Pictured above: Best Girl of 2016
Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu (Re:Zero – Starting Life in A New World), or Re:Zero for short, is the anime adaptation of a Light Novel series that aired in the Spring of 2016 and told the story of Subaru Natsuki, a Japanese boy who suddenly found himself in a world unlike his own and filled with magic and fantasy. Naturally, being an shut-in of sorts, he believes he’s the main protagonist and acts accordingly… and pays for it in the most painful way possible when he learns that the only thing that accounts for is that he cannot die when killed.
As the anime has come to a close, I will now be reviewing and giving my personal opinion of the show.
The premise of Re:Zero is that Subaru has literally popped into existence in an alternate world without any clue why he is there or what he is doing, but finds himself enamored with a young half-elf named Emilia after she saves him from a mugging, only for them to both die by the end of the day due to a murderer who is obsessed with disemboweling people. He then returns to life, resolves to avert this from happening, and ends up becoming involved in what amounts to a Royal Election that will determine the next ruler of the land.
So, at first glance, we have a “trapped in another world” premise combined with some good old fashion heroics towards a damsel in distress with a hint of politics on the side… at least until things get dark. Then we get psychological elements mixed in due to the nature of Subaru’s power, Return by Death, and the story begins to explore human nature, how one’s perspective of another can shift depending on circumstances and interactions with the same person, and just how far you can push someone before they end up broken shell of a person.
It’s an interesting premise for sure, but one that can be done wrong on many different levels. What saves it from that is the fact that, despite our main protagonist being essentially immortal, Subaru is very much human in how he acts and behaves, and how just a small change in behavior or circumstances can cause a butterfly effect of epic proportions.
The setting is a High Fantasy genre, set in a world removed from Earth and filled with Beastmen, Spirits, Magic, and varying levels of technology that are rather on the low-end. I won’t call it original and there’s nothing I can say that stands out above other shows with this sort of setting. It is what it is.
The characters of ReZero are, at a first glance, what you’d expect. Subaru is the hero, Emilia is the reclusive heroine, the maids are distant, etc. However, thanks to the premise, whatever expectation you have towards these characters at that first glance are upended when next you see them.
You see, because there’s an element of mental time-travel due to Subaru’s ability that activates upon his death, there’s virtually no plot-armor whatsoever for anyone and people die… a lot. That means that Subaru suffers the full-effect of dying abruptly, being murdered violently, watching the people he comes to care about be slaughtered, and so on, and he can’t tell anyone because of the nature of the power.
This puts him in an horrible position and we slowly see how all of that grinds down the initial impression he gave off and reveals the ugly, very human side of him that has wants and desires and needs that are what some would call un-heroic. This serves as the means by which Subaru avoids becoming a generic hero with the ability to rewind time and becomes someone we can relate to on a deeper level. Likewise, because Subaru changes how he interacts with others upon losing one life, we see other sides of them that can overturn the first impressions we had of them.
Take note though, this only applies to characters he frequently interacts with, so basically important characters are the only ones with layers to them.
Animation & Sound
The animation as a whole has been… well, I’ll say okay overall. There are some instances where the quality dips, but nothing too bad.
The music, on the other hand, carries a lot of emotions when the show calls for it. Without wishing to spoil, at one of the lowest moments the music dipped to a depressing dirge that left me wondering if we were getting a bad ending, while at a high point I couldn’t help but feel my heart filling with warmth… before devolving into rage over Subaru’s choice of words that follow.
But that’s a personal opinion and, though I am somewhat salty about it, I can’t blame the show for it.
Overall, Re:Zero is a fantastic show that puts a twist on the “trapped in another world” story, showing the effects of having a power like Subaru’s, as well as how one can rise from tragedy and come out ahead. It does tend to have more low-points around the middle, and a lot of death, but those only serve to make the high-points sweeter. If you’ve got the stomach for it, you’ll probably enjoy it.