Re: Zero – 38 – The Starting Line of Resolve

Just as Subaru is dealing with Echidna’s apparent heel turn, along with the antics of all the other whimsical witches, Satella shuffles back into his presence, forever enrobed in black miasma, loving him and wanting him to love her. But for the first time, Satty has more to say about love, specifically begging him to love himself more.

Subie isn’t about to be lectured by a bunch of witches. The way he does things and saves those he loves is his business, and if he has to keep suffering and dying, so be it, as long as he doesn’t lose anyone else like he lost Ram. He’s had so much of his fill of these witches he decides to peace out by biting his tongue and bleeding out.

But when it comes down to it, he doesn’t want to die, or even be hurt. Minerva can sense this, and so heals him with a headbutt. The witches share the sentiment that Subaru is someone worth keeping alive and watching, and so he acknowledges that each one of them has helped him in some form or another.

Heck, if not for Satella, he wouldn’t have Return by Death, his only means thus far of doing anything in this world. Yet when Echidna holds out her hand for Subaru to take, promising him she’ll take him to whatever future he desires, he rejects it. If he’s going to find his value to others beyond his continued death, he feels he must look for it himself.

Before parting, he does take the hand of the most unexpected witch: Satella’s, promising he’ll endeavor to love himself a little more, and also that one day he’ll honor her wish to return and “kill” her.


Of c0urse, even if Subie is proceeding without direct witch assistance, he’s still going to need allies. He awakens outside for once; Otto tells him Patrasche entered the graveyard to retrieve him. When Subaru asks why, Otto mocks his denseness; clearly, it’s because Patrache loves him and cares about him. And despite his tsundere reaction, Otto clearly feels the same way.

But while Subaru has loving friends in Otto and Patrache, he’ll find no such affection from Roswaal, beyond his role as the margrave’s avatar of hope. He insists on Subaru following his recommendations to put Emilia first and everyone else second; Roswall sees Subie as a tool to save only one and no one else. Doing everything for Emilia’s sake, to him, means ignoring everything she wants.

That said, Roswaal believes Subie has yet to find his resolve, and indeed is only barely on the starting line on the road to that resolve. So he forces the issue, copping to having ordered the assassins at the mansion. By creating a situation where even someone with Return by Death can only be in one place at one time, he’s forcing Subie to make a choice: Emilia, or the others.

And I thought Echidna was bad! She’s only true to her nature as a witch of greed; Roswaal is, and fully admits to being, completely insane, and has been so ever since he first saw the witch’s eyes. But to him, insanity is a requisite, not a liability, to achieving his goals, and he wants Subie to be just like him.

Subaru runs out, determined not to be anything like him, but the shock of learning he’s been set up in this way by Roswaal for just that purpose sends him into another uncontrollable fit of despair, running through the forest until he trips and takes a tumble, then repeating over and over what he should do, and coming up blank.

When in such a state, there’s nothing for it but for someone to pull him out, and Otto happily takes up that mantle by punching Subaru in the face. Subtle it ain’t, but it was what Subie needed, when it was needed. Otto scolds him for continuing to put up a brave face right up until he’s on the edge of madness-by-despair.

Hopefully Subaru has gotten the hint that yes, doggone it, people like him, and with our without the witches’ help or Roswaal’s hindrance, they’ll find out what to do together. Unfortunately, we won’t find out what until part two in January 2021, when hopefully things will be looking up a bit in our own world!

Re: Zero – 37 – Seven’s a Crowd

Returning by Death to the graveyard and Emilia, Subaru is more determined than ever to save her and the people of the sanctuary and mansion, even at the cost of his life. But upon returning and begging Echidna for an audience, he starts to experience what a voice much like his own voice calls “unthinkable presents”: visions of the worlds after he’d died and Returned by Death. Worlds that kept going without him.

Again and again, he witnesses what he’s indeed never considered: that in those worlds he leaves, those he leaves behind still suffer his loss, and he certainly feels both the crush of those deaths now compounded by his guilt over causing further pain to those he loves. Then again, this could be the second trial, and not true reality.

Those experiences flash by faster and faster, giving us not only a glimpse of how Emilia, Beatrice and Ram (among others) react to his demise, but serving as a kind of mini-montage of all the times he’s died period, starting from the very beginning. Then, all of a sudden, we hear a familiar voice…of Rem. Rem is there to comfort Subaru and urge him to basically lay down, rest, and let her shoulder his burdens.

Once the shock and elation of reuniting with a conscious Rem wears off, Subaru realizes this isn’t Rem. Rem may love and dote upon him, but at the same time, no one is stricter when it comes to him overcoming the pain and standing back up on his own two feet…Starting Over from Zero and such!

Turns out it’s not Rem after all, but a very flustered Carmilla, Witch of Lust, sent to the graveyard by Echidna to keep his mind from being totally worn away by the trial, an illusion that drew upon his memories. The trial, to, Subaru, would seem to present a series of failures, almost mocking his efforts as pointless.

However, Echidna assures him that he is where he is now due to everything he’s seen, done, and experience, good and bad. It mattered. None of it was a waste. To that end, since he’s here now, she wishes to enter into a formal contract with him, forming a bond between their souls that will enable her to help him when it’s needed, and will grant her the ability to Return by Death with him.

It’s hard to see her sudden dropping of this proposal to be the sum product of a deliberate and calculated effort on her part to butter him up and come across as a reasonable, even benevolent ally. To make her promise to help him achieve the future he wants—not to mention use her body, mind, and soul however he likes—appealing.

When the other witches (including Sekhmet, Witch of Sloth, who constantly yawns!) appear up one by one to warn Subaru not to take the deal—there’s too much fine print Echidna isn’t telling him—she launches into a passionate monologue describing in detail all of the ways she’ll help him, declaring it, essentially, a “vow of love.”

But as with Carmilla as Fake Rem, the vow feels hollow and performative to Subaru. Echidna may indeed be a kind, gentle, naïve maiden, but she’s also a witch, and the Witch of Greed, no less. It is her greed that primarily drives her wish to contract with him, as it would “contribute greatly” to the satisfaction of her curiosity. But that assumes she can ever be satisfied.

By the time miasma is coming off Echida and her face has become more demon-like, Subaru finally asks her what he wanted to from the moment he returned: Does she know Beatrice? Yes. Does she know “that person” whom Beatrice has waited? No. In fact, Echidna always intended, and has been waiting all these 400 years, to see whether Beatrice would choose “that person” herself.

Basically, Echidna is pointing out that she gave Beatrice a raw, cruel deal before asking Subaru to trust her enough to give her a “taste” of everything he is, was, and will be. And Subaru isn’t having it. He declines her offer, and while Echidna looks disappointed and even miffed, she probably doesn’t think her fight for Subaru and his Return by Death is over just because he refused once.

Still, before we see fully how she’ll deal with that refusal, the seventh witch, Satella, makes her appearance, just in time for the second season’s first cour finale next week. I’m hoping she has a bit more to say to Subie than “I love you”!

Re: Zero – 36 – That One Most Precious Thing

Hope you enjoyed last week’s respite from suffering and death, because we’re right back to it this week! Turns out the pages of Beatrice’s genuine gospel have been empty for many years. Since all she can do is literally go by the book, she’s been pretty much trapped, waiting for “that person” to arrive. However, even if Subaru is that person, she’s long since given up on everything to the point her one true wish is to simply disappear.

When Subaru rages and fumes about Beako being so unclear until now, she tells him his only recourse to save her is to make her the first, only and most important thing to him—something she knows he can’t do. In lieu of that, all he can do is kill her so she’ll be free of her 400-year-old contract. Before Subie can do anything, Elsa arrives, having opened every door in the mansion to gain access to the library.

Beako uses Shamac and she and Subaru flee. He decides to head to the village, meeting Elsa’s partner, the mabeast user Maylie, on the way. Maylie has already killed Frederica, Petra, and likely Rem, meaning this loop is already a loss for Subie. Then things just get worse!

Elsa catches up, and Beako seemingly turns her into a pile of stagnant time mana shards. She prepares to do the same thing to Maylie, but Subie holds her back, not wanting her to kill a “kid”. A reconstituted Elsa reappears and puts her blade through Beako, and Beako seems happy about it. Elsa then starts hacking at Subie, but Beako quickly kills him uses her power to transport him away.

Subaru Returns by Death* wakes up in the graveyard. His wounds remain, so despite the Return by Death sound, he didn’t die (yet), including his gouged-out eye, remain! Even stranger, the Emilia he finds there is nothing like the one he knows. She’s very close and clingy, and comes right out and says she loves him. For a second I though Satella had possessed her physical body!

Realizing in any case this can’t be his Emilia, Subie meets with Garf and Ryuzu outside, where it’s snowing. He theorizes that someone pushed Emilia to the very edge so she has no choice but to turn to him…and he has a pretty good idea who did this.

Determined to get more answers out of him before resetting, Subaru meets with Roswaal, but their talk is interrupted by an argument between Ram and Garf. Only Roswaal counted on Ram coming between them so he could thrust his hand through the both of them, killing them so he and Subie could chat without further disruption.

Roswaal notes that Subie’s emotions include shock and indignation, but no grief, since he knows he can just reset and undo this. Rosy assumes from Subie’s reactions that he’s already met with Beako and she’s already had her dearest wish—to disappear—fulfilled. His partner in crime admits he is the one who has isolated Emilia, believing it is the way to fulfill his dearest wish—which he unhelpfully identify to Subie upfront.

As the Great Rabbit horde approaches the house the two wait for horrible death, Roswaal reminds Subaru that only he can start over; the next Roswaal will be a different person without the benefit of the things he learned from observing Subaru.

Before being overwhelmed by ravenous demon rabbits, Roswaal tells Subie the only way to become like him is to get rid of absolutely everything but the most precious thing in the world to him, and think of nothing but protecting that thing.

Subaru manages to return to the graveyard where an enthusiastic Emilia welcomes him to lie on her lap. But the grainy, out-of-focus direction indicates something is very off. In reality Subaru is only clinging to the thinnest thread of life after being half-eaten by the rabbits. This is the end of a most unpleasant loop.

It probably won’t be the last, either. Whether Subaru wants to become “like” Roswaal (likely not), the perfect or as-near-to-perfect-as-possible ending for which he’s always striven may not be possible without extensive losses. Subaru has always been a selfish “I want to save everyone” kinda guy, but if Roswaal is right, Emilia may be doomed unless she’s the only one Subaru saves. So much for last week’s stiff upper lip optimism!

*I mistakenly thought Subaru was killed by Beatrice and Returned by Death since I heard the trademark RbD sound.

Re: Zero – 35 – Trust the Process

As Subaru races to the mansion to try to head off Satella, Garfiel informs them that he’s only alive thanks to Ram’s wind. It blasted him up into the sky while Ram, Roswaal, and Ryuzu, Otto, and everyone else were swallowed up by the shadow. If it wasn’t obvious to him before, it is now: this loop is toast.

Satella, who says only “I love you” and “Love me”, swallows Subaru up, and he sees flashes of the memories of her past victims. He then uses Petra’s hanky, which turns into a blade, to stab and kill himself so he can Return by Death. And after all this time, the RbD sound still gives me goosebumps.

Shit has hit the fan in the past and will again, but this episode is a rare instance of Re:Zero giving Subaru a goddamn break for a change; at least a break relative to the usual torture. He wakes up with Emilia by his side, and she hugs him when he starts to cry, happy to see this side of him. She’s not even discouraged by her latest trial failure!

Garfiel remains neutral in this loop as well, so conditions are perfect for Subaru to start gathering information with which to determine the best course of action to help Emilia and prevent anyone from being killed, either in the Sanctuary or the Mansion. He starts by using the memories from Satella’s shadow to find a secret location that turns out to be where the original Ryuzu—Ryuzu Meyer—is held in stasis.

Thanks to Echidna’s fluid-spiked tea, Ryuzu Bilma identifies Subaru an Apostle of Greed, and must obey his commands under their contract. All he wants for now is information, which she is happy to provide. Both the Sanctuary and Ryuzu Meyer were created by Echidna as part of an elaborate experiment to achieve immortality.

Subaru posits that Echidna chummy with him because like her, he’s immortal, after a fashion. He learns that all the Ryuzu clones are basically pure mana, but Meyer was never a sufficient vessel for Echidna’s soul. He also learns that Garfiel once attempted the trial himself, and “Bilma” is the current Ryuzu’s way of claiming individuality, along with her tea-drinking hobby.

Subaru then gets to have a lovely moonlit chat with Emilia, in which he assures her she’s gonna be fine and will get the job done. She’s ever grateful for all the courage he’s been able to awaken in her. It could well be that unless Subaru says these encouraging things to her, she’ll ultimately become discouraged by her trial failures. Instead, it’s as if he’s buffing her up for success.

After a friendship-acknowledging chat with Otto, Subaru goes to sleep. The next morning, he leaves a note and heads off to the mansion to get a better handle on what’s going on and how to stop the carnage he’s witnessed. Once again, his exit is blocked by Garfiel, but when Garfiel learns Subie is merely testing him, vows to uncover all the secrets and learn all that he can learn, Garfiel grudgingly lets him pass.

What compels Garfiel to step aside is the look in Subie’s eyes as he says, with absolute conviction: “I know hell. I’ve seen it many times.”

After the credits, Subie arrives at Roswaal Mansion with Patrasche, and has Frederica and Petra take Rem and head to safety so he can conduct his business in the mansion without fear of collateral losses.

Then Subaru enters the library, where a surprisingly cooperative Beatrice seems aware that this time, Subie has come for the right reasons, seeking the right things. By doing so, he’ll be bringing an “end to the end of the end”— setting Beako free in the process. I half-wanted her to say when he entered, with a knowing glint in her eye: “Shall we begin?”

Re: Zero – 34 – Down the Great Rabbit Hole

For being the Witch of Greed, Echidna sure is helpful and informative! It’s her opinion that there is no limit to how many times Subaru can use Return by Death, as it is limited only by the Witch of Envy’s presently-limited delusion.

Envy wants him to “redo destiny” without mistakes, but doesn’t count, say, what happened to Rem as a mistake. Neither Rem or anyone else are taken into account. Subaru alone is responsible for who is or isn’t lost when the next “save point” is established.

The more immediate concern is, of course, that horde of voracious rabbits, which Echidna identifies as the Great Rabbit. Like the White Whale and Black Serpent, these Three Great Mabeasts were created by Daphne, Witch of Gluttony, over 400 years ago. The Rabbit can only be killed by killing all of its constituent parts simultaneously.

When Subaru requests more info on the Great Rabbit, Echidna arranges for him to meet Daphne one-on-one; such is her ability as the vessel of the souls of all the dead witches. Instead, the childlike Witch of Pride Typhon pops out first, ripping off Subie’s arm and shattering him to bits before the earnest, self-conscious Witch of Wrath Minerva saves him.

After that, Daphne finally appears, bound and chained within a coffin. After questioning why Subaru would destroy the Great Rabbit without first understanding the infinite gluttony that powers it, she offers a useful hint about how to at least get the rabbit where you want it: it is drawn to great sources of mana, like a powerful magic user.

As Subaru exhibits signs he could soon wake up, he beseeches Echidna to tell him how to return to her should he require more of her wisdom. She tells him the conditions for joining her tea party are tougher the more times he’s admitted, but like the last two times, if he needs her, he’ll find a way to get to her, either through the tea party or in the trial itself.

As for the trial: Echidna is losing her patience and interest in Emilia, and is all but convinced the half-elf candidate will never “break out of her shell”, i.e. properly confront her past. Right now she’s much more confident in Subie’s ability to pass. After Echidna receiving payment in the form of the sentiments within the handkerchief Petra gave him, Subie returns to the tomb, his memories of the Witch of Greed fully intact.

The only problem is, Emilia is nowhere to be found. When Subie goes outside, he faces a giant shadow slowly engulfing his surroundings, and Witch of Envy Satella makes her appearance. She draws close to Subie declaring “I love you” over and over and over again.

I’m sure there’s some truth to that, considering the ability she game him. At the same time, as Subie himself is gradually covered in her cloak of darkness, it sure doesn’t look like he should be sticking around, and certainly isn’t going to get anything useful out of her other that “I love you”.

It’s Garfiel (of all people) to the rescue, splitting Subie and Satella up, grabbing Subie and leaping to a (slightly) safer place. There, the two observe Satella not following them, but headed to the barrier. It dawns on Subie: she’s headed for Roswaal’s mansion, and to Frederica, Petra, and the comatose Rem.

Determined not to let Satella “get away with anything else”, Subie no doubt is preparing to chase after her—though I wonder whether Garfiel will be okay with that. After the credits, we see Roswaal in bed about sink under the shadow, and grabs a book (a gospel?) in grim preparation to accompany Subaru in “hell”.

Watching Subaru and Echidna interact is always fascinating, while it was fun to meet three more colorful quirky witches. Interesting too that they’re portrayed as characters with whom Subaru can converse and reason; Satella is much more of an implacable force of nature.

As for the Great Rabbit, I’m sure it can be defeated just as the White Whale was defeated. However, I agree with Daphne: one lone human won’t be enough to do it, which means Subie will have to flex his alliance-building muscles.

Re: Zero – 33 – The Witch of Greed

Otto and Ram are ready to get Subaru the out of the Sanctuary, but he’s not ready to run quite yet. He meets with Roswaal for some straight answers, and actually gets them, though who knows he can trust the guy. Roswall assures Subie that Beatrice is not a witch cultist, and that the “gospel” she spoke of is the Gospel: one of only two Tomes of Wisdom in existence, not a Witch’s Gospel.

When asked how he can get Beako to help him, Ros says the same thing Ram told him earlier: “Roswaal said to ask the question”, and once that question is asked, answer in the affirmative. Bound by a contract, she will then ally with him. Subie’s last question is whether Roswall is really an ally, to which he says he’s an ally to “all of you”. Hmm…we’ll see!

While Subaru no doubt gained crucial information with which to move forward, he also tanked any chances of this loop being salvaged. That’s because he took so much time with Roswaal that Garfiel tracks them down and orders Subie back into confinement.

When he refuses, Otto and Ram cover his escape on Patrasche, and the townsfolk of Arlam light the path out with lanterns. Alas, Garfiel makes a full beast transformation into a half-Tiger, half-Behemoth, and kills Otto and several villagers. Patrasche finally grabs Subie and throws him at the barrier and the blue crystal glows…

Subaru wakes up in the dungeon, but the door is unlocked. He finds that snow has fallen, so my first through was something happened with Puck. But no one is around, and I mean no one: no Garfiel, Ram, Roswaal, Emilia, or villagers to be found. It’s like everyone suddenly up and left.

So Subaru leaves too, out into the snow without a coat or anything to defend himself. The landscape is so serene, you just knew something horrible was about to befall our young protagonist…I just didn’t know just how horrible it would be. Getting slowly torn apart and devoured by thousands of white demon rabbits? Pretty bad!

Cue that iconic choral stab that indicates Return by Death, and Subaru is right back in the ruin beside Emilia, who notably doesn’t seem to be having as fitful a sleep as we’ve seen in other returns. Frustrated, Subaru smacks his forehead against the stone floor until it bleeds, and Echidna’s voice declares he’s once again “earned the qualification” to join her tea party in Bliss.

Thanks to the Sloth Witch Factor-affecting tea he drank last time, Subaru is once again able to keep his shit together in Echidna’s presence. Subaru makes an appeal to Echidna: next time he leaves this place, he doesn’t want to forget her. He draws so close and is so emphatic, Echidna can’t help but betray her bashful side, and is inclined to acquiesce to his request.

That’s when it dawns on Subaru: this tea party must be happening right after her last one. That she doesn’t consider this strange in the slightest means she knows why and how he’s back a second time. When she asks him to clearly state what that “how” is, he’s understandably weary, considering what’s happened to him every time he’s tried to explain it to others.

But this time, in this place, and to Echidna, Witch of Greed, he’s able to literally shout it from the hilltops: he’s been returning by death. Shocked beyond reason that he was able to finally say it out loud, he repeats it again and again, still waiting for the claw-like hand to clutch his heart and squeeze—but it doesn’t happen. At long last, Subaru is able to tell someone what’s really happening to him.

This is because the Witch of Greed wants to know everything in this world. But while she’s known about Return by Death and has been watching him this whole time, there’s yet more she wants to learn from him, like how he felt while going through all the trials he’s endured and burdens he’s carried. Well, she may want to get comfortable and brew more tea—with or without “fluids”—this could take a while!

Re: Zero – 32 – All of It Was Written

When Beatrice grants Subaru access to her library and starts to heal him, he panics, just as I would if I realized I’d just overwritten a saved game at a crucial point. Considering all the crap things that happened in this loop, Subaru can’t let this point of time become a save point.

Beyond stopping Subaru from stabbing himself with a broken piece of her tea set, Beatrice either can’t or won’t help much, aside from telling Subaru that everything she’s said and done has been in accordance with the “Gospel” and for the sake of “mother”—presumably Satella, the Witch of Envy, but who knows?

While I’m skeptical Beako doesn’t care at all about Subie or anyone else, the two are unable to make any further progress as Elsa enters and disembowels Subie. He’s clearly hugely relieved to Return by Death back in the ruin, shaking off the last attempt and comforting Emilia.

Emilia’s beautiful dreamy piano leitmotif plays, as if to indicate the mood has re-lightened and there’s optimism in the atmosphere. Otto, who is unaware this is now Subie’s third time, finds his calm both concerning and comforting.

Before Subaru can meet with Roswaal (again) and this time try to get more about Beatrice out of him, he is brought to a quiet field by Garfiel so Ryuzu can speak to him. It’s productive in that he learns that because Frederica is Garfiel’s half-sister and was born to a human mother, she can pass back and forth through the sanctuary at will.

Meanwhile, Subaru is determined to find a way to liberate the Sanctuary without Emilia having to go through the trial. He considers it nothing more than his own selfish wish; Emilia may have to face her past one day, but it doesn’t have to be here and now.

To that end,Subie announces to Ryuzu and Garfiel his intention to undergo the trial in Emilia’s stead. Once he says this, Ryuzu has Garfiel restrain him and then knock him out. When he comes to, he’s tied up and gagged in a stone cell. Why, do you ask? Because as soon as he came out of the ruins he reeked of miasma—what he calls the “witch’s scent”—which means Ryuzu and Garfiel can’t trust him.

This is an interesting complication. The miasma could be an innocent by-product of Subaru’s respawning process to which Ryuzu and Garfiel are simply overreacting. But either we nor Subie himself can rule out the possibility he is an unwitting cog in a much more elaborate machine: doing things for the Witch while under the impression he’s doing them just for himself or others.

Could his will already be written, as Beatrice claims hers to be? Whatever the case, Ryuzu and Garfiel keep him under lock and key and he wallows in darkness and damp for three days. Garfiel, thinking Otto as a merchant first and foremost, dangles a valuable-looking glowing stone at him as payment in exchange for his silence (Otto was the last to see Subie with Garfiel).

Garfiel’s flaw in keeping Subaru restrained, as well as Subaru’s deliverance, lies in the many meaningful relationships great and small he’s built with others. In this case, he is served by Otto choosing his friendship with Subie over a trinket he’s not even sure Gar will give to him.

Otto reports what’s happened since Subie was captured: after a fruitless search for him, Roswaal instructs Emilia to keep attempting the trial, which she’s done the last two days without success. He then details how he’s been in hiding collecting information ever since Gar attempted to make a deal with him.

At first Subaru doesn’t realize why Otto rescued him—and even mishears the word “friend” as “Eugene”! For all the people stonewalling him and making his internal organs external, he still has friends like Otto to help him in his time of need. While not as deep or profound as Emilia or Rem, his bond with Otto, and the things they’ve gone through, are still significant.

It’s a good thing too, because were it not for Otto Subaru would still be rotting in that cell for as long as Ryuzu and Gar want him there—say, until the barrier falls (if that can even happen without Subie). Otto leads Subie out of the dungeon and to a “very reliable helper” he’s lined up: Ram, who is just wonderfully smug and cool as she declares even if she had to wait for them so long she’d become a old granny, she’d be a cute old granny. Damn straight!

This episode ends with Subaru on an encouraging upswing, with ample time to reach the mansion and armed with a bit more intel. But many concerning looming questions remain. How exactly will he be able to keep everyone in the mansion from an Elsa-slashing? What exactly is Beako’s deal? Are all of Subie’s actions following a sinister predetermined path without him even knowing it? Is he just another Witch’s tool, kept in line by the mere illusion of free will?

Re: Zero – 31 – Not Unfolding as Specified

You didn’t think he’d set things right in one try, did you? That isn’t the Re:Zero’s style. Subaru and his friends will have to suffer and die a lot more until this latest puzzle is solved. Things will get much worse before they get better. Let’s just say I’m glad I have CCS to balance the “ani-negativity”!

Subaru returns to the tomb where he’d just completed the first trial, and finds a shuddering Emilia in over her head. When he later tells everyone he passed the first trial, there are two more, and he can do it in Lia’s stead, nobody, especially Lia, is okay with that plan.

Roswaal, whom everyone there but him serves, wants Emilia to liberate the sanctuary, no doubt as a necessary test that she’s worthy of the throne, but perhaps for other reasons as well. Subaru understands, and meanwhile there’s still the possibility Frederica is up to something.

He decides to head to the manor so he arrives two days earlier than last time, hoping to head Elsa off. Ram grudgingly accompanies him, and is as dry and withering in her disapproval of Barusu as you’d expect when they set off on Patrasche.

Still, Subaru notices something “off” with Ram, and oddly enough, when he made an offhand joke about throwing her as a decoy, she too is surprised how much it bothered her; as if it was something that actually happened.

In truth, it did happen, but in a previous loop but Ram can’t remember clearly, perhaps due to losing all memories of Rem. Speaking of which, Subie decides to tell Ram everything he can about her lost twin sister before they reach the manor.

The two are greeted by Petra, who is too cute for Subie to resist hugging, while Ram is pleased with her manner. Subie gives Ram some time alone with the sleeping Rem and speaks to Frederica, who is pleasant and polite as always, even when Subie starts questioning her.

Frederica claims not to know anything about a teleport trap or conservatives who want to keep the sanctuary barrier up, but as Ram notes (and her and Freddie’s back and forth is great), she could not tell them anything even if she wanted to, due to her oath. Subaru will have to use force to break that oath. For her part, Frederica says she won’t resist.

Their exchange is interrupted by the appearance of Elsa, holding her knife at Petra’s throat. Frederica reveals her beast transformation ability, which proves more effective than Ram’s Al Huma El Fula magic. Still, all they manage to do is flee from Elsa briefly, and Subaru is stabbed in the shoulder by a needle-like blade dipped in who-knows-what.

Ram breaks it to Subie that sacrifices will have to be made if some of them are going to survive this. To that end, Frederica uses the blue crystal to fully transform into a stylish blonde lion-like beast (I’m sure she and Kero-chan would get along famously) and leaps back into the manor to stall Elsa.

Despite Ram’s logic, Subaru (and Petra) are determined to save Rem and Beatrice if they can. They’re immediately confronted by a Mabeast, which Ram manages to lure away, leaving just Subaru and Petra. Moments after dressing each others wounds, things get very violent and fuzzy, as we follow events from Subaru’s POV.

When things come back into focus, Subaru is still holding Petra’s hand, but her arm is no longer attached to anything; we then see she’s been crushed by rubble. Subaru runs to Rem’s room, but is once again stopped by Elsa. She talks as though both she and her unnamed client (the Witch’s Cult?) are aware of Return by Death, and that they’d planned for another attempt by Subaru.

Subaru is prepared for Elsa’s killing strike when he’s suddenly thrust through a door, only it doesn’t lead to Rem’s room, but to Beatrice’s library. Beatrice, the one person in that manor with sufficient power to stand against Elsa, even if things didn’t go so smoothly last time she and Subie met.

Only Subie is not happy about being saved. He’s ready to scrap this loop and use Return by Death, not yet willing to accept the sacrifices of Ram, Petra, and Frederica. But as Ram said earlier, he may not have a choice, and is only delaying the inevitable.

Re: Zero – 30 – Partners in Crime

First of all, it’s classic Natsuki Subaru to compliment Echidna on her school uniform! Second, Re:Zero finally deigns to air its opening credits! After they roll, Echidna didn’t really send Subaru back in time; both her uniform, the classroom, and his parents were illusions created from his memories. After some rather half-hearted attempts to trip him up. Subie doesn’t take the bait; he’s now fully faced and accepted his past and is ready to move forward.

Echidna declares he has passed the trial…but it was only the first of three. Subaru stops her right there: Freeing the Sanctuary is Emilia’s job, not his. Unfortunately, when he comes to back in the ruins, Subie finds an unconscious Emilia enduring a terrible nightmare, and she wakes up in an acute state of panic. If she was facing her past, it’s clear she’s having a much tougher time than Subie.

Ram makes sure Emilia is comfortably resting, while Subaru and the others talk barriers. Otto wonders if those who can pass through it can simply carry those who can’t across while they’re unconscious. That idea is shot down by one Ryuzu Bilma, the elfish girl Subaru briefly spotted in the forest, who turns out to be extremely old (a “loli hag” as Subie artfully puts it).

Anyone of mixed blood who crosses the barrier will have their body and soul separated, leaving the formless soul within and a shell of a body without. In other words, the only way out for them is the lifting of the barrier. Subaru then stays beside Emilia’s bed until she wakes up in the morning, and unconsciously puts her hand on his arm, a gesture she immediately walks back.

Later in the morning Subaru warns Ram that not everyone within the sanctuary wants the barrier to fall, and he must be vigilant against any threats to Emilia from those elements. She also believes Frederica could have some kind of plan in mind she didn’t reveal to Subaru. That night, Emilia attempts the trial again, and while she’s not denied a second chance, it too ends in failure. Afterwards, Roswaal has Subaru meet with him in his room while Ram stands by.

The Margrave finally admits that he allowed everything regarding the Witch’s Cult attack on the village and manor to happen as kind of political gambit, knowing the villagers’ opinion of Emilia would improve if she saved them. Subaru is pissed, mostly because so much of Roswaal’s plan depended on Subaru not being “complete trash” and coming through. But Roswaal had faith in him then, and has faith in him now.

Subaru doesn’t tell Emilia any of this, respecting Roswaal’s wishes (and deferring to political acumen). Like Roswaal with Subaru, Subaru may not have the most concrete evidence that Emilia can and will pass the trials and free the Sanctuary, but he has faith nonetheless. Emilia is grateful for the belief in her and trusts Subaru, but asks him to simply continue believing in her—without “spoiling” her.

To that end, Subaru decides to appeal to Garfiel to free the villagers. Since Garfiel has Emilia working on the barrier, the villagers are no longer necessary, so he agrees. Garfiel will escort Subaru and the villagers back to Arlam. Subaru leaves with Emilia’s blessing and one last tidbit from Roswaal, via Ram: if he runs into trouble with Frederica or anyone else, turn to Beatrice, and tell her “Roswaal said to ask the question”.

En route to Arlam, Garfiel tells Subaru he can tell he went through a trial, and wonders why he can’t simply complete them in Emilia’s place.  Judging from how she acts whenever she fails an attempt, it’s clear to Garfiel what I mentioned earlier: that Emilia is having a hard go with facing her past, probably because a part (or all) of her doesn’t want to.

After a brief stop in the village, Subaru goes on to the manor, which is oddly empty and bathed in blood-red light—never a good sign on this show! As he desperately runs through the halls searching for Rem, we hear an odd squishing sound and he trips and falls…on his own bowels. As he lies in a pool of blood and guts, his assailant reveals herself: Elsa, his very first nemesis in this other world.

Talk about a blast from the past! We last saw her back in 2o16, retreating after being wounded but not killed by an all-out attack from Reinhard. I wrote “the fact she’s still out there with her chilling desire to disembowel everyone else is certainly disquieting, as is the fact that such a huge attack didn’t kill her.” Well, now she’s back, and Subaru is almost certainly primed to Return by Death. I wonder where and when he’ll end up?

Re: Zero – 29 – Take Care, Natsuki Subaru

Having episodes end with Emilia unconscious two weeks in a row was a bummer, but returning to the real world and getting to spend some time with Subaru’s remarkable parents made up for that and then some. Right from the word go, we know we’re in for a ride: Subaru’s dad executes wrestling moves to welcome him to the morning, while his mom (who shares his “scary eyes”) insists he eat a giant mountain of peas, which neither she nor his dad like.

They may have their amusing quirks, but his folks are alive, present, and relatively normal…which makes them among the rarest anime parents out there!

Subaru is a shut-in; he has been since about three months after high school began. His dad manages to coax him out for a walk, and sakura-strewn park in which they have that walk is particularly dreamlike and bright, as bright as his bedroom is dark.

Also bright, to the point of blinding: his parent’s absolute unconditional love and support, no matter how far off “the prescribed path” he’s strayed. Like so many others, Subaru’s problems weren’t caused by a rough or abusive childhood.

When periodic stabs of pain in his head resolve to the spirit of Emilia thanking him for saving her all the time, his memories from the New World flood back in, and with all that amassed experience and wisdom, is able to look at his past objectively and wrestle with it.

Subaru’s dad is a gregarious renaissance man, which put pressure on Subaru to achieve a similar level of greatness in anything and everything he did. But as he grew, he became less than the best, and eventually not that good at those things.

He tried to make up for the lack of talent and ability by acting out, gathering people around him he called friends but who ultimately were only around until he got boring. High school was the rude awakening for which he was not socially or emotionally prepared, and he gradually just stopped going.

Even so, his mom and dad treated him with the same affection and cheer as they always did, despite his desire for them to punish him or even throw him out for being such a pathetic loser. At a couple points during their talks, his dad asks if he likes someone. That’s because as his father he must sense a positive change in Subaru; that he’d figured out to get back on his own two feet.

Without naming names, Subaru admits there is a girl he likes, and a girl who loves him. Rem once told him giving up doesn’t suit him. She and Emilia saved him from his own complex because they didn’t have to pretend he wasn’t the son of the great Natsuki Kenichi—obviously neither of them know his dad. Subaru didn’t know how bad he needed to know it was okay to just be Subaru.

After a little cry and hug with dad, Subaru puts on his school uniform and prepares to return to school, Starting Over from Zero just as he did on Rem’s recommendation…only with school. His mom decides to walk him part of the way there.

She reiterates the things Subaru and his dad talked about, and when Subaru tells her he’ll never let go of people who helped him get over his troubles, and be sure to make himself worthy of them later, she declares he’s definitely “his kid”.

While those two words once caused stabs of pain (and still do one more time), his mom assures him not to worry about being “just as awesome” as his dad. After all, he’s only half his dad, and half his mom, so half as cool constitutes a “filled quota”.

Subaru, knowing he’ll leave both his parents soon and may never see them again, offers tearful apologies for not being able to do anything for them before going off to do his own thing. Again, his mom tells him not to fret; she and his father didn’t have him so he’d do something for him, but so they could do something for him. And they have, just by being there for him, loving him, and never judging him.

Subaru’s dad may have cast a shadow that inadvertently, temporarily stunted his son’s development as an individual. But because his son was half-him, he was eventually able to make it out of that shadow. It’s why when his dad says “do your best” and his mom says “take care”, he can hold his head high, smile, and go to school.

In this case, “going to school”, and specifically opening the door to his homeroom constitutes the completion of the trial, and Echidna is waiting for him (in his school’s uniform!) when he does so, remarking how he made it there faster than she expected.

As we return to his trials in the new world, it was both instructive and at times downright emotionally compelling to see of the old world from which Subaru came. The struggles he faced before arriving in the new world underscore why ending up there and meeting Emilia, Rem and the others was not only the best thing that could have happened to him, but also possibly meant to be.

Re: Zero – 28 – Desirable Existence

Subaru agrees to join Echidna for her “tea party” and brusquely gulps down the contents of the cup, which she identifies as “a body fluid of mine.” From there, the two proceed to have a spirited yet affable back-and-forth, with Subaru evoking quite a bit of amusement from the Witch of Greed. Echidna strikes a lovely balance between cool menace and warm feline playfulness.

For a few terrifying moments she transports them into an eerie void where she mentions all of the witches and what they were all about before the Witch of Envy killed them all. She then reveals the tea strengthens his resistance to the magical power that would already have caused most others to vomit or go mad.

Subaru is only able to chat with Echidna thanks to the “Sloth Witch Factor” that made him its new vessel after Betelgeuse died. The ruins in the forest are the Witch’s Graveyard, where Echidna’s soul is held prisoner. She grants him the right to face the trial of the Sanctuary, no doubt in hopes she can use him to free her soul. Before he leaves she licks her hand like a cat and warns Subaru: “I’m a very, very evil magic user.”

Subaru then finds himself out of the freezer and into the frying pan, with the fiery Garfiel about to pummel him into dust (having already done the same with Otto and the ground dragon). When Subaru mentions Frederica, with whom Garfiel shares hair color and tooth sharpness, Garfiel stands down.

Emilia is safe and sound in the wagon, and when she comes to, she adorably, belatedly shields Subaru from Garfiel. Still, her crystal grants her (relatively) safe passage to the Sanctuary, and Garfiel sees to that. Turns out the Sanctuary is a bit of a dump, with an ill-favored aura neither Lia nor Subie can shake.

Still, Ram is a sight for sore eyes, and welcomes Subaru with a Barusu rejoinder. Roswaal’s dulcet voice is also a sound for sore ears, but he looks sore all over, covered in bandages as a result of failing the trial of the Sanctuary. He had to try, you see, for neither he, Ram, the villagers of Arlam, or even Lia or Subie are allowed to leave the Sanctuary…at least not until someone passes the trial and breaks the barrier.

Subie and Lia address the villagers, in that order. While they’re happy to see the former, they’re weary as always of the latter. But again Emilia shows her growth by telling them how she feels, what she intends to do for them, and why. It boils down to her wanting families to be able to stay together.

She isn’t asking for their support in the royal selection in return, but even though she still feels unworthy, she’d appreciate the villagers’ friendship. An impressed Ram wonders what Barusu said to Emilia to enact this change; Subaru says Emilia figured it out for herself.

That night, Emilia stands before the entrance to the Witch’s Graveyard, and it glows with light in a sign that it accepts her as a valid challenger for the trial. Naturally, something soon goes wrong: the light goes out, even though it’s supposed to stay on for the duration of the trial. Subaru approaches the ruins, the light returns, and he rushes in to find Emilia passed out again.

He’s stopped in his tracks, but not by Return by Death. A voices says “first you need to face your own past”, and he wakes up in a bed. His bed…in his world. A world not depicted since he was transported away from the konbini parking lot. Before he can get his bearings his muscular dad rolls in and jumps on him as a wake-up call.

Like his otherworldly meeting with Echidna who definitely has Big Plans for him, Subie’s journey to the home of his past may only last a third of an episode, or it could be the whole episode, or the entirety of a mini-arc. Whatever the duration, this development gives me, to quote Echidna, “such beautiful expectations.” I can’t wait to see where this goes.

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 27 (S2 02) – Showing What They’re Maid Of

Emilia and Subaru bid Crusch and Felix farewell with thanks, hearty handshakes and best wishes. With Crusch’s memories gone who knows what shape the royal selection will take, but for now the priority is returning home and getting some answers. But upon returning to the village, they learn Roswaal, Ram, and others have yet to return from the Sanctuary.

Upon arriving at Roswaal manor (driven there by Otto), Emilia and Subaru are surprised to be welcomed by new maid, a “beast-girl” named Frederica Baumann. I immediately recognized the dulcet tones of Nazuka Kaori (Eureka), which complement Frederica’s adorably sharp teeth quite well. Turns out Frederica worked for the mansion just before Subaru arrived, and had been on personal leave until Ram called her back.

Subaru pays Beatrice a visit, and we see that extended isolation has not made her more pleasant to deal with. She’s downright prickly with Subaru, especially when he presents the gospel he took off of the dead Betelgeuse. Beatrice seems to regard “Geuse” as a dear friend who, like others, left her behind. She also resents Subaru once again using her as a mere “tool of convenience”.

Could this mean Betelgeuse was once good, or just that Beako doesn’t see the world in terms of good and bad? In any case, she has no answers for him, only the means to seek them. Roswaal’s intentions, the meaning of the Gospel, and answers about this “Witch Factor” thing all lie in the Sanctuary, which Frederica has been instructed to tell Emilia and Subaru how to access.

Before heading to the Woods of Clemaldy where the Sanctuary is located, Subaru says goodbye to the sleeping Rem and tasks new Maid-in-Training Petra(!) with Rem’s care, and Frederica with Petra’s care. Petra doesn’t have the maid-like manner of speaking down yet, but she’s eager to prove she’s an adult upon whom people can depend.

Frederica presents Emilia with a jewel that will help them pass a magical barrier that impedes access to the sanctuary. Petra bashfully gives Subaru a handkerchief as a kind of old tradition with travelers; he’ll return it to her stained from his adventures when he comes back.

The journey into the woods is uneventful at first. Emilia is nervous, especially considering Puck isn’t answering her calls to come out (Puck did tell Subaru he’d be relying on him to take care of Lia). She’s also apprehensive about hte possibility of meeting other half-elves in Clemaldy, a stronghold of demi-humans.

Her barrier jewel starts to glow, and Subaru decides the proper thing to do is to yank it off of her, causing her to pass out. The next thing Subaru knows, Emilia, Otto, and the wagon are gone, and he’s lost in the lost woods…not a great situation to be in! He encounters a small pink-haired elf in a white tunic and when she runs off he gives chase.

He comes upon a clearing where a stone ruin stands, and starts to walk through the front door…as Frederica said, will and resolve are as necessary as magic and strength in the Sanctuary. That’s when he’s transported again, this time to Windows XP’s default background, Bliss.

Just above him on the crest of a hill sits a woman with long silver hair having tea under an ornate umbrella. She introduces herself as Echidna, AKA the Witch of Greed. While voiced by Sakamoto Maaya (always a good decision), Echidna looks an awful lot like Emilia. But wasn’t the witch she said she resembled named Satella?

While this was mostly a getting-from-A-to-B(-to-C) transitory episode with lots of goodbyes between characters (and no telling whether they’ll ever see each other again), the intro of Frederica, Maid Petra, and of course Echidna represented major developments, and the steady buildup of Clemaldy as no place for the weak was highly effective.

It will be interesting to see if Subaru has reached a new “save point” for his Return by Death, or if that little trick is already obsolete. For now, he seems separated from everyone and unable to protect anyone but himself…if that. In other words, he’s been thrown right back into the Shit!

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 26 (S2 01) – Sleeping Beauty, Weeping Hero

Allow me to indulge in a brief tangent: I’m playing Final Fantasy VII Remake at a more leisurely pace than most. I knew, as with Re:Zero here, it would be a while before we get the continuation, so I’d best savor what I’ve got, right? Anyway, I had just managed to defeat the much ballyhooed Airbuster boss at the end of Chapter 7, after which with Cloud falls through a church roof and lands on Aerith’s flowerbed.

Coming off such a long mission at the Mako Reactor culminating in a stressful, protracted boss battle, I expected a little respite to catch my breath. No such luck: within minutes Cloud is locked in a very tricky one-on-one fight with Reno. I went at him much the same way I’d fought Airbuster—and had my ass handed to me to the tune of four Game Overs before I got used to his patterns and found his weakness.

The point is, FF7R wasn’t ready to let me rest just yet, or even spend any time celebrating what had felt like a significant victory. It was immediately time to deal with the next crisis It’s the same with Re:Zero’s second season. Turns out watching the director’s cut wasn’t necessary, as the only unique scene it had—Emilia’s infamous “Who’s Rem?”—is the cold open of this first episode.

What we didn’t know is why exactly Lia suddenly forgot Rem. Was there another whale? Did the teleportation back from Isekai Quartet‘s “Chibi High School World” cause the amnesia? Re:Zero 2 wastes no time answering that question: Re:Zero’s Airbuster (the White Whale) may be defeated, but there’s no time to celebrate, because now its Reno is on the scene.

“Reno” in this case refers to not one but two new heretofore unseen Sin Archbishops of the Witch’s Cult: That of Greed, the smug Regulus Corneas, and Gluttony, the manic Lye Batenkaitos. The convoy that includes the wagon carrying Rem and Crusch is suddenly ambushed by the bishops, resulting in a huge amount of carnage.

Lye is a lot like Betel in his goofy over-the-top spiel, but Regulus is the more fearsome one to my eye and ear. He’s so calm, well-spoken, and put together, wasting no movement in his horrifically violent attacks. He looks more like Reinhard or Julius than a Sin Archbishop, which is somehow more unsettling.

When Crusch fights force with force, interrupting Regulus’ monologue, he is insulted by her lack of manners and relieves her of her left arm. After administering first aid, Rem breaks out her flail, but it’s telling that she makes it absolutely clear that she’s not the one they need to worry about, but the man she loves, her hero, The Hero, Natsuki Subaru.

That turns out to be a bad move, as neither archbishop considers Rem to be much of a threat, and as we saw what happened when she fought the Sin Archbishop of Sloth Betelgeuse, this battle was going to end about as well as my first tussle with the slippery Reno in FF7R. Emi’s question to Subaru meant the battle had already been decided, and Rem lost.

As steeled as I was to witness it firsthand, I was still not prepared for the devastating flashes of Rem and Subaru’s future before losing consciousness: sitting on a bench with their newborn second child; their firstborn standing nearby. Welcome Back to Re:Zero, where there is no limit to the amount of times your heart will get stomped on!

Once the convoys arrive at Crusch’s estate, Subaru is on the edge of panic as he restlessly searches the scores of dead and wounded for Rem. First he spots blue hair, but it’s not her. Finally, he finds her, unconscious. The healer doesn’t know who she is, and can do nothing for her. After lashing out at the man in anger, he quickly descends into crippling despair, grabs the nearest broken sword, points it at his throat, and kills himself.

Of course, Return by Death doesn’t take him back to a point in time before Rem is attacked; only to the back of the wagon with Emilia just before he mentions Rem. He’s too late to stop Rem’s attackers. He’ll have to save her after the fact.

Puck informs him that Gluttony literally devours not just memories, but someone’s very name. This is what was done to Rem, which means the girl lying in bed is an empty shell. She won’t wake up unless her name and memories are restored. I imagine killing Gluttony will do the trick, but who knows?

Meanwhile, everyone else has indeed never heard of Rem, while Crusch, the last person she was with, also had her memories eaten, to the point she doesn’t even know herself. At an impromptu meeting between Subaru, Emilia, Wilheim, Felis, and Crusch, Felis puts Crusch’s welfare first and proposes an end to an alliance with Emilia that no longer serves a benefit, only a burden.

Subaru bristles at that, and at Felis’ misplaced blame and selfish caution. Even though Crusch doesn’t really know who she is, she sides with Subaru, as does Wilheim. Gluttony, Greed, and the Witch’s Cult are threats to all (there are reports of others throughout the land falling victim to Gluttony), and so all of them must stay together to determine the proper path to defeating them.

Moving forward requires that Subaru accept that Rem is out of the picture for now, that there’s nothing he can immediately do about it, and going without sleep to stay by her bedside helps neither of them. Emilia comes to Rem’s room to say as much, and while she has no memories of Rem, she can tell she’s Ram’s sister. She’s also come to tell Subaru that she wants to help Subaru carry the weight of Rem. He saved her, and now it’s her turn to save him.

This causes Subaru to politely ask her to turn away so he can cry, but soon after bawling big sopping sheets tears, she wraps her arms around him in a hug of support. And so we start with the Hero at his lowest point (so far, at least…it can always go lower!), unable even to put on a Tough Guy act, and the Heroine promising to save him, starting with helping him process the situation so that they can begin to find a solution.

It’s a strong return to form for Re:Zero, which at this point is a known quantity in terms of how it operates and to never expect things to work out too soon without significant hardship and suffering on the part characters. Two new sniveling supervillains are here, and their Emilia-lookin’ Witch queen still looms.

Hopefully no one is starting their Re:Zero journey with this episode; that would be…interesting. Suffice it to say, if you enjoyed the first season, the second picks right up where it left off both in story, tone, and style. I’m eager to see and learn more. Thankfully, the wait is over.