Re:Zero IS a Masterpiece. F*** You, Fight Me.

Re:Zero IS a Masterpiece. F*** You, Fight Me.


Re:Zero means a lot to me. And to a lot of
other people. Anyone who was watching anime
back in 2016 can tell you that it had the
community in a death grip, and… it never
really let go. 4 years after its only season,
its waifus are still top tier, weebs still
quote it, and they’re still selling figures
by the truckload.
As is the case with anything that popular,
Re:Zero has its share of detractors, too.
It’s faced a barrage of criticism to match
the praise supporting it, and through that
discourse, the anime community at large seems
to have reached a middle-ground conclusion
about the show:
Gigguk summed up the apparent consensus fairly
concisely in the title of his video “Re:Zero
is no Masterpiece (but it’s still Damn entertaining)”
– where he argues that the show has a neat
high concept, and its shocking moments and
impressive production values make for a thrilling
ride, but a lack of weight behind its characters
and themes makes it ring a little hollow when
all’s said and done.
In case the title of THIS video didn’t give
it away, I disagree with that sentiment…
quite strongly. Especially the idea that the
show doesn’t have a greater point. For as
much love as the anime community has heaped
on Re:Zero I still think it’s being sold
short. Waaaay short. And I can see why – it
is a VERY popular, overtly “edgy” entry
in a trendy and oversaturated subgenre that’s
not exactly known for its substance. Its lead,
Subaru, bears a striking resemblance to…
Take your pick of Isekai heroes, really. His
design intentionally evokes the “Everyman”
protag-kun. And that creates certain audience
expectations, some which are then subverted
when he and everyone around him starts dying
horribly and time starts looping, but the
show still leaves a general first impression
that it’s probably not that deep. And if
you believe that, you might never think to
dig into the massive subtextual strata in
which most of Re:Zero’s narrative substance
is found.
A lot of that, to be fair, isn’t readily
apparent on first viewing. If you haven’t
re:watched re:Zero, you haven’t really watched
Re:zero. But rewatching a whole 25 episode
anime is a bit of a tall order, even with
the currently airing director’s cut giving
you the perfect excuse to do so *cough*. So
to aid those of you who don’t have the time
– and maybe convince those who don’t have
the interest – I’m gonna lay out my own
observations and interpretations of the series,
gleaned across multiple viewings, and make
the case that it is, actually, kind of a masterpiece.
Fuck you fight me.
This deep dive is brought to you by Bookwalker
– Kadokawa’s official Ebook store, where
you can buy hundreds of English language light
novels and manga to read on your phone, tablet,
or PC. Including Re:Zero, which I’ve been
using Bookwalker to read myself. Stick around
to the end to hear more about their winter
2020 kickoff event, where you can get great
rewards for reading the source material of
the coldest season’s hottest shows.
If you go into Re:Zero expecting another mechanical,
plot-driven escapist adventure story about
a meek young man becoming an unlikely hero
and saving the world, with some gore and time
travel shit mixed in for giggles… I mean,
your expectations will be met, it is, in part,
those things. But it’s also a lot more,
which means it’s a bit too bulky to comfortably
fit that mold. More generic isekai like Wise
Man’s Grandchild succeed by being easy-breezy
affairs – shows you can fully enjoy without
having to think too much about them.
They’re like anime potato chips – not nourishing,
but satisfying. A nice light snack between
meals. And that’s where I think some weebs
run into trouble with Re:Zero. Because this
series is not a snack, no matter how many
snacks it contains. It’s a full three course
meal plus salad and desert. It is dense. And
heavy. It’s the thing that puts you in the
emotional food coma that you need the snack
to recover from. And if you turn your brain
off while you’re watching it, it’s gonna
leave you a little bored.
Re:Zero does have a very elaborate and detailed
plot. It needs to. Writing good time travel
stories demands a complex understanding of
cause and effect. If the plot is weak, the
whole concept collapses around it. But as
good as it is, that plot is not the focus
of the series. Rather, Re:Zero lives and dies
in its characters; who are more than just
appealing waifus and hasubandos – they’re
complicated, multilayered human beings with
distinctive, sometimes conflicting personalities,
values, and desires.
The show can get away with retracing its steps
over and over – holding off on sometimes
even basic plot developments for multiple
episodes at a time – because its characters
are interesting enough to carry it. The real
brilliance of return by death as a concept
– in my opinion – is the way it allows
us to see multiple sides of its entire cast.
By resetting Subaru’s relationship with
Felt, for instance, we get to see how she
reacts to him as someone Rom vouches for,
and as a total stranger. How she treats someone
she sees as a mark, versus a legitimate client.
With Emilia, we see how she responds to him
first as some know-nothing kid whom she can’t
help helping, as a random asshole shouting
the elf equivalent of the N-word at her in
the street, and finally as the selfless hero
who swooped in from nowhere and nearly died
to save her, asking nothing in return but
her name.
Of course, that impression doesn’t last.
Because that’s not who Subaru is. It’s
definitely who he wants to be – who he needs
to grow into – but Subaru isn’t just another
jesus-kun, and he’s barely even a hero.
He’s a hikkikomori otaku who never really
thought of anyone but himself back on earth;
who read his share of Isekai, and expects
certain things when an isekai happens to him.
Cute girl. Magic powers. Easy life. All wrapped
up in a neat little bow and dropped in his
lap by Haruhi herself.
Unfortunately for him, Lugunica isn’t a
fantasy video game playground; it’s a real
world with real problems like crime, and racial
segregation, and a market economy. Just like
the real world he just left. And unless he
shapes up, pulls his head out of his ass,
learns to read a room, and most importantly,
figures out how to understand what people
other than him actually want and need, that
real world is going to keep chewing him up
and spitting him out at subtly ironic checkpoints
forever.
Again, just like the… slightly more forgiving
one he just left.
Here, the isekai fantasy is not an escape
from the responsibilities of growing up. It’s
a wakeup call.
The series hammers this in with the very thing
that clues him into the time loop – the
fact that he keeps running into the same three
goons in the same alley. Something that Subaru
chalks up to fate, but which is actually very
obviously the product of his own dumb ass
not paying enough attention to avoid them.
Subaru grows a lot after being subjected to
all the horrible, painful consequences of
his inadequacies, and that slow growth, the
procedural peeling back of his own worst traits,
is the most interesting narrative arc in the
series – at least out of what’s covered
in the show. It’s what keeps the story driving
forward – not the desire to figure out what
will happen next, but to see how Subaru will
overcome himself and rise to the occasion.
He’s not all bad – as puck says many times,
Subaru can be inconsiderate, but he’s NEVER
malicious. He’s a creature of impulse, for
good and bad. A manchild – as selfish and
ignorant as any real kid, but also as playful,
and willing to do a good thing just cause
he feels like it. He’s got SERIOUS shortcomings,
but they only make his eventual triumphs feel
that much more… triumphant.
The series isn’t just interested in critiquing
the otaku hero archetype, it strives to improve
on it, and the way it does so feels incredibly
cathartic… When it gets there. But that
takes a while, and if you’re not paying
close attention to the characters and the
underlying ideas the show is toying with – if
you’re just watching to see isekai shenanigans
get edgy – those cathartic moments may come
a bit few and far between for your liking.
Which is not a knock against you if you wanna
watch a show like that – sometimes you just
don’t have the energy to invest. I get it.
But I will say that the return re:zero gives
on on your attention is well worth the investment.
There are so many subtleties to how these
characters are portrayed, from the way Rem
constantly watches Subaru through each loop
of the mansion arc, because she’s suspicious
of him, to the whalesong buried in the sound
effect of Reinhardt’s finishing move – a
hint at his family history.
A lot of subtle worldbuilding happens between
the lines as well; it’s pretty obvious from
the way Emilia reacts to Subaru’s nonchalant
acceptance of her Half-Elf nature that she’s
dealt with some serious systemic and social
prejudice in her life, for instance. But if
you pay attention, in the scene where she’s
trying to help the lost little girl… you’ll
notice her ear is what spooks the girl and
makes her double down on crying. No wonder
she keeps her hair swept in front like that.
And yet, despite how horrible it must feel
to be judged like a monster by an innocent
child based on nothing but her heritage, Emilia
responds only with kindness. She is the very
definition of pure-hearted, and it’s moments
like this that make her the best girl in this
series DON’T AT ME REM STANS.
Actually, do. I’d relish the opportunity
to make my case for why I Love Emilia, but
this video’s gonna be pretty hefty as it
is, so I’ll be saving that for a What’s
in a Waifu. Anyway –
There are signs of inequality and social tension
all over the city, and in every one of Subaru’s
interactions with Emilia, but he only notices
the sharp divide between haves and have nots
in Lugunica when the plot forces him to go
down into the slums and stare it in the face.
And the hints are subtle enough that any reader
who’s only concerned with what will happen
to Subaru will share in that experience.
That’s not just the anime trying to work
in some sly social commentary, though that’s
part of it – it’s crucial to Subaru’s
character development. Each arc of this story
culminates in our – big air quotes at first
– hero learning a very basic lesson about
how to be a functioning member of society,
and using that knowledge to not suck JUST
ENOUGH to avoid getting everyone around him
killed.
In the loot house arc, for instance, Subaru
manages to save everyone’s lives by paying…
just the tiniest amount of attention to the
world and people around him [Jumping to block
Elsa’s last attack on Emilia]. And He’s
only able to survive the mansion arc by learning
to think about the needs and wants of people
he cares about, instead of acting like an
incredibly suspicious, self-centered imbecile.
He then carries that lesson forward into the
fight against the Ma-Beasts, and overcomes
the threat without dying for once by putting
Rem, Ram, and Emilia ahead of himself. Unfortunately
the success kinda goes to his head, and he
buries himself in a deep, deep hole shortly
afterward by failing to listen to anything
that Emilia tells him to do, ever. Because
in his mind, the fact that she’s a powerful
mage, an experienced hero, and also one of
the 5 most important people in the country
is overshadowed by the fact that she’s a
pretty girl who he’s claimed as his waifu.
That toxic, possessive attitude – coupled
with his insecurity and anger issues – causes
him to view Julius as an arrogant fuccboi
who’s moving in on his turf, when he’s
actually just a really nice guy who takes
his job seriously and is showing Emilia the
bare minimum of knightly respect befitting
someone of her station.
Episodes 12 and 13 of this show are a painful,
frustrating watch for me. In a good way. It’s
hard to watch Subaru thinking with his dick
and making all of these stupid, obvious mistakes…
that are eerily reminiscent of mistakes I
made when I was younger, and more sheltered,
and thought interests and quirky behaviours
were a personality, and found it easier to
be critical of media than myself, and most
importantly, didn’t have sufficient respect
for other people around me, especially the
women.
I see an uncomfortable amount of myself in
Subaru. Made more uncomfortable still by the
fact that I know I didn’t see it when the
show came out back in 2016. You know, when
I was still living with my parents. I was
unironically in Subaru’s corner up until
he made a fool of Emilia and hindsight kicked
in, and I think that speaks to how good the
show’s character writing really is. While
it’s being critical of selfish male otaku,
it represents that mindset authentically enough
to be relatable to one of those.
Or at least a then-barely-recovering one.
That’s not just valuable because it may
encourage self-reflection in people who need
it. It’s an example of the show doing its
genre right. Re:Zero – like a lot of other
top isekai, actually – isn’t just fantasy,
it’s dark fantasy. Horror in a fantasy setting.
And truly great horror seeks to do more than
shock with oceans of gore and big scary monsters

Although, just as an aside? Re:Zero has some
BOMB ASS monster designs. Like. Holy shit
guys. HOLY SHIT. And the ones we see in the
anime are great too! I love the little pupper
that turns into the very very big pupper.
The white whale manages to live up to like
6 straight episodes of hype when we finally
see it, and then there’s the friendly critters
like my homegirl patrasche! These are some
of the dopest monster designs this side of
Made in Abyss, and I am super here for it.
Wait, I was talking about something, right?
Ah! Good Horror – psychological horror – tries
to identify what its target audience is afraid
of – insecure about – and play to those fears.
Re:Zero is, obviously, targeted at Otaku.
And what are otaku scared of? Being looked
down on; seen as creepy losers. Being bullied,
made a fool of, and tormented by the strong.
Being hurt by people they care about – and
seeing those people get hurt. Being rejected.
Being alone.
Re:Zero has moments that speak to all of these
fears – in a setting that’s supposed to
be our shelter from them – and by emphasizing
how Subaru’s choices lead to those consequences,
the looping story structure creates an unnerving
implication: That maybe it’s not just the
rest of the world that sucks. These things
keep happening to him in part because of him,
and that means they’ll keep happening FOREVER,
no matter where he goes, or what he does,
so long as he’s the same person he is now.
Of course, the flipside is that if he can
change, things can get better. Starting from
Zero, Subaru still has the POTENTIAL to become
a hero. And with infinite time to achieve
that potential, that potentially counts for
a lot.
There’s so much more to say about Subaru’s
character arc – he is a VERY underrated
protagonist – but I’d be making the same
mistake he does if I focused entirely on him.
Because it’s not just one good character
who makes Re:Zero great. It’s all of them.
LITERALLY all of them. Every major character
in this series is as complex as Subaru – and
keep in mind, I just spent like ten minutes
talking about him – and even the side characters
who don’t have that much substance behind
them still feel like they have lives that
continue offscreen.
They also ALL have great designs to match.
Memorable, distinct silhouettes and colour
palettes, with styles of dress that create
a general impression of each personality at
a glance, and smaller accessories and details
that speak to the characters’ personal relationships
and history. It’s no wonder that re:zero
has generated so many figures and works of
fanart, even if the distribution of both is
a little bit… skewed toward one character
in particular. *cough*
Now as for the characters’ personalties…
Emilia is the very embodiment of pure-hearted
heroism – but she’s also intelligent,
and tries to be pragmatic, so she often ends
up performing mental gymnastics to logically
justify the good things she does on gut instinct.
Puck is both adorable, and wise enough to
know that he’s adorable, a combination that
has resulted in, essentially, a magical talking
cat fuccboi with more swagger than people
a hundred times his size. He’s also an empath,
which means he can tell who Emilia can trust
at a glance.
The pair clearly have a deep and intimate
symbiotic relationship beyond anything Subaru
could possibly understand – as evidenced
by how willing Puck is to murder anyone who’s
not Emilia when she dies – and together
they make a nigh-unbeatable team.
Felt and Rom likewise share a symbiotic relationship
– the younger girl, despite her pluck and
talent, never could have made it in the slums
if the old merchant hadn’t taken her under
his wing. Felt is a kid, trying very hard
to be the adult she needs to be to survive,
while still clinging to optimistic dreams
of getting rich and paying Rom back. The old
man, for his part, has clearly SEEN SOME SHIT
– he’s got history with the Astrea family,
just for starters – and he’s doing his
best to protect that optimistic smile from
the harsh realities of the world.
Elsa, who comes in to tear these found families
apart, is clearly more than little unhinged,
and takes legitimate pleasure in fighting
and killing. She’s more of a predatory animal
than a human being, able to smell fear, and
always looking for her next opportunity to
strike. But, like many real predators there’s
an element of play to her hunting. She enjoys
a good fight, and getting carried away with
that proves to be her undoing.
For all her bluster, she doesn’t stand a
chance against Reinhardt. Dashing, kind, selfless,
and capable, he’s every bit the Hero Subaru
isn’t. A real champion of the people type
who carries his sword around while off-duty
specifically so that he can do heroic shit
that’s outside his jurisdiction as a royal
guard. He’s a capital G good dude, but he’s
still flawed. Driven by the very real insecurities
that come with having to uphold a family legacy
that includes this guy.
That, guy, Wilhelm, is a complex enough character
to carry his own three volume spinoff series,
which is really good, and you should read
it. His victory over the whale is so well-earned.
And that depth is apparent in his first appearance,
where his reactions imply that he recognizes
a bit of his younger self in Subaru. He immediately
understands, specifically, the hurdles that
a young, dumb dude like that, with a big,
purehearted crush on an incredible lady way
out of his league and social standing is going
to face.
And because of that, he decides to give Subaru
some kindly grandpa wisdom, instead of giving
him the cold-shoulder that Felix is apparently
used to. I mean, really take that in – Felix
is one of the most adorable and endearing
creatures in existence. He’s a gorgeous
bishie catboy with the campy, flirty mannerisms
of bugs bunny – impossible to hate. And
Wilhelm can stonewall him – so it really
says something that he’s friendly with Subaru
immediately.
A lot of Re:Zero’s most interesting male
characters do also serve as foils to Subaru,
in one way or another. Including its most
brain-trembling villain.
Petelgeuse Romani Conti represents the logical
extreme of Subaru’s otaku obsession and
entitlement; a creepy, gross overzealous nerd
who hangs out with a bunch of anonymous genocidal
goons in a hugbox cult dedicated to the top
waifu in their favourite book. He leads a
life of unrepentant cruelty, completely divorced
from the consequences of his actions, because
he believes the blessing of his witch waifu
makes him superior to the unloved subhumans
that populate the rest of the world.
Petelgeuse is driven by possessive, one-sided
love to do literally anything for the witch
of Envy, just with no regard for what she
actually wants. Kinda like how someone else
we know treats his favourite silver-haired
half elf girl with magic powers. Which makes
it incredibly fitting that, before our heroes
can truly finish Petelgeuse off, Subaru first
has to find a way to rip the entitled little
creep out of his own mind. Which he does with
a cold blast of reality – specifically,
by proving that his waifu will never love
him back.
Now Satella… there’s a fascinating character.
All we ever see of her is her hand, reaching
out either to pull Subaru from the cold embrace
of death… or to hold his heart in her own
cruel embrace, should he ever even THINK of
sharing what they have with another. A few
lines of expository dialogue and a handful
of animations are all it takes to-
Actually, I probably shouldn’t get into
characters who don’t even appear on screen
in season one. Because I’m not even halfway
through talking about all of the ones with
identifiable faces and names.
Even the three muggers who ambush Subaru in
the alley have consistent, discernable personalities
that reflect – and sometimes contrast with
– their appearancess. Both the little guy
and the big dude, Kan and Ton, put on scary
faces, but they’re not super down with hurting
or killing people, while the skinny dude with
the knives, chin, is clearly a bit more reckless
and drags them into a lot of trouble.
I could literally sit here ALL DAY analyzing
the psychology of these characters. And I
will for at least one of them if you philistines
keep insisting rem is best girl. But I guess
before I stop, I should at least talk about
the show’s most important supporting characters.
The first time I watched Re:Zero, I found
the mansion arc to be the toughest part to
get through. It’s the most time Subaru spends
in one place, and as a result, it kinda feels
like he’s spinning his wheels there. Which
is frustrating when you just want the plot
to go. But by keeping the story at a standstill,
the show does give us a lot of time to get
to know the mansion’s inhabitants. And they’re
all … so great.
Ram, for example, is SUPER underrated. And
I understand why. Rem gets way more screen
time, and the gap between her initial cold
demeanour toward Subaru and the blushing sweetheart
she becomes when her guard is down is SO FUCKING
MOE I COULD DIE. But then, so is the way that
Ram is actually super helpful and lifts everyone’s
spirits by leveraging her natural resting
bitch face for a-grade insult comedy.
Her sass game is so fucking good. And the
way that her “Barusu” nickname seamlessly
transforms from an expression of disrespect
to one of endearment as he proves himself
to her is… I- I wrote “chef’s kiss”
in the script, and now that I’m here I realize
that’s not gonna come across super well
with this video being all voiceover. But you
get the point.
Ram, being clairvoyant, and therefore responsible
for overseeing Roswaal’s entire domain,
is very concerned with the wellbeing of everyone
close to her all the time, especially her
sister, who she recognizes is trying WAY too
hard to fill her shoes. She’s also acutely
aware of the ways that she can be a burden
on the much stronger people around her, which
is probably why she’s slow to take a shine
to the weak and oblivious Subaru, and also
probably why she’s so prone to falling back
on humor.
Rem does her best to keep up with the comedy
routines – I’d wager their telepathic
link helps with the timing, and she’s got
fantastic deadpan delivery – but beneath
the surface, she’s a lot less confident
than her sister. Which you already know if
you’ve watched the show. She’s the only
character in the first season to be the subject
of proper “character study” episodes – mostly
so it hurts more when this happens and also
when she-
*heavy breathing* n-never mind.
At any rate, I don’t think I need to tell
you how well rounded her character is. And
I’d rather spend the time extoling the virtues
of Roswaal and betty
Beatrice is adorable. Then as soon as you
get to know her, she’s not. But then she
is again. Because she’s got layers. The
first of those layers is her appearance, which,
much like that of puck, is too cute for words.
It immediately clashes with the second layer,
her personality, which is brash, abrasive,
and arrogant. She does everything she can
to push Subaru away, telling him multiple
times that he’s an insect, a pest.
But then we get to the third layer. How she
really feels. Beatrice spends all day locked
up in a library, only allowing others to see
her when she feels like it. And she’s happy
with that on the surface, but deep down, she’s
lonely. So while it bothers her that Subaru
keeps pushing obliviously through her defenses,
she also kind of appreciates having him around,
and also that he seems to really like her
despite her demeanour. So while she’s very…
Beatrice about it, she helps him, a lot.
They’ve got a playful comedic dynamic with
each other, and her presence makes scenes
where Subaru would otherwise just be pacing,
thinking to himself a lot more fun and interesting
than they have any right to be. That said,
subaru also has pretty good comedic chemistry
with the lord of the house.
Roswaal doesn’t get much screen time, but
he steals almost every scene he’s in. He’s
a charismatic, eccentric, hedonistic rich
dude with a STRONG personal brand and an anarchic
sense of humor. He’s savvy enough to respect
the formalities of his class, but not bound
by them, and he seems to take a shine to Subaru
specifically because the young man is so cavalier
and open with him despite the obvious (to
him) difference in their social standing.
He’s a hoot – he has great comedic moments
with basically everyone – but he’s also
VERY SERIOUS when he needs to be, and a nigh-unparalleled
badass when it comes to combat. I mean, most
of the people around Subaru are considerably
more competent than he is, whether he notices
it or not, but Roswaal in particular is SCARY.
He needs all of one word to turn a whole forest
into… golly, there are so many current events
I could reference. Way too many things have
been on fire lately. And considering that
he’s very clearly operating on his own shady
agenda, that might be a problem later.
Which is another thing that makes all of these
characters great – they don’t just show
up to be interesting once, they have clear
potential to develop in interesting ways far
off in the future. And it’s fun to speculate
about what they might do in different scenarios
– I think that’s why this franchise has
been able to support so many solid spinoffs
and short stories.
Speaking of spinoffs,
The show explores these characters in even
greater depth through the Re:Zero Break Time
Shorts. These 2 minute comedic interludes
– which quite clearly laid some groundwork
for Isekai Quartet – show additional conversations
that happened off-camera in their corresponding
episodes. These conversation actually reveal
a surprising amount about the supporting cast
– some of them are modified versions of
cut content from the light novel. And they
also deliver a lot of exposition about Re:Zero’s
world.
Which, if you didn’t know, is one of the
coolest, most thoroughly-realized fantasy
worlds in anime. Those shorts touch on a lot
of interesting things, but to know the full
story, you really need to read ALL of the
light novels. Spinoffs included. Which I know
is a lot, but if you’re into that kinda
thing, it is SO WORTH IT.
Remember in my favourites of the decade video
when I said it has a great hard magic system?
That was a bit of an oversimplification. It
actually has three – elemental magic, witch
authority, and divine protection – that operate
on different principals and interact with
each other in interesting ways.
There’s also a HUGE timeline full of very
interesting events, both political and magical,
that explains… basically everything about
the present state of this world, from where
the mabeasts came from, to how a dragon got
involved in running a country, to how come
there’s so much racism everywhere all the
time. If you like lore, Re:Zero has SO MUCH
lore. Politics, religion, wars, economics
– Tappei Nagatsuki has thought through all
of it in as much detail as he’s devoted
to his characters.
And it’s not just there to be flavour text.
Re:Zero’s individual volumes make for compelling
psychological thrillers, but on a macro scale,
the grand overarching story that the series
is telling is a sociological one, driven by
the forces of history and competing ideologies.
Most Isekai send their heroes off on a morally
brain-dead, by the numbers, black and white
journey to beat the demon king. Re:Zero tosses
Subaru into the middle of an incredibly volatile
political clusterfuck, where 5 mostly well-intentioned
but ideologically opposed leaders and their
factions – plus a secret evil cult – are
competing to fill a power vacuum, so that
they can apply their own solutions to complicated
societal problems that really have no clear
right answer.
Worst girl Priscilla is a staunch Monarchist,
who believes that the world is “made in
her favour” – and thus everyone else will
be happy if they just do everything she says.
Crusch is a hardline Nationalist and Militarist,
who believes that the people of Lugunica have
become soft under the Dragon’s protection,
and wants to build a truly independant nation
with a strong military at its center. Both
were born as elites, and their philosophies
of leadership very much reflect that out of
touch perspective.
Anastasia is an elite as well, but one who
rose to her station out of poverty with a
lot of help from her demihuman friends and
a little luck. She’s a Capitalist at heart,
who wants to count the kingdom among her possessions,
believing that will be in everyone’s best
interests because she takes VERY good care
of her things. She sees that the systems governing
Lugunica are unfair, but has also benefitted
from similar systems, and thus seeks to reform,
rather than replace them.
In contrast, her fellow Orphan, Felt, who
was raised in the slums by an old Demi-human
rebel and had to steal to survive, hates everything
about the kingdom and its class structure
– ESPECIALLY the military and nobility – and
wants to raze the whole broken system to the
ground.
She is my anarchist waifu, and I love her.
Though not quite as much as I Love Emilia,
who – true to her pure heart – just wants
to build a world where everyone is truly equal.
Though she seemingly needs some help figuring
out finer, practical details of how to make
that happen.
Though some are clearly better than others,
all of these potential leaders have their
own pros and cons. And based on their backstories,
it makes complete sense why each of them believes
the things they do. None of them, not even
Priscilla, is a truly bad person. Which is
only going to make it more tragic when their
competing ideologies finally come to a head.
It’s a very serious situation that a very
unserious person like Subaru really has no
place being a part of. And he probably wouldn’t
have any interest in it AT ALL if he’d been
born into this world. But because he sees
it like we do – as cool fantasy lore that
he wants to learn more about, as part of a
grand, heroic adventure story that he wants
to be part of – he gets in way over his
head and spends most of his time making things
worse.
He’s really lucky, then – and so is the
entire country – that his superpower allows
him to reset all of the complex systems he
keeps accidentally fucking with without knowing
what they do. Meaning he can effectively save-scum
his way through this game of magic civilization,
exploring different possibility states until
he arrives at the one that causes the least
amount of strife.
And because this constant resetting both allows
and forces him to understand the point of
view of every major player in the royal elections,
he might just become a real force for political
good if he ever fully dislodges his cranium
from his rectum.
But that’s just a potential story development
that’s fun to speculate about – at this
stage in the anime, Subaru is still very much
bumbling his way through more conventional
fantasy adventures, defeating monsters and
bad guys and stuff.
And the way he and (mostly) his friends defeat
those bad guys, it’s worth noting, is IMMENSELY
entertaining. Re:Zero has great action scenes
– they’re well animated, with strong,
cinematic lighting and framing. Its greatest
strength, though, is well-thought-out fight
choreography that makes heavy use of each
location the characters find themselves in,
and builds on the painful lessons Subaru learns
throughout each time loop.
Just look at how the battle with Elsa evolves,
from the one-hit-kill out of nowhere that
ends Subaru’s first loop, to the longer
but still hopeless fight alongside Felt and
Old Man Rom, to the final showdown, where
Subaru’s muscle memory of the assassin’s
attacks just BARELY doesn’t quite save his
life but it’s okay because he bought enough
time for the real heroes to save the day.
If you scrutinize the animations, you can
see the characters planning and reacting to
each other’s attacks. And it’s super cool
how the fight spills out into the entire loothouse.
It’s really good shit. And I’m honestly
not sure whether I should cover that, the
white whale, or the fight with the ma-beast
pack on Animelee.
Lemme know in the comments.
I might also, maybe, have to bring back what’s
in a scene to talk about the camerawork outside
of the fights. Because there’s a lot of
subtle visual storytelling going on there.
Masaharu Watanabe should direct more shows.
But what really ties these action scenes together,
along with all the quiet character beats and
tense, pulse-pounding thriller moments, is
Jin Aketagawa’s impeccable sound direction.
From Anohana to Toradora To Re:Creators, Aketagawa’s
masterful soundscapes have brought many of
my favourite anime worlds to life, and I’ve
gotta say, this is some of his best work.
Many subtle environmental sounds help to give
characters a real sense of presence, while
not so subtle weapon effects make the action
pop.
The deadly whistle of Elsa’s blades whipping
through the air. The rattling chains of Rem’s
morning star. These sounds have a way of sticking
in your mind long after you watch the show,
and it makes use of them to often chilling
effect.
And that’s not even taking into account
the PHENOMENAL score, composed by Kenichiro
Suehiro. The standout piece – to the point
that it kinda overshadows the rest – is
clearly the call of the witch.
It’s a near-perfect accompaniment to the
heights of the show’s horror – and a great
song to listen to if you’re feeling constipated.
That terrifying wailing is every bit as iconic
as any of the show’s characters, and the
piece brings together many of the series’
most impactful scenes.
But it’s far from the only great song in
this track. No matter the tone of a scene,
be it happy and upbeat, sad and heartfelt,
or somber and foreboding, Suehrio nails it
with a beautiful blend of gentlepiano, mournful
strings… and when it’s needed, more eerie
chanting. The battle music especially is delightful
and varied, ranging from playful and tense
to properly heroic and triumphant
There are few parts of Re:Zero’s production
that I can really fault. White Fox is a really
good studio in general, and they clearly prioritized
making this show as good as it possibly could
be. The only thing that really stands out
as bad – or at least jarring – is the
CGI used in big crowd scenes. And even that’s
impressive in its own righ. There’s a wide
range of character models with clothing and
designs that fit the setting, and they do
a lot more than just stand around to fill
space. A clear effort’s been made to make
the capital of Lugunica in particular feel
lively and lived in.
And the makeup of the crowds even serves to
reinforce the worldbuilding. We see a mix
of humans and demi-humans out in the city’s
shopping district, while the rich parts of
town have mostly human inhabitants, and the
dinger areas are filled with more beast people.
None of this makes the CGI compositing or
animation any better – a lot of that’s
really awkward – but it’s at least used
well in service of the story.
And that is, of course, what all of this is
for. Re:Zero looks and sounds mad pretty,
in a brutal, chilling kinda way. But none
of that would matter if it didn’t tell an
absolute banger of a story.
To this point I’ve spent a lot of time – seriously,
a LOT of time, thanks for making it this far
– talking about the things that make me
love Re:Zero. Rich character psychology, supernerdy
lore, and complex political intrigue are my
jam, but they’re hardly everybody’s. And
Re:Zero has such a broad appeal not because
it’s smart, but because it’s EXCITING.
This series is a thrill ride, built end-to-end
from unpredictable twists and turns, gut-wrenching
drops, and exhilarating crescendos.
Above all those layers of hidden meaning lies
a rock-solid Hero’s Journey narrative that
just… works on a fundamental level. screenwriter
Yokotani Masahiro paced out the adaptation
deliberately to end on the most satisfying
point possible early in the light novels.
It’s an inordinately happy ending for a
series this mired in human misery, but it’s
what the audience needs – and desperately
wants – after all of that. And Subaru, to
his credit, REALLY earns it. In part by learning
another basic adulting lesson – that sometimes
you need to listen to other people and do
things that you don’t want to for them in
order to get them to help you.
But also, he works really hard, and – especially
toward the end of the series – does a lot
of truly heroic, courageous stuff to make
it happen. He doesn’t lead the charge in
the fight against the white whale, but he
sticks his neck out multiple times to save
others and create openings to attack the beast.
And while Petelgeuse does manage to best him
a couple of times, he gives his all to that
fight, and eventually strikes the decisive
blow against the villain with his own hard-earned
strength.
Something else the timeloop gimmick is good
for, by the way. Instead of just isekai-ing
language and swordfighting skills into Subaru’s
brain, the anime is able to use his first
stays at roswaal and crusch’s estates like…
hyperbolic time chamber training sessions
with Ram and Wilhelm, basically. It really
adds to the feeling that he earns his victories
– which makes those great action scenes
that much more exciting.
And while it’s earning those crazy set piece
climaxes, it also manages to set up powerful
emotional story beats – more than one of
which straight up made me cry. Whenever they
break out the bloom and soft line art, I know
it’s time to break out the tissues
The series ends with Subaru saving Emilia
from imminent danger entirely on his own – something
the guy who barely bothered Elsa and got eaten
alive by Ma-beasts could never manage. In
doing so, he finally pays her back properly
for saving him in the very first timeline,
and earns the confidence to confess his love
to her as an equal. It’s downright poetic,
classic fantasy adventure shit, and even though
there’s more story to tell, if Re:Zero never
got another season, it would still feel complete.
Much like Re:Zero, I could keep going from
here. For, like, a LONG time. Until not even
my mom likes me anymore. As a writer, I sit
in awe of Tappei Nagatsuki’s craftsmanship
and obsessive attention to detail. Given what
re:zero accomplishes as a work of fantasy,
a work of horror, and a work of social commentary
– and that it manages to pack all that into
a tightly plotted adventure without detracting
from the thrills…
I can think of no more fitting word to describe
it than “masterpiece.”
I hope I’ll be able to say the same for
the second season when it drops, but at the
very least, I know I can say it for the light
novels. And if you’d like to read ahead
in those, Bookwalker has you covered.
Right now,they’re running a “Winter 2020
Anime” kickoff event, highlighting all the
great manga and light novels that have been
made into anime this season.
from January 28th to the 30th, If you buy
the first 3 volumes of re:zero, Konosuba,
Overlord, shield Hero, Tanya the evil, Yuru
Camp, Infinite Dendrogram, In/Spectre, Interspecies
Reviewers, Toilet bound Hanako kun, Drifting
Dragons, Somali and the forest spirit, Madoka
Magica, Nanatsu no taizai, Chihayafuru, or
raildex, you’ll get 50% of your purchase
back as “bookwalker coins” that can be
used to buy anything else on the store.
And if you use the promo code basement when
you check out, you can get an additional 600
yen off any purchase, making that great deal
even better.
I think I’ve already made a solid case for
why Re:Zero is worth reading, but Drifting
dragons is also a personal favourite of mine.
I love stories about fantasy careers, and
“dragon whaling” is a pretty damn interesting
one. It features an immersive fantasy setting
with airships and cool monsters, rendered
in a gorgeous, crosshatched illustrative style.
And lots of tasty looking anime food, if you’re
into that.
Click the link in the dooblydoo to check out
the full sale, and then go read a book, you
nerds.
I’m Geoff thew, Professional Shitbag, Signing
out from my mother’s basement.

15 thoughts on “Re:Zero IS a Masterpiece. F*** You, Fight Me.”

  1. 19:07 "Imposible to hate"
    O B S E R V E

    Pd. The only problem i have with the series is that Subaru is such a cringy idiot, i hope 2d season fix that, i mean, he HAVE to learn from his mistakes, right?

  2. Yes good! YES! GOOD! IT IS INDEED A MASTERPIECE! I'm so happy my favorite anime youtuber made this video because I can now try to get my friends into it too!

  3. You know, having recently watched Re:Zero, I had inklings of some of these things that you talked about (mostly in relation to the lessons Subaru learns and the characterization of the supporting cast), but I really underestimated just how deep this show cut. I'm not sure when I'll find the time, but you've thoroughly convinced me I need to give it another watch to appreciate the hidden nuggets of complexity in it. Thanks for the great video!

  4. I already knew ReZero is a masterpiece but i still couldn’t believe I just sat through 40 mins listening to you telling me it is. All of your points hits home with me & for a person with a short attention span when things isn’t interesting, i didn’t even realize 40 mins has past. Maybe it’s the way you present it or the passion that one could hear in your voice but great job!

  5. After I saw this pop up in my feed, I stopped, watched all of it, and now I am watching your video agreeing with you 10 fold

  6. If you haven't already try watching the no respawn fan edit of the series. Without seeing what he goes through that causes it Subaru's rapid personality shifts make him seem if not outright psychotic then at least extremely bipolar.

  7. I have a question about a scene that really bothers me. Re:Zero, Episode 25 "That's All This Story is About." Time: 25:30 Amelia weeps her joy and appreciation for Natsuki; 25:39 Natsuki appears in shock; 25:42 – 25:44 a disgusted and unappreciative Amelia is reflected in Natsuki's eye; 25:45 again we view Natsuki with an unhappy look on his face until 25:46. QUESTION: Why is Amelia from Episode 1 who responds very negatively to Subaru's calling her "Satella" reflected in his eye at the end of the series? Is there a wiki page on this?

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