When it comes to fantasy anime it seems the most popular subject over the last few years has been dystopian worlds where authors don’t hold anything back on the characters you love. It started with Sword art Online and went to the gory and despair-ridden world of attack on Titan. Every summer it seems the audience picks a fantasy world to torture themselves with and this year is no exception to that. The funniest part about this anime though is trying to figure out just what the hell is going on.
Re:Zero Starting Life in another world started its run on Tv and simulcast in the spring season this year and recently continued through the summer season and finished up. The anime started off rather idly with an episode 1A and 1B splitting the first episode into an hour long special as its first act. Of course, people got intrigued by this approach and watched. The anime actually had quite a bit going against it as well since it was in the category of character transferred into a fantasy realm once again. So, most people watched the first bit pretty much waiting for a video game or boring gimmick to get involved.
As it happens there is a huge gimmick to the show called “Return By Death.” The main character used this gimmick to go back to a predetermined checkpoint within the fantasy world, but to do this he must die. Using this gimmick the story progresses around finding a way out of difficult situations and politics that kill the main character generally more than once. This actually hugely pushes the show along as it is a great piece for getting to know multiple sides of the same character in depth. The cause and effect chain is also played up with every little thing that is affected differently by the changes the main character of the story makes.
The Story Begins:
So, starting off with the first episode; Re:zero had a very uneasy feeling you were watching it in a warned state of mind from the second the main character Subaru blinked himself into the fantasy world. The show starts off by making jokes out of the typical fantasy hero trope that you usually see and making Subaru out to look like an idiot for trying to use magic and believing he is the great hero that the world had been searching for, in fact, the only thing that saved Subaru was him getting beat up by a street gang. The street gang’s beating corresponded with the path one of the main heroines was taking named Emilia. When Emilia saw Subaru in trouble she jumped in to save him from the street gang even going as far as to use her magic, as well as her Spirit helper Puck, to heal his injuries. Emilia gives Subaru purpose after he wakes up by telling him about her stolen emblem that a young girl who Subaru later find is named Felt took, Subaru agrees to help Emilia find her insignia against her protests leading to the conclusion of the first two episodes.
The conclusion and next few episodes deal with Subaru, Emilia, Felt, and Old Man Rom getting killed by Elsa over and over again until they finally overcome her with the help of the top knight in the capital. Subaru entirely is confused by his new found power that activates every time he is killed and to a degree doesn’t really realize what’s going on completely until he is taken out for the second time and restarts at the fruit stand in the middle of town. Upon this realization, he breaks down and starts to strategize a way to overcome his enemy each time until he finally does which sets up the basic premise for the rest of the show.
After Subaru defeats his first initial ending he goes on to the Roswaal mansion where he meets quite a few new characters including Rem and Ram who are ogres with strong magical abilities and Betty who is the guardian of the magical library inside the mansion. He also meets Roswaal the lord of the mansion and greatest magic user in the kingdom who looks after and protects Emilia. In this leg of the arc, Subaru finds himself fighting against the twin ogres Ram and Rem several times who can smell the scent of the witch on Subaru and end up explaining to him what that means. Ram the most powerful twin constantly tries to kill Subaru thanks to the scent that she smells on him and activates his return by death quite a few times until he figures out how to befriend them and prove his innocence from the jealous witch. This arc then goes into a point where Ram ends up getting killed instead of Subaru and he commits suicide to return by death and try and save her from her fate.
This takes the story into an arc about the local village and a dog that the children in that village had found. As the story goes the dog turns out to be an evil mabeast that is typically kept out of town thanks to a barrier Roswaal placed around it. As it turns out if a mabeast bites you it can curse you and kill you, ending Subaru on a hunt to kill it first, as an added bonus it turns out the dog had also kidnapped the children complicating the rescue effort even more. Subaru does make it through the ordeal however with the help of Ram and Rem who finally have affection towards him fighting through the beasts and thanks to a surprise appearance of Roswaal at the end they all are taken out and Subaru gets to a new checkpoint once again.
The next bit of fun Subaru gets to learn about within his fantasy realm is the fact that Emilia is actually in the process of being selected to be the ruler of the kingdom.Also, he learns there is a dragon who dictates happenings in this world and he uses insignias to communicate which girls he wants to be picked for the selection to fight for the crown. Along with Emilia, there is a merchant and entitled woman who believes everything always works in her favor that Subaru meets while wandering around the city. As an added bonus Felt ends up being brought into the meeting in a dress with an insignia being proclaimed as the 5th and final selected to take her place as the possible ruler of the kingdom. Subaru however eventually ends up messing the whole regal process up by proclaiming he is Emilia’s knight and ending up in a fight with another knight in the cloak arena after being kicked out of the royal meeting.
Subaru, after losing to the knight in the arena goes into the next arc which has Emilia furious with him and Rem staying with him in the capital city so he can be healed. Subaru, of course, spends most of his time trying to train with a master Swordsman, the swordsman then informs him that Subaru is only training with him for selfish reasons and that he will not get anywhere in his current state. Subaru then decides to leave to go see Emilia to try to make up with her and he finds the first dragon-drawn carriage and heads back to the domain that she inhabits. On the way, he is informed that the White Whale, which is a massive mabeast, has taken over the roads and it will take a longer time to get there thanks to a delay. He still makes his way back to the Roswaal mansion and finds himself in the middle of a nightmare. The Royal Mansion has been attacked and everything is left with an icy layer over it and he finds Rem’s body and rushes inside to see if he can save Emilia. There he climbs a tower and finds an icy door that when he tries to open immediately freezes him, which causes his return by death to activate. He gains consciousness back in front of the Fruit Stand that he and Rem had visited earlier before he had left see Emilia thus confirming his new Checkpoint.
The next portion of the adventure is spent trying to get to Emilia before she is killed. They make it to the Village a second time and along the way encounter the white whale which kills Rem. During this many merchants also died in the process and when Subaru finally reaches the mansion and it has once again been enveloped in snow. A monstrous Puck rises up proclaiming that he killed his daughter, Subaru who has been carrying the body of Ram with him gets killed once again by Puck. During the third try he really tries to make a contract with the other Royal Candidates, he finds that he has nothing to offer to the selected and thus tries once again to go on his own. making it this time only leads to him meeting the Witch’s Cult. One of the leaders of the Witch’s Cult is a man who calls himself Sloth who ends up in a fight with Subaru after Emilia is killed thanks to Subaru trying to tell her of return by death. After the fight between the two Subaru is killed anyway by Puck who has turned into a monstrous beast.
Eventually, Subaru gains the help of the other Royal Candidates selected and a treaty is formed in order to defeat the White Whale so Subaru can make it to Emilia. A war is waged between Subaru’s alliance and the White Whale goes down after a harsh battle. The injured go back home while a small army follows Subaru to fight the Witch’s Cult. The plan goes great and the soldiers evacuate the nearby Village and Emilia so they cannot get caught up in the dispute. with the help of the night that fought Subaru in the arena, they defeat Sloth, only to find the carriage that was carrying Emilia and the village children around is loaded with explosives. Subaru then hitches a ride with a dragon Carriage driver who has the unique ability to listen to wildlife that can get him through the woods to Emilia fast. On the way, the last remnants of Sloth try to fight them and they barely escape finally reaching Emilia in the carriage Subaru jumps on board gets rid of the explosives by getting them far away and throwing them in the remains of the White Whale and wakes up hours later in Emilia’s lap. He tells her how much he loves her and the scene closes with them giving sweet looks and comments to each other.
The biggest question on everybody’s mind however now is what’s going on with the Witch’s Curse on Subaru. It is stated by the witch’s followers that Emilia is supposed to be the vessel in which the witch is reborn. The witch is also shown for a short period of time when Subaru is in his final battle with sloth. The witch has the same voice and outward shadow as Emilia and seems to have a deep care for Subaru, even going as far as casting away her faithful servants and telling him that he is not the one. The interaction between Subaru and the witch is rather strange especially the fact that she pulled him into the world and gave him a power that could overcome almost anything if he used it correctly. It’s also strange that the witch was known for being jealous, but allows for Subaru to have close connections and even romantic interest with various characters.
Furthering the confusion, Subaru uses Return by Death several times to save Emilia, but if Emilia were to die the Witch could simply reincarnate into a new body. So why give Subaru the ability to save her? Well the theory we have so far is that it may just be possible that Emilia actually is the witch in the future, and the characters are stuck in a Time Loop or she constantly pulls Subaru back in the world to help her out. The other side of the theory I have is that the dragon, which is talked about through the series, may have separated Emilia and Subaru by killing them and sending Subaru’s soul to our world and leaving Emilia in theirs. So just maybe Subaru having returned from death and going through all this is the way they are reunited but first, the witch’s soul would have to re-enter Emilia’s body to fully recover all of her memories.
Overall, there is a lot to be seen from this series. But from what we have seen so far and our theories about the future of the series we’ve got a pretty good start for the franchise. No matter what you think is going on it will be an interesting read in the light novel series that continues after the end of the anime, and due to Re:Zero’s popularity many publisher around the world are picking up those light novels.