Well, while I postpone that series that I dread actually reviewing, I think I’ll do an episodic write-up of this series, Re:Zero. For context, I went into this after hearing many bad things from Anime News Network during Preview Guide, where many critics expressed exasperation at the storytelling choices of the series. Even as more critics turned more positive afterwards, the word was that it was interesting, but held down by the genre. As someone who wanted to understand why this series got such a weird reception, I decided to take the plunge myself.
The episode opens with our protagonist Subaru dying. We then cut to him at a convenience store buying food and then somehow ends up in a fantasy world. After a mugging leads to a chance encounter with Emilia, our female lead, he tries to help her find her insignia. This search leads to them both dying. However, Subaru wakes up several hours before the murder and directly deals with the thieves, which leads to him dying again. The episode ends with him waking up a the same point as before, running into Emilia who does not recognize him.
If his power seems familiar, then you are familiar with the novel All You Need Is Kill, or it’s film adaptation Edge Of Tomorrow. Whenever Subaru dies, he returns to a point of time several hours before his death. This would work better if he realized it, but the episode’s end is where he appears to begin to put the pieces together, not that I’m sure when he’ll realize it. He knows he has some power because he’s an otaku, aware of anime tropes and is expecting this adventure to work like that. Whether he realizes his power or not, though, he is not a striking character. There’s nothing bad about him in this episode, or any other character, but the characterization is sparse. I hope that improves in future episodes.
The animation is handled by White Fox, a studio whose track record is hit (The Devil Is A Part-Timer, Katanagatari, Steins;Gate) and miss (SoniAni, Akame Ga Kill, Steins;Gate). The animation is quite competent, with the character expressions becoming quite expressive. It is probably one of the better-looking series of the season. The character designs are also quite nice, with characters being distinctive from each other and just pleasing to the eye. The direction helps in presenting the visuals, especially with the sudden bursts of violence that leads to Subaru’s deaths. It was enough to get me engaged and interested in what will happen next.
Well, with the positives out of the way, I need to bring up the elephant in the room: this first episode is a double-length episode. The episode spends 50 minutes telling a story that could be told in 25. This is a heavily padded episode, with most of the episode being spent showing how much of an otaku Subaru is by having him constantly bring up light novel and anime tropes. While I liked the episode, think the characters can be interesting, and want to know more about the world, the episode’s constant breaks to describe how “this is just like an anime” does the series a disservice and I hope it is not as prevalent going forward.
Length aside, I liked this and look forward to where this goes. I’ve heard that it goes in a darker and slightly more deconstructive route and this episode shows early signs of that, so I look forward to seeing how everything comes together.
FINAL GRADE: B+
Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World- is available streaming on Crunchyroll.