The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu

Title: Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu aka Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World-
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Studio Whitefox
Format: 25 episodes
Date: 4 Apr 2016 – 19 Sept 2016

Synopsis: Natusuki Subaru is an ordinary high school student who is one day unexpectedly thrown into a fantasy world. Understanding nothing about this new place, he is soon attacked by some thugs and ends up being rescued by a beautiful, silver-haired girl who is searching for a stolen insignia. In order to repay her kindness, Subaru stays close to her and offers to help search for her stolen item. However, the two are caught by surprise and killed by an enemy. It is then that Subaru awakens sometime in the past, discovering an ability to rewind death. Not knowing what this all means, Subaru must now confront this inexplicable scenario in which only he can remember what just happened.

The Highlights
Passion: Studio Whitefox put in a tremendous effort into the anime’s production and it shows.
Isekai: Breaths fresh air into an otherwise bloated category of anime, blowing away the competition.
Time travel: Used well for drama and character growth.
Characters: Extremely strong cast with most characters providing something valuable to the story.

Isekai anime, stories involving characters from our world being placed in parallel or alternate realities, have only continue to explode in popularity and abundance over the last couple decades; this is in no short thanks to past titles such as Inuyasha or Tenchi Muyo! and more recent ones like Sword Art Online. At their best, isekai anime allow storytellers freedom to explore fascinating concepts or riveting scenarios that whisk our imaginations away to rich and bountiful playgrounds. On the other hand, they can be some of the worst escapist fantasies that come from the dirty minds of adolescent boys who want nothing more than the world to revolve around them. To our misfortune, it would not be an exaggeration to say that it feels like most isekai anime today are closer to the latter variety.

This is a roundabout way of saying that Re:Zero, an isekai anime that literally has the term in its title, invites a lot of skepticism right off the bat. Subaru being a NEET protagonist who is transported to an alternate fantasy world within minutes of the first episode for no rhyme or reason already starts formulating comparisons to a recent show, No Game no Life. Thankfully unlike that anime, Re:Zero is not about some super NEET power fantasy where Subaru easily bests any adversaries and tramples over the setting with a know-it-all attitude. No, the world of Re:Zero is a very unforgiving place where Subaru often pays for his lack of world experience and general naiveté.

To Subaru’s fortune, he does have the power to return by death to a previous point on his timeline, which allows him to correct his mistakes. This method of time travel often feels like a videogame, where he is able to return to a save point anytime he dies until he makes it to another one. This does not make his journey easy by any means, as he usually has enormous difficulty in getting through the trials and tribulations set before him, whether it is combating savage magical beasts and killers, or merely figuring out how to earn the trust of potential allies. So while at first Subaru can act a tad obnoxious, believing he is some sort of awesome protagonist destined for greatness in his new fantasy world, his little bubble is popped fiercely as he dies several times throughout the story. The resulting character growth and drama is extremely compelling.

It is definitely critical to the anime’s success that Subaru’s character is handled so well throughout, but the supporting cast of Re:Zero is also very strong. Many of the show’s most poignant moments come not from its main characters, but from the interesting backstories and motivations of those around them. One in particular, Rem, even manages to eclipse the main heroine Emilia throughout the story with several heartrending, charming, and touching moments. Re:Zero’s biggest action set pieces and climaxes would be nowhere near as effectual otherwise.

Studio Whitefox has to be enormously proud of the production effort that went into this show overall. They might not be able to pull off the level of animation and detail that ufotable or Kyoto Animation is capable of, but every single episode of this anime is filled with their passion and love. Reflective this effort is how many episodes skipped either their opening or endings to cram in more content. From the direction, to the music placement, to the vigorous voice acting performances, and the lovely animation quality, Whitefox undoubtedly elevated the experience of the original text to new heights.

Re:Zero may not be a deep show with any real meaningful message at the end of the day, but it clearly is head and shoulders above most of its competition as an isekai show. Every week it provides top-notch quality entertainment with several gripping and impactful moments you are not soon to forget. Moreover, it not only swats away any reason to doubt its setup, but blows you away with meticulously crafted and cinematic-like scenes. Almost every episode leaves you wanting the next one right away, and truly, you could hardly ask for much more than that.

The Rating: 8
8/10

Reviewed by: Reckoner

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