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Re:Zero – Starting Life in Another World

Entry updated 3 May 2021. Tagged: Film, TV.

Japanese animated tv series (2016-2021). Original title Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu. Based on the web and Light Novels by Tappei Nagatsuki. White Fox. Directed by Masaharu Watanabe. Written by Masahiro Yokotani. Voice cast includes Yūsuke Kobayashi, Inori Minase, Rie Murakawa and Rie Takahashi. 50 25-minute episodes, plus 50 online shorts and two OVA films. Colour.

Walking home from the convenience store, Subaru Natsuki (Kobayashi) suddenly finds himself in another world (see Parallel Worlds). Fortunately, as someone who plays Videogames all day, this does not faze him; he rightly assumes "this is a fantasy world with the typical medieval-style culture, a world where demihumans are commonplace and probably stuff like wars and adventures, as well". He quickly becomes involved with the half-elf Emilia (Takahashi) and they are both murdered. Subaru then finds himself alive (see Reincarnation) at a point just after his arrival in this world (see Time-Travel), baffled that the people he'd previously met don't recognize him. He is killed twice more, in different circumstances, and painfully, before he works out what's happening: eventually he is able to fine-tune events so he and Emilia do not die (in effect, creating Alternate Histories). Any attempt to tell others of this "return by death" kills him.

Emilia takes Subaru to her home, a palace, where he meets the sister maids Rem (Minase) and Ram (Murakawa). Again events lead to him dying repeatedly, each time returning to his first morning at the palace; one time he kills himself so the murdered Ram is restored. Learning Emilia is a candidate for the throne, Subaru insists on accompanying her to the selection ceremony: his behaviour there, defending Emilia when she has no wish to be defended, leads to her cutting her ties with him. But he returns to the palace when he hears it is under threat: he finds everybody dead, then is killed. He dies again and again in failed attempts to change events. Eventually his impotence breaks him and he is filled with self-loathing: but Rem's encouragement persuades him to start again, from zero. Importantly, he starts to use his brain instead of being hotheaded. Finally, working with allies, he succeeds in saving Emilia.

Subaru's cycles of death and rebirth deliberately recall Videogames where a player has many lives, and can use the lessons learnt when they restart, whilst the game's elements treat each encounter afresh, echoing Rogue Moon (1960; vt The Death Machine 2001) by Algis Budrys. His solipsistic arrogance is often unpleasant, as he tries to be Emilia's hero without regard to her wishes: as she observes "You're doing all this for yourself", whilst others remark on his excessive pride. He eventually learns humility: though this point is somewhat undermined when the finale has Emilia reduced to a damsel in distress for him to rescue (see Feminism).

Though Re:Zero is set in a fantasyland, there is some Technology, called "metia", which is considered a help for those who lack Magic; so Subaru's mobile is seen as interesting but not shocking – sadly this theme is undeveloped (see Science and Sorcery). This is an impressive Anime, with many interesting and engaging characters; the main drawback, aside from drawn out conflicts, is Subaru's personality, which frequently grates. Much is left open, including why Subaru was summoned and having the main antagonist still unseen. A second season followed in 2020. There have been two prequel OVA films: Memory Snow (2018) and The Frozen Bond (2019; original title Re:Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu: Hyōketsu no Kizuna). [SP]


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