Re:Zero - Zero Kara Hajimaru Isekai Seikatsu (Re:Zero - Starting Life in a New World), 2016
Signed up the 22/05/2017
The "isekai" trope is a plot device popular in the vast majority of the major anime titles spawned in the years 2011 - 2017, with 4 airing in 2016 alone. The trope entails the relocation of a main character to a strange parallel world, often totally different from the familiar hustle and bustle of modern day life. Which brings me to Re:Zero, an anime which earned lots of hype in 2016 due to its jarring themes and incredible character development crammed into 26 juicy episodes.
17-year-old Natsuki Subaru is a high schooler who, for reasons which remain unknown, spent the majority of his life locked away playing videogames. Upon running out of food at home, Subaru heads outside for the first time in quite a while and pops into a nearby convenience store. Upon leaving the store, his surroundings change almost instantaneously; as if he'd walked out of the convenience store into a completely foreign location. Upon further investigation, he realizes that he has been transported to an alternate world. In this world, fantasy is reality as he is surrounded by adventurers, warriors, knights, chimeras and even the concept of magic. Not too long after his arrival, Subaru is attacked by a band of thugs, but he is saved by a mysterious white-haired beauty. Willing to show his gratitude, Subaru decides to accompany this woman, the half-elf Emelia, on her quest to find a precious item belonging to her family. Upon locating it, Subaru and Emelia are brutally murdered. However, with the crippling fear and pain still fresh in his mind, Subaru finds himself back in the market where he started, with all the events of that day inexplicably repeating themselves...
Re:Zero's plot and setting are fairly generic; so much so that there is a whole other show released in 2016 which could be summed up as a Re:Zero with jokes (hello, Konosuba!). However, its main attraction comes in the implication of Subaru's strange ability to "Return by Death", which as the name implies, allows him to start again from a certain checkpoint when he dies, much like in a video game. The Return by Death ability is the main plot device of the whole series and it is the vehicle through which Re:Zero develops its lore, its appeal and of course, the best part of the entire journey - its characters.
Subaru as a protagonist is vastly different from other main characters who have been in a similar situation as he, and for most of Re:Zero's early episodes, he retains a quirky and humorous demeanor not unlike our favourite neighbourhood Spider-Man. However, with each experience of the fantasy land he now finds himself in, Subaru's character fragments and we are introduced to the intense and dramatic unravelling of Subaru's entire personality. All while this is happening, Re:Zero manages to expand upon other characters, using the Return by Death plot device extremely well.
In terms of action and suspense, Re:Zero was one of the best of 2016, sporting some really awesome combat scenes, shocking revelations and scenes of beautiful animation.
That being said, it is important to mention Re:Zero's drawbacks. With 26 episodes, the series is already one of the longer releases of any anime cour; however, the story did not do a great job at answering some of the niggling questions brought on by Subaru's sudden appearance in a parallel world. For starters, in all 26 episodes, there is no real mention of why he's actually there and what's even more surprising is that there is that Subaru has no intention of even pretending to want to get back to his mundane life in modern-day Tokyo; which most protagonists would. The series' main antagonist - the Jealous Witch, Satella, remains a total enigma even at the 1st season's conclusion. So in terms of achieving some sort of progression where the foundation of the story is concerned, Re:Zero just manages to uncover more questions and not answers - make of that what you will.
Overall however, Re:Zero is the kind of startling anime that would enchant even those with the greatest aversion to anime; it has all the ingredients for a good gateway anime. The series never stops being interesting and with every episode ending on some sort of delightfully confusing cliffhanger, it's the perfect binge anime and quite frankly, there isn't a single moment in history after watching this where I've neglected to recommend it.
Signed up the 20/08/2017
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