If the synopsis of Reset! The Imprisoned Princess Dreams of Another Chance! sounds a bit like Tearmoon Empire, that’s not surprising. Both stories fall under the genre heading of yarinaoshi loop, according to Reset author Kei Misawa. That’s a subgenre of the isekai phenomenon wherein a character gets the chance to go back in time and relive (and possibly redo) their life following an undesirable event. Since both Tearmoon Empire and Reset take place in fantasy worlds without protagonists (or any characters) who originate in ours, it does feel a little odd to label them as isekai, but it’s probably worth remembering that the term simply refers (as I understand it) to another world – and a new version of the world you’ve always lived in does technically fit that definition.
In any event, beyond that and the surface similarity of both series starring princesses, the two works are actually quite different. Annabel, Misawa’s protagonist, has unquestionably been wronged in her life. While we modern readers might say that she should have been better at standing up for herself in her first go-round, the fact of the matter is that as a princess, her life had been constrained in ways she was never taught to question, and her sad fate was less the result of her not standing up for herself and more due to the machinations of people she had nothing to do with. In fact, Annabel’s life was going decently well – her arranged marriage was to a young monarch who seemed to like her, she was friendly with her knight protector, and she had a good relationship with her family. It was only when Karina, the princess of another nation, showed up early to the wedding that everything went wrong, and although it’s never explicitly said, it’s very clear that Karina and her nation used Annabel’s impending nuptials to put a plan to take over the world into action.
This tragedy is what forces Annabel to reconsider the life she’s lived for eighteen years. Was there a way to avoid this tragedy? It isn’t until her faithful knight Ed, her brother’s best friend and a talented knight and mage, is apparently killed that she truly loses it, awakening her long-dormant magic and forcing a reset of the world. This catalyst stands out, and although Misawa never directly says it, the implication is that it’s not her own death, or the fall of her kingdom, that forces Annabel to burst into phoenix-like flame – it’s the loss of Ed. Is he just symbolic of everything else she’s lost? Or is his specific loss one that forces her to realize what she’s been suppressing in order to live her proscribed life?
If you’ve been reading shoujo for any amount of time, you can guess the answer to that. In fact, the way that Annabel deals with her feelings for Ed are a key component of the novel, and one of the sweeter parts of it. When she rewinds time, she goes back to being twelve years old, a time before she’d even met him. One of the first things she does is convince her parents to let her attend the same school her older brother Charles does, in part because she’s determined to do things differently this time in hopes of evading her tragic future, but also because that’s her best chance to “reunite” with Ed. It never occurs to her that he won’t also retain his memories of their previous future, and the fact that he doesn’t certainly throws a wrench in her plans. But it also forces her to really think about what else she wants out of this chance to relive her teen years, and that proves to be a rewarding and at times adorable story element.
Another interesting piece of this book, particularly when compared with Tearmoon Empire, is Annabel herself. She’s not a vapid princess, nor is she stuck up or lazy, and if she has trouble figuring out what to do and how to do it, it’s because she’s not sure how she ended up managing to earn her reset and is still working up the courage to do what she wants to. That also involves figuring out what she wants out of this new chance besides “not to die horribly while losing everything and everyone she loves.” Since her tragedy was so broad, the avenues to avoid it also feel fairly large, and that means not only learning what she wants but which methods and routes are most likely to get her there. In some cases, such as with the path Ed starts down based on their new interactions, that means some fairly drastic and surprising changes that may or may not bear fruit down the line. There’s a real waiting game aspect to all of this for Annabel, and although she absolutely understands that, she’s also understandably nervous as the day of her engagement – her sixteenth birthday – looms before her for the second time.
The book is mostly narrated by Annabel, and she’s a smart and human enough protagonist that it’s no hardship being in her head the whole time. There is one chapter at the end from Ed’s perspective, which definitely helps to balance things out. He doesn’t tell us anything we don’t know, or rather, that we couldn’t infer from his interactions with Annabel, but the confirmation is still nice, and it also functions as a good reminder that he’s no one’s fool. The translation here is also smooth and very readable, making this the kind of book you could just sit down and devour if you had a few free hours. There are two scenes where someone slaps Annabel that are a bit troubling – more so the second, as the first happens as a sign that things are about to go horribly wrong – but the book also very clearly takes place in the distant past. That’s not an excuse, but it is an explanation for some of the attitudes and punishments that we see.
If you liked the premise of Tearmoon Empire but found Mia to be obnoxious, or if you’re just a hopeless romantic who wants to see two nice people get a second chance to do things right, Reset! The Imprisoned Princess Dreams of Another Chance! is worth picking up. It’s interesting, has a sweet romantic subplot, and features a heroine who is trying her best within the constraints placed upon her, and I’m certainly looking forward to seeing where the story goes from here.