I will be the first to admit that this is very much a biased review as I have come to love this series very dearly and will now proceed to devour every piece of entertainment related to it that I can find until the day a second season is confirmed. The story involves a boy who is suddenly transported to a fantasy world while shopping and follows his adventure to save a girl from a gruesome fate. However what makes this different for the usual fare is that our protagonist has no magic superpowers or special abilities besides one. When he dies he returns to a point back in time and can use his new knowledge to guide things to a better outcome. With this the story follows the Subaru’s tale as he goes through time loops till the point when he can make things right. All the while dealing with the heavy psychological scars of suffering death time and time again. As you can tell Subaru is the one with the most focus and also gets the bulk of the character development for the show.
His transformation is a fascinating one which makes him one of the more interesting protagonists to come out of anime in a while. Subaru is flawed selfish character which differentiates him from the heroic white knight he wishes people to see him as. It makes him remarkably refreshing when compared to the heroes of these kinds of stories as he is unmistakably human. Subaru usually doesn’t truly fight the villains he faces but instead helps and guides those who can defeat them. The story can get quite dark as Subaru deals with some pretty heavy PTSD and a world that is outright cruel and unforgiving to a normal human being.
White Fox did a great job in bringing this story to life though the art style could be better and when compared to the animation powerhouses of Ufotable or madhouse it does fall short. But it gives the fights of the series the dynamic movement and focus to make action exhilarating. Presentation overall is marvelous and adaption of the source isn’t perfect but is pretty good nonetheless. The music deserves special mention as the staff aimed for a more cinematic feel to the sound and it really shows. The thing that really makes the best moments of this series hit hardest is the music playing at that time. Though equal praise can go to the voice actors who just did a great job throughout.
One particular standout choice when adapting this was to on several occasions cut out the opening and ending to put in more content. As a result the opening and ending of the show is not often used but in exchange we get over an extra episodes worth of content from the series. As sparingly used as they are, the opening and ending do a decent job of showing what the show is about and the songs are serviceable. Animation remains fairly consistent throughout the run with the director compensating for what drops in quality there are with atmosphere and suitable use of still frames.
Despite my praises for this show I will admit that there are a number of things here which could not to be to anothers liking. I do adore this show but it is far from perfect and if some cannot find enjoyment in it I can at least see why. For a few examples, the main heroine of the show remains a fairly bland one dimensional character for this season and for the most part is completely overshadowed by the female cast of the series second half. As the series continues she seems to assume a role of a plot device to keep the story moving forward. Subaru’s meta jokes can be rather annoying and can grate on a viewer’s nerves. As well as Subaru’s general attitude which can border on obnoxious at times. The villains of each arc while serviceable and likeable to extent lack any real character depth and have motivations that range from gleeful sadism to just performing a job.
When a story arc of the series ends the series feels rather directionless up until the point that Subaru starts looping again. Despite the series going to great lengths to show Subaru as an average human being with no superpowers, the story still cheats and has him perform some clearly superhuman feats such as welding a club his own size with one hand and performing some ridiculous midair acrobatics. This is also the question that the story tends to veer away from is the matter of Subaru’s past and more importantly the family he left behind in his old world which is never addressed or elaborated on.
Due to the adaption cutting out material it can seem at times that Subaru is pulling solutions out of nowhere. The level of sadism the plot pushes on our protagonist can get a bit too much, particularly during the middle part of the series. This sadism is offset by the times when Subaru gets his act together and suddenly everyone is praising him which can feel disingenuous on the author’s part. Moreover even if the story does aim to go against the trends of standard Light Novel storytelling, it still does rely on standard tropes for the fountain of the cast. Therefore the cast that doesn’t get developed can be a bit run of the mill, a primary example being Beatrix who by all accounts is a pretty standard tsundere loli. Subaru also appears to be gathering a harem of girls by series end. Lastly the entirely of this 2 cour series feels only to be a prologue of a much grander story to come which at this point in time may not be animated. Yes if you dislike this series I can at least get as to why that may be but even if the reasons above are not contributing factors, the story is of a kind of love it or hate it quality.
That said if you do take a liking to it then it will have you hooked from start to finish. Re:Zero uses a lot of cliffhangers leaving you scrambling for the next episode and has a very addictive quality about it that can make episodes breeze by in what feels like minutes to the viewer. Characters may start out stereotypical but quite a number of them become absolutely lovable by the shows end. The battles in the show feel high stakes as with the nature of Subaru’s power allows the possibility that everyone can die at any given moment, giving battles a tension not seen often in stories. The cinematic feel can lead to some truly outstanding moments with the end of episode 15 being a massive high point. Re:Zero is a story that starts good, becomes very good ten episodes in and by episode fifteen it becomes great. I do think that this will be an anime to be remember and one still recommended years from now.
It ends with a fairly decent conclusion but it is true that this really needs a sequel to truly make use of the plot points brought in it’s last episodes. Even if you hate it, you must admit there is a reason this show is as popular as it is and when it comes to over excited new anime fans, which would prefer they be throwing at there friends claiming it’s is the pinnacle of anime? This? Or Sword Art Online? An anime where you have to work and suffer to earn your happy ending? Or an anime where everything is handed to you, you are praised for being super special and important for no reason? I know which of the two I prefer and I say instead of a new SAO movie we just pump out two more seasons(Or more) of this. I don’t care what needs to be done to accomplish that, get on it White Fox. Good work, keep it up, I look forward to buying the Blu-Rays and Rem is best girl. I will accept no debate on that last matter. Good day.