Written by Bananaowns
Images courtesy of White Fox
The trapped in a fantasy world genre is getting rather tired by this point. This makes it quite surprising because the show that I am reviewing today falls into this genre and it also might be my show of the year. Re:Zero managed to create a drama that subverted the typical fantasy tropes and genuinely created some of the roughest moments in anime. I am Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth anime review.
Story and Characters
A young man named Subaru Natsuki is suddenly dragged into another world. He soon gets into trouble and is saved by a young silver-haired woman. Touched by her kindness, he decides to help her recover her stolen insignia, but he is soon dragged into a dark plot that threatens him and his new loved ones at numerous points. In fact, he’s killed relatively quickly and discovers that he’s able to reverse time with his death. That is the basic plot of this show.
There is a large variety of interesting characters and the world is masterfully built. Every arc introduces a set of new supporting characters that flesh out the world. The plot similarly has a wide array of subplots ranging from a freaky witch cult to a political bid to rule the kingdom. There is always an overarching conspiracy hanging over the heads of the main cast, but this is often supplemented by new plotlines that do end up relating by their conclusion. This show gets dark. There are a string of episodes especially during the middle half that are rough to watch. Characters are pushed to the brink and were it not for Subaru’s ability, many would be permanently dead. Two episodes of this series manage to be some of the best I’ve seen in an anime and both of them have directly opposing tones. One is the culmination of suffering while the other is simply a 20 minute monologue of love, but both are enthralling. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a main character suffer this much, but this dark tone makes this show worth watching.
As for the characters, I will primarily focus on Subaru with a brief mention of Rem. Subaru initially starts off as the typical anime protagonist. He’s very cheery and his naïve nature causes him to drastically underestimate the dangers that lie before him. In any other anime, his special ability to rewind time after death, would be treated rather lightly. Here, Subaru’s experience with dying is actually looked at in depth and it really changes his character. Subaru’s arc throughout the entire run is actually a great example of how to use the plot to alter the characters. Contrary to his power, nothing actually gets reset in terms of his mind. As for Rem, she is best girl hands down. After some initial hesitation, she really becomes the stand out female lead of the series. Rem is such a selfless character especially with regards to Subaru. It is not a surprise how this character took over the anime community. Overall, the show features a very dark plot, with some very rough moments. However, the characters and the interesting nature of the plot make this one of the best anime stories of the year.
Animation and Sound
From a technical standpoint, the animation of Re:Zero is pretty good. I would not say there are any amazing moments of animation, but the overall quality is high. In fact, a majority of episodes don’t even play the opening or closing in order to pack each episode with more content. Stylistically, this show is one of the best. The fantasy world is inherently interesting, with a large cast of vastly different characters. Emilia and Rem have such striking designs. Despite being in a maid outfit, Rem manages to be one of the most unique characters in terms of design simply due to the subtle details and how the animation catches her facial expressions. In the darker scenes, the tone of the animation shifts as well. There is a darker and grungier frame compared to the light hearted interactions that exist in certain episodes. The anime features an amazing setting with interestingly designed characters and has good animation. It all comes together perfectly.
This show should be noticed more for the music. The closing songs are used heavily to frame the events of the end of the episode, usually to add an extra hint of emotion. One of the best episodes of the series features an absolutely haunting instrumental track that goes on for a significant amount of time with a simple static background and credits. Little details like this go a long way and the soundtrack of this series is filled with these moments. As for the voice acting, the actors do a great job. Subaru’s voice actor deserves special mention for capturing both Subaru’s light-hearted nature and the moments where Subaru’s spirit is broken by his ordeals. As I talk about it more, it just becomes apparent that this series is the complete package.
Shows that gain a lot of hype while airing eventually get a backlash. Re:Zero lives up to the hype though. The story is emotionally devastating at times, but features an interesting world with a great cast. The animation is great, with the tone of the animation matching the differing tones of the plot perfectly. The music is phenomenal and the voice acting is just as great. Re:Zero earns my Bananaowns’ stamp of approval. At times it was a rough watch, but I am confident in calling it my favorite show of the year. I’ll be back next week for another piece and thanks for checking this one out.