May 29

Re:Zero: Death is not the End

By Jack McDonough, 2021 prospective JET

A half-elf mage and her familiar, Puck. You can find Grace’s art here!

If you’re a fan of anime, manga, or light novels, then chances are you’ve heard of the genre “Isekai.” Isekai, meaning another world, is a genre that features a character, usually from Earth, getting transported to another world, which is usually a standard fantasy world akin to Lord of the Rings. In most cases, the heroes of these stories find out they have hidden powers and are the only ones who can save the new world to which they’ve been transported. These heroes are usually men and are surrounded by beautiful women who have no agency. Re:Zero subverts those expectations and delivers to its audience Subaru Natsuki: a weak nerd from Japan. 

Re:Zero Starting Life in Another World is an anime adaptation of the light novel Ri:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu by Tappei Nagatsuki, where seventeen-year-old Subaru Natsuki is transported to the nation of Lugunica one evening after leaving a convenience store. Subaru, a recluse and avid reader of Isekais, is ecstatic when he realizes he’s been “Isekai-ed” into a world of mages, knights, and nobility. He meets a beautiful, half-elf mage (who will remain unnamed in this review due to spoilers).  His enthusiasm turns to horror when he finds out that, unlike other Isekai heroes, no dormant powers are awakened in him; his only power is that, upon death, time rewinds to the moment he arrived in Lugunica. Not only does he find out that he has this power after being murdered, he learns that magic renders him unable to speak about his ability. 

At first, I thought that Re:Zero was interesting, but nothing worth writing about. After watching half of the first season, it dawned on me that this anime was the perfect blend of horror, mystery, and adventure that requires you to binge the whole series. Subaru’s ability to rewind time by dying fleshes out the story by allowing the audience to see what-if scenarios that otherwise would be inaccessible. In these other timelines, almost every character that appears on-screen dies in some gruesome way, often multiple times, before Subaru finds a way to save them from their demise.

 Another one of Re:Zero’s strong points is the nation of Lugunica, which transforms from a seemingly simple place to one of interesting lore and complex political issues that every character has a stake in. Characters that received 5-10 minutes of screen time in season one turn out to be major players with rich backstories in season two, showcasing Nagatsuki’s thorough world-building and attention to detail. The way Nagatsuki builds Subaru from an annoying, selfish, and sexist boy into a caring and heroic man is masterful. There’s also a bevy of plot twists to keep the viewer on the edge of their seat and plenty of awesome fight scenes to behold. Couple this with quality animation and an amazing soundtrack and you’ve got something worth writing about. 

Should you watch Re:Zero? Yes. Right now. This show is a classic case of “more than meets the eye.” What starts out as a simple fantasy, turns out to be a must-watch nightmare. You’ll love and hate every second of Subaru’s torturous struggle to save the lives of his new friends and understand the mysteries of his new world; this Isekai. 

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