Animania: Re:Zero – Life In A Different World From Zero (Review)

Wow. All I can say is…wow. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a show…any show…that’s managed to grip me like this. Re:Zero (Yes, I’m shortening it because that name is so long). It took me a little while to really absorb every part of it, and after a bit of thinking, I feel some frustration towards the show, as well as quite a bit of awe. Take a little bit of Stein’s Gate and mix in Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow, and you have Re:Zero. Beautiful animation, fantastic storytelling, and interesting plot contentions can sometimes give way to unfortunate character designs, and lackluster motivations.

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There are many, many characters in this (now) twenty episode series. The ones you need to pay the most attention to are: Emilia, Subaru, Rem, and Felt. Other characters gradually intertwine in, but it’s pretty easy to keep them all in line because they’re so drastically different. I like that aspect of it. Too many shows wrap you up in consistently ridiculous character overload in which they introduce so many concepts and characters way too fast (I’m looking at you, Durarara!!) to the story’s detriment. While the show definitely falls into some tropes, it breaks them just as quickly.

Natsuki Subaru is a typical, stereotypical, loser. He spends all of his free time as a shut in, casually working out so he can defend his home. They never go into his mode of employment, and they don’t really need to, as it’s so unimportant. He’s transferred to this magical, parallel world and just…doesn’t question a thing. He just assumes that he’s inside of a video game (which makes no sense) and then proceeds to never question the world around him ever again. I guess it’s in the nature of his character…but…it’s kinda stupid. It’s from here that he meets Emilia, and falls in love. Plot twist: the two are then brutally murdered. I know, right?

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In Edge of Tomorrow fashion, Subaru is resurrected back to a “return point” earlier in the life he had used up. What I don’t like about these return points is that they really don’t make any sense, or that they haven’t explained them well enough yet. It seems extremely arbitrary that every time he passes a certain area that the plot dictates is good enough, that then becomes his return point. I do hope they explain that, and explain it well. The show cleverly dubs this mechanic “Return By Death”. As opposed to Stein’s Gate, however, Subaru absolutely cannot mention this to anyone he comes into contact with. I definitely don’t want to spoil any plot points, so I’ll leave out the why. Suffice to say, it’s a pretty common writing trope, because if he could tell people about the reset, the show would essentially lose about fifty percent of its tension.

One thing the show absolutely falls flat on is it’s character development. The unfortunate thing about most “redo situation” type stories is that development often falls flat in the wake of intricate storytelling. It takes up to the current episode (episode 20) to get these characters in a place where they don’t feel slammed together. Also, just about every character feels so…useless. Really. There are one or two characters that are amazing and can do some pretty awesome things, but, there isn’t much the others can do besides call for help.

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A huge complaint about the series is how absurdly under powered and useless that Subaru is. Yes, maybe it’s a theme of the show. Do what you can do, and your friends will do what you can’t. I just can’t believe they made a character this…pathetic. It makes it hard to feel for his struggle sometimes because he speaks this huge bravado, and you know he’s just going to get his teeth kicked in. It can be infuriating.

On the flip side, this show subverts plot armor in ways I never thought possible. Let’s be honest. We all know that a main character is not going to die forever. If they did, the show would just kind of…stop. If you’ve read the manga or the light novel, then you know where this is going. However, I truly think that the subversion of plot armor through techniques such as psychological torture and terror is phenomenal. We know that our hero isn’t going to die. What we don’t know is if his mind will break. We don’t know if he’ll be a force for good. We don’t know what he’s truly capable of. It’s an interesting way to keep the tension going.

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So…is this worth a watch? Absolutely. The anxiety, the fear, the fantastic delivery…it’s all here. There’s not much else that can compare to the fantastic levels of storytelling that are exhibited here. I can’t wait to see how this show develops, and, even further, I can’t wait to see how well this series can wrap up all of the threads that its opening.

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