Well, with Subaru’s plan to retrieve the insignia before the witch could kill everyone involved failing (what with the silver-haired girl, Felt, Rom, and Subaru all together as the witch arrives), all hope seems lost in a battle with her. Well, it would be hopeless, if not for a Dues Ex Reinhard.
The episode’s first half is actually quite gripping. While it contains some really bad moments of dialogue (Puck constantly reminding everyone and the audience that the witch is a girl, for instance), it also has some great suspense. With facing her a know quantity to Subaru, who is helped by the silver-haired girl and Puck using magic against her, the ensuing fight scene is really exciting, especially with brief snippets of internal monologuing about how he doesn’t want to feel the pain of dying again. If this kept up, this would be a phenomenal episode.
But then Reinhard (the knight from last episode who is pictured above) shows up. Unfortunately, with his appearance, the episode loses all dramatic tension. It doesn’t become boring, but the show goes to great lengths to explain and show how overpowered he is, which is just not exciting. Still, it fits with the idea presented at the episode’s start: his having encountered Reinhard last episode had positive repercussions for the rest of the cast. I just wish the tension wasn’t deflated to get there.
Luckily, the end of the episode helps set up that more will come in the future, with Reinhard taking Felt with him and the silver-haired girl revealing her name to be Emilia to Subaru, who is going with her. If nothing else, it will hopefully lead to more exciting development later on.
I feel like, while the episode is overall good, there are several glaring flaws present which hurt my ability to give this episode a higher mark. First is Reinhard, which takes the episode and practically ends it at the halfway point. The second is the animation: the first half is tense and exciting based solely on the writing. The animation is basic with direction that, while not incompetent, does not highlight the action on-screen. You could look away from the screen and get everything important from the dialogue (provided you know Japanese). Third, the tropey and lame dialogue of episode 1 (specifically episode 1) come back with a vengeance. Much of the dialogue was an eye-rolling experience of “Here’s this cliché” and “Here’s my cliché line that I’m choosing to get through this charade”, with no real thought or cleverness to the execution. This episode could have stumbled and failed from any of these problems.
Luckily, the episode overcomes it with earnestness. There are clichés, but their application, while not good, is not cynical. It feels like the creative staff, from the light novel’s author to the episode director, wanted to create a good representation of a clichéd idea and I give them A for effort in making them not obnoxious. The direction is unspectacular, but the characters are able to express themselves well during the fight. It’s not deep, but it gets in the level of characterization I love to see in really good action films (think the pulling glass out of the foot scene from Die Hard). Reinhard takes the tension out and seems like a cop out, but he doesn’t ruin then show, nor is he actually a bad character (just overpowered and should probably not be brought out against the first villain). For as much as Subaru is an Otaku stand-in for people who are aware that they’re losers, Reinhard is this show’s attempt at a more traditional LN main character (think Kirito. I know, that is insdulting, but it’s not nearly that bad). He helps to bring the show’s world to the viewer, specifically by highlighting just how out of his depth Subaru is. In a sincere yet cruel show like this, he is necessary to bring home the hopelessness of Subaru’s situation in this world.
I wish the first story’s finale was stronger, but I overall like what is being set up and this episode didn’t derail that for me. I’m hoping that the next story steps up and maintains the dramatic tension of this arc, but I’m still excited either way.
FINAL GRADE: B
Re:Zero -Starting Life In Another World- is available streaming at Crunchyroll.com