Going into the premiere of Re: Zero Season 2 and subsequently writing this episode post on it, the one thing that I felt more than anything else was… Fear. Re:Zero, when it originally aired in 2016, was one of the most phenomenal and unique light novel adaptations to come out, ever. The depth of the world building and plot, the nuance of characters mixed in with the over the top qualities that are generally expected from Light Novel stories, all came together to create some truly special and unique.
The viability of any medium of storytelling is often defined by how unique, different and innovative the works inside continue to be, especially as the medium itself continues to get older and more mature. Incidentally, I think safe to say that innovation as a whole is a bit stifled in the Anime Industry these days. Sequels are generally the safest bet for both audiences and the people making anime itself, but… Sadly even those safe entities known as sequels, have recently turned out to be lackluster or just plain disappointing. Looking to recent continuations like Durarara!!x2, Fairy Tail’s Final Season and Toaru Majutsu No Index III, paints a picture of an industry that’s lost the ability to even deliver on its tried and true properties and franchises.
So in essence, going into Re:Zero Season 2, I was understandably, scared. I actually rewatched Re:Zero’s first season late last year, in preparation for Season 2 and the thing that struck me was just how darn good it was. Anime that you just can’t drop and want to binge is rare to find these days, and it was definitely great to watch something old and remember why I loved this medium as much as I used to.
Meandering nostalgic musings aside, I think my fears for Re: Zero were largely unfounded. Not only did this first episode deliver, but it got me excited about both it and Anime as a whole (again). Which, if you’ve been following my thoughts over the last year, is something that no NEW anime series has been able to do thus far (sequel or not).
And man, what a brilliant premiere this first episode was. While it didn’t pull a 1 hour mega episode like season 1, it made up for a lack of length by stripping the Opening and Ending out and throwing us right into the thick of things.
One of the things that can really make or break a sequel is how effectively it can pick up from where its prequel left off. In Re:Zero’s case, the director’s cut of the last season pretty much setup what we got into this week. And the show, skillfully, just took that last scene, and used THAT as its starting point.
There’s no effort to recap the story, or to try and get new or lapsed viewers up to speed. Re:Zero Season 2 respects its audience, and it knows that the audience has either taken the time to watch the Director’s Cut, or is invested enough to remember the necessary details to follow along. It may seem like a small thing, but its something that even the best and most popular of Anime series today, seem to get wrong.
The confidence and bravado of just “getting right into it”, is of course, followed by one of the most jam packed and exciting episodes I’ve seen this year. We of course, start out with the big shocked from the last season’s final scene; The fact that no one remembers Rem.
Is Rem Dead? Is there some magic at play? Did the White Whale somehow cause this? Is something new going on? Or did the previous battles cause this latest crisis? Those are the questions that I and I assume any viewer would have at this point. And Again, one of the things I loved about this episode, is that it doesn’t dilly dally at all. Immediately, we go straight to Rem and Crusch, and get into the meat of what exactly is going on here.
The explanation we get is an interesting one, but I think its worth really focusing in on how impressive, important and high budget this sequence is. ReZero basically revs up and switches up to a higher gear in its story, introducing not one but TWO new Archbishops of Sin from the Witch’s Cult. Its just…. Shocking, to see how quickly the show plays with your expectations and throws Rem and Crusch into what is perhaps the most menacing and imposing set of villains we’ve seen from the show.
Re Zero, as a story, up till this point, has always used the slow build up approach to setup its story arcs and antagonists. You’ll get a moment of peace, tranquility, happiness and THEN things will go into crisis mode. Yet, here, both we and the characters have barely had time to recover from the last big event, only to get something that’s monumentally bigger and with higher stakes.
I think its safe to say that Rem is one of the most popular characters in this franchise. So… To throw two Archbishops at her, and basically signal imminent death for someone who is arguable best girl (Yes I’ll fight you on that), is ballsy to say the least. The fact that is animated so darn beautifully, with an action packed set of sequences, is the icing on the cake here.
And it also helps that at least one of the Archbishops, leaves quite the impression as a new character. While Gluttony is definitely not all that impressive (IMO), White haired “Greed” definitely is. The duality and polarity of how Regulus Corneas (Greed) constantly oscillates between being a cheeky joker and a full out angry psycho, is something that definitely adds to the cast of odd characters in this show. Betelgeuse was definitely squarely in the psychotic religious fanatic category of crazy, but this new guy? I have to say, I like him as an antagonist.
Now, that may very well have something to do with the fact that he’s also voiced by Akira Ishida (Zeref from Fairy Tail, Tsukasa from Shokugeki), a seiyuu that nails these type of characters. Or it may have to do with the fact that he can just instantly dice literally anything and anyone, and is well… Pretty overpowered in a cool, mysterious way.
Which, of course, leads into the question of the power balance in the show. I’m not entirely sure how Re:Zero is going to reconcile such powerful antagonists with its comparatively weaker protagonist. I mean, yes, Subaru has the ability to cheat death and reset things to a certain point, but beyond that, he doesn’t have any big fighting abilities to speak of. He beat Betelgeuse simply because Betelgeuse wasn’t all that powerful, all things considered. And even there, Subaru had tons of help.
The fact that the antagonists this time, are more powerful than most of the darn cast we’ve seen thus far? Well, that certainly puts things in new and uncharted territory.
And if that weren’t enough, it’s worth mentioning that the introduction of these two Archbishops, is only the opening act of the episode. Once the battle is over, and both Crusch and Rem are utterly dominated, the story switches focus to the fallout from this event.
I honestly thought that Rem was pretty much either dead, or erased from existence, but thankfully, the worst we get (heh…) is Rem basically losing her identity and everyone forgetting who she is (except Subaru of course). This leads to Rem basically being comatose, with no real known way to wake her up. Crusch, fares slightly better here, in that she only loses her entire memory and basically has to contend with a situation where everyone around her is a stranger. Re:Zero’s characters have it pretty easy, huh?
Speaking of which, On the topic of characters, I have to highlight something here. Seeing the normally powerful and strong Crusch be so vulnerable and dependent on those around her, is why Re:Zero and its author Tappei Nagatsuki are both so darn brilliant. Crusch becomes a lot more timid, nicer and less imposing, and we see a side to the character that is honestly a lot more traditionally feminine and nicer than what we’re used to. And while Crusch is definitely a different version of her normal self, the core of what she is, is kept very much in tact.
In the conversation that Subaru, Emilia, Crusch, Felis and Old man Will have, its clear that while Crusch is obviously super overwhelmed and thankful to those around her, she’s still got the ability to make her own decisions and have agency over her life. Coincidentally, its also nice to see the normally friendly and jokey Felis devolve into someone who’s a worried, emotional wreck.
Breaking down the facade that characters have, is one of the things that I think Re:Zero really excels at. We saw it happen in detail with the likes of Subaru, Rem and even Julius, but its nice to see Felis get a moment to be emotional here.
I mean, lets be clear here, Felis is pretty in the wrong to suggest dissolving the alliance between Crusch and Emilia. The real reason that Crusch was targeted at all, was because she took down the White Whale, with everyone else in tow. The Witch Cult clearly has both Emilia and Crusch’s factions in their sights now. Dissolving the alliance, therefore, would actually remove any meager chance that either group has to stay alive.
Yet, when you’re worried about those who you care about, its easy to lose sight of that bigger picture that Felis clearly needs to see. And speaking of the bigger picture, lets talk about the show’s protagonist, Natsuki Subaru.
The poor guy just can’t catch a break, can he? If anyone watching/following this story expected things to get easier for Subaru following the monumental trials he faced in the latter half of seasons 1, then well, prepared to have your expectations shattered. Subaru doesn’t have too much time to enjoy his latest victory, and while he’s saved Emilia, its Rem that’s now in severe peril.
I love how Subaru’s first instinct is to basically try and reset things, and start over. Given the horror he’s been through, and the absolute danger that facing Betelgeuse poses, it really shows the character growth for the guy, where he decides to just do it. It obviously doesn’t work, because from a storytelling perspective, its just not interesting to go backwards like that.
No, Re:Zero is all about moving forward, and now, Subaru has to find some other way to deal with this latest crisis. I love how, despite how frigging powerful and useful Subaru’s ability is, its never used as a crutch. The story refuses to let him use it without significant cost and in any way that clearly makes things easier for him. Its a powerful ability, to just reset things, but its nice to see Nagatsuki-sensei use that tool wisely and sparingly.
Return from the Dead isn’t a get out of jail free card for Subaru or the story, its a narrative device that puts Subaru into interesting and unique places. And again, its great to see that even with all the time away, that particular aspect hasn’t dulled in the slightest.
So, in the end, we’re left with an episode that’s just awesome as a season opener. The threats have been established, the stakes couldn’t be higher, and no momentum whatsoever was lost in the transition from season 1 to 2. Whatever happens next, is thankfully going to be hard to predict, interesting to theorize on, and tough to wait for.
In closing, I’m glad to state that we have strong anime like this to watch again, as its been too long. I’ll be covering this show weekly, and while I’ve got big shoes to fill following FlareKnight’s amazing coverage of season 1, I hope you’ll go on this weekly journey with me. I’m very excited to talk about this show, as we go through this first 13 episode cour, and then follow up with the second in 2021.
Finally, if you found this episode interesting, and my thoughts on it worth anything, leave a comment below. The discussion in the comment sections for shows like this, is what makes the experience of writing about them and talking about them, truly special. So yes, did you like this episode as much as I did? And what are your hopes for this season? Let me know in the comments section below!
Posted by setsuken
Posted on July 8, 2020 at 10:20 pm
Tags: archbishop of gluttony, archbishop of greed, crosch, natsuki subaru, re Zero season 2, Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-, Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- Season 2, re:zero 2, Re:Zero 2 episode blog, Re:Zero 2 screenshots, re:zero anime blog, Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu, Re:Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu 2, Re:Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu 2 episode 1, Re:Zero S2, re:zero season 2 episode 1, regulus cornealus, rem
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