As Echidna would say: How intriguing.
What a truly intriguing place, indeed, to leave the series at, as the show takes its scheduled 3 month hiatus before it dives into the second half of its story in January 2021. The wait will certainly be tough, but I think this mid-season finale accomplished everything it needed to and then some. The first phase of this latest arc, the discovery phase if you will, is over. With everything laid bare and out in the open, now the actual resolution can actually be focused on next year.
I will say this, props to Studio Fox, The Production committee, Nagatsuki-sensei and everyone else involved with this second season. They not only gave us a string of episodes that were 27 minutes long, but they removed the opening and ending sections from them to focus more on the story. To see this much passion being put into a project, and to see so much being given to the fans of a franchise? I don’t think I’ve ever seen something like this in the history of my anime watching tenure.
The closest I can think of, is those one-hour specials that Naruto or Bleach used to do. Which, incidentall, we haven’t seen even something like that in a long time. Re:Zero 2 though? There’s such a dedication to telling its story, and telling it well, that I think in a lot of ways it exceeds the normal amount of fan service that we tend to get from Anime studios and the industry at large.
Every time, in the last few years that I’ve seen rushed adaptation after rushed adaptation refuse to dedicate the time necessary to really make a story truly memorable, I’ve wished for something like this series. And yet, in perhaps one of the most difficult years in the modern era, the Re:Zero team has delivered something truly exceptional, and gone above and beyond.
Its this respect for the source material combined with the excellent skill of everyone involved, (The writers, the director, the people funding this, the seiyuu, the animators, the musicians e.t.c) that make Re:Zero 2 truly an event worth experiencing. And yes, I realize I’ve run a bit long in my praise of just exactly what Re:Zero is, and how this second season is playing out from a mere business and storytelling perspective, but I think its worth rewarding and encouraging this sort of stuff.
My dream, would be for every anime to get the Re:Zero 2 treatment, moving forward. So pardon my gushing on how this all turned out.
That huge but very important tangent aside, lets talk about the episode itself. Man, did it simultaneously deliver and did it also kind of end in a really weird way.
In my eyes, this episode needed to accomplish two things. First, it needed to give us a solid idea of where Subaru stood with both Satella and Echidna. Their motivations and opinions needed to be clear, even if we still don’t know everything about them. Second, and more importantly, we had to know who the true antagonist of this arc was.
Surprise, Surprise, it turned out to be Roswaal. Or rather, I’d say its Roswaal’s Greed and his desire to put the future he wants above everything else. I don’t think Roswaal is a complete villain, but he does believe that the ends justify the means. For him, this entire situation is all in service of preparing Subaru into the kind of person he believes Subaru needs to be.
Its often said that the best villains are written to be like the protagonists of their own stories, and I think Roswaal truly does fit that particular idea. From Roswaal’s perspective, he sees his role to be the mentor, the one who has to play the difficult role of breaking Subaru down and then remaking him in to a truly selfish warrior. To that end, Roswaal’s constructed this impossible scenario for Subaru, by orchestrating the attack on the mansion himself.
It makes a lot of sense, and some of us probably saw this coming. The interesting thing, however, isn’t in the fact that Roswaal is behind the assassins on the mansion, but rather its about why he’s doing it. Roswaal wants Subaru to choose, to have to accept that he can’t save everyone. To Sacrifice Rem, Petra and Fredrica for Emilia. Its an impossible choice, and one that if made, will indeed forever change Subaru.
Yet, Subaru can’t just accept that, not after the conversation he has with the Witches at their “Tea Party”. Speaking of the tea party, which relates more or less to the first thing the episode needed to do… Man did that deliver in droves.
I gloated a second ago about being right about Roswaal, but man was I wrong about Echidna. Calling her an antagonist, or the villain of the arc is definitely incorrect. Echidna is a wild card, truly a third entity that’s a key player in all of this. Her motivations and her interest in using Subaru is there, but she’s not got the same level of Malice as Roswaal.
Roswaal wants to control Subaru and make him into what he wants him to be, Echidna wants Subaru to choose to be a particular way of his own free will. Like every other Witch we’ve seen thus far, Echidna is a slave to her core personality trait; Greed.
And lets talk about the other Witches for a second too, because I don’t think I ever did that properly. I think it was just beautiful character work and immensely satisfying to see them all rally behind Subaru and help him out. It really argued a fact that I think this story and Nagatsuki-sensei have been trying to set up for a while now; The witches are neither good nor evil, just different.
The way these Witches think, they way they operate, its weird and other worldly. Its unconventional, and I’d say it is almost Alice in Wonderland esque. I think the framing device of the tea Party, the meadow, and the colorful character designs of the Witches all scream “Alice in Wonderland”, in the best way possible.
As is the case with beings in Alice in Wonderland, the Witches can be both exceedingly dangerous but also be exceedingly helpful. And you have to admit, as a protagonist, Subaru is kind of a badass, so its no surprise that everyone from The Witches, to Echidna to even Patrasche is impressed and interested in him.
Speaking of which, the one that’s probably most interested in Subaru, is Satella. And Satella? I think we learned a good chunk on her, completing the unsaid promise that I think this arc gave us when it featured Satella so prominently. Satella is Emilia, its pretty much proven this week. But which Emilai? or rather from when?
My summation here, is that Satella is Emilia from the future. After all these events have transpired, after Subaru has probably bonded with her and saved her countless times, and ultimately died. Emilia, when she does become Satella and gain all this power, gives Subaru the power of “Return By Death” to ultimately pay him back.
And man, how awesome is it that the intention of “Return by Death” is so noble and yet so misguided at the same time. Giving Subaru a power that literally prevents him from dying, in order to get him to treasure himself? That’s so Emilia, its brilliant. We know Emilia is an awkward person, who hasn’t had friends and who is bad at expressing herself. This particular power and the motivation behind it, is the ultimate expression of her character.
Good Writing? No sir, this is masterful writing, the very best in any medium of storytelling. I think Nagatsuki-sensei may be rising to become one of my favorite writers of all time, and is seriously making me want to get off my lazy ass and learn reading Japanese so I can read his original writing.
The idea, the duality of Emilia and Satella? Its probably my favorite element of this series thus far, and its one that I never expected to be satisfied with. I totally expected Satella to not be anything more than a crazy obsesses psycho. Seeing her properly talk and try to communicate with Subaru? Seeing what kind of character Emilia can become under dire circumstances? Its all so immensely satisfying.
And to top it all off, I love what Satella ends the whole tea part on; the request for Subaru to kill her when its all over. Subaru’s response is even better though, as he says once again that he’ll save her. Interesting and there’s a ton of depth in those statements, as those are the statements that Subaru makes every time he dies in front of Satella. Does Subaru remember everything right as he dies? Is there a deeper wish from a Subaru of the future that flows into him? What does it mean to save Satella?
There’s enough still left to the imagination, that this whole Satella and Subaru thing feels mysterious, but not completely obtuse. We got just the right amount of progress on this front, and that was something I had hoped we’d get this week, and boy did we.
So with all of that said, we end the episode on a rather odd note. I will say, as far as cliffhangers go, Subaru getting punched by Otto is kind of anticlimactic to say the least. There’s so much good in this episode that its not a huge issue, but I did want to try to be as objective as I could be and point that out. No stop smirking at me! I tried! I pointed out something not good, as minor as it was!
Ahem. What we’re left with now, after 13 episodes, is everything more or less spelled out. Subaru has to deal with Roswaal and try to save both the Mansion and the people in the Sanctuary. Garfiel is afraid of the outside world, so Subaru has to contend with that. Since Subaru didn’t take Echidna’s offer, he actually can’t pass the three trials himself any more. There’s the Great Rabbit to deal with, and of course Subaru’s allies are limited to Otto and Patrasche.
Solving of that is a tall order. Its also an exceedingly complex web of problems beautifully set up and weaved together. I think this first half of the season did a perfect job of setting up a really interesting problem for Subaru and his allies to solve. Its up to part 2 to now actually give us satisfying resolutions to these problems, and I think the fact that I am so pumped to see how all of this is actually resolved, is a testament to how fantastic this first half has been.
This first half, it leveled up Re:Zero as a franchise. Its propelled it to be, potentially, in my top 5 Anime of all time. That was not something I could’ve ever said about the first season as good as it was.
As we prepare for a long winter and what will feel like an even longer wait for the second part of this story, the thing that I’ll take fondly out of this fall season is how it gave us the best show of the year. The pressure, the expectations and excitement for Part 2 to deliver, couldn’t be grander. This is how you do it. This is how you adapt something into an anime series. This is how you reward fans after having them wait a few years, and THIS is how you close off the first part of a split-cour season.
Posted by setsuken
Posted on September 30, 2020 at 1:04 pm
Tags: beatrice, echidna, natsuki subaru, re Zero season 2, 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 episode 13, Re:Zero S2, re:zero season 3, Roswaal, satella
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