Note: This’ll contain spoilers for the Re:Zero Light Novel.
I just stopped watching Re:Zero’s first episode of its second season and I must say that this is boring beyond belief. The first episode just confirmed to me what I suspected when looking up Light Novel spoiler details and learning more about Re:Zero’s supposed lore. I was gravely disappointed and after giving the first episode of the second season a try . . . I think I’ll stop watching it from now on. Prior to this, I had watched and enjoyed the entirety of Re:Zero’s Season 1 back when the episodes were being newly released, but since then I wanted to learn more about its lore and where the story would go and I was deeply disappointed by what I learned. The initial appeal for Re:Zero for me was a main character who was aware of the tropes and used them to his advantage, but later got smacked down with reality when he confused his fantasy adventure for something that should conform to his selfish desires instead of seeing that these people have their own lives and problems. This initially appealed to me because it set-up and knocked down the gary stu-style tropes of most Isekai anime which essentially just become harems where the main character is the strongest and all the main cast of females eventually worship him. Re:Zero provided an alternative take that seemed to be fairly unique from this mold by showing an average person who held onto such beliefs about being the most important person in a fantasy world, but then dealt with the reality of having those delusions knocked flat and slowly becoming a better person. This seemed fine at first, but the flaws manifested almost immediately and Natsuki Subaru just isn’t interesting enough of a person to watch the journey of. I could see this type of anime appealing to self-loathing Otakus similar to Evangelion, but it seems like the narrative issues of Re:Zero are the opposite extreme of the generic Isekai harem anime.
What is the point of Subaru’s journey? That’s the crux of the issue for me. He’s no Edward Elric looking to get his body back, he’s no Goku trying to either get the Dragonballs or fight stronger opponents because he loves the challenge as a martial artist, he’s no Ryuko trying to learn the mystery of what happened to her father, he’s no Naruto trying to work hard to become the leader of his country, he’s no Luffy working to find the greatest treasure in the world while getting entangled in government conspiracies, and it no longer feels like any journey of self-discovery to find himself either. The main purpose of his life seems to revolve around Emilia and I’m sorry to say that I never found it convincing. He had one date with her and uses that as justification to literally get himself stabbed over and over to death. The purpose of his character feels so brittle and forced, but it was somewhat easy to ignore in the first Season. I had expected the Royal Succession arc to probe this deeper, but it never did. The extra material like the chibi show with worldbuilding didn’t help matters when Emilia and Puck mentioned that Subaru had told them that he had illegally entered the country. If Subaru is so in love with Emilia, what reason does he have to deliberately lie to her about coming from another world? His Return by Death conveniently requires him to never tell anyone or they’ll die for some completely unexplained reason by a woman who has supposedly been sealed away for hundreds of years, but absolutely nothing in the anime or extra anime content ever mentioned Subaru needing to keep the fact that he’s from another world quiet. Why lie to Emilia about it instead of trusting her with the truth, if he is so in love with her? It’s amazing how the narrative is trying to force this true love message between the two, but just swipes this very important fact under the rug without any self-reflection on what it means for the honesty of the relationship between the two.
The closest Subaru’s depicted motivations actually come to is Ichigo Kurosaki from Bleach and that isn’t a good sign considering how Bleach declined. If Subaru’s motivation is reduced to simply protecting his friends, then an already formulaic story will be reduced to Subaru making dumb mistakes, then learning to ask others for help or use some basic investigative skills (like with protecting the village from hellhounds) to correct his mistake, and then everyone getting a more positive outcome. Rinse and repeat. The groundhog day formula similar to Steins;Gate and Higurashi will become even more formulaic because there’s barely any mystery emphasized, Natsuki Subaru’s relationships to the fantasy characters (the crux of any good groundhog day style story) seems very weak, the characters aren’t as intriguing in what is a generic fantasy setting unlike the latter two series, and as a result there’s no other intriguing elements like the village myth in Higurashi or the workings of Time Travel in Steins;Gate. Furude Rika and Okabe Rintaro are both fantastic characters with their own deeply personal motivations, journey of perseverance, and selfless love for their comrades. Rika and Rintaro are both in settings where we’ve firmly established that they knew the people around them for practically a lifetime, grow satisfying friendships or love for the new people in their lives throughout their respective story arcs (In Higurashi’s case, by having the main character be a newcomer in the first season to introduce us to the small-town), and they’re working selflessly to protect them. By contrast, the generic fantasy setting of Re:Zero is perhaps its biggest detriment to the groundhog style of storytelling; Subaru barely knows these people, he hasn’t built any long-term relationships with them, and their general disdain in many of his story arcs where he is brutally killed makes it hard for viewers to understand what the payoff of any of this suffering is. Subaru is willing to undergo horrifying amounts of suffering, but it seems like this story can’t answer the basic reason for any of these horrible deaths that he goes through: Why?
The “love” Subaru has for Emilia over one date that she probably won’t ever be able to remember feels like the author forced the character to behave this way. Subaru’s behavior mid-Season 1 where he made an ass of himself in front of the Royal Succession felt like forced plot stupidity. Perhaps it had good payoff in later episodes where Subaru probes deeper and admits his failings, but the initial conflict was still very forced on the character. I didn’t mind it too much then, but as the story stretches on and the same groundhog day set-up is bound to happen . . . what was the point? What was the payoff? Why should we as viewers care when his “love” for his “friends” is so brittle and barely established outside of maybe Rem? Sadly, it seems the swift kick in the pants that Subaru was given mid-Season 1 has only added more reasons why it is hard to believe that this character goes through so much for complete strangers. Even his solution to take down the White Whale consisted of people gaining personal rights to Roswaal’s territory to mine it for resources and not out of genuine compassion for innocent lives lost or to help Subaru out of any friendship. And just when did Subaru get the power to decide what portion of Roswaal’s territory can be mined by a political group that is opposed to Emilia’s Succession in favor of their own Succession candidate? I didn’t initially mind this, but the deeper the story goes, the less this house of cards makes any sense. Crusch’s lie detector ability just so happened to fail when Subaru outright lied about his cellphone’s abilities. All in all, it feels like the author breaks his own established rules to make the story progress and that isn’t a sign of good storytelling.
Memory problems. A major red flag for me about the Re:Zero story is when I read about memory alternation magic such as curses and partial memory wipes. Even if we discount full memory wipes like what the White Whale and other Witch Cultists do, I have to question why it is that one of the Witches hasn’t conquered the world yet since there doesn’t seem to be any defense against memory wipes. There seems to be no limits explained about these curses or magic abilities that wipe people’s memories and it makes me wonder how large city-styled societies like Re:Zero can even work when magic like that goes unchecked. Make no mistake, Re:Zero has failed to introduce any protections to memory wiping and this is a major problem. Not only does there seem to be no real costs to Witches using memory wipes that get rid of the memories of vast swathes of people, but . . . you could make any “revelations” into the story this way without the narrative really doing much to introduce it. That’s the other major problem with the plot of Re:Zero that really bothered me. Theoretically, the story becomes open enough that it could become anything without any build-up, because all that is necessary would be for Subaru to have been revealed to be memory wiped or partially memory wiped. Even events such as his understanding of coming from another world similar to ours could just be memory implants or false memories. Or he could have gone on journeys from thousands of years in the past of Re:Zero’s world and been randomly memory wiped to explain why he didn’t remember certain plot points. In short, everything could become so easily contrived and forced into the story by the author without any proper build-up to future plot twists in the story. Even worse, the author already seems to do this with small-scale material like Crusch’s lie detector and Subaru’s behavior during the Royal Candidate ceremony, so I’m skeptical if he won’t abuse this obvious plot convenience that opens-up far too many questions that he’s failed to address. The use of memory wipes and partial memory wipes opens-up so many plot holes that can be conveniently swept away with memory loss being the cause. It would ruin the tension and build-up for future moments of the story. Perhaps, I am being nitpicky, but his lack of explanation for the limits of the Witch’s magical abilities really doesn’t help matters. I don’t have any faith in the author to not misuse this for forced plot conveniences, when so much of the story already seems rife with it. That’s the major reason why I’ve lost interest in Re:Zero.
There are more reasons, but they seem less important than what I’ve already explained. If you enjoy Re:Zero, more power to you. But for me, I believe the story adds too much plot contrivance and fails to establish any set limits to the witch magic that can prevent abuse of certain crazy memory powers. It is to the point that certain plot holes can only be ignored through the author contrivance alone and it requires too much of a suspension of disbelief that I can no longer ignore. This is on top of Subaru’s tenuous relationships in the fantasy world and his lack of a motivation that doesn’t feel like the author forcing him to behave certain ways. The suspension of disbelief is too great for me to enjoy the anime any longer.