Wilhelm slays his white whale and we slay ours (in slightly less spectacular fashion)
Hello, everyone! Welcome back to the final installment of THE GREAT CRUNCHYROLL Re:ZERO REWATCH! My names Danni Wilmoth, and I’ll be your host through episodes 21 - 25 of Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-. In last week’s episodes, we saw Subaru finally turn things around and deliver one of the most infamous rejections in anime history. We pick up this week in the midst of a spectacular battle wondering if we’ll get any sort of resolution before season’s end.
I’ve gotta say, I didn’t expect to like Re:ZERO as much as I do now. I’ve never quite bought into the appeal of isekai anime that isn’t focused on moms, but I suppose that’s because I never really gave them a chance. I also understand why some friends of mine told me they thought Re:ZERO got better as it went along and others that thought it got worse. I do think the show lost a lot of the mystery that made its first half so appealing, but by the time that happened I had already completely bought into this incredible cast of characters. I can’t think of a single character I didn’t like in Re:ZERO. Not many shows can say that.
Before that, though, I’d like to shout out Heavenspiercing for totally having my back on the whole “I love Emilia” thing:
“This is the first time he's been openly honest about his feelings, and he's saying it to Rem of all people. Why is that? Well, it's because he knew that voicing his feelings, conveying the conviction and determination behind them, is the answer Rem most wanted. Because it was that determination to never give up on those he cared about that Rem fell in love with.”
Seriously, cut him some slack! With that out of the way, it’s time to find out how the rest of the Crunchyroll Features team felt about this final batch of episodes!
This season wrapped up with Subaru finally reuniting with Emilia and apologizing for his past actions. Do you believe he’s really changed and earned this reunion? He’s still throwing himself wildly into danger for her sake every chance he gets.
René: I do expect him to still be kind of reckless in the upcoming second season—though less to the detriment of others. I hope that Subaru has grown enough so that he thinks about the impact his actions have on others from now on.
Paul: Earning forgiveness is not just about admitting one's past mistakes and how they've harmed people, but also actively working to do better in the future. I feel that Subaru has had a genuine change of heart, albeit one that isn't completely visible to the other characters yet due to the nature of Return by Death. The world of Re:ZERO is perilous, and now at least Subaru is taking bold, heroic action in order to try to mitigate that danger for others. That's what Emilia has been doing all along, so Subaru emulating her example is a good thing.
Noelle: I think it’s still a little too hard to tell. One thing for certain is that Subaru has no doubt improved himself and learned from some of his mistakes. That deserves credit! I think it’s more how the show is framing things that gives me my doubts, because Subaru has very earnestly admitted his misgivings and swallowed his pride in some respects. Unfortunately, how he views Emilia is something we’re not privy to, and that’s the biggest thing that he had to learn. Everything else though, he seems to have taken to heart and credit where credit is due.
Jared: While his apology did feel at least sincere, it still seems too soon to tell if he’s legitimately changed or not. In essence, it hasn’t been that long since the big blow of with Emilia and his breakdown with Rem, so it’s hard to say that he’s truly and fully changed. Perhaps he’s actually on the road to that. Although, I will say he kind of put himself in a bad situation since he doesn’t want to selfishly help Emilia, but prioritizing helping one person in general is kind of selfish in general, so he kind of put himself in a pickle there. I think as a whole though, I was more bummed with Emilia just wholeheartedly reaccepting him again so soon.
Kevin: I think that he’s honestly realized his past mistakes and wants to grow. Whether he will actually change or will continue to mess everything up… well, I guess season 2 could prove me wrong, but after this rewatch his track record seems pretty weighted against him just learning a lesson and moving on.
Carolyn: In real life I would heavily doubt it. That fast? Under so much stress and trauma? Healing takes time. But he did seem to mean it and he does seem to have actually learned from his mistakes. Though I still would have liked to see him step back just a bit more. He was quite confident that Emilia would eventually return his love and I guess that’s not a bad thing in and of itself but combined with his past entitlement, I would have liked to see a little more space given there.
Kara: Subaru is Subaru. He has a track record of messing up, going into the absolute depths of despair, crawling his way back up by remembering how to care about other people, and then hitting a point of self-realization. I don’t think any of those moments are worthless, because each of them shows some progress—admittedly he seems to be “three steps forward, two steps back.” For the moment, I do believe he’s realized that he was acting from a very selfish place, and I do believe he’ll at least attempt to do better. But if he got it right from here on out, we wouldn’t have a season 2 coming, would we?
David: While I doubt he will be a completely different character going forward, I do think he will be acting with a different perspective and with different priorities. That’s what basically the entire second half of the show was about, so at the very least I would hope that wasn’t all for nothing.
Joshua: Watching Subaru in these episodes and thinking back to his behaviour in past weeks, I think he’s finally matured a great deal. His apology was overdue, but it felt like it genuinely came from the heart, and those earnest feelings are likely what Emilia responded to. It was an incredibly touching moment, seeing Subaru finally process and own up to his behaviour, and to see Emilia finally receive the acknowledgement she’d longed for. Subaru’s gone through an awful lot, and he’s definitely changed for the better, so yeah—he deserved it. I don’t think Subaru’s recklessness will ever change. When Emilia’s involved, there’s no lengths he’ll go to. Hopefully there’ll be a difference in how he goes about now he’s realised the price of his own selfishness, however.
Austin: I think he’s at least become more self aware, which I’d say has earned his reunion. It’d be a little silly to expect him to suddenly do a complete 180, at least to me, so hopefully more awareness of how his actions affect and are perceived by others will nudge him in the direction of making more rational (and healthy) decisions.
It’s hard to believe we’re already done, isn’t it? For the newbies here, how did the show stack up against your early expectations? And for those who’d already seen it before, do you feel any differently about it now compared to before our rewatch?
René: I appreciated a lot more of the small things and was able to focus on the mysteries that aren’t solved within this first season, like the details of the relationship between Ram and Roswaal and why Emilia chose to pose as Satela in the first loop. It definitely strengthened my appetite for the second season and I can’t wait for it to finally come out.
Paul: Re:ZERO was better than I anticipated, and I didn't find Subaru as detestable as I thought I would. Even at his peak levels of narcissism, I could understand why he was behaving in such a bone-headed manner, and I pitied him despite how much of his suffering was self-inflicting by his own selfish actions. I didn't expect that, and I also appreciate how richly realized the world feels. There's a lot going on outside of Subaru and his circle, enough to fill entire spin-off novels.
Noelle: I think it’s one of the better isekai that I’ve managed to watch. The plot was speedy and intriguing, and I found myself wanting to marathon it instead of waiting for segments per week, which is a pretty good sign. Overall, I think I had a pretty good time, even if I still have quite a few misgivings. I’d still be up to watch season two though.
Jared: To me, it’s a tale of two halves. The first half has an interesting mystery and gimmick that keeps you invested, but the second half you have to deal with the height of Subaru being bad and the gimmick losing its luster. It also has the problem of most adaptations where you’re only getting a tiny portion of the story, which isn’t a knock against it, but is still unfortunate. I also thought at times the character writing bordered on being real bad, especially when it came to the romantic interests where they get reduced down to just being tools for Subaru’s drive and determination and that’s it. I suppose with all of that, it was worse than what I was initially anticipated.
Kevin: I’ve seen this show I think three times before, with one viewing being with my Mom, which ended after the White Whale. This time, I think I actually had a more mellow reaction that previous viewings. Sure, I still liked Rem and Subaru talking for most of episode 18, but I found more faults and nitpicks than in previous viewings. Likewise, I used to think that the last arc wasn’t really a good ending, that the show should’ve ended with the White Whale. Binge watching the series over a couple of weeks kept Subaru’s motivation at the forefront, and so the last arc now seems a lot more fitting, since his entire goal is to rescue Emilia.
Carolyn: I had never seen it before and it was very different from the impressions I sort of had when we first started. I think I was thinking it was like a video game sort of thing? I liked the fantasy aspect, I liked how dark it got. The characters are great and the story is great. I’m a fan.
Kara: Honestly loved it within a single episode. It’s got time loops, nightmare fuel, character development, more nightmare fuel… and as much as I bag on Subaru, it’s obvious that we’re actually meant to feel that way about him and want him to do better. Put me down as extremely pro-Re:ZERO… enough that I went and bought one of the shirts from the capsule collection on the Crunchyroll Store.
David: Every time I watch this show I like it more. I think the main thing I’m taking away from this rewatch is being more scared than ever about how many ways future seasons could mess everything up, but in a way that speaks to how much I like it in the first place.
Joshua: Despite having owned the Blu-rays for a while, this was my first time watching since the original broadcast! I’d say that I’ve gained a new appreciation for Subaru’s narrative arc. I admittedly found it hard to let go of my first impression the first time around, but reliving this gradual transformation made me realise just how multifaceted a character Subaru is. He’s not perfect by any means, but I wish far more protagonists had this kind of growth. I also find it hilarious that I was once creeped out by Betelguese. This time around, I just found him pitiful. Watching Subaru outright toy with him in these episodes was delightful. In contrast however, my opinion of Crusch has shot up. Rem’ll still have a special place in my heart, but Crusch is definitely best girl now.
Austin: I forgot a good amount of the details between now and when I watched it back when it first aired, but I remember liking it a lot then and still did this time around as well. Something that did apparently change is I was much more emotional watching it this time around and probably cried at least once a week rewatching it.
We’ve heard a lot of arguing ever since Re:ZERO started over who Best Girl is. We all know now that it’s obviously Beatrice, but there’s one important question left unanswered: who in Re:ZERO is Best Boy?
René: By the classical definition, I’d have to choose Puck but I’m instead gonna buy with Betelgeuse. I love out of control villains already and Yoshitsugu Matsuoka is a treasure when voice characters like this. It’s a real shame that he often gets cast as regular nice guy or well-meaning hero because him eating the scenery is just pure joy to listen to.
Paul: I'm putting my Best Boy vote down for Felix. Not only is he essential as the main healer of the series, but he also doesn't demonstrate any of the stiff attitude and honor-culture baggage displayed by other knights like Reinhard and Julius, and that puts him as prime Best Boy material in my book.
Noelle: I do love a good knight, so I am initially privy to Reinhard, but I found myself liking Julius, especially by the end. In the start, everything is framed from Subaru’s POV, so he comes off as very malicious, but it turns out he’s the type that will give respect to those that have earned it. And that’s pretty good!
Jared: I would probably also go with Felix, although I did come around on Julius near the end as well since they fleshed out his and Subaru’s relationship.
Kevin: Uhh excuse me, what do you mean unanswered? Did the White Whale erase Wilhelm from your memory or something?! Oh wait, of course it didn’t, because Best Boy Wilhelm’s sheer badassness and emotional catharsis killed it, along with any competition for the title (although even I have to admit that he might fit better as “Best Dad”)!
Carolyn: Wilhelm for sure. He’s just a good guy.
Kara: Thirding Wilhelm. Leaving some wiggle room for Al, though. He seems like a bro.
David: I pick Julius after being reminded of the neat little character arc he goes through, but an honorable mention goes the Otto the Carriage Guy, who sort of gets dragged through the mud in every timeline but still manages to be pretty reliable (when he isn’t having his mind poisoned by the White Whale’s mist).
Austin: Felix! Definitely not at all influenced by Yui Horie voicing him in Japanese. Nope. Not one bit.
Joshua: There’s simply no competition—it’s Wilhelm. His love for Theresia was both tragic yet heartwarming, but that moment when he finally avenged his beloved and was able to triumphantly put that chapter of his life to peace, was sublime. Besides, he’s a kick-ass old man who survived far more than his body should have let him, and we know he had a grumpy emo phase too!
We already know that there’s more Re:ZERO coming, are there any characters or aspects about the world you’d like to see addressed in greater detail?
René: I can’t wait for Emilia to get more time in the spotlight, so that the world as a whole can see how right I’ve been all these years putting her on a pedestal. I will have so much fun to go full “Told you so” mode once the second season comes out. Besides that, I’m looking forward to finally meeting Satela in person (since the trailer already showed her off).
Paul: Although these episodes end on a high-point, the story of Re:ZERO is just getting started, so I'd like to see more about the royal selection, more about Roswaal's plans to slay the dragon, and more about Subaru's connection to the Jealous Witch. I'd like more of everything, really. I'd even like some more resolution for what's going on with Elsa, the “Bowel-Hunter” assassin from the earliest episodes. She seemed like a major antagonist, so I'm surprised that she hasn't resurfaced.
Noelle: I want to know what Satella’s deal is! She is obviously a person with considerable influence, and is even connected to Subaru’s curse, but we never really know anything about her? It’s her cult that causes most of the problems, and we know she’s a major antagonistic figure, but what does she want? Why Subaru? Tell me more!
Jared: There’s a ton of mysteries still left to tell that I’d hope they’d get to address in the second season. Everything with Satella and why she’s very into grabbing Subaru’s heart all the time, why Subaru has his ability, what’s truly up with folks like Roswaal, the royal selection, and probably completely new things that will crop up to keep Subaru from his goal. The bad thing is though that all of that might be too much to cover all in another season.
Kevin: Basically everything that they’ve hinted at in the show. I would love to go out of Legunica to see the northern Provinces (where Elsa’s from and may well be hiding), I definitely want to know more about Roswaal’s plan to kill the dragon. What was Ram referring to when she said she’d take half the villagers to the Sanctuary? What’s up with Dollar Store Sun Bro Al? Is Subaru really the Archbishop of Pride? Why in the first timeline did Emilia introduce herself as Satella? I’m not even sure that a season two would answer everything, but I’m really excited for more, even if it mostly brings up new questions, rather than answering the ones I already have.
Carolyn: I will echo René but in fewer words: Emilia.
Kara: I’d be up for seeing any of the above, but I for sure want more Return by Death logistics. Does something in particular cause the alteration of Subaru’s save points, or is it just narrative causality? Why did he get isekai’d over in the first place? Satella, I need to know your logic here.
David: I mostly want more of the Royal Election. That concept got introduced and then mostly put back away after Subaru had his temper tantrum, but I’m very interested in everyone involved.
Joshua: I definitely want to know more about the different plot threads, like Roswaal’s scheme, Subaru and Emilia’s ties to Satella, and the Witch Cult. Betelguese said he represented Sloth and that every sin bar Pride had an archbishop, right? So that means there are others out there for us to meet too (please no spoilers if you’ve read the light novel!). On a purely personal level though, I really want to see more Beatrice. She’s such an enigmatic character with a peculiar position in the world as we know it, so I’d like to learn more about that.
Austin: I’d love to see more of Anastasia, Frederica, and Felt outside of the royal selection process, kind of like how Crusch got in these last few episodes. I feel like there are certain plot threads they absolutely have to follow on, like Satella and the Witch’s Cult, so having a little slice of getting to see more of these characters and getting to know them outside of them playing political 3D chess would be nice.
Finally, what were your highs and lows for Re:ZERO as a whole?
René: My absolute high was how the show portrayed the importance of acknowledging other people’s viewpoints and how not doing it can quickly turn for the worse. Even if you don’t agree with someone, it’s important to be aware that not everything centers around you—something that a lot of isekai sadly go against. I wish we could get more stories with an actual moral instead of just wish fulfillment from this genre.
My low point unfortunately remains the backstory of the twins. It’s probably my biggest sore spot with the series as it still stands as the one less elegant storytelling part due to it being so shoehorned. Maybe I’d even be more positive on Rem as a character if that hadn’t been the case.
Paul: My high point for the series is all of the work that went into making Subaru such a flawed but ultimately redeemable protagonist. I'm glad that he's finally pulling his own weight at the end, and although he still has to rely on stronger characters for all of the fighting, at least now he's using his brains to solve problems, rather than just going with his gut and hoping everything works out. My low point is that presently, the TV series of Re:ZERO is only about one-quarter to one-third of a complete narrative. I hope the upcoming second season has a chance to tie up some of the plot threads that have not yet been resolved.
Noelle: My high point is honestly, Subaru. As much as I’ve ragged on him, it’s so (unfortunately) rare for isekai to challenge the bravado of their protagonists. Protagonists don’t deserve to have everything handed to them, especially romance and good will, just because they’re shiny people. Subaru acknowledging his own powerlessness and that he has to prove himself instead of expecting things to fall into his lap is good. Really good. I don’t think he’s made a complete transformation, but he is progressing and I appreciate that. Low point is that the cult sure came out of nowhere. I can’t really feel this major impending threat for bad guys that sprung out of the ground suddenly. If they had a little more setup, I wouldn’t have this issue, but it felt like they were thrown in there and didn’t amount to much. The whale felt like more of a threat.
Jared: I think my high point was just trying to figure out all of the mysteries and questions that kept popping up throughout the season, even if most of them weren’t answered. I also enjoyed a lot of the side characters that showed up and the world of Re:ZERO is interesting. Low points would be how the writing shifts poorly for Emilia and Rem in the latter half. I still don’t like Subaru and think you could replace him with anyone because he feels like a generic slate. Return by death really lost its luster near the end as well because anytime something bad would happen for Subaru, you knew that he’d get bailed out by that. It’d probably worked better if this story was the length of this first season and that was it. Going forward it’s going to be incredibly difficult to put him into any sort of danger because that kind of drama and tension will be cancelled out since he’ll just come back again and somehow find a way to fix things.
Kevin: High - I absolutely love Wilhelm in the White Whale fight. We’ve previously seen that he’s a competent fighter, at least able to train Subaru, and those preceptive enough might’ve made the family name connection to Reinhart, but we finally get to see him fight all out, and get his backstory at the same time, both showing his motivation for fighting and why this fight in particular means so much to him. The same fight also shows Subaru truly in control of things for the first time in the series. He’s not just putting on a brave face or fooling himself into thinking he knows what’s happening, he is directly aiding a plan and even helping to push it forward when many others have given up hope. Low - How they decided to end the show. Back when the show was first airing, as we were nearing the ending people started speculative whether we were going to get to some specific line. No one seemed to spoil what it was (I also didn’t look too hard, for fear of spoiling it), but as best I can tell, the shot of Subaru opening his mouth was the start of whatever that line was. Sure, for fans who know what’s coming, that’s apparently a really big cliffhanger, but for the rest of us it’s just a strange way to end.
Carolyn: My high is absolutely the dark mystery surrounding Subaru’s first few deaths. Who did it? Why did it? What the heck is up with Roswaal’s castle? I was definitely into that. Low without a doubt was the scene in which Rem pours her heart out to Subaru only for him to decide he’d rather have Emilia… right after asking Rem to run away with him… right before asking Rem to stay loyal to him anyway. Geez.
Kara: Two high points. First, just the way it looked, especially the more horrific elements. There was something about the moments of horror (especially Subaru’s descent into madness on the trips back to Roswaal’s place) that really felt like a very liminal nightmare, and creating that effect well isn’t easy. Second, Subaru’s presentation as a flawed character. I see a lot of shows with jackass protagonists where we’re encouraged to forgive them everything they do, or given all the reasons why things are so bad that they “deserve” to act like a jerk. But even after seeing all his friends die repeatedly, we’re still reminded that Subaru is a work-in-progress who can and should do better. My low point is I get the sense I’m missing a lot having not read the books. I guess that’s a low point I can fix myself, though…
David: Echoing others, my high point is Subaru as a protagonist, in no small part because of how underwritten he makes other already rote-feeling isekai protagonists feel. My low point is just the general feel-bad of essentially nothing being resolved in the entire course of this season. It feels like endless plot threads were constantly being thrown into the mix but none of them were dealt with. Hopefully the second season starts tying some of those up before inevitably introducing more.
Joshua: Just so we don’t end on a bum note, for a change of pace I’ll lead with my low points! The first, is actually one I’m still feeling after discussing it last week: the second half’s juggling of the witch’s cult and white whale felt unfocused. This wasn’t helped by the white whale actually feeling far more threatening than Betelguese in the end. One thing that’s always niggled me though, is how Subaru’s returns just wipe out chunks of character development. Then, having lost that, why are people so willing to trust him without enough scrutiny? Sure, he can’t explain Return by Death to anyone, but shouldn’t more people to be asking, even if they can’t get the answer?
I echo my friends’ comments about Subaru’s character arc, especially in relation to other isekai series. As a whole though, while the genre is arguably stagnating with more and more works that are either derivative or just plain bland, Re:ZERO stands out perhaps the best in the genre. The series also really knows how to twist my heart with dramatic scenes, like Subaru pleading for Felix and Julius to kill him in this batch—such a powerful scene. I also love Re:ZERO’s characters and their emotions that allowed me to connect with them. Subaru, Rem, Emilia, Wilhelm, Crusch, Betty… they’re all great in their own way.
Austin: Something I noticed on a rewatch is I absolutely love the happy notes this show hits on. Emilia telling Subaru her name, Rem crying after being saved by Subaru, Rem’s monologue, Wilhelm avenging his wife, and so on all feel incredibly satisfying and hit at the perfect moments. All of the suffering and trial and error Subaru goes through and us having to follow along the whole way gives even bittersweet moments this feeling of relief I really really love. Alongside characters that feel more human than I honestly expected from a show like this, these scenes all got me at the very least a little bit teary eyed.
Low point on the other hand is hard. That said, back when I first watched the show I had a complaint that it really liked introducing characters and leaving it at that while showing the story was absolutely capable of fleshing them out with cases like Wilhelm. Just fleshing out some interesting characters makes me wish everyone was fleshed out; I want to know more about Felt and her upbringing before finding out she was a dragon priestess, I want to know more (or really anything) about Roswall instead of him just being a wall of mystery, I want to know more about each of the knights, I want to know more about everyone! Obviously a lot of this is due to the show only getting two cours but it still upset me quite a bit a few years ago.
Barusu - 1
Subaru Deaths - 1
Methods of Death - Assisted Suicide
Barusu - 32
Subaru Deaths - 11
How Subaru Died - Disembowelment, Disembowelment, Stabbing, Curse, Combination (Curse+Dismemberment), Slit Throat / Torture, Suicide, Freezing, Beheading, Freezing, Assisted Suicide
And just like that, the GREAT CRUNCHYROLL Re:ZERO REWATCH comes to a close! Thank you all so much for joining us on this fun journey as we watch shows and discuss them weekly. Stay tuned for updates on the next chapter of THE GREAT CRUNCHYROLL REWATCH!
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What are your answers to the above questions? What show are you hoping we rewatch next? Let us know in the comments below!