover a second light novel about a princess going back in time to avert a bad future! …okay, so I don’t have any such future memories (so don’t ask me about next week’s winning lottery numbers), but all the same, we have a nice light novel from Cross Infinite World here about that subject, so join me, Jeskai Angel, and Gaheret as we take a look at how a more selfless princess deals with the challenge of changing the future.
As a reminder, all Light Novel Club discussions are held publicly on the Beneath the Tangles Discord, and anyone can join in on these discussions! The next light novel volumes we will be discussing will be at the end of this post.
1. What are your overall impressions on the novel?
Jeskai Angel: I like it (I mean, that’s kind of why I picked it for this month’s reading, LOL). Beyond that… I find it really difficult to talk about Reset! without making reference to LNC-favorite Tearmoon Empire. If I said “This story stars a princess who suffers tragedy, then goes back in time to when she was twelve years old, after which she attends a school for nobles, learns to ride a horse, strives to change the future, and has flashbacks to her first life (and there’s a major character nicknamed ‘Bel’),” you wouldn’t be able to tell which light novel I’m talking about. That said, Tearmoon Empire is awesome and saying “This reminds me of Tearmoon Empire,” is a compliment in my book.
Reset! also differs in several significant ways from Tearmoon Empire, and I think it’s necessary to talk about them to properly appreciate Reset!. First, there’s the straightforward, traditional medieval fantasy setting, which stands in contrast historical inspiration behind the setting, events, and characters of Tearmoon. On a related note, Reset! is explicitly fantasy, meaning it has magic, unlike Mia’s world. And this story has a somewhat more serious or dramatic tone compared to Mia’s extremely humorous adventures.
stardf29: So I definitely enjoyed this novel, and while there are similarities to Tearmoon Empire, I’m glad that there are also enough differences that it doesn’t read like just a slight variation of that story. So as for Reset, there’s obviously a major element of magic to the whole thing, giving it more of a fantasy story feel, and in particular there’s intrigue behind what actually happened at the end of the old timeline, before the, ahem, reset, and how the whole thing happened and how that might affect things later on in the story. Also, Bel is a wonderful protagonist, but I’ll get to that and the other characters in the obligatory “what do you think about the characters” question.
Gaheret: I liked the story. Though the setting felt less developed than, say, Tearmoon Empire, and as you mention there were less interesting characters with different backgrounds or agendas (Ed, Annabel, Charles, Daniel and their friends are all more or less people of similar upbringing and motives). I suspect that Karina may be a sorceress, which would fit with the odd, anti-strategic behavior of King Daniel, with the news of tribes using black magic in his kingdom, and with the fact that magical powers (or lack of them) have such an important role both in the status of Annabel’s kingdom and in her life. The romance was enjoyable, too. But what really did make the difference for me was Edoile’s sacrifice at the beginning defining her second life, protecting her from harm and giving her a chance. It was beautiful, and felt similar to how the life of a Christian feels, knowing that Christ has rescued us out of love. This is a sacrifice that can protect her from chains and beatings, even when Ed was beaten to death and chained with the anti-magic artifact, the sign of that love being the red stone that is, we are told, a part of the soul of its owner. I found that very compelling, even universal.
2. What do you think of the characters?
Jeskai Angel: Annabel is surprisingly mature compared to Mia. I say “surprising” for a couple of reasons. First, Mia is technically older (having died at 20, versus Bel going back at 18). Second, before ending up in the dungeon, Mia actually saw quite a lot of the world. She witnessed the fall of her empire, participated in governmental duties, visited other countries, etc. On the other hand, although Bel’s family does seem to genuinely care about her, they were crazy overprotective in a way that seriously reduced her range of life experiences the first time around. I think many of Annabel’s more genuinely immature moments stem from how sheltered she was. On the other hand, a wonderful aspect of Bel as a character is her pseudo-immaturity: her deliberate efforts to be more childlike and have more fun. These aren’t moments of thoughtless indulgence, but a purposeful rejection of the borderline ascetic lifestyle of repressing any and all desires to which she adhered in her first life. Reset! is not just a time-travel-to-prevent-disaster story, it’s also time-travel-to-make-better-life-choices. Finally, I liked the Bel-tries-to-learn-magic subplot, with the way it addressed her feelings of inadequacy and showed her dogged perseverance in trying to do something long after others gave up on her ever doing it.
stardf29: Given how this story is directly from Annabel’s point of view (with no narrator to make snarky commentary about things), we have a very personal protagonist here, one whom we really get to know how she thinks. So it’s a good thing that she’s just a nice, likable girl all-around. She’s realized how sheltered she was and starts to question whether just following her expected role is what is best. All the same, she’s still overall a nice girl who is trying to make the most of her second chance at life.
While I don’t want to get too much into comparisons with Mia, there is one thing that caught my interest: how their periods of imprisonment seems to have affected them. In Mia’s case, it gave her a better appreciation for things she took for granted or considered to be beneath her. However, in Bel’s case, it felt to me like her imprisonment actually freed her to think outside of just following along with her parents, and instead pursue what she wants herself. In other words, while Mia’s imprisonment mollified her self-centeredness, Bel’s imprisonment actually increased her self-centeredness, albeit in a healthy way.
Gaheret: On the whole, I like her a lot. She is humble, grateful and determined. She works hard, both for Edoile and for her magic, and does not allow herself to live in resentment or hate. And I really empathized with her when she was jealous.
stardf29: Ed is a great character and love interest for Bel. He’s got that “cool knight” aspect to him, but he’s not above a bit of playfulness, like trying to use a frog to kickstart Bel’s magic. It was definitely nice to get a bonus chapter from his perspective, and it’s amusing that the guy he’s most worried about… is himself, from a different timeline. (Definitely a twist on the whole “you vs. the guy she told you not to worry about” thing…) He’s obviously trying to make sense of his “duplicate” Magic Stone, and it does make me wonder if at some point, should Bel attempt to tell him about the past timeline, what his reaction would be.
It’s interesting that the differences in events in the current timeline has led Ed into going down a different path in life from the past timeline. Whereas before, he settled for being a knight and channeling his feelings for Bel to simply being her protector, now he wants to become a high-ranking court magician so he has the standing necessary to marry her. Perhaps he was inspired by Bel’s determination to break past what society expects a princess to do.
Jeskai Angel: Ed is the only character who really comes across as a distinctly different person in each timeline. Bel is the same person, and for most other characters we only get to know them in one timeline or the other. Whether it was romantic or not, there’s no question that OG Ed treated Annabel with loyal and self-sacrificial love. The presence of his magic stone, continuing to protect Bel even after the reset, regularly reminds us that OG Ed went to great lengths to protect her and is in some sense still influencing the story. I’m curious what he may have known that hasn’t been revealed (was he just bluffing when assured Bel that help was coming?). How is he connected to the reset, such that his magic stone went back in time with Bel?
And then there’s Reset Ed. He is the most vivid example of the timelines diverging, even apart from Bel’s influence (e.g., his mediocre sword skills in the new timeline vs. being a master swordsman in the original). I thought it was super cute watching how he starts falling for Bel, demonstrated through sweet moments like when he tries so hard help her learn magic, or just tries to improve as a swordsman to live up to her expectations.
Gaheret: Edoile was a very interesting character too. An ambitious, noble, self-sacrificing knight-in-the-making who has to become the kind of man he was in the other timeline. We know he has a brother, a good relationship with his brother’s bride, talent and ambitions, and admiration for the mage that established the kingdom in its present form (and married a princess). He is also a good friend for Charles, and it seems that King Daniel was jealous of him. His courtship of Annabel seems a risky move, and I thought he wouldn’t consent to it, but I’m happy he has chosen to go for it.
Jeskai Angel: Let’s talk about Bel’s parents, who are ironically one of the points she and Mia have in common. That is, they both have some terrible parents who dote on them but don’t actually raise them well. I am honestly kind of angry with Bel’s mom and dad. Who thinks it’s a good idea to keep a kid in the castle her entire life until the moment you ship her out to another country to get married?????? How is that not a self-evidently horrible idea?????? And don’t get me started on the whole secret-transporter-rooms-we-never-mentioned! What had they planned to do in Bel’s first life if they suddenly needed to flee and Bel happened to be in some part of castle where they couldn’t conveniently fetch her? Just leave her behind? It’s like they simultaneously distrusted her AND were obsessively protective toward her. It’s nice that they begrudgingly let her do stuff like go to school and ride horses when she pushed for it in her second life…but even in her second life you see the same impulse to shelter her. Look, I know they were upset when Bel ran off into town on her own, but was locking her in the castle for six months REALLY the best way to handle the situation? I’m surprised Bel turned out as well as she did with such a smothering, disturbingly overprotective family controlling her life. (I don’t really blame Charles because he’s probably just a kid obeying his parents’ instructions, not the one responsible for any of this.) So yeah, I think Bel’s family totally wronged her. They did so in a different way than Mia’s highly irresponsible parent(s?), but they still were bad parents..
stardf29: Oh boy, her parents confining her for half a year daring to get kidnapped… I mean, that’s basically victim-blaming, isn’t it? And yeah, their overall sheltering of her is just terrible. They don’t recognize Bel as a person with her own agency or desires; you could even say they outright were responsible for suppressing her agency and desires in the first place. They didn’t love her as a person, but as their “property” that they have attachment to but expect to do what they want her to do. And to think they were so scared of her possibly escaping that they didn’t even want to let her know about the emergency teleporters… Ed has a line about how “a bird that has flown the coop cannot be caged again”, and I think that really shows that the king and queen wanted Bel to be: a caged pet bird.
Gaheret: I didn’t perceive a mistreatment of Annabel by her family. I recall she saying that she had had a happy childhood at least twice, and their parents gave her presents, took into account her desires and dined with her everyday despite they being royalty. They also encouraged her to visit hospitals and do voluntary work for the wounded, at least while she was under punishment. And she seems fond of them, even if she is determined to take an active role and avoid being a doll this time. Being so sheltered may be reasonable in the world, which is quite grim. We are told that these countries depend on complicated strategies for their survival. All the male rulers or heirs, as well as the queen, are subject to constant threat of assassination, while a girl is a valuable asset for controlling the kingdom. Being married to one is said to be sufficient to legitimate any usurper, in the eyes of the people. Prostitution and human trafficking are also a danger. It is never clear what are the dangers of the Academy that Charles warns Annabel about, but every noble seems to be destined to some branch of the military, and knights are primarily bodyguards. When Annabel is sequestered, the guards offer the king their own lives, no less. I think this is a feature of the world. In that context, putting herself and others in danger by going out without protection and following two strangers in a street she knows to be dangerous seems serious enough to me to justify confinement in the castle. I also think Annabel thinks her punishment is justified.
Jeskai Angel: Compared to Tearmoon Empire, I thought Reset! had far fewer well-developed, interesting characters, choosing instead to focus overwhelmingly on Bel and Ed. Bel and Ed are great, but I don’t have much to say about most of the other characters. Of the secondary cast, my favorite was Charles. The teasing and goofiness, the protectiveness, the desire to impress his younger sibling… It all just came across as a fun, realistic big brother character. I also give Charles 2.0 bonus points for revealing the existence of the teleport pads to his sister, rather than clinging the over-the-top secretiveness of Bel’s family in the original timeline.
stardf29: Charles is a cool older brother. In contrast to his parents, he’s actually receptive to his sister doing what she wants, even while still having his protective side.
Gaheret: Charles was a good brother, loving and protective, but I don’t think Annabel and him are very close. There is only a year between them, but she never thinks of telling her about the future, nor that she likes Edoile. For his part, he doesn’t tell Annabel much about his ambitions, crushes or dreams. Annabel points out that Ed knows how to manage Charles, flattering him or calming him. He seems competitive, sometimes preoccupied with his standing in the class. I think Karina may court him, not Daniel, in this timeline.
stardf29: While we don’t get any particularly deep characterization for Olphia and Claude, they’re a nice little side couple, with the added aspect of how we don’t know if they survived in the last timeline, so obviously Bel is motivated to keep them safe this time around. At the moment they just add a bit of extra sweetness to the story between them and their friendship with Bel, which I’m not going to complain about.
Gaheret: Concerning other characters, it surprised me when Claude and Oliphia work together to protect her from potential fortune-hunters in her class (or so it seemed to me). They maintain their budding romance from 12 to 15 and, we are told, even beyond, in the other timeline. Oliphia is the person with whom Annabel laughs, eats cake and visits the town, and who knows about her crush, too. Claude is a future diplomat, and we are told that the survival strategy of the kingdom depends on careful diplomacy. He also hands Annabel the book about Daniel’s magic laboratories. We’ll see.
stardf29: Finally, a bit about Daniel: as long as we’re comparing with other novels, I’ll bring up another Cross Infinite World title: Since I Was Abandoned After Reincarnating, I Will Cook With My Fluffy Friends. In that one, the female protagonist was in a similar situation, in that she was engaged to a prince, but then another woman schemed to spread lies to get him to break up the engagement. In that novel, the prince had a serious inferiority complex, which is what allowed him to so easily doubt the protagonist’s loyalty and instead believe the lies of another woman. I can’t help but think something similar is going on here with Daniel. He seems to be wanting to bolster his country’s magical power, to make up for how it’s inferior to that of Najir, and while he might have genuinely fallen for Bel, at some point the worries of her not being able to use magic probably caught up with him, thus leading him to believe she’s cheating on him (something that Karina probably came up with) and thus causing everything to go downhill from there.
Jeskai Angel: So what’s going on with Daniel and Karina seems like one of the big mysteries of the story. Your scheming-woman-exploits-inferiority-complex theory has merit, but it’s still strange that Bel didn’t pick up any negative signals from beforehand. Like, in Fluffy Friends, the protagonist didn’t expect to get dumped, but she at least acknowledges after the fact that the prince was quite flawed and that it’s not entirely surprising that he could be manipulated into lashing out against her. So, was Daniel just a better actor, and he covered up his flaws / insecurities? Bel seems totally blindsided his betrayal, and at no point does she suggest there were any warning flags with Daniel.
I mention this because of the conflicting reports we’ve gotten about a character who hasn’t actually appeared “on screen” in any meaningful way: Karina. Based on the original timeline, she seems totally villainous. But in the reset world, Bel hears that Karina is supposedly a wonderful person. What’s up with that? The ambiguity surrounding what kind of person Karina is reflects back on Daniel: it’s harder to surmise how Karina may have influenced him when we don’t really have a strong reading on Karina herself.
stardf29: Yeah, Karina’s supposedly being a nice person in the current timeline is another interesting wrinkle. Obviously, there’s the possibility that something happened that turned her evil, which could make for an interesting future plot point in which Bel must recognize and try to stop something that corrupts her former enemies, like how a certain sage has to deal with certain serpents of chaos. But it’s definitely just speculation at this point.
Gaheret: Daniel and Karina. Daniel did everything right, treating Annabel well, reassuring her about her lack of magic, courting her… And one day, he insulted and punched her, conquered her kingdom, broke their engagement and put her in prison. It was literally the first sign that something was wrong. So, my thesis is that, rather than being insecure, he may be bewitched. His laboratory seems to be a novelty of this timeline. Well, this is mysterious. Concerning the cruelty and open hate of Karina, I think it can only be explained if either they had met in a forgotten timeline, or she hates her kingdom or her family for some reason. I think she is behind the black magic users, and that she is older than she looks.
3. What do you think of how the story uses the “turn back time to prevent disaster” trope? (Feel free to compare it to other stories that use this trope.)
Jeskai Angel: This question connects back to my comments on how Reset! differs from Tearmoon Empire. I think Reset! has more of a sense of mystery, especially with regard to the “prevent disaster” plot. Mia witnesses the fall of her empire, and thanks to Ludwig’s lectures, knows many of the reasons for that fall. But as Annabel herself realizes, she isn’t even absolutely certain that OG Ed died! She doesn’t see the fall of Najir or have any idea why her ex-fiancee turned against her. At one point, she lampshades how illogical it was, noting that even from a coldblooded realpolitik perspective, Daniel could have gained more from marrying her then murdering her than from just breaking off the engagement. The “prevent disaster” part of the trope becomes much more difficult when there’s so much Annabel still doesn’t know.
This is compounded by another difference between the two light novels. Every change in Mia’s second life (aside from her initial act of time travel itself) can be traced back to her own influence. Not so in Reset!. On multiple occasions, Annabel observes that her second life differs from the original timeline in ways that can’t reasonably be attributed to anything she did. This again complicates the “prevent disaster” goal by obscuring what Annabel needs to change.
I think this sense of mystery is one of Reset!‘s distinguishing features, something that sets it apart from many other “turn back time to prevent disaster” tales. Annabel’s gone back in time…but rather than her conflict focusing on how to change the timeline, so far she’s still just struggling to figure out what’s going on!
stardf29: So Jeskai has done a good job breaking much of this down, so now I have to find some other aspects to talk about…
I think one important element to these stories is how the “disaster” of the past timeline mentally affects the protagonist in their current life. In the case of Tearmoon Empire, Mia becomes more wary of death, and how her actions may lead to bad consequences; as mentioned before, she also becomes more patient and grateful, as her life in imprisonment gave her perspective of how bad life could get. As mentioned before, in Annabel’s case, she starts wanting more out of life herself, refusing to just blindly follow her expected roles. Both are interesting avenues of character development–certainly moreso than, say, just wanting to get revenge on those who caused the disaster.
Beyond that, adding to the mystery to all this is how the two timelines may actually be “connected”. At the very least, there’s Ed’s magic stone, an item from the past timeline that isn’t just a “hey, remember what happened” thing like Tearmoon’s diary. What role will that stone have in the future of the story… who knows.
Gaheret: A story of time travel is always, I think, a story about vocation or a tragedy. You may discover that things cannot be changed, or discover that you are called to change them. I think Annabel’s story works in that level: she was mostly passive, but now will be active. She wants to respond to Ed’s sacrifice by loving him. She may marry, not another king to keep the balance of the powers, but a genius that may change the game entirely. I’m definitively interested. What I find a little odd is that she doesn’t seem to think much about the future invasion, or of warning anyone, checking the defenses, understand what happened or why they were defeated… That was an aspect Tearmoon Empire handled well. I don’t need this story to be about that, but, were it me who knew my country will be invaded in five years, I don’t think I’d be able to focus on my daily life like that.
4. What do you think of the novel’s depiction of self-denial vs. acknowledging one’s desires / striving for a formal sense of perfection vs. having fun? (from Jeskai Angel)
Jeskai Angel: I mentioned it a bit before regarding Annabel as a character, but I think this is a really interesting aspect of the story. First, I was curious whether everyone agrees in seeing it as positively as I do. I can imagine a negative interpretation, but I don’t think the story is promoting rampant selfishness. Sacrifice and self-denial can be good and noble (as OG Ed demonstrates), but it’s not an end unto itself. Annabel in her first life sounds like someone who engaged in a kind of asceticism, ignoring her own wishes out of little more than a vague sense that that’s what people around her wanted. There was no specific purpose or higher meaning to the kind of self-denial she practiced. It brings to mind the apostle Paul’s condemnation of a sort of meaningless, arbitrary asceticism in Colossians 2:20-23.
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
This way of life contrasts starkly with the love-based self-sacrifice we see demonstrated by Ed and also taught in the Bible. Whether it’s love for God or for our fellow man, the kind of “dying to self” the scriptures depict is all about love, not just a nebulous sense of duty.
Happily, Bel regrets and rejects this way of life, and makes better choices with her second chance. This is a theme that shows up in other stories, too. Bel’s efforts to enjoy her second life more than her first, to live without regrets, remind me a bit of recent posts stardf29 and Twwk have written regarding the positive “Don’t be a workaholic” message found in I’ve Been Killing Slimes For 300 Years And Maxed Out My Level. I think we could also find parallels in The Saint’s Magic Power Is Omnipotent!, another LNC favorite which stars a recovering workaholic using life in a new world to slow down and have more fun.
stardf29: So I kind of already answered this question when I talked about how Annabel’s imprisonment affected her in the current timeline. Going deeper into that, she felt that all her self-denial was basically meaningless. It’s interesting that you bring up Killing Slimes, as Azusa there ends up feeling a similar sense of regret over how she “sacrificed” her life for work before.
The point you made about how love was missing is key. For Azusa, when she found a life spending time with her new “family” and helping the village; for Sei, who saw how much her potions helped people and saved lives; even for someone like Mia, who realized that she’s more likely to end up happy if everyone is happy… they all found someone else to care for. And likewise, Annabel finds herself wanting to change a bad future, to protect her friends, family, and Ed.
Now, as for how doing stuff for fun fits into all this… it’s really not that much different, at least as far as the feeling that it’s ultimately meaningless to pursue “happiness” just for its own sake. Think Solomon in Ecclesiastes, or the prodigal son. But add in love and a greater perspective, such as Annabel wanting to enjoy her time with friends while making sure they survive, and “fun” might actually start to feel fulfilling.
Gaheret: Self-denial is certainly very important, more so in a king or leader, but as Jeskai notes, not for itself, but for the importance of the things you affirm with it. Loyalty is not against creative response, questioning, putting your own initiative there, disagreeing or even disobeying, when necessary. In fact, it is the opposite. Annabel thought that by letting herself be guided, not creating trouble and denying herself would help her family and kingdom, but it was not so. Now she will try the other way, and I think she will truly help.
5. Final thoughts?
Jeskai Angel: I’m glad to see Cross Infinite World releasing some excellent new licenses in the past year. No offense, but I felt like some of their earlier works were…well, let’s just say I could understand why none of the larger publishers had bothered to license them. But light novels such as Reset!, the aforementioned Fluffy Friends, and Reincarnated as the Last of My Kind are every bit as strong as what Yen, JNC, and 7Cs are putting out.
Gaheret: These days I’m watching HBO’s John Adams and reading about Lincoln, so it’s a lot of politics and family life, people trying to reach the difficult balance between pressing public issues and family life. Stories about kings and princesses have these two naturally intermingle. So despite what I said about the invasion and the world, I appreciated the fact that this was more of a family story where I could observe and appreciate without distraction the small interactions between Annabel, her parents, her brother, her friends. It has been a fun ride.
If you read through all of our discussion, thank you! If you haven’t read the novel yet and want to, you can get it from Cross Infinite World.
The light novel we will be discussing starting later this month is Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki, Vol 2! Whether you had followed our discussion of the first volume, or are curious after having seen the anime, or simply want to read the story of a gamer trying to win at the game of life, this should be a nice change-of-pace from all the bad-future-preventing fantasy adventures. Our discussion starts on May 21st and will run for several weeks, so whether you have one or two volumes to read, there’s still plenty of time to join our Discord and our discussion!
If you want to get ready for the discussion after that, our following Light Novel Club discussion will be on The Faraway Paladin, Vol. 1! This is a fantasy story that is definitely quite different from the usual fantasy light novels, and with an anime adaptation coming this fall, it’s a great time to check out this title. Our discussion on that starts on June 23rd!