Re:Thinking Re:Zero: How I slowly lost all interest in Re:Zero

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.

7 thoughts on “Re:Thinking Re:Zero: How I slowly lost all interest in Re:Zero

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  2. I agree with you here. This show wants the audience to take itself seriously but you can’t just do it when the author can’t hide how forced and fake this show is. Aside from what you said, the dialogue is also very heavy-handed and its portrayal of mental illness and to a greater extent, PTSD, is clumsy. Subaru goes from being weak and deeply disturbed by the cause of his death in one life, then turns into an incredibly brave and confident person when faced with the same problem in then next like it was nothing at all. There were also a lot of times where he loses common sense for no reason just to die or be hated by everyone, so he gets this “character development” to be a very smart and perceptive person to deal with the problem, then goes back to his dumb and obnoxious self after the events have ended. For someone who’s been argued to be one of the most realistic MCs by most fans, he’s very unrealistic and definitely unbelievable.

      • I guess people just appreciate how dark the Isekai genre can be with all the gore and stuff and also how the MC is normal in almost everything contrary to overpowered protagonists we’ve been having so far. Maybe he’s that relatable to many, and having RBD is like having a second chance to do things right without the shame of his prior actions instilled in people’s minds. The problem though, is that his obnoxious and over-dramatic behaviour is the easiest and most important thing he could’ve fixed if he wants people to have a good impression of him, but nope, Subaru skips all the way and cheats through the auto-saving mechanic and so everybody treats him like a hero instantly. I admit though I would’ve liked this show back when I was a teen, but now I just see how immature and inaccurate this series is. People who are very needy and persistent to the point they’re intrusive are just disgusting, and Subaru is like that all the time. His lacklustre backstory after watching Season 2 doesn’t help at all, and is just about pandering to otakus and hikikomoris so they can self-insert.

        It’s hard to think of Subaru’s actions and intentions as noble especially when it will never look that way in a realistic perspective. It baffles me the side characters are still allowing him to stay and willingly keep up with him despite of his antics. This is also the reason why I blame RBD for its terrible usage as a plot device: it makes relationships bloom unnaturally, and prevents characters from having real growth when the author can just reset it at any point in time especially when the save point is always placed conveniently for the plot. If there’s one thing the show is good though, it’s manipulating people to think it’s believable in the first place. But like you said, it really isn’t when everything is contrived when you look at the story continuously without the shenanigans since there’s no proper build-up.

    • I admit Subaru’s mental fortitude is unnatural when he just experienced something brutal from a previous loop and swoops back at the battlefield as if nothing happened. Well put yourself in his shoes. If you died, had your heart/soul touched by your 400 year old gf who is some dark entity and then popped back up and everything that happened is gone but you still remember, wouldn’t you be pretty messed up right? Especially if it happened time and time again. You remember the pain. The suffering. And any progress you made with people to become friends was just gone. You say things that you shouldn’t know and they instantly think you’re a stalker or a creep even though you remember these things but they don’t. Do note that the boy exhibits self-mutilation behavior as another symptom of his PTSD throughout his free time and even Beatrice notice this as part of his habit, And while he did manage to save everyone at the end of season 2 and became Emilia’s knight; that doesn’t make the nightmares go away and it certainly doesn’t make the mental and physical side effects disappear either. To elaborate on why Subaru’s self-mutilation to “relieve” pain: Psychological pain is something you generally have little control over without lots of therapy. Self-inflicted physical pain, you do have control over. By self-harming, you can distract from the uncontrolled pain and focus on a pain you do have control over, which can be a lot easier to cope with, he also does it because it allows him to tell if he RBD without knowing it. The very first loop in the mansion messed him up. The one where he died in his sleep. He doesn’t want to be caught in situation where he loops in his sleep and is unaware. That shit will do a real number on a teenager’s mental health. Normally this surprised fans that he actually kept it together and recovered mostly. He does and will have PTSD but he’s taking it in stride and trying to make the best of his situation which he’s finally getting some tangible results from his efforts in the way he wants them to be. Subaru built his relationship with the other cast and he even has a personal ranking of his friends and he would use Return By Death if one of them died. How did Subaru not go insane? The simple answer: He doesn’t. The more in depth one: He keeps up the farce of not being ‘insane’ by convincing himself that what he is doing is for a good cause, to “save people”. It’s stated multiple times throughout the series by Subaru himself that everything he is doing is for “their sake”. With the infinite chances of Return by Death he is aware that his desired outcomes will change to his favor if he just works hard enough.

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  4. Why does Subaru have the authority to negotiate with Crusch and share the mining rights?

    Originally that was Rem’s mission given to her by Roswaal. Roswaal does not allow Rem to tell Subaru about her real mission, unless Subaru finds it by himself. After that, Rem can give him the right of negotiation and follow Subaru’s instructions. How did Subaru found out? Subaru finally finds a question. Why Roswaal allows Rem staying with Subaru but not protecting Emilia in the mansion when the Witch Cult was gonna attack? Especially the defense power of Roswaal’s mansion is extremely low. Therefore, he concluded that Rem has another mission. There is a contract between Crusch and Emilia. Also, Subaru as a guest is treated in Crusch’s mansion, Rem may discuss with Crusch about something, most possible, forming alliance. Emilia’s camp from the beginning is trying to form alliance with Crusch. The bargaining chip given from Roswaal is right of mining of magic stone, but Crusch is not satisfied so the discussion faces difficulties and hence Subaru pulls out a big brain move that he knows Moby dick. In conclusion Subaru has been dancing on Roswaal’s palm the entire time.

    Why didn’t Crusch lie detect ability didn’t work when Subaru pulled out his phone?

    In the negotiation, Rem was just standing behind Subaru. When the phone appears, she just make a sound and Crusch notices it, then Crusch asked why she gave such a reaction and then Rem gave out the “answer”, Subaru explains when the White Whale is gonna appear, He never explained the abilities of his phone because he obviously knows about her ability and it would make him a liar. Their actions are all considered by Subaru to increase his credibility.

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