Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World- – Mid Series Review
Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World-:
Original Air Dates: April 3rd, 2016 – ???
Synopsis: Natsuki Subaru is your ordinary high school student. Plays too many games, stays up late, and tends to grab late night snacks at the convenience store. On his way home from a late night snack trip, Subaru has a brief series of flashes before his eyes, which he chalks up to his poor gaming habits. But when he opens his eyes again he finds that he’s been transported to another world entirely; a world of elves, demi-humans and swords and knives.
When Subaru finds himself at the mercy of bandits, a silver haired girl, Satella, steps into save him. Seeking to repay her, Subaru agrees to work with her to find her stolen insignia. But things take a terrible turn, when the hunt for Satella’s insignia goes south and Subaru finds himself mortally wounded. Is this the end for Subaru? Or perhaps– merely the beginning?
Mid Series Review (12 Episodes) (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Re:Zero kicked things off with an impressive bang, taking the concept of time travel and fantasy and reinvigorating it by playing it different from other, similar shows within its genre. Not only is the time travel achieved through some very painful means but our hero Subaru is pretty much on his own figuring everything out from day one. It’s also done in a way that the audience gets to pretty much view and relive almost every single minute of every single repeated time period again and again with Subaru and this makes for gripping viewing as you try to figure out what was the one little thing that Subaru did wrong/has to fix in real time alongside him. On the other hand, if you are an impatient viewer, you might start to lose interest when certain events are looped multiple times and it becomes relentless rather than refreshing.
Tom: I find Re:Zero often wavers between being entirely engrossing or outright slow. There’s some really interesting ideas surrounding the show’s execution of Subaru’s Revival by Death ability, but it’s hindered by several glaring issues. Firstly Re:Zero likes to present itself as clever, as if it’s always one step ahead of the audience. The truth, however, for more experienced viewers is that many of Re:Zero’s twists and surprises can be seen from miles away. More discerning viewers can spot where Re:Zero is going long before it gets there, making the lengthy reveals it has set up feel exceedingly dragged out. There were times where I found myself impatiently waiting for Re:Zero to get to its point, a point I’d longed guessed was coming but the show still feels the need to build up to these moments despite how obvious many of them might already be. If, however, you’re a newer viewer or someone less bothered by its more obvious nature than this of course won’t feel like much of an issue.
Linny: A possible cause for the ensuing disappointment with Re:Zero’s obvious clues is that the show had so much potential, and started off rather smart but then it slowly became a lot more predictable and gets frustrating as you scream out the obvious answers while Subaru fails to pick up on the clue and the entire cycle repeats again from square one. It also doesn’t help that the show can get extremely melodramatic in an attempt to drive the point home in certain situations. Or that it seems to execute some scenes rather terribly. For example, when Subaru is rushing to save a particular character’s life with the clock clearly ticking, he and his partner repeatedly stand around and discuss back story even while repeatedly mentioning that they need to hurry because that particular someone is still in mortal danger. It’s hard to reconcile with your suspense of disbelief and can really take the viewer out of the moment.
Tom: Extending off the show’s inability to depict events with urgency as Linny described above, Re:Zero could honestly use a trim. Many sequences hammer home the same point over the course of several minutes, with dialogue continuing long after the point has been made. Maybe we’re dealing with a character’s feelings of inadequacy, or discussing a major plot point. But the show nearly always gets its point across and then keeps going, treating the audience as if they’re too dense to understand it the first time round. This causes Re:Zero to move far slower than it needs to. The series has been praised during this season for chopping out the opening or ending credits in order to give room for its story to breath. However, I find that the show has never actually needed to cut the opening or ending credits, not if its writing had been that much tighter. Chop a line of dialogue here, or another line there and Re:Zero would easily get the same information and emotion across without the excess.
Linny: As with media in general, a lot of your enjoyment will come from connecting or becoming fond of the characters. Once you’re attached to at least one of them (I personally seem to have noticed a lot of fanboys for Emilia and the twins) , it’s easier to ignore the flaws and become invested in the fate and stories of those character/s. Even if a loop is repeated infinitely, if you’re rooting for your favourite character to make it through or emerge victorious, it’s not a chore to sit through but rather a heart pounding experience.
Tom: The real trouble in enjoying Re:Zero stems from Subaru himself. For us, he’s become one of the most grating protagonists in recent anime history. For anyone tired of anime’s more tropey nature, Subaru does little to actually elevate the problem. He’s meta, meaning that he’s constantly aware and calling out whatever tropes Re:Zero happens to come upon, but never does anything to avoid diving head first into the ensuing tropey dialogue, conversation or situation. It’s irksome, like a child calling out to his parents, “Hey wouldn’t it be funny if I splattered paint all over the walls?” and then does it anyway. All Subaru does is make these tropes all the more obvious and that in itself is exceedingly frustrating. It’s not clever to call out tropes unless you’re then going to actively subvert expectations, something Re:Zero has proven itself incapable of.
Linny: Subaru comes off as intelligent initially, especially when he first started out calling out tropes and making us expect subversion and new twists. There’s even something to be said and praised about how the show has him experiencing severe panic attacks about the repeated deaths he’s suffered through. Rather than leave it unaddressed or have him be an all out badass who brushes death off with a smirk, the show has him terrified and nauseous, constantly on the verge of a breakdown as he tries to keep it together. But then, it also has him nauseatingly chirpy, flooding Emilia with superlative compliments and baby talk like honorifics, which frustrated the hell out of me. He lays it on so thick that it comes off as fake and try hard and makes him sound more idiotic than likable. I get that its part of an effort to show how he is trying his best to appear cheerful and high spirited to the others, hence the try hard, BUT it just gets more and more annoying as he over reacts to even the smallest word from Emilia. And personally speaking, if any guy spoke to me the way Subaru does to Emilia in the palace, I would be so creeped out.
Tom: Outside of Subaru, we have Emilia who’s a potentially enjoyable character. She’s a kind young girl with a few mysterious qualities, but is gradually dropped from the series’ during its second arc where she’s relegated to little more than a background love interest for Subaru save for a single episode where she returns to the spotlight to become his emotional pillar. It’s a poor use of her character, particularly after she’d been a focal point up until then. Felt, another character featured prominently in the series’ first arc, remains entirely absent during its second and only appears again in the first episode of Re:Zero’s third arc. It can get a little frustrating for viewers who took to either of these two characters as neither really gets the screen time they deserve for a solid fourth of the series.
Linny: Emilia turns into a subtle type of fan service character, a female character that isn’t ever hyper sexualized but is clearly aimed at the male viewer, in particular those who have dreamed or longed for someone pretty, feminine, delicate, etc. to fuss over them and be their personal ‘goddess’. It’s not a criticism but just giving potential viewers further warning that if you expected her to be a bad ass action oriented female character, she isn’t one, at least not for the first half of the season.
Tom: Replacing Emilia and Felt for its second arc Re:Zero instead treats us to the maid duo Rem and Ram, two characters who form the core mystery and revelations Subaru must face during this section of the series. Neither character is particularly interesting, and their characterization mostly consists of an odd quirk where they call each other’s name before both insulting Subaru (deserved or unwarranted at any given time.) Their backstory, however, is one of the more interesting aspects to the series, but is unfortunately quickly glossed over within half an episode and the trauma one of the two girls suffers based on their past is resolved in the very same episode, making these revelations entirely pointless. Rather than letting its characters struggle and grow through these issues, Re:Zero is content to introduce and solve them on the spot which makes for disappointing and lackluster character development. The main focus is always on Subaru and the cold hard truth is that, if you cannot stand Subaru, Re:Zero doesn’t have much else to offer.
Linny: Ram and Rem also take over the roles left open by Felt and Emilia, bringing the action when Emilia becomes a prim and proper lady at the palace and never takes part in any of the violence And Felt pulls a complete disappearing act. They’re also the tsundere twins so for those who love yourselves some tsundere, you get two for the price of one.
Tom: In a quick about face I want to add that Re:Zero isn’t all bad in my eyes. The first arc is pretty good, and the animation and character design are vibrant enough to keep the show feeling visually fresh and appealing. Unfortunately that’s not enough for me to see Re:Zero as worthy of praise. It’s a series that attempts to be clever by pointing out the very tropes fantasy anime suffer from, but does little to avoid any of those flaws. Re:Zero might be worth your time as long as you find Subaru and his meta humor enjoyable, but if you’re someone who’s grown tired of anime’s near constant fantasy tropes, pointing them out will ultimately do little to alleviate the greater problem.
Linny: The show has been praised by viewers for its cleverness which I whole heartedly agreed with until we entered its second arc and Subaru turned into this all solving all knowing character. My thoughts are best expressed by Subaru himself when in an episode, he begins recounting all that happened and ends it questioning if he actually added anything to the incident. The obsession Re:Zero has with pointing out tropes and then executing them exactly like every other show becomes more than just predictable and instead turns frustrating and idiotic. If you are aware of the flaws and tropes, why not impress the audience by subverting them? Do something different instead of ultimately falling in line with every other anime. This has to be my biggest gripe with the show and if it sounds like something that would bug you, then it’s best if you steer clear. However, seeing as this show is so loved by a very vocal following, and even I will admit it DOES have a good start, you may want to give it a chance otherwise.
Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World- is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.com.