Written by: Koda89
Imagine if your life suddenly became like one of those annoyingly difficult games on the NES. You know the ones I'm talking about, the kind where the checkpoints were placed insanely far apart and deaths were easy to come by and often extremely cheap, with each death sending you all the way back to your last checkpoint, completely erasing the hard fought progress you just made in the process. So you try and try again, learning little by little via trial by error what you need to do to get past the obstacle and reach the next checkpoint. For Subaru Natsuki, the main character in Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-, this isn't a scenario he has to imagine, this is his reality.
Subaru is a bit of a genre-savvy geek from our world who, while on a trip to and from a convenience store, gets suddenly pulled into another world filled to the brim with conventional fantasy tropes, much to his initial heart's desires. Though things quickly start to unravel for him as he rather immediately finds out that he's not having the same kind of adventures and powers the main character often finds in his scenario. That's not to say he is completely powerless, however. Much to his surprise, he does have a special ability in this new world. He can't die. Well, ok, he can in fact die, but his deaths don't "stick". Upon dying he finds himself coming to back at a set point in time, basically a checkpoint.
He dubs this ability of his "Return by Death", and through his repeated deaths it becomes quickly apparent that Subaru has managed to plunge himself headfirst into a rather lethal game of thrones in this fantasy world, as he becomes tangled in the life of Emilia, a half-elf girl with silver hair, who is more important than she originally seemed.
Coming immediately on the heels of last season's meta-comedy about "trapped in a fantasy world" series KONOSUBA -God's blessing on this wonderful world! and the time traveling dramatic thriller ERASED, it makes sense that many would like to equate Re:ZERO to be some amalgam of aspects of the two shows. For example, both KONOSUBA and Re:ZERO have genre-savvy main characters who were total dweebs in our world being whisked off to another realm, and like ERASED the main character must go through several time loops in his attempt to prevent the deaths of others. However, even though it may make sense to think this way, I honestly think it is a bit of a disservice to Re:ZERO to summarize it as such.
For starters unlike KONOSUBA, Re:ZERO is decidedly a more serious tale, and on top of that the time travel mechanics don't even remotely work the same way as they do in ERASED. When it comes to time travel tales the closest parallel I have personally experienced when it purely comes to the mechanics is All You Need is Kill and its movie counterpart Edge of Tomorrow (also known by its tagline of Live. Die. Repeat, which is also an apt name for Re:ZERO now that I think about it) especially since in both All You Need is Kill and Re:ZERO the main characters are the only ones who keep their memories of each of the time loops, giving them more experience and information the more they die.
Another nice touch that Re:ZERO employs is that Subaru slowly comes to the realization what he loses each time he dies. All of the progress he makes when it comes to connecting to the other characters in the series, most importantly of all Emilia, is erased every time he dies. For some people this might be seen as a negative, in that the events we saw in the past loops, and thus the growth we saw in the supporting characters as a result, don't really count, as they literally no longer exist. Personally, I love how the show slowly reveals different sides to the characters with each loop, because Subaru is going through different events in each loop, leading to different traits being brought to the forefront, and though the actual events that transpired in the prior loops very well may have ceased to be, the traits we saw in those loops still are parts of what makes the characters who they are.
Re:ZERO is one of the most purely entertaining shows I am watching this season. I'm completely enthralled with what I see each week and can't wait to see where the show goes from here. I fully recommend people to check out Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-, especially if they are fans of time travel series. What I've touched upon here is honestly just the surface of what I have to say about Re:ZERO, but if I ramble on any longer, this would turn into a full on thesis about the show, and that would leave nothing for Dai_Loli, my awesome partner in crime this time around, to talk about. So I'm going to stop being greedy and pass the mic off to them.
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Written by: Dai_Loli
Not to worry, Koda89, as you have been so kind as to summarize the plot for me, I am in a forgiving mood... I suppose~
You were on the nose with the comparison to Edge of Tomorrow, I had personally likened it to Groundhog Day and Puella Magi Madoka Magica, but really, the idea is the same: You end up repeating the same events and you’re the only one remembering them. I’ll wholeheartedly agree with dissociating it from KONOSUBA and ERASED, as much as I loved these shows themselves (KONOSUBA episode 9, never forget). The interesting additions to the formula in Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- are what really make it stand out, in my opinion.
First off, Subaru doesn’t even know why he’s there and even the viewer has no idea what he needs to do to get out of this loop. In Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s just trying to reach the next day and we all know he’ll make it when he stops being an ass. In Edge of Tomorrow, there’s an alien invasion to stop. In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Homura’s trying to save Madoka. The fact that there is no clear win condition for the main character in Re:ZERO puts all of our thinking caps on from the get-go: Who summoned him there and why? What role does he ultimately have to play with such a strong power?
Secondly, even his “Return by Death” ability is unreliable! The first few episodes pit him in a situation that always somehow brings him back to the place he least wants to return to, and when he succeeds at changing the outcome, his deaths no longer return him to the starting point! This adds yet another layer of mystery and spawns the sort of great exchanges of theories between fans that only the best shows can encourage.
As the first few episodes have proven, Re: ZERO excels at delivering great action scenes and plot twists when it needs to, but it manages to also use these elements to boost even its most mundane scenes to new heights. Not only are the moments of peace accentuated with that recurring thought at the back of your head that all the development and progress Subaru’s making may be reset yet again, but every scene that would usually pass by unnoticed in other animes becomes rich with potential hints to catch on to and hidden motives to uncover.
My only worry with Re:ZERO is that it doesn’t manage to live up to all the hype it’s building with a proper ending that ties up all the loose ends and deliver episodes that continue to pull the rug from under us consistently from start to finish. With 25 episodes planned, it’ll be quite the challenge to keep us guessing without hurting the pace. If it can pull even that off, I’ll gladly put in on a pedestal as one of this year’s best.
Just wanted to spur a little discussion here and mention that I was one of the only people in the Newsletter who actually didn't really like this show. That's not to say that it isn't any good, but I have a difficult time swallowing a show who's own main character openly mocks the narrative he's placed in, blatantly breaks the fourth wall, and by all means acts like selfish douche who's only motivation is self-gratification.
But remove Subaru from the picture and you have an interesting mix of mystery, suspense, and action in the guise of a "trapped in a fantasy world" setting. The comedy is definitely not my thing (I'm pretty fed up with tired tropes revolving around otakus, quite frankly), but I can understand why it can be enjoyable for some. At the very least, I'm beginning to appreciate the story more come the latter episodes (especially since Subaru finally realizes how much of a dick he's been). What I can't deny is this show's ability to deliver impact and heft in its action, and even drama, set pieces. This is something that is frustratingly lacking in Asterisk Wars for example, and all the more frustrating for me to find it in a show like this.
But yeah, I'm in the minority here, but it's still a pretty good show. I blame myself for hating Subaru.
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