What’s up everyone! Welcome to Beyond The Panel. Coming at you today with talk about Re:Zero − Starting Life in Another World! First off I have to get this off of my chest. “Um, hello? I’d like to talk to the writer of Re:Zero? Um, I’m just wondering… Who hurt you?” This was me after just the first episode. That is the kind of impression that this series will leave on you if you are someone like me who had no idea what he was getting himself into. As you know, I have a thing for isekai series, so I simply expected this one to be different. What I didn’t prepare for was madness, brutality, and despair. No sir, that was not me. Yet that is also what made Re:Zero special.
The premise is Natsuki Subaru, an ordinary high school student, is on his way home from the convenience store when he finds himself transported to another world. As he’s lost and confused in a new world where he doesn’t even know left from right, the only person to reach out to him was a beautiful girl with silver hair. Determined to repay her somehow for saving him from his own despair, Subaru agrees to help the girl find something she’s looking for.
Off the bat, what grabbed my attention was the fact that unlike most people who are thrown into a fantasy world, Subaru is as ordinary as they come. Well, he isn’t the first to jump in with that generic track suit, but everything else aside from that is fairly average. I wanted to see just how far a character like him could get having little to nothing to rely on aside from being fit for his age and size. Now what I didn’t prepare for was the fact that seeing just how far he would get was a matter of reaching the end of the first episode. That was when my eyes were quickly open as to what I had gotten myself into. This wasn’t just fantasy, it was dark fantasy. However, even then I still wanted to how dark they were willing to go. From there my jaw was left on the ground because this turned into the writing of a madman so fast. Honestly I was happy that this was the few times where the creator was bold enough to make the main character older. The last thing you want to have going through your mind is the terror of a child dying the way Subaru does.
Before I go further, I should also remind all of you that with most of these series, I try to jump in knowing as little as possible aside from a brief synopsis. It goes a long way towards maintaining an element of surprise and shock. Especially when it comes to a series like Re:Zero.
With that said, at the same time I couldn’t help but also feel like this was someone who played one too many games of Dark Souls or something similarly inspired. The idea that death could come so easily for you, so brutally, and then have yourself thrown back to the most inconvenient checkpoint to start again. Half the time it was a lot to take in. Aside from the deaths, it was also the mental health of Subaru which created the same sense of horror. It’s one thing to be killed the way he does, and another thing to both remember how you died and not be able to directly stop it from happening again. I mean the kid can’t even tell anyone that there is an evil witch keeping him from saying that he has died before, therefore knowing what’s about to unfold. That’s not to say he shouldn’t be able to get creative in how he explains his situation, because he only really challenges the rules in one way which hit with one hell of a twist to the consequences.
The rest of the cast were worth your investment too. It takes some time to get to know most of them, but the progression in getting to that point is nothing to overlook. How we got to know most of them was unique as well since it was Subaru getting to know them little by little through past lives. Emilia, Rem, Ram, they should all struggle so much to allow someone like Subaru into their lives, but they were all the kind of people who are easy to figure out once you have seen past their flaws. Rem in particular. I was surprised by how much time we spent with her in contrast to the others, but I couldn’t argue with what we got out of her dynamic with Subaru. It was endearing to see two people who felt so lost be able to find a light at the end of the tunnel. In general, interactions with characters like these were much different from your average isekai. You expect that people will naturally connect with you because that is how the world is set up. You don’t expect that getting most people to look your way is going to be as challenging as Subaru found it.
If there is one thing you have to really give credit for? That would be the plot too. It shook me that any single arc could really just be Subaru trying to figure out how he died at a certain point, the steps he needed to take to beat death, and how he could rise to the occasion having pretty much nothing to make it easy. Even then, there was much more to what you thought the story was building up to. I loved the chill in consistently being told that nothing is as it seems. There was nothing you could predict, or brace yourself for. Not when he wasn’t going to die the same way twice. And even then, changing even the smallest detail about his past life could have set a whole new series of events into motion. The fear was in the unknowns and the creator took perfect advantage of that.
Of course there is the animation to talk about. I believe this was the star of the show because it’s not enough to just be able to write dark fantasy, you have to show it. You have to be able to trap the viewer in that atmosphere. Kyuta Sakai was perfect because this was someone who understood that horror begins with the action, and ends with the face. If it’s not written on the face? Then it’s not real. I believed the pain, the trauma, the psychosis which was experienced through Subaru’s series of unfortunate events. Aside from that, the animation was stunning as well when it came to the action, the detail, and even the immersion that the settings created. Even the monsters and demons were quite unique in design.
There was only one time where I ever felt that the story was failing me, and that was because Subaru had some pretty toxic traits about him that he couldn’t help let slip out when he let his obsession for Emilia get the best of him. It was absolutely horrific to see what feelings of inadequacy can do to an individual. Though at the same time it could be understood why these toxic traits leaked out. Subaru is thrown into a world where he has nothing going for him. He thought he might have power to unlock. He thought he would be the hero. He even thought he was the star of the show. Sadly none of that was waiting for the kid, and what stemmed from that was the worst parts of him which clawed for any chance at taking control. I’m actually happy that there was as much difficulty writing this as they said for the anime. It would have been conflicting if Subaru appeared cool. Not only that, for better or for worse some of these cringeworthy scenes would not have hit the same way.
All in all, Re:Zero − Starting Life in Another World is another one of those anime series that I have no regrets at all about taking a chance on. I still want to know who hurt someone so much that they could ever imagine a story like this, but you have to commend the creative minds that were bold enough to go to that dark place. It’s not as if there wasn’t anything to learn from it either. This is an experience that I don’t think you will get anywhere else this year if you give this a shot.