Details: First aired in 2016. Also known as Ri:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu. This is a review of episodes one through twenty-five, which is all existing episode at this time and there don’t seem to be any more coming in the near future. Each episode is about twenty-four minutes long. You can watch it on http://www.crunchyroll.com.
Ever since Sword Art Online, there have been a lot of anime’s where the protagonist is a young nerd from modern-day Japan who then gets reborn into a fantasy world and there are video game elements to that world and it’s usually a harem situation where he is surrounded by lots of cute girls. I originally watched a few minutes of this anime with that in mind and quit about ten minutes into the first episode. I thought it was boring and derivative.
Recently, I decided to give this show another try and forced myself to finish watching through the first episode. This was largely due to Re:Zero’s popularity as one of the most watched anime on crunchyroll.com. To my surprise, I got hooked. This is a great anime. In order to talk about why this show’s so good, there will be some spoilers ahead concerning the premise of the show. Otherwise, spoilers are minor and I won’t go into any plot developments or characters other than the protagonist, Subaru.
Re:Zero starts off in the clichéd way as described above. Our protagonist is a young Japanese loser named Subaru, reborn into a fantasy world with magic, monsters, knights and kings. Subaru quickly seems to understand his situation and is set on being a hero in this new fantasy world, as is often the case in these types of anime. What we quickly learn is that this isn’t going to go the way of most anime.
Normally, in this type of show, the protagonist is reborn with some type of power or advantage. In the first two episodes, we learn that the protagonist’s power is to return to a previous point in time if he’s killed, with all his memories intact. Think of it like a save point in a video game, except that he can’t choose when the save point will be made and he’s not even sure if he’ll come back when he dies.
This show has a number of story arcs and each arc follows a general structure. Firstly, Subaru is introduced to new situation and then dies from some unknown danger in the beginning of a story arc. Subaru is then revived at a prior point in time as the only person with any memories of what previously transpired. Subaru then tries to figure out what killed him and likely dies a few more times as he tries to do so. Eventually he finds some way to resolve the situation and continue on his life.
What I liked about this show is the tone in which Subaru’s power and the tone of the story is handled. Though there are funny parts, this is not a comedy. This is an adventure-drama-mystery that sometimes borders on horror and tragedy. The first time we learn about Subaru’s power is the first time he dies, and it is a brutal death. As the series goes on, each death only gets more painful and horrific, for Subaru and for those of us watching the show.
New characters are introduced and the show does a great job getting you attached to them. Then the show rips your heart out by showing us horrible things that happen to those characters. You’d think that Subaru’s ability would detract from the impact of what happens, but you need to keep in mind that if Subaru doesn’t die, then the events that have occurred will remain. So, if something horrendous happens to a particular character or if a character dies, that character may just stay dead despite Subaru’s ability because Subaru didn’t die. Sometimes, something good happens and you don’t want that to be forgotten or overwritten, but Subaru still dies. Add in the fact that Subaru’s never completely sure at which point he will be revived and if he will even be revived and you get a situation where you’re never really sure how things will play out.
Furthermore, even though Subaru dies many times throughout the series, he never truly gets used to dying. In fact, his fear of death grows with each death and the psychological trauma builds. A big portion of the show largely deals with the psychological damage Subaru suffers from each death and his efforts to get over it. As a result, Subaru never stops fearing or trying to avoid death, not matter how many horrible things have occured or how many beloved characters may have died. It’s a good way to handle this story element and helps to keep you guessing as to how things will actually play out. Will Subaru allow things to remain terrible or will he somehow die and try again, compounding the psychological damage he’s already incurred? I was never really sure.
The animation was good and the quality never noticeably dipped for me. Music was fine as well. Voice acting was great as expected of Japanese animation. There are also a number of well done action scenes.
Overall, this series is a must watch and one of the best anime’s I’ve seen in recent memory. There are some tropes and some derivative material in this show, but it’s a fresh take on an established anime setting. The plot twists and shocks were done well and triggered feelings similar to those that I felt when I watched Attack On Titan, though admittedly, Attack On Titan was a more brutal show. I can easily recommend this show to anyone who likes anime. Just make sure not to quit before finishing the first episode like I did.
Lastly, Rem is best girl.