Re: Zero – 47 – Seeing the Job Through

There’s action on all fronts, such that we don’t even check in on Ram and Puck’s fight with Roswaal. What we do see is that for once, an opponent—in this case Gar—is giving Elsa a challenge, even blocking her razor-sharp blades with his pearly whites! Gar’s confidence is buoyed both by his reunion with his big sister (who is free to retrieve the sleeping Rem) and “Boss” Subaru’s heroic example.

Gar and Fred give Subie the time he needs to at least try to make a case for Beako to come with him. She remains weighed down by the pain of 400 years of solitude; a “pure white life” due to the blank pages of the tome her mother gave to her. But it’s because she’s kept her promise for that long that she’s not about to break it now, even if it means her death.

Subie feels the opposite: four centuries is long enough, especially when nobody’s even sure Beako was given the right book! He’d rather she break the promise to keep her alive. Negotiations break down when Beatrice asks with all earnestness if Subaru can be “that person” for her. He says no way, and she ejects him from her library, where he encounters Otto and Petra, cornered by Mabeasts.

Meili (or Maylie if you prefer) is indeed on the scene, riding a giant “Rock Piggie” or Hippo. After grabbing Subie, Otto, and Petra (with Rem on her back) getting them out of the mansion, Frederica vows to hold Maylie off while Subaru and Otto get Rem and Petra to safety.

Unlike last time she fought, Fred’s not prepared to die so soon after meeting seeing her brother again, so she promises Petra she’ll take care not to let herself get killed. Unfortunately, Subaru and Otto have another obstacle: the Guiltylowe, who is immune to the mabeast ward. With both Tinzel siblings occupied, can these two lads handle this boss? To be continued.

The episode makes a clean break from the events at the mansion and returns to Emilia tackling the second trial. I appreciated this as Subie’s side of the story already has a lot of moving parts and cutting back and forth between him and Emilia would have added needless complexity and hampered the flow of both.

Instead, we stick with Emilia to the end of the episode, bearing witness to the entirety of her second trial. While she confronted her past in the first trial, the second is all about an “unthinkable”, i.e. alternate present (or at least near-present, as Emilia still seems slightly younger than her true present form). But the bottom line is this: she’s grown into a lovely young lady under the continued care of Mother Fortuna, who is still alive.

On an absolutely perfect day, an alive and non-crazed Betelgeuse comes calling, and the three set out for a picnic by the lake. Fortuna is dressed up for the occasion and Geuse cannot help but compliment her, which only makes her embarrassed and self-conscious. On their way to the lake, they pass by three other inhabitants of Elior, for whom Fortuna, Lia, and Geuse look like a tight-knit family.

Emilia uses the picnic to bring up the prospect of no longer beating around the bush and making their little family unit an official thing. While Geuse is worried that rumors about him and Fortuna could affect her very important job, but Lia believes it’s too late to worry about others’ opinions, and in any case those opinions are wholly positive, so why not become a family?

Saying she has something in her eye and having said what she wanted to say, Emilia leaves “the rest” to the two “young kids”, tearfully saying “I love you both” as she walks away. She climbs a hill that overlooks the idyllic scene, and is soon joined by Archi. He agrees the two make a good match and Fortuna should “give more thought to her own happiness.”

But, Emilia remarks, clutching Fortuna’s hairpiece that is now in her hair. this world doesn’t exist anymore. Archi confirms it is the unthinkable present, and asks her if she wants to live there in happiness. But Emilia has already committed to the real world outside of this. She’s done being hidden and protected, and wants to be an admirable person, listing off everyone dead and alive who were also admirable in how they helped and indeed are still doing so as she speaks.

Archi turns into a thoroughly disgusted Echidna, but it was she who said that the other two trials would be a piece of cake after how Emilia acquitted herself in the first. And so it was! She was never seriously tempted to remain in a dream world that she knew could never truly be. Rather, she was simply grateful for the opportunity to see her family once more.

To complete the trial, she leaps off the bluff and straight into the water, briefly catching a glimpse of her face and noting that she looks less like Fortuna than she thought. From the depths of the lake, Emilia emerges from the Graveyard, and is surprised to find the village refugees are all there to greet her and celebrate her latest victory.

It’s not just the villagers, either: Ryuzu has come with all of the beast people from the Sanctuary. While some of them still don’t 100% trust her, they’ve seen how hard Garfiel worked, and they’re willing to stand and bear witness to her efforts. Just one more trial to go, which will doubtless be focused on the future, or the possible versions thereof. Emilia promises they’ll all have a nice talk once she’s come through the final trial in one piece.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Re: Zero – 40 – Her Most Precious Feeling

Otto tells Garfiel his mission: to buy time “so a certain boy and girl can be alone for a while.” But Otto isn’t all alone in this effort: he’s called upon the entire forest to fight beside him. That’s why when Gar is led outside and falls down a hole, he’s soon beset by a swarm of zodda bugs. How was Otto able to do this? Duh, he’s Re:Zero’s Dr. Doolittle!

We take a step back to Otto’s earliest days, when he could hear the voices of animals but couldn’t understand it. His ears were constantly assaulted by a a jumbled din so intense he couldn’t hear his family members. Then his older brother gave him a pen and paper, and he could finally communicate.

He marked the occasion by crying, something he only did once before: when he was born. When he turned ten, he began to understand the animals’ voices, but his brother warned him to keep his divine protection a secret lest others try to exploit them.

That protection creates the conditions for Otto being exiled from his hometown when, in an effort to clear his name in a love triangle, says the wrong thing about the wrong daughter. Nevertheless, Otto makes the most of his exile by becoming a successful traveling merchant.

One day on those travels, his carriage is stopped by Betelguise and the Witch’s Cult (Hi Betelguise!), and he is bound and held captive in the cult’s god-forsaken cave lair. But then, suddenly, he was freed by a beastman, who told him to make sure to thank the “boss kid”—Natsuki Subaru.

He cried then for the third time, to mark another “rebirth” in his life: when he finally understood his purpose and reason for living. Back in the present, here it is: continuing to buy time. But after a brief chase, a pissed Garfiel has him by the scruff, and Otto’s personal part of the plan would seem to be over. Thankfully, Ram is on the scene to pick up the baton!

That’s right: Ram has thought about it and must’ve decided that supporting a man with such “bizarrely good timing” (despite having virtually nothing else of value) to be worth her time. She won’t hear Gar impugn her loyalty to Roswaal either.

Gar has had enough of this shit and transforms into a giant cuddly tiger (right on the heels of TenSura’s cuddly tigers!), but Ram is ready, willing, and eager to go toe-to-toe with his Beast Mode, dodging his thrusts and landing blow after devastating blow with a superior smirk.

Otto stands back in awe of Ram’s power, but when Gar gets a lick in on her (who compliments him for having become stronger since their last scrap), he calls out to the forest to buy him and Ram another precious few moments of keeping Gar occupied.

It’s at this point Subaru looks back at the forest hoping Otto can hold out, and fifteen minutes into the episode, you’d be forgiven if you thought we were being deprived of the crucial Emilia-Subaru Talk last week previewed. But once he sits down beside her, it’s clear we’ll get that talk, and much more.

Emilia’s memories are returning; that much is certain. But she tries to keep them at bay with anger and despair over both puck and Subaru breaking their promises. I too was both perplexed and disappointed when Subaru left her bedside, and all he’ll say about why is that “he can’t tell her” just yet.

But besides that, she can’t fathom why Subaru wouldn’t be angry at her for being so “useless”, both with the trial and with everything else throughout their time together. His answer is as honest as it is simple: because he loves her. He loves her so much he can barely take it—the cute parts, the kind parts, the selfless parts—even the parts she’d call “ugly”. Moreover, he doesn’t love her because he believes in her, he believes in her because he loves her.

When she goes all [CITATION NEEDED], Subaru tells her why else he would willingly go through all this suffering and torment to help “a pain in the ass” like her? She then tells him how unfair it is for him to bring that up when she never asked for him to suffer for her, and how she’s always  worried about him getting hurt for her.

Their talk gets more and more heated, as Takanashi Rie voices Emilia in a faint whisper at the beginning but takes it all the way up to full-throated hysterical yelling, before the wave crests, and she quietly tells Subaru of the fear she’s experiencing now that her memories are resurfacing.

She doesn’t recognize what she’s remembering, can’t believe she even forgot her mother, and worries the memories will change her, that the Emilia he knows was never the real Emilia. Mention of her mother and the past causes Subie to remember what his mother said to him during his trial: “What matters isn’t how you start or what happens in the middle, but how it ends.”

If Emilia can’t believe Subaru loves her, than he has no choice but to put his hands on her shoulders, lean in, and prove it. He tells her “if you don’t want this, then dodge,” but Lia doesn’t dodge. She closes her eyes, expectantly, and they kiss. As they kiss, their surroundings suddenly glow with a warm, pinkish light.

When their lips separate once more, Emilia starts to cry, but Subie assures her it’s only natural to be anxious and scared about the rush of old, sealed memories. But it’s also okay to remember, because among those memories may be the one most precious feeling she can use to burst through the anxiety and fear and run forward toward the end—which matters most.

Subaru, for his part, hopes that feeling is for him, as his is for her. When they emerge from the graveyard interior, Garfiel is waiting for them, but says he wasn’t. But hopefully, he’s too late. Too late thanks to Otto and Rem and the animals of the forest, and too late because Subaru told Emilia he loves her no matter what, and everything is going to be fine.

Is it though? Does Gar simply concede defeat here and go off to eat some lasagna? Does he beat the shit out of Subie and take Lia hostage? Whenever someone in Re:Zero believes or states everything will be fine, I can’t help but be a little dubious. But I’ll put that doubt aside for now and simply celebrate the momentous events of this episode’s second half.

For the very first time in this whole run, Subaru and Emilia shared a kiss, and Emilia seems to finally get that while Subie did leave her bedside, he never left her side in spirit, and his love will keep him firmly entrenched there throughout all the trials to come.

Isekai Quartet 2 – 05 – GIVE ME CHOCO…DEATH!!!

As Valentine’s Day arrives (or to paraphrase Tanya, “the triumph of capitalism over religion”), the concept of giving chocolate to the one you like spreads across the school. Albedo plans to infuse her chocolate with her love, and meets a kindred spirit in Betelgeuse Romanee-Conti.

Initially presented as the Home-Ec teacher, Betel is later booted out as a trespasser. I loved how these two demented weirdos fed off one another’s crazy. This version of Betel is also far more tolerable than his Re:Zero self, mostly because he doesn’t torture Rem!

Capt. Weiss wants chocolate, so he asks Kazuma the proper way to ask, and Kazuma messes with him by instructing him to hold his hands out and yell “GIVE ME CHOCO!”. This results in Weiss getting AL HUMA’d by Rem, shielding Darkness from potential harm Darkness was actually excited about, as Darkness tends to be!

It’s a pleasant enough exploration of to whom all these disparate characters from fantasy worlds would go about giving chocolate. Kazuma is happy to receive chocolate from all three girls in his party (even if its obligatory), while Subaru is happier to get a modest chocolate from Emilia than a huge heart-shaped box from Rem.

Finally, Beatrice is popular with Tanya’s underlings, the battle maids his up a sweets shop, while Yunyun either distributes or receives perhaps the most chocolate. Finally, for all the love Ainz got, he’s unable to eat chocolate.

…DEATH!

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 25 (Fin)

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This was an episode full of tying up loose ends, the most important of which being Subaru presenting himself before Emilia a better and more useful man than the last time he saw her. He even gets to be a badass action hero! But as a loose-ends episode, it works very nicely, even if it’s not perfect, and leaves a lot hanging in the air (likely for another season, but not anytime soon).

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The first loose end is Betelgeuse, who very annoyingly won’t go down much of the first act. I was pleased Subaru used the Witch’s curse to expel Betelgeuse from his head so Julius could finish him, especially since we got a good look at the witch Satella herself. She does look a lot like Emilia…if Emilia were all black with a purple outline and glowing eyes!

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I rolled my eyes a little when moments after defeating Betelgeuse, Juli and Subie get a call from Felix about another problem fresh out of the blue: an unaccounted-for sack full of fire stones.

There wasn’t any doubt that sack would be stashed in the wagon Emilia and the village children just happen to be riding in, nor was there the slightest chance, even in an often sadistic show like this, that this latest particular bomb would go off.

When Subie and Otto are acting like a comedy duo in a wagon Otto has nitrous’d with his magic in the last episode, it’s reasonable to assume things will work out.

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The whole rescue attempt felt like an excuse for Subaru to confront Emilia as the one who led the army, something she only just learned about from some snot-nosed kids who don’t know how to keep their damn mouths shut. Betelgeuse’s extended demise further delayed the inevitable reunion, and by the time Betel had become a Ghibli Goop Monster with his head on fire, I had long since had my fill of the manic bastard.

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But the how of how Subaru came to triumphantly reunite with Emilia didn’t mar the fact that this episode took great strides to repair what had been an estranged relationship not just between these two, but between myself, representing the non-manga-reading audience, and Emilia. Takahashi Rie does a great job reintroducing Emilia-tan to us, as she gets to express a good number of powerful emotions during the final ordeal.

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Subaru basically gets to make the perfect series of gestures to reunite with Emilia, swooping in, grabbing the bomb, and running off to get it away, but not before telling Emilia he loves her. After smashing the whales, the giant fallen tree is the gift that keeps giving, as its trunk largely shields Subaru from the blast he’s still pretty close to when the stones detonate.

It is here when Emilia, still processing everything Subaru has done for her these last few days/weeks, completely unbidden, springs into action, rushing into the danger, desperate to find Subaru alive and alright. And perhaps because the show is finally done torturing us, he is!

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From there, there’s no long, sprawling epilogue, showing what becomes of who. Just a simple scene of Subaru lying on Emilia’s lap, the two of them overjoyed to be together again.

The way Subaru describes it, Emilia is made happy for the first time by the prospect of “special treatment.” This can’t quite match the Rem Confession episode in emotional power, but it comes darned close with much less time to work with.

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I also appreciated that Emilia doesn’t have an instant reply to Subaru’s confession. It’s all well and good to say “I love you too”, but loving and being loved are so new to her it’s going to take time. Time Subaru assures her she has.

Subaru doesn’t wake up back in front of that convenience store, but merely admires Emilia’s tearful, radiant smile, as the episode fades to white and we’re treated to an extended mix of the original ED.

All in all, an imperfect but still solid and satisfying, and entertaining finale. If a second season comes along one day (April 2020!—Ed.), I’ll surely be tuning in. If not, it was a fun ride. Often stressful, enraging, and heartbreaking…but also fun.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 24

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So, the first attempt to save the village and take out the Witch’s Cult was met by some mishaps, such as the time-consuming misunderstanding that led to a confrontation with Ram, the killing of villagers before evacuation was complete, Emilia taking the field of battle, putting herself at risk, and oh yeah, Subie getting possessed by Betelgeuse.

But when Julius and Felix killed him, he died and came back just like he always did, without any twists due to his possession. And fortune not only smiles, but beams on him, as he wakes up right in the middle of the planning phase, allowing him to casually introduce the new information he gleaned about body-snatching, the traitor in their midst, and Ram.

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His new plan revolves around convincing Emilia to go along with “Crusch’s plan” to evacuate the mansion and village, including Emi-tan herself. She agrees, because she believes the plan put before her, while not entirely or even partially of her own making, is the best plan as far as she can tell.

So she’s put on a wagon with some enthusiastic village kids, and sent off to safety, while Subie and the knights capture the traitor and take the metia he was using to pass information to the cult. It’s important to note Subaru himself wore the recognition-blocking robe Emilia threw at him, so she had no idea he planned all this.

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Suffice it to say, thanks to learning the lessons of last week’s ‘dry run’, everything goes off without a hitch, as Subaru once again confronts a Betelgeuse now weakened by a lack of fingers nearby. Subie also allows Juli to cast a spell, Nect, that lets him see with his eyes, allowing him to see the unseen hands and cut through them.

This achieved one of Subie’s secondary objectives: to properly make up with Julius. He is, after all, a crucial part of the plan and why, when the episode ends, it looks like the end is near for the Sin Archbishop, and very good for Subaru, who has once more learned from his past mistakes, put pride aside, planned carefully, and relied on and trusted in others.

This is how he has truly become Emilia’s knight.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 23

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False Alarm: No Fresh Hell, just not completely dealt-with Old Hell on this week’s menu. Hell leftovers, if you will. Ram puts the convoy under an illusion spell because she fears Subaru switched sides and the convoy is his invading force. This is due to a misunderstanding: the letter sent to the mansion was blank, usually a declaration of war.

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No harm, no foul, then, right? Ram accepts Subaru’s explanations, and while she’s not in love with him like her sister, he and she still have quite a bit of history which enables her to withdraw her aggressive stance with confidence.

It’s also confidence Subaru needs in order to tell the people of the village they need to evacuate. At first a couple of malcontents curse the “half-elf” who brought this upon them, but with Ram’s help, Subie successfully persuades the villagers, even the racists, to cooperate.

Just when Subie is about to head for the mansion with Juli and Felix, the latter discovers one of the merchants has been possessed by a member of the witch’s cult. The man self-destructs, nearly killing Felix and Subie, and the remnants of Betelgueses fingers attack the village.

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Smoke (and Unseen Hands) fill the sky, blood stains the ground, and the scene starts to resemble one of Subie’s past nightmare scenarios. But this time, at least he isn’t singularly responsible for failing to detect the cult’s inside men. He’s just one part of an alliance made up of far more capable people than he who also missed this one.

That being said, and in spite of her earlier warnings to the villagers falling on deaf, non-pointed ears, Emilia arrives to help deal with the threat and protect the villagers who still live.

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She and Puck manage to take out all of the fingers…that they know of, all of whom talk and move and act like Betelguese. But even Lia’s last defeated opponent isn’t the end. When one of Juli’s lesser spirits, deployed to protect Subie, leaves Subie’s body, Betelgeuse possesses him.

Since we’ve never seen Betelgeuse leave a body that went on to survive, it sadly looks like the end for this version of Subaru, as he compels a reluctant, emotional Felis and Juli to kill him before Betelgeuse completes his hold. When the curtain falls on the episode, it would seem they obeyed him.

Will we shift to the focus of everyone but Subaru now that he’s left this world, or will we continue to following him as he respawns…wherever it is he respawns? Whatever the case, I doubt this turn of events will be resolved as quickly as Ram’s misunderstanding…

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 18

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In which Subaru truly does return to “Zero”, and this show continues to surprise

Other than a thorough and devastating dressing-down by MegaPuck (during which time Subie slowly freezes solid and shatters) and another Return by Death, this episode consists exclusively of one conversation between Subaru and Rem, presented only with intermittent flashes from the past.

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lot is covered, with a great deal of emotion flying around. It takes a great deal of attention to sit through and absorb, but if you like Subaru (or are at least rooting for him) and you like Rem, you probably liked this episode a lot. I for one was riveted.

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There’s also a good deal of rejection in their long, sprawling discussion, which takes place in a very pretty part of the city with a lovely view, on a clear, crisp day. First, Rem rejects Subaru’s desperate plan to run away together, because it would mean giving up on the Subaru she fell in love with.

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Rem can’t possibly know how much Subaru has been through already, and how he finally decided to give up after much suffering. But damn it all if I don’t get soppy-eyed as she beautifully describes the perfectly fine future they’d have together if she went with him. But again, she’s not ready to give up on him, even if he’s given up on himself.

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Initially in the talk, I was on Subaru’s side, because I was right there with him when Rem, Ram, and Emilia died again and again, often in awful, horrifying ways. Like him, I’m from the real world, where I, unfortunately, am not a hero. If I ended up in a fantasy-RPG-style world like he did, I might think for a time, that I had suddenly become one.

But Subaru learned the hard way that he is, as Puck put it, useless. That every time he’s talked big, he’s come up short in the quest to save everyone. It’s hard to argue, considering this is the most persistent impasse he’s come to, which has led to the darkest places…and there’s only so much a dumb do-nothing kid from the modern world can take, right?

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Subaru tries, with the same passion he ranted at Emilia, to drill into Rem’s head all the ways he is a complete and utter failure of a living thing. But she simply doesn’t buy it. She comes back with all of the reasons she loves him, and describes in detail how she felt when he rescued her from herself. Not only did she fall in love with him then, but he restarted a clock that stopped for her when her village burned. He is her hero.

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Rather than run away from everything, she’s going to stay right where she is, and so is Subaru. Whatever troubles they have, they’ll figure it out together; support each other; make up for each other’s weaknesses. Do what they’ve done up to this point. Rem makes her love for him plain as the blue sky above them.

When Subaru rejects her because he still loves Emilia, it stings quite a bit, but for Rem, better to have a Subaru around than not, whether he loves her the same way back or not.

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When Subaru puts forth his plan to move forward and try to save Emilia and asks for Rem’s help, Rem humbly accepts, but makes sure to tell him how cruel it is to ask such a thing of someone you’ve just rejected. Subaru, in turn, reminds her she rejected his running-away plan first. Touché!

They both have a good laugh – it’s been a long, exhausting talk, but look at what it has wrought! Subaru, who had been brought so low, he was starting to think that he really was immensely over-his-head with this whole hero thing. He had bags under his eyes, he was utterly done with everything. And now he’s back in the game, in far higher spirits, and even smiling and laughing. Quite the transition in one talk!

Time will tell if Subaru is simply grasping one last time onto the hope of one (Rem) who is, at the end of the day, ignorant to his past failed attempts, and doesn’t understand just how weak and ineffectual he is.

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Is this a glass-half-empty or a glass-half-full show? I’m still not sure, but it’s a half-full episode, which rejects what I’ve been thinking throughout this second half: that Subaru simply can’t cut it in this world, as much as he and I and Rem may want him to.

I’m looking forward to seeing what, exactly, returning to “zero” means for Subaru, and if somehow all the insights he and Rem gleaned from this long heart-to-heart will help them. Until then, this was a powerful episode, despite not much physically happening.

What did happen was Kobayashi Yuusuke and Minase Inori delivered some powerhouse voice performances that really drew me in and restored my faith in the possibility of a happy (or at least happier) ending. Mind you, Re:Zero may just be setting us up for more dark times made darker by the fact everything said here may end up being lost. But I hope not!

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 17

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While Subaru managed to avoid the infamous white whale in previous lives in which he failed to save anyone, this week his luck really runs out. There’s no escape from the whale, and all Rem can think of is to try to draw it away, an action that will likely result in her death but has a chance of saving Subie, along with Otto.

Of course, Subaru doesn’t want Rem to go, but she overrules his objection with a chop to the neck and jumps out of the wagon. That’s when things get weird…er.

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Not moments after they were talking about Rem, Otto acts as if he’s never heard of her before; as if the whale swallowed up not just Rem but everyone’s memory of her…except Subie’s, naturally. It’s yet another reason for people to think he’s gone off his rocker…and he has. No one of Subaru’s background would be expected to endure the repeated suffering and death of those he loves with such frequency and still have a chance of retaining one’s mental faculties.

Once Otto suspects the whale is after Subie, he shoves him off the wagon. An injured Subaru manages to find a ground dragon that takes him to the village where his kid friends are there to greet him, alive and well.

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So this time he made it to the mansion in time, but the situation is worse than Rem being dead, because no one, even Ram, has ever heard of her. The episode is ruthless in showing a momentary glimpse of a maid with blue hair until it’s revealed to be the twin not in love with Subie.

Rem aside, there is nothing Subaru can do to stop the massacre that’s about to happen. Emilia is more than patient (and still very concerned) about Subie, but all he can manage is to rave to her about how no one will be saved, and if she just comes with him everything will work out.

Subie even attempts to tell Emilia about Return by Death, threat of having his heart squished be damned. Only this time the demonic hands don’t close around his heart when he says the words: they close around Emi’s, killing her in his arms.

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He awakes to a blood-colored night, where Beatrice is there, preparing to defend the mansion. Unwilling to kill Subie as he demands, she teleports him to the forest, so that he can find his own death, out of her sight. Pretty grim.

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Of course, once back in that damn forest, it doesn’t take long for Betelgeuse to show up with his cultist pals. He uses the same “unseen hands” that killed Emilia to separate him from her and threaten to tear her corpse apart, but a shower of ice daggers stays his unseen hands.

It’s the signature attack of a giant Puck, who, now that I see him in silhouette, was the beast that beheaded Subaru in episode 15, calling Emilia his daughter and asking Betelgeuse what he thinks he’s doing.

If you asked me back in the first half of the show if Emilia’s adorable little animate Beanie Baby of a familiar would end up playing a role like this, I’d have said you were crazy. But we live in crazy, messed-up Re:Zero times.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 15

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I honestly didn’t think a second cour episode of Re:Zero could match the cinematic majesty of episode 7, but, well…here we are, eight episodes later, and this show is still topping itself. My expectations for the finale have now risen to unreasonable highs. But never mind that; we’ve got a long, long way to go, as does Natsuki Subaru.

Subaru doesn’t commit suicide. He does die and Return by Death; but not by his choosing. He is slain in the most nightmarish way imaginable, having his fingers and leg cleaved off before freezing solid and cracking. Jeez, this show is rough on ol’ Subaru.

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Surprisingly, he respawns not in a bed, but at the vendor’s cart, where he was with Rem seemingly an eternity ago (but in reality, early in last week’s episode). It isn’t long before he’s in a bed, however, as he’s so traumatized by what he witnessed and experienced in his last life, he is still in shock and barely able to speak.

Felix can’t do anything about his mental condition, so Crusch lets Rem take him home to Roswaal’s manor, hopeful being with Emilia and Ram will help him recover. Crusch also asks why Rem is so devoted to Subaru, and she responds “because he’s special.”

Once again, they fail to reach manor without incident, even though it’s Rem and not Subie’s choice to head there.

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The hooded baddies—witch cultists—ambush the cart, bloody a furious Rem, and take Subie captive.

Subie wakes up in chains, still unable to speak, and comes face to face with the grotesque and thoroughly insane Betelgeuse Romanee-Conti, who would be a goofy character for Re:Zero if we weren’t familiar with his far less evil counterpart, Roswaal.

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Oh, and if this guy wasn’t fucking threatening and terrifying as all Hell, and merely a subordinate to “The Gospel”, and presumably, The Witch. Betel is a high priest of “sloth”, and initially calls Subie “pride” (perhaps why the cultists bowed to him last week?), and while his plans for Subie aren’t precisely clear, he’s intent on finding and killing Rem as soon as possible.

Rem all but grants his wish by busting into their cavern hideout, hopelessly outnumbered and surrounded. For all her power and combat ability and heartfelt desire to save her beloved Subaru, she’s still quite messed up from the initial ambush, and when she gets too close, Betel strings her up in mid-air and breaks all the bones in her body, then twists her extremities in the opposite direction just to twist the proverbial knife.

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Betel heads off to prepare for “The Ordeal”, but Rem is amazingly still alive enough to scoot towards Subaru and free him from his chains, and from what is certainly to be more horrible torment at the hands of that monster and his master.

Rem tells Subaru to live, and that she loves him, then passes away in his arms. While Rem has died before, as has Subaru, I just wasn’t prepared for this. She was found dead suddenly last week, but here the death is cruelly drawn out, as is Subaru’s apparent helplessness.

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Not sure what else to do, and still clearly foggy from his multiple ordeals, Subie continues his trek on foot to Roswaal’s manor with Rem’s body in his arms. Again, he finds signs of a massacre, dead villagers, children, and Ram.

He doesn’t get anywhere near the front door before a colossal dark beast with glowing yellow eyes orders him to “sleep now, like my daughter.” Subaru’s head pops of with a splash of blood, and the blood-red credits start to roll as he’s buried by the snow. There’s no merciful fade to black. The camera doesn’t budge. The soaring, relentless score blares.

By God…that was one of the darkest, cruelest, most hopeless endings I’ve ever seen. But this is Re:Zero, where endings usually lead to new beginnings. Still, it still felt like everything was over and there would be no victory, ever. 

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Sure enough, Subie respawns with Rem at the vendor’s. He’s not catatonic this time. He embraces Rem, alive again, in love with him. The vendor tells them to take a hike and stop scaring customers with their PDA. Subaru takes Rem’s hand like he never intends to let go of it again, and she’s all to happy to hold his as they walk peacefully, quietly down the street.

Subaru’s smile slowly vanishes as the camera pans up to his face. It’s a beautiful day, but there’s a storm brewing in his eyes. They’re not the dead eyes of defeat. They’re the fanatical eyes of a demon ready to hunt, and Betelgeuse is his prey.

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Space Dandy – 10

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Sket Dance was a typically very goofy, loopy show where anything goes that also happened to be really good at serious episodes when it felt like doing them. Space Dandy has been the same way; whether it’s the elderly ramen alien, Adelie, it’s those deeply emotional episodes with a message—even if the message isn’t all that complicated or original—we’ve enjoyed the most.

This week Space Dandy aims to transform its lazy, dirty doofus that is Meow into a more well-rounded, sympathetic, real character by having the Aloha Oe touch down on his home planet of Betelgeuse for repairs. His small, unexceptional hometown that has seen better days, his chaotic but relatively warm family, and a snapshot of the life he left to explore space, all of it is efficiently rendered within a day.

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Then that day becomes another day, and another after that, all exactly the same, and suddenly we’re in a Space Dandy version of Groundhog Day, one of our favorite films. Obviously, that makes us a bit biased towards this story, but we love time loops in general, from TNG’s “Cause and Effect”, all the way to “Endless Eight” and Natsuiro Kiseki’s finale. Like Groundhog Day, once Meow realizes tomorow isn’t coming, he makes use of the loops to improve himself and explore the life he left behind.

When he learns his high school crush is a lesbian, he scours the internet for a fix, and it turns out the calendar itself the camera always fixes on in the beginning of each loop is the key; the source of the Moebius loop created by the energy discharge of an imploded superweapon Dr. Gel insisted wasn’t ready yet but Perry deployed anyway. The resolution is beautiful, requiring the precision metalworking skills of Meow’s blue-collar dad to free the stuck page from the calendar.

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We had been thinking it would have involved machining the part needed for the Aloha Oe, that “piece of a certain appliance” that Meow won an award in school for constructing. The last comment about the lives Meow, Dandy, and QT are returning to are usually pretty monotonous, but as QT said, there’s a huge difference between “pretty much” the same day and the exact same day over and over.

There were a ton of details in the episode we loved: the diverse range of siblings Meow had and all their little quirks; the dad’s unashamed love of boobies and routine of going to the bar after work for a couple; the Countach poster on Meow’s wall; the sheer ridiculousness of Dandy picking a fight with an inanimate wall calendar and losing. But most of all, we liked how it took Meow and really elevated him to a new level. It makes us hope origin stories for QT and Dandy are down the road.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

 

Space Dandy – 01

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Solaris author Stanislaw Lem wrote: “We don’t want other worlds, we want mirrors.” We long for a distant future in which we travel the stars, but the creepy unknowns that await us out in space must be tempered with the familiar trappings of life on our planet, like restaurants stocked with hot waitresses. Space Dandy dwells in that tasty world between the comforts of the familiar and the thrills of the truly alien. This is no hard science fiction; it gleefully mocks stodgier archetypes of the genre, like Gundam. This is Science Comedy; It’s a circus mirror, and it’s an absolute gas from start to finish.

While taking place in a bafflingly vast and complex universe, Space Dandy’s underlying story is blissfully simple: Space Dandy travels the cosmos with his robot pal QT, hunting for new aliens to register; wacky adventures ensue.  Oh sure, interstellar wars between huge empires are waged, but far in the background. Space Dandy has a great head of hair, passable fashion sense, and a penchant for surprisingly deep monologues, while preferring asses to boobs. At the end of the day, he’s a bit of a boob himself, surrounding himself with obsolete or substandard technology (which is still pretty cool to us) and goes wherever the tides of fate take him, which is a fancy way of saying he just goes wherever.

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There’s a lot of Star Wars influence in the sheer diversity of aliens we encounter, but packs a pulse and joie de vivre Coruscant’s streets were sorely lacking. One alien they pick up is Meow, who looks like a cat but is really from Betelgeuse, who they thought was an unknown because of the sticker on his cheek. Meow wouldn’t look out of place in a Chuck Jones cartoon, nor would the rocky landscape he and Dandy find themselves clambering around after a quick succession of decisions that send Dandy’s ship screaming in and out of normal spacetime and into the middle of a menagerie of gargantuan alien baddies.

In keeping with the episode’s cheeky attitude, in the end Dandy has QT activate an explosive device that obliterates the ship, the planet, and him, leaving us with the narrator proclaiming “No one will ever forget your gallant, appropriate actions…probably.” We like a show that’s not afraid to blow everyone and everything up in the first episode and start off fresh next week with a different observation of the human (and not-so-human) experience through the lens of a super-weird, ultra-colorful, manic universe where anything can happen and even the narrator doesn’t bother fully explaining everything. A great start to the Winter 2014 season.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)