I have never been that high on Re:Zero. When it first came out I watched the first episode on the basis of it’s psychological tagging on MyAnimeList. I got bored about 10 minuets in and dropped the show. Then I saw it gain considerable praise throughout it’s run, gaining a rather high rating on the aforementioned MAL. So I picked it up again and this time I actually finished the thing. As I got further into it I felt like the show picked up steam before it dropped it all again right at the end. In the end I gave it a 6/10. Even though the start and end were shaky I had felt that the middle of the show had been enjoyable enough that it merited at least a 6. T
hat was about a year ago and given the amount of time that had passed I was interested in giving the series another watch after hearing an acquaintance of mine gush over it. And I did rewatch it. or rather I tried to rewatch it. I only made it 10 episodes in (9 if you count 1a and 1b as one episode). The show is incredibly poorly written to me, I don’t know if this is an adaptation issue or if the problem lies in the source material but regardless Re:Zero starting life in another world, is a bit of a clusterfuck.
This is evident from the first episode by which I mean episodes 1a and 1b. We open with our Main Character Subaru in a convenience store reading some mangos. After some way too on the nose humour and a remark about how it’d be cool to have one of them girl thingys he steps outside and is transported into another world. This has all been inter-spliced with scenes of his death later on in the episode.
Now in a vacuum there’s nothing particularly wrong with this scene. It shows us our main character, sets him up a bit and then thrusts us into what should be our hook, the alternate world. Except the alternate world is not our hook, by episode 9 we have been to roughly 4 locations in this world, the center of the city, the slums, Roswaal’s mansion and the village nearby. If Re:Zero’s main goal was to create and explore an alternate world then it does a very poor job of it. We will learn bits and pieces about the world throughout these first 9 episodes but it never seems to be the main focus.
The show isn’t trying to be that though, at least I don’t think it is. It’s an examination of Subaru’s character or more accurately what if a gamer was transported to a world with game like situations and real consequences. The Return by Death power is central to this as it is reminiscent of checkpoints in video games. At any rate this Return by death mechanic is not revealed until the end of episode 1 b. In a Movie your 2nd act would be well underway at this stage, this is 40 minuets into your story and only now are you telling us why we should be interested in the first place. This is why I dropped it the first time, nothing grabbed me early on. I’m convinced if it weren’t for the anime community’s 3 episode rule far less people would have Re:Zero under completed instead of dropped.
And the Return by Death mechanic is a pretty strong hook, I don’t know why they didn’t start with that or get to it quicker. From a story telling standpoint it would’ve made sense to focus more on establishing Subaru’s character though. Maybe we could of had a scene with him at home before he heads to the Konbini. But if you wanted to have a really grabbing opening at the expense of that then why wouldn’t you put your actual hook front and center. It boggles me.
Anyway if you were able to get past this initial part then you’d be in for a pretty mediocre ride. Whenever it’s not trying to push boundaries it does adequately. Conversely it almost always fails when it tries to do something interesting. Throughout the first part of the series we will see Subaru trying to get back Emilia’s emblem and the disembowling lady from murdering everyone. The characterization provided throughout these episodes is fine so I won’t touch on it too much. Emilia telling Subaru her name was Satella makes little sense in my mind but it’s not a big deal.
The biggest issue with this arc is the villain. She’s just not intimidating. Re:Zero’s villains tend to turn the ham up to 11 without providing enough juxtaposing sinisterness. Elsa here just doesn’t scare me in the slightest. She doesn’t seem like an insurmountable challenge. I guess it’s the equivalent of overacting except it’s written right into the script. Those wide Norman Bates eyes don’t scare me they make me laugh. I remember thinking a similar thing when I saw Beetleguese on my first watch, I wished that he was more restrained but not having gotten that far my second time around I may have thought differently on a rewatch.
Apart from that the opening episodes are OK. They drag on a bit because, of course they do. That’s the problem with the Return by Death thing, Subaru rarely changes his plan up signifigantly enough to make things interesting. I wish he’d either changed things more drastically or we’d spent less time on this opening loop. ANd in the end the only reason Elsa is defeated is circumstantial and not due to anything he conciously did. Because he happened to run into Reinhart in this timeline they win, that’s not a particularly satisfying conclusion to me.
Then we get to the arc in Roswaal’s mansion. I dropped my rewatch in the middle of this arc because it was just too annoying to me. Basically we have Subaru trying over and over again to survive in the mansion and get closer to Emilia and the mansion staff. The idea is fine I guess but in execution it falls very flat. This arc is where we should be getting most of our character and relationship building done so that we can care about our cast going forward. Subaru doesn’t know any of these people so he’s starting from scratch. The problem here is that in a time loop you cannot establish character relationships. You can give characters like Rem and Ram some characterization and background because these are things that are only pertinent to the audience in most cases. But every time Subaru dies his relationship with them SHOULD go back to square one but it never seems to.
Emilia seems awfully pally with someone whom she has literally had one conversation with up to this point. Remember all those conversations in the first episode never happened for her. All she knows of Subaru is that he was in the place her insignia was stolen and fought with her against Elsa. This is enough for her to take him to Roswaal’s sure but not justifying the closeness she displays (something she herself calls out at one point). It’s the same with Rem and Ram it always felt like they were warming up to him ever so slightly throughout each loop although it was nowhere near as prominent as with Emilia. The problem is that because we have spent so long with these characters the relationships feel earned even though they haven’t been. It’s basically cheating your audience in this regard. You want to torment Subaru with these time loops but you also don’t want to reset everything else like you should.
It also leads to some blatant plot holes. At one point after one of his many deaths Subaru asks Beatrice to protect him, threatening to tell Puck if she doesn’t help. In a conversation in another timeline he sees her talking to Puck and showing fondness for him. It is then that Subaru realises this fact (obviously). So when he says this to Beatrice she should be wondering how he knows that would get to her since for her that conversation never happened. Then there’s the case of Rem’s death in this same timeline. She dies because she receives the curse Subaru got last time. But how would she have? We see Subaru only gets the curse when he goes up to pet the puppy at the behest of the children. Rem has been shown to, up to this point, not have been at all close to the villagers something that Subaru will try to remedy in later episode/timeline. So how did she get bitten? She wouldn’t have gone near that dog if she went down to the village. It makes little sense and could’ve easily been fixed by having a scene showing the dog attacking her. It’s not strictly speaking a plot hole but it really stretches thing. There are plenty of things like this in just the first 9 episodes, again in the final battle with Elsa Subaru calls out to Puck to shield Emilia. In their minds Subaru should not know of Puck’s existence, it should’ve at least been questioned by them.
I could go on for quite a while complaining about these sort of things but you get the point. I could talk about how Subaru’s effective immortality diminishes the shows stakes and how it could’ve been altered to fix this but that’s an entire video unto itself. Instead to close this out I’ll talk about the plot point that made me drop my rewatch.
In episode 9 Subaru and Rem go down to the village and find out the kids have dissappeared. Then they go to the forest to find that the magic barrier keeping Mabeasts out has been breached. This. Is. Retarded.
We know the dog has been in the village for at the very lest 2 days, probably more considering how close the children are to it. That means that this barrier was left unchecked for multiple days! These people don’t fucking patrol this barrier to check if it’s breached? If it’s compromised EVERYONE IN THE VILLAGE COULD DIE. Why isn’t there someone who’s job it is to patrol this thing. Or even a rota of people checking at least twice a day. WHY ISN’T THERE A 50 FOOT WALL KEEPING OUT THOSE MEXBEASTS?
AT this point I audibly said “Fuck this” to myself and went off to do anything else.
Re:Zero has plenty going for it but it never finds a way to utilize any of them in a way that would keep my interested. I really like the character designs for instance but when best Girl Rem keeps getting reset to her first meeting with Subaru I just lose interest. Anyway, let me know what you thought of Re:Zero and about the issues I mentioned specifically below.
And thanks for reading,