This article originally appeared in Japanese on Animate Times, and we have Kim Morrisy to thank for the translation once again! Also, as you might have guessed, there will be a few spoilers if you're not relatively current on Re:ZERO. Without further ado, continue the conversation between Re:ZERO's director and composer that began last time!
Re:Life in an Interview from Zero is a special series of interviews with the voice actors and theme song artists of the TV anime Re:ZERO -Starting Life in an Another World- (henceforth, Re:ZERO). The series is published in Animate Times. Issue 16 is a continuation of the discussion between the director Watanabe Masaharu and the composer Suehiro Kenichirō. This time, Watanabe-san discusses not only what he was fixated on during the production process, but also how he feels about Subaru’s character, his favorite scenes, and so on. Continuing with this popular relay interview format, he will take questions from last week’s guests, Kobayashi Yūsuke-san and Minase Inori-san.
■ The novel contains big shocks and lines that pierce the viewer’s gut. The director empathizes with Subaru’s words and actions!
――Could you tell us your impression of Re:ZERO again?
Director Watanabe Masaharu (henceforth, Watanabe): It had quite an impact on me. Just like Suehiro-san, I’m one of those people who cried while reading the novel. When I started work on this project, only five volumes had been released, but when I read the novel, I was completely floored by the part where Betelgeuse appears. (In the anime, this happens in episode 15.) After that, I was dying to know what happened next.
Also, the part where Subaru jumps off the cliff had a big impact on me. “Who knew there was a writer who could come up with something like this?” I thought. Each word pierces your gut, you know? If I had to describe myself as a human being, I’d say I’m a low-life, so I was compelled to empathize with Subaru (laughs).
Everyone: (roars with laughter)
Watanabe: I was totally in sync with Subaru because I could very well have said and done the same things as him. I think it’s the kind of story that makes you empathize: when he’s bewildered you feel bewildered, when he gets killed you feel as if you’re getting killed, and when he stands on his own two feet and fights you feel as if you’re doing the same.
Composer Suehiro Kenichirō (henceforth, Suehiro): If you look at the setting in isolation, it’s an orthodox fantasy, but I was surprised at how compelling it is when it’s presented with a “Return by Death” conceit. Is it any wonder that I’m dying to know what happens next?
Watanabe: The setting and story might be game-like, but because the human emotions are treated as serious drama, I can’t tear my eyes away from all the complicated entanglements.
Suehiro: The execution is superb.
■ The anime was made to showcase the strengths of the series
――What sort of things did you ask for when directing the production staff? What were you hoping to achieve?
Watanabe: I asked for the character designs and story to capture the mood of the novel as much as possible. The novel illustrations are stylish, but the pen work is very detailed, which made me wonder whether some aspects would translate well to anime. Fortunately, Sakai Kyūta-san’s designs came out cuter than I imagined, so there are no problems in that department.
At any rate, I put some thought into how I would adapt the parts of the novel I liked and thought were interesting to the screen… but I don’t have the capacity to do that. Still, I wanted to do as much as I could to bring the highlights to life. I asked the art department to use Ōtsuka Shinichirō-san’s illustrations for the novel as a guide when drawing the backgrounds. Ōtsuka-san was originally involved in game-related work, and so he would draw the backgrounds before the characters. When working on the anime, I took great care to hew as close to the novel’s image as I could, because that way the two products would seem much more in tune with each other.
■ According to the director: “Subaru is me!”
――What do you think of Subaru’s character?
Watanabe: I thought: “He’s me!” (laughs) There are parts of his character that resonate with anyone, but especially with guys. I didn’t even have to scrutinize myself. I could tell just from looking at him that he was a life-sized version of me.
Suehiro: Just as the director mentioned, it’s easy to empathize with his immaturity, but in the grand scheme of things, his role in the story and his Return by Death ability are completely typical of the fantasy genre. Only Subaru himself is an irregular existence. Because of Subaru’s presence, it’s impossible to anticipate what will happen next. I think that the nail-biting suspense is the charm of this series.
――Subaru is routinely criticized for being “annoying” and “a low life.” Did you set out to draw this response from the viewers?
Watanabe: That and more (laughs). Even in the scene where he and Emilia have their fight, I didn’t depict him as just any regular scumbag. The scene was the straw that broke the camel’s back, as it were. Subaru becomes a scumbag with an air of tragedy around him. The song made it very atmospheric. The scene feels satisfying, as if it was long overdue.
Publicity agent: When Subaru jumped into the middle of the royal selection candidates, I instinctively wanted to cover my eyes.
Watanabe: Makes you recall a similarly painful experience of your own.
Suehiro: It sure does. It was very cringe-inducing (laughs).
■ The director and composer’s favorite scene is that scene from episode 7?
――In this anime, the OP and ED sometimes don’t play, and different versions of songs get used. Because it was so unanticipated, it caused a lot of discussion. Tell us about your intention behind these choices.
Watanabe: To put it simply, it was a coincidence. Actually, I wanted to use the entire OP/ED, but it was impossible to fit it all into the running time. The initial plan was to let the ED run normally while the intro blended into the main part of the episode. But that ended up opening a can of worms. The episodes took on different formats because it wasn’t possible to use the entire OP/ED song, or the main story took up too much space… With episode 7, I deliberately used a special ED, but the other times were a result of coincidence. I figured why not? The viewers won’t get bored this way.
――Sometimes, there’s an extra scene after the ED. It’s nice when the viewers can watch the anime every week not knowing where it’s going to end.
Watanabe: We’re just scraping along, looking for the best way to do things. To be honest, I want to deliver an episode that features both the OP and ED.
――Could you tell us your favorite scene out of all the episodes that have aired so far?
Watanabe: When I was reading the novel, the scene that made me want to adapt the story into anime is the one shown in episode 7 when Subaru jumps off the cliff. I also like the end of episode 14 when Rem dies, as well as the ED of episode 15. Ah, I’ve also watched the last scenes of episode 1 and episode 6 so many times (laughs). I like feelings of despair, madness and tension, so whenever those settings are maxed out, I get the chills. Re:ZERO is no exception. The chilling points naturally became my favorite scenes, and I’ve watched episodes 7, 14 and 15 countless times.
Suehiro: That scene from episode 7 felt different when I was reading it in the novel. I liked the way it was done in the anime. It was amazing how well the music synchronized with the raw emotions on display during the scene. It’s rare for the long version of a song to be played in an anime, and I got really wrapped up in it. It’s become a favorite of mine.
■ Kobayashi-san liked the last scene in episode 1, where Subaru’s reflection is shown. What was the director’s intention behind that scene?
――This series of interviews has a relay question format. Last week’s guests were Kobayashi Yūsuke, the voice actor of Subaru, and Minase Inori, the voice actress of Rem. They have questions for Watanabe-san. First off, from Kobayashi-san: “I think that some parts are directed in a really unique way. I want to know the purpose behind the direction at the end of episode 1, where Subaru and Emilia are reflected in each other’s eyes.”
Watanabe: I wanted to express how, in the end, what they were looking at was a lie. The person before their eyes was not the person they had been before then. The reflection doesn’t show any facial expressions or emotions, but it does show a familiar person. I wondered if was possible to express that in the final scene in some fashion. Moreover, I wanted to use a cut with symbolic meaning as the story progressed. It’s as if the images in those reflections signify an ending of sorts.
I like reflections a lot. I’ve used them frequently in other works, but I wanted to go one step further and experiment with eye blinks. It shows how they’re connected. I thought it would be cool to show them in the flesh first, and then show their images in reflections. Then finally, it would cut to the title of the episode. Bam!
■What is the director’s favorite character? Also, who is the true heroine: Emilia or Rem?
――Next up is Minase-san’s question: “The director is really in touch with the feelings and inner emotions of all the characters, but I want to know which character he is particularly fond of above all the others.”
Watanabe: Before making the anime, I liked Subaru and Beatrice, but as I was making it, I found myself drawn to Puck. Before and after the anime was sponsored, I included as much of Puck as I could. I want a Puck of my own (laughs). I really like the animals that appear in Re:ZERO. Before the tiny dog transforms into the boss of the Wolgarms, it looked as sweet as pie. When it appeared, it was as if it were saying, “I’m the boss here,” but as an animal, its cuteness was beyond imagination. As far as I’m concerned, animals are number one. Right now, my heart belongs to Puck.
――Emilia and Rem are said to be the heroines of Re:ZERO. Which one of them would you choose?
Watanabe: That’s a tough question. People will get mad at me no matter who I say (laughs). But I suppose that Rem’s role in the story is that of a sub-heroine, while Emilia is the main heroine. I directed episode 1 myself and did as much as I could to enhance her presence in the scenes to make up for her lack of screen time. I’d change her outfits and made sure she gave off a strong impression. As far as I’m concerned, the heroine is Emilia, but perhaps nobody will believe me when I say that. After all, Rem clearly acts more like a heroine (laughs). But please don’t forget the scenes that showcase Emilia as the heroine (laughs).
Suehiro: I liked Rem when I was reading the novel, but when I watched the anime, the director’s experiments paid off. The scenes where Emilia’s outfit changes or when she lets her hair down are forever branded in my head.
Suehiro: I thought, “Emilia sure is cute. She’s a bona fide heroine.”
■ Please watch Subaru as he overcomes his harsh and difficult trials. Don’t avert your eyes until the very end
――The climax is now approaching. Please leave a message for all the readers and tell us about some things you’d like them to pay attention to in future episodes.
Suehiro: I prepared the songs in the hopes that every scene in Re:ZERO will be just a little bit more interesting for the viewers to watch, so I’d like everyone to enjoy the music along with the anime. Also, I’d be very happy if you bought the BDs and listened to the music alongside the anime once more.
Watanabe: How will our scummy protagonist face the trials and tribulations he receives? And how will he overcome them? I hope you watch to the very end without averting your eyes.
In issue 17 of Re:Life in an Interview from Zero, Kobayashi Yūsuke-san and Minase Inori-san will appear. Kobayashi-san plays Subaru, while Minase-san plays Rem. Stay tuned to find out how the conversation goes!