Re:Zero Starting Life In a New World falls into a genre that has long been overdone and overused thanks to the popularity of shows like Sword Art Online. A person gets sent to a fantasy world, and is forced to live there. There have been many attempts, with some failures, and some successes. There have been comedic takes on the genre, and more serious ones. There have been some that focus on the video game aspect more, and some that ignore that completely, and also, some that focus on death as being a terrifying possibility, or not a problem at all. Regardless, if you are deeply entrenched in anime culture, the thought of more of these shows might make you groan. That’s why it comes as a great surprise that Re:Zero not only sets itself apart from the rest in wondrous ways, but also, that it may just surpass every other anime in the genre. Re:Zero is the fantastic, lovable, tear jerking, punch in the gut that this genre needs, and you’d be loath to miss out on it.
VERY VERY LIGHT SPOILER WARNING: This review goes into no specific details about Re:Zero passed the first two part episode, but if you wish to know nothing about Re:Zero, please proceed with caution.
Re:Zero Starting Life in a New World stars Natsuki Subaru, a stay at home, jobless shut in otaku, who doesn’t do much with anything in his life. One day, he is inexplicably transported to an unknown fantasy world, filled with things like magic, dragons, cat people, spirits, and everything in between. This, being every nerd-minded person’s dream, Subaru immediately assumes that this is his fate, and must become a hero in this world. However, he soon realizes that this is very much not the case, and that even in this world, he is a completely normal person, with no special abilities whatsoever. However still determined, Subaru soon runs into Emilia, when she saves him from some thugs in a back alley. Determined to repay her, and because he wants to have a heroine for his hero fantasy, he joins her in her search to find something that was stolen from her. Many things happen after this point, but things soon take a turn for the worse, and Subaru learns that even in this fantastical world, death is a very real possibility. Here in lies the twist of Re:Zero. Subaru learns that when he dies, he returns back to an unknown moment in the past. Nothing that happened after that point has happened yet, and any encounter he has had with people is forgotten. However, Subaru remembers everything, including the pain of his death. Subaru resolves himself to fight back against fate, and change things so they don’t happen in the dark way he experienced, no matter how many times he must die for it, and the adventure that follows makes up the story of Re:Zero.
During the events of Subaru’s journey, Subaru travels to many different places, and therefore meets many different characters. It is almost as if every time Subaru overcomes a new obstacle, he meets a whole new cast. This is what I believe to be Re:Zero’s greatest strength: Its characters. Every new character Subaru meets is unique, lovable, and charming in their own way. Even characters meant to be hated are so well done, you can’t help but appreciate them. Specifically the main characters, Subaru, Emilia, and Rem, receive the most screen time and growth than any other characters. Emilia starts off seeming like your typical tsundere anime character, but has so much more to her history and social standing that she chooses to not allow to define her, and she fights adamantly against it, making her a very strong, realistic character who is not so easily swayed by the thoughts and actions of others. Rem, who begins as a reserved, almost robotic character, opens up to being a loving, determined character who will do anything for the people she cares about. She is so much more than what is initially represented of her. While the story revolves around Subaru using his ability to return after death to right his wrongs and save the people he cares about, Re:Zero is almost more about Subaru’s growth as a person. He starts off as someone who just wants to be a hero and get the cute girl, but this is soon broken out of him, and he suffers greatly for it. However, this is what helps him eventually see what a true hero is, and what it is he truly cares about, and his growth in discovering himself because of it is both painful and fascinating to witness. This growth in Subaru is what gives Re:Zero so much of its value.
However, perhaps it is a bit too much. When Subaru’s journey brings him to the darkest areas of his mind, he becomes a completely different person, indistinguishable from the character he starts out as. This is completely understandable given the great amounts of hardship a normal guy like Subaru is forced to overcome, but it continues this way for several episodes to the point of frustration. It is necessary for his growth as a character, but there is little in the way of reprieve, or reward for the viewer. As Subaru continues and continues to repeat the same mistakes, this negatively impacts the characters around him, and it can be frustrating for the viewer to watch. Especially if the viewer is watching the show episode after episode with little break in between. Still, again, it is necessary for his growth, but this is a small gripe I had with the show.
In the end, Re:Zero is a phenomenal show that will tug at your heart strings only to rip them out. You will love, you will hate, you will laugh, and you may just cry your eyes out. Re:Zero is a roller coaster of emotions, but the journey is worth every bit of anguish. If you are tired of the man gets stuck in a fantasy world story, I would still give this anime a shot. I cannot sing its praises enough. If you watch, you may just find one of the biggest surprises, and one of the best anime you’ve seen all year.