Choices are made and alliances are formed. How will Subaru defeat the White Whale?
Hello again, and welcome to the penultimate installment of the GREAT CRUNCHYROLL RE:ZERO REWATCH hosted by me, David Lynn! Last time on Re:Zero, everything fell apart in spectacular fashion for Subaru, and he hasn't taken it well. This week we venture further into Subaru's self-destructive tendencies that last week established, but end up moving toward a resolution every party may be happy with. Most satisfylingly, the issues with Subaru that commenters Pure6Evil and Heavenspiercing brought up last week come to the forefront with the developments here. But how does our panel feel about it? Let's find out!
Let’s start with the biggest moment, the entirety of episode 18. Subaru’s self-destructive arc ever since the royal selection began comes to a head, and both he and Rem are forced to face their issues. Was this a satisfying payoff for you?
Kara: Yes… and no? From a purely fictional standpoint I really love the scene. The voice actors did an amazing job, Rem’s description of a happy life with Subaru got me in the heart, and it really did seem to be cathartic. If these were two of my real-world friends, I would probably bop Subaru in the head for asking Rem to be his #1 cheerleader right after the bait-and-switch he pulled on her, then take Rem out for margaritas and teach her how to be a good friend to him that still calls him out on his BS.
Paul: I'm glad that Subaru is finally addressing his personality problems, which he admits stems from a deep-seated sense of self-loathing. I'm less satisfied with Rem being there to prop him up. Social support is great when you're dealing with these kind of issues, but it felt like Rem was going beyond that, to the point where she was almost volunteering to annihilate her own self-hood for Subaru's sake, and that's not ideal. At least she shot down the idea of them running away together.
Noelle: I’m mixed on this. On one hand, Subaru being honest with himself, that he’s not a hero, that he is well aware of his flaws and how deeply rooted they are, that’s pretty good! A lot of this segment was him lashing out at things not going the way he ideally wanted, and being able to admit his own flaws was satisfying. Acknowledging faults is the best way to start working past them! Rem talking about how happy Subaru makes her is very sweet, letting herself have some personal happiness. But that Subaru instantly gets better and more charismatic after a girl gives him her love… that’s not really such a good look. Subaru’s problems run deep, and having a heroine in his life that loves him shouldn’t instantly change things around. And it doesn’t! Subaru still feels like the same person, self-hate or no! Give him more confidence, sure, but the way things were handled didn’t leave me too pleased.
Kevin: In short, that conversation is fighting for my favorite moment in the entire show. It does go a bit too over the top with Rem’s later parts, both in terms of animation (why so many birds? Where did they come from?!) and her actual confession, but any time that two characters have a conversation for 15 minutes and it’s engaging almost the entire time, clearly the show’s doing something right.
Joshua: This moment really was a long time coming for Subaru. After shouldering so much pain and trauma from the time loops, it was inevitable that the emotional pot was going to boil over, and spill out. While it’s easy for us and other characters to criticise him, Subaru’s admission that he hates himself was painful to watch. He’s made monumental mistakes like at the royal selection, but he’s also shouldering a lot of blame he can’t even tell anyone about. Having to watch loved ones die over and over, struggling to save them only to fail again at the next stage… I don’t blame him for wanting out. As Rem said though, that wouldn’t be the Subaru she loves. Rem countering Subaru’s self-loathing by pointing out what she loves about him was so sweet and moving. That whole scene was beautiful and a definite highlight of the series for me, although the “I love Emilia” line that sent the fanbase into a rage, sure did end it on a bum note. I just wish Rem could find someone who will reciprocate the love she deserves, because while she may be a demon, she’s an absolute angel.
Jared: I think for me, I don’t know that he’s actually done anything to improve himself. Having a big vent session like that can be cathartic when you’re bottling up all kinds of emotions like he clearly is, but trying to justify all the crappy things he did by saying he hates himself doesn’t do a whole lot for me. The fact that he has an idea where this all comes from is good. He just now has to actually learn from what he did and that’s where I don’t know that he’s actually come to that conclusion or even had it cross his mind. Considering by the end of it he’s back to thinking he’s the only one that can be the hero and save everything. It all just seems like an excuse for him to show why he’s been a complete turd and then have him do nothing to show that he’s going to improve in any sort of way.
Carolyn: I hated it at first. Rem was being super sweet and supportive and Subaru was being extremely self-centered even in his admission that he hates himself. She was telling him how she sees him and he kept turning it around to his own feelings. I loved it when she called him out a little bit… and then absolutely hated it again when she decided to cheer him on when he completely stomped on her heart.
Danni: I’m real glad this little character arc is over for Subaru. I’m not going to lie, it hit real close to home when he came around and admitted he had just been overcompensating for his own self-loathing. Self-loathing is a real vicious cycle. When you spend all your time stuck in your own head you become acutely aware of your own flaws and become paranoid that everyone else is just as aware of them. It’s tough to admit your own flaws and even tougher to own up to them, which Subaru finally did. Real maturity means being able to see things outside of your own point-of-view, and that means trusting in the things the people around you see in yourself that you cannot. I think Subaru took an important step towards maturity by accepting Rem’s love for him, and he showed even more maturity by being honest with her about his own feelings. The worst thing he could have done for her is avoided her feelings or lied about his own.
Austin: Personally, yes. I’ve seen this scene a few times now since I always end up rewatching it when I go to grab screenshots from it and every single time it’s made me cry. I love their putting everything out on the table, I love their monologues and how they paint a crystal clear picture as to what’s going on in each of their heads, and I love the conclusion as the laugh about their future. I was never (and likely never will be) frustrated that he rejected Rem, since it’s clear that he was doing it out of desperation and Rem could easily tell.
The two sides of this arc—the royal selection and the Witch’s Cult—seemed like completely unrelated events up to this point. Do you like how the show managed to pull them together at the last minute?
Kara: I kind of suspected they’d be tied together because I get very Occam’s Razor about shorter anime (I know this comes from a long-running light novel, but I’ve not read it and we only just learned about a new season). That said, I do like where this is going. I’m always interested in world-building, and this is finally getting us into the meat of a lot of things I’ve been curious about.
Paul: Are they pulled together? I still don't know why the Witch Cult is targeting Emilia specifically, or what stake—if any—they have in the royal selection. With only 5 episodes left in this season, I fear we won't see a satisfying resolution to this story-line, because there's been a whole lot of “mystery box” style set-up and not a lot of pay-off.
Noelle: I’m with Paul on this one, that it doesn’t really feel that cohesive. Several times I found myself wondering what exactly the cult wanted. While I could certainly guess, there’s nothing really concrete to confirm things so far. They’re interesting plot points separately, but it doesn’t feel like they’ve managed to mesh very much.
Kevin: I like it on a conceptual level, because it helps make the world feel more interconnected by having different factions play off of each other. On a practical level, I feel like the Cult got revealed a bit too soon, and without enough gravity. When Subaru is having multiple mental breakdowns and we learn that Felt is the last candidate to lead the country, we don’t care nearly as much about a bunch hooded guys that appeared out of nowhere.
Joshua: The curse of enjoying an adaptation of an ongoing series, is having questions but no ETA on the answers. I think given Emilia’s similarities to Satella, and the Witch Cult’s obsession with the Jealous Witch, a collision course was inevitable. I think Re:ZERO’s biggest issue right now, is a lack of focus. Why was so much time spent building up Betelguese, if the attention was going to shift to the White Whale? His only appearance in this chunk felt too throwaway given how shocking his introduction was... It still feels like early days for the royal selection though, with most of the other candidates only having brief appearances so far. Hopefully as the series goes on, things become more naturally intertwined as these plotlines grow.
Jared: It does sort of feel like they’re trying to patch it together last minute since like some of the others, I’m still not entirely sure why they’re targeting Emilia specifically. I just figured it was due to the backlash in general she’s already faced, but yeah, probably one of those things that can be boiled down to an adaptation of a long series. Sometimes these kinds of aspects get jumbled when trying to squeeze a lot into a certain set of episodes.
Carolyn: Yeah, I’m also with Paul. I’m at a loss as to how it all actually ties together. I feel like there are so many loose ends to this story! But I love it, anyway.
Danni: I’m with the others in that I don’t quite understand why she’s being targeted or what it has to do with the royal selection. I’m guessing it has something to do with her looking like the witch, therefore being guilty in their eyes of impersonation? Which begs the question of why are they only just now attacking? Was she not already well known? I always assumed she was a prominent figure already before the Royal Selection and am now realizing we don’t actually know anything about her backstory at all.
Austin: Echoing everyone else’s thoughts on it not really feeling tied together. I think with the announced second season it’ll get a chance to wrap everything together nicely, but as of now there’s plenty shrouded in mystery.
A surprise favorite for me is Wilhelm, the knight whose wife was the strongest swordsman and was tragically killed by the White Whale. What did you think about the sudden focus he gets, and largely the shift in tone (and genre?) that the whale hunt brings?
Kara: I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about the whole White Whale thing, but seeing it evolve into what it is has been fantastic. I love Wilhelm (and all those other people) stepping forward for the hunt, and just this sheer wave of emotion people are getting. Wilhelm is the only one with a flashback, but even with the minor characters coming in, it’s clear how many people this has affected. I’ve enjoyed this a lot.
Paul: I'm still waiting for the White Whale thing to come full circle in some sense, in order to complete the Moby Dick reference. I enjoyed the flashbacks to young Wilhelm and Theresia, specifically to how her prowess completely, effortlessly overshadowed his own, and it was fun to see modern-day Wilhelm carving chunks out of his hated nemesis, but I admit all of the literary allusions gave me pause. Moby Dick is a story of self-destructive obsession, and I had no idea how an army armed with swords and spears could possibly prevail over the Re:ZERO equivalent of the Tarrasque from Dungeons & Dragons. I still don't know how they're going to salvage victory from the jaws of defeat after the conclusion of Episode 20.
Noelle: Wilhelm is straight up awesome. An old guy going absolutely ham on a gigantic monster was so, so great to watch. As for his backstory, I think I would have been fine without seeing it, because what they showed more annoyed me than endeared me. It was framed more as Wilhelm wanting his wife not to wield a sword because, what exactly? She seemed to be perfectly capable of doing so and not against it. Having her being dead and him wanting revenge was good enough without those details. Cut the flashback, and I think I would’ve been perfectly fine. The old man is taking this whale to town though, and that’s fantastic.
Kevin: As a first time viewer, it was really cool seeing someone actually competent at fighting getting to show off. I think the last time we saw an actual fight like that was Reinhard versus Elsa in the first arc, and Reinhard only really attacked once. As a repeat viewer, it somehow got even better, because I know Wilhelm’s backstory going in, so every blow he deals has a lot more cathartic weight behind it.
Joshua: I’ve been a huge fan of Wilhelm since the series first simulcast, but I totally forgot just how kinetic this old man is! I mean, did you see how cool he looked when he was younger? He totally puts me and my out-of-shape younger body to shame. You gotta think, his body may be grey and wrinkled now, but that badass is still inside. Wilhelm is a very noble, chivalrous spirit. Him thanking Subaru for the opportunity to avenge his wife was a brief moment, but it carried the gravitas of what that meant to him. I’d like to see more of Theresia and what brought them together though. The White Whale Hunt has added a new layer of world-building emotional death to the series that I think it really needed.
Jared: Oh man, Wilhelm ruled. I was really feeling down on the three episodes prior to the White Whale battle and that really turned things around for me. Although, I’m a sucker for big battle sequences. Plus, he made his fight sequences seem like some of the boss fights out of Metal Gear Rising and Shadow of the Colossus. What happens to him seemed kind of inevitable as he was getting all the death flags you could imagine, but I enjoyed his role and his backstory for the most part. Although the weird sexism he throws in when he learns his future wife is the swordmaster wasn’t great.
Carolyn: I love Wilhelm for sure. But I’m a little bit nervous about this big fantasy shift. We’ve had this dark, mysterious story so far and now it’s big and epic and there’s a huge battle and it’s just very different. I’m sure the next week’s episodes will make this all make sense to me. The show has been fantastic so far.
Danni: I said this at some point during the Naruto rewatch and I’ll say it again: I live for stories about old men carrying lifetimes of regret finally returning to the source of that regret for closure. I could say more, but I feel the rest is best summed up in this tweet.
Austin: I really like the focus he gets since it makes the world seem a bit more “alive” by giving the spotlight to characters who have a history in the world everyone else knows. As for the whale hunt, I love the band of everyone coming together under a common cause and my gut tells me the whale is going to end up being important later in the story.
As we approach the final week, are there any developments you are hoping the story hits upon before it wraps up (for now)?
Kara: Like I said, we know there’s a season 2 coming. And there’s something like ten volumes of light novel? So I’m bracing myself to not get a full payoff. If there’s one thing I could wish for (and probably won’t get) it’s more information on Roswaal’s entire situation. I have so many questions.
Paul: I'd like to know, at the very least, who's responsible for siccing the Witch Cult on Emilia in the first place. That would provide a clear antagonist and a clear goal in opposing them for the second season.
Noelle: I want to know what the cult’s deal is. There are so many unanswered questions of what is the witch and why do they want to do what they do that leave me wondering. I don’t need everything to be mapped out, but the cult doesn’t really have a motive besides kill people, and I need more than that to feel the gravity of an antagonist. I don’t think everything will wrap up neatly, the royal selection in particular, but that’s okay because season 2 is incoming.
Kevin: I’m not sure there’s anything I can say that wouldn’t be spoiler-y in one way or another, so I’ll leave my thoughts about the last arc of the show for next week. I promise, I have thoughts.
Joshua: Having already seen the series, I’m hoping that I pick up on any new hints I missed the first time round that could give me an idea of what to expect in season 2.
Jared: I’d be happy with a decent cliffhanger and getting a better view of a singular antagonist than what we currently have. Stuff like Roswell, the whole royal selection process, the other candidates true intentions, and even Subaru’s goal of trying to save Emilia will probably be left on the table because of time constraints.
Carolyn: Definitely want to know what’s up with Roswaal. I have loved and been suspicious of him from his first episode. And just more of an explanation on the White Whale situation. There are three?! What is going on?
Danni: I just want to see more Beatrice. That’s all. At this rate my Betty reserves will never last me through the winter.
Austin: Back when I watched this for the first time I wanted a meaningful scene where Emilia and Subaru get a chance to talk. Like I said before, I’m hoping the second season ties everything together, so I’m pretty fine with it being this open as of now.
And of course, what were your highs and lows this week?
Kara: High point was Wilhelm going absolutely HAM on the White Whale. I could watch that for hours. Low point was Subaru managing to convince one perfectly lovely girl who deserves better to help him in his pursuit of a completely different perfectly lovely girl who deserves better and her being like “sure.” I’ve finally realized why people are so protective of her.
Paul: My high point was Subaru admitting that he's been royally screwing up this entire time and then working up the courage to face his problems, to make amends, and to finally start using his head when confronting the obstacles before him instead of trying to brute force his way through every situation. My low point was the sinking feeling I got when I realized there's not very much screen time left for the writers to resolve all of these plot points that they've been juggling. I hope they don't just introduce a bunch of new mysteries and leave us with a cliffhanger conclusion.
Noelle: I have a few highs, one being the negotiation scenes with Subaru and the candidates. That people are not willing to help if there’s no benefit to them, that begging is often nonconductive because that relies on people’s goodwill even if helping would hurt them more than help them—those are some points I don’t see addressed very much. Also, Subaru putting together all the information he got from the candidates during his failed route to make a great negotiation. Naturally, I have to mention everyone coming together to beat up that whale. Low point: the Rem confession scene. That could’ve played out so much better. Rem, you deserve better.
Kevin: High - Dear God it’s hard to choose this week. Pretty much the entirety of episode 18 for Subaru and Rem was amazing (I cite my first answer for the week), but episode 20 for Wilhelm (and a little bit into next week’s first or second episode, if I remember correctly) balanced action and character development spectacularly while also being great on rewatch because of the extra knowledge going in. Low - “I love Emilia.” God DAMN IT, Subaru! As I put in the Rewatch chat “Episode 18, timestamp 23:23. The moment when half of the Re:Zero fanbase decided that Subaru deserves every single thing the plot throws at him.”
Joshua: This batch had so many high points. Subaru’s breakdown and Rem’s heartfelt confession is a big tentpole moment for the entire show, but smaller events like Beatrice’s pained face as she reluctantly sent Subaru to his death left a huge impression too. I also loved the use of an annoying chiptune ringtone against shots of a tense, nervous army awaiting the arrival of the White Whale. It sounds ridiculous on paper, but was so chilling in practice. Also, Crusch. Every time she was on screen was a high point. For a low point, I have to ask: where did Subaru get the authority to negotiate Roswaal’s mining rights? He’s just a house guest and Rem’s a maid, so will Roswaal return home, see the contracts and be “Argh! Not again!”, or does he pay wages with land deeds or something?
While I loved it, I also think the confession scene could have ended better. Subaru, you don’t just ask a girl to elope with you, then say you love someone else. I wish Rem had reacted to it more. Her devotion for Subaru is leading to her taking it all in stride, but she shouldn’t have to. She deserves to find someone who truly appreciates her.
Jared: High point would definitely be the White Whale battle episodes. Wilhelm being real cool during that fight was great, as was everyone else doing their best to try and that big whale down. Also, during the meeting when Subaru produces his phone and everyone looks at it and are very perplexed was a good little bit of comedy. Low points would be Subaru being a dummy. Reducing Rem to only being a character that exists because she has to love Subaru.
Carolyn: I liked the scenes where everyone just flat refused to help Subaru for their own selfish reasons while simultaneously telling him how very selfish he is. Everything involving Wilhelm was fantastic. Prequel please. For once I have a legitimate low point and not one I have to stretch for and like everyone else it’s the way Subaru promised to run away with Rem and was then like, “Yo, help me out with this other girl I actually like.” Rude.
Danni: My high point was easily watching buff Captain Ahab tearing apart his flying magic Moby Dick. My low point is Rem devoting herself entirely to Subaru. Like, I get it! You’re 17! Of course you want to devote your entire life to the dude you have a crush on! One day you’ll grow up and how to compartmentalize attraction away from love and attraction and look back on all your bold declarations of love for Subaru and think, “Oh geez. That was embarrassing huh.”
Austin: As for highs, this may sound bad but the loops of suffering Subaru goes through that lead up to the scene in episode 18 are done really well in my eyes. Between last week’s scene with Subaru and Emilia and Subaru seeing everything he cared about in this world destroyed time and time again this week, it broke him down in a way that made his request and rant to Rem really hit hard and easily one of the most unforgettable batch of episodes in any anime for me. As for lows I didn’t really notably dislike anything in this batch so I will instead complain that my favourite voice actress’ characters didn’t get more screen time (please give Anastasia more time to shine, I am definitely not biased at all).
CATCH UP ON THE REWATCH:
What are your answers to the above questions? Do you agree with Subaru's choice to pursue Emilia over Rem? Let us know in the comments!
David is on Twitter @navycherub. Ask him about whatever sports anime is airing right now.
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