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 Roswaal’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.

 

Re: Zero – Frozen Bonds

There’s one more piece of business before we begin the months-long wait for Re:Zero Season 2: a second OVA that takes place before Subaru is transported into this new world from that convenience store parking lot. It’s a prequel that focuses on Emilia, prior to becoming a candidate. She lives alone in a treehouse in the forest, surrounded by ice sculptures of people she carefully tends every day. This begs the question: did she turn them to ice? Is this penance?

If it is, she doesn’t know it. We actually get a good amount of Emilia simply wordlessly going through her daily routine, and it’s clear she’s as good a good girl as she is in Re:Zero. But then there’s the issue of her appearance, and her resemblance to the Witch of Envy. Everyone dispises that witch, and Emilia has exhibited magical powers, so everyone in the nearby village is afraid of her and hates her. Everyone except Puck, of course.

When a band of thugs attacks her with the intent of capturing her and selling her into sexual slavery, Puck isn’t around, so she has to rely on her own powers, as well as the cooperation of lesser spirits Puck taught her how to summon. She begs the thugs again and again not to escalate, but they ignore her. A giant yeti joins the fray, and her powers go out of control. Puck intervenes, calming Emilia down, but only because he’s respecting her wishes not to kill anyone.

There’s an “arbiter” spirit named Melakeura who is intent on eliminating Emilia simply for resembling (and being descended from) the witch. He’s stubborn as a horse (and looks like one too!), and Puck can’t dissuade him. Not wanting Puck to take on everything himself, Emilia leaves the safety of her treehouse and sets off on her awesome ice snowboard. Melakeura confronts, condemns, and attacks Emilia, but Puck arrives in time to slow him down.

A multi-stage back-and-forth battle between the two occurs, with Emilia demanding the arbiter to judge her for who she is, not some different person, and Puck insisting she be allowed to live a happy life in peace. Melakeura isn’t having it, so after Puck is nearly KO’d, he forms an official contract with “Lia” and takes his notorious monster form for the first time to defend her.

Melakeura also grows to monstrous size, making this almost a kaiju battle ending. But when the dust settles, Lia and Mega-Puck are none the worse for wear, and commit to their bond as father and daughter before a gorgeous sunset. Frozen Bonds felt 20-30 minutes longer than it really needed to be (some of the battles and Melakerua’s halting dialogue got repetitive at times) but it was nevertheless fun to see a glimpse of Emilia That Was, and how she came to be the exceptional person she is in the present.

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – Director’s Cut – 13 (Final Scene Only)

MAJOR SPOILERS FOLLOW

Re:Zero Season 2 won’t be here until Summer 2020, but there’s at least one more bit of business to attend to: the very end of the thirteenth and final episode of the “Director’s Cut” of the first season.

I didn’t re-watch the series, but did re-read my reviews to re-familiarize myself with the plot. The truth is, these final post-credit minutes are the only wholly new scenes in the new cut; everything else was visually tweaked a bit here and there. So I picked up where the 25th episode left off.

We start with Subaru and Emilia riding in the back of Otto’s wagon. Suspicious of what the two were talking about alone earlier, Petra claims her property by clinging to Subaru. When Subie tells Emi not to take the little kid too seriously, Emi resolves not to let her guard down.

While on the topic of romantic rivals, Subaru decides to finally broach the topic of Rem, something he’s very nervous about doing because he’s not sure how Emi will respond. When he finally steels himself and tells her that Rem confessed her love for him, she asks…“Who’s Rem?” She’s never heard of her! Uh-oh…

This is obviously a much bleaker ending than Emi’s adorable “Thank you for saving me Subaru!” So opens a new can of worms for the second season to explore, and likely with it a new gauntlet of suffering for Subaru. Something to look forward to!

Isekai Quartet 2 – 12 (Fin) – Breaking a (Giant Metal Spider) Leg

IQ’s second (but by no means the last) season wraps up with two parallel performances: first, that of the school play Cinderella, to which Rem contributes a…shall we say unique version of Cinderella, who exploits the masochism of one of her stepsisters, derides the homebrew pumpkin carriage as “pathetic” (probably because Subaru is part of it), can’t help but ruefully laugh during her glow-up, and kisses her sister.

As that farce unfolds, the “Battle of Maidens” plays out in the schoolyard, with the all-female defense force all contributing their unique talents to keep Destroyer from ruining the play (and likely the school buildings as well). Raphtalia and Filo only need to hear the first few words of Reinhard van Astrea’s motivational speech (which he also gave during the giant whale battle in Re:Zero) to join in.

Aqua actually ends up scoring the coup-de-grace with a God Blow, echoing a similar battle in KonoSuba. As the episode flips from the battle to the play, it employs clever transitions that tie the two performances together. With a strong finale, Isekai Quartet remains a fun lightweight, pocket-size diversion. I honestly wouldn’t mind if they kept it up indefinitely, continually adding characters from popular isekai anime.

Isekai Quartet 2 – 11 – The Show Must Go On

The school festival is on, and immediately attracting characters from a sixth isekai anime, Cautious Hero. Sadly for Ristarte, Seiya deems it too risky to enter school grounds. While he may not be aware that an attack on the school by Mobile Fortress Destroyer is imminent, he’s not entirely wrong to be wary, but he surely possesses enough power to defeat such a boss.

Many of this week’s visual gags come in the form of the ridiculous costumes, in which none of the animal masks fit over the chibi-fied characters. Ainz in particular is just Ainz with a horse head plopped on top. Still, Raphtalia and Filo think Naofumi looks cute, while Albedo & other followers of Ainz are no doubt that much more smitten by his new look.

The issue becomes, how can the MCs participate in the play when Destroyer is out there, ready to…destroy? Simple: by relying on their friends, or in this case Albedo, Emilia, Visha and Aqua. Everyone mostly hopes Aqua won’t undermine the efforts of the other three. Tanya and Ainz then use reverse psychology to get Megumin to play the Fairy Godmother in place of the indisposed Aqua. Everyone has their roles, all that’s left is for the curtain to rise!

Isekai Quartet 2 – 10 – Who Killed Mr. Archie?

The Cultural Festival is approaching, which means Class 2 must choose a play and a food stall. The play chosen is Cinderella, with Ram(!) in the lead role and Rem(!!) playing the Prince. We also learn Naofumi will be Class 1’s Ugly Duckling.

The four MCs, meanwhile, will play…horses. They probably don’t mind stepping out of the spotlight in this instance, but Shalltear is not happy about her master’s lot. Master of food Visha spearheads Class 2’s choco-banana stand.

In the midst of lively preparations, bouts of destruction take hold on campus, starting with the hutch sheltering Hamusuke and Death Knight. While Reinhard and Beako are stumped for the moment, we Konosuba watchers know the culprit is the massive robotic spider known as Destroyer.

One wonders how such a huge foe is keeping itself hidden from everyone, but its next victim is “Mr. Archie”, Aqua’s affectionate name for the hand-painted arch it would seem Kazuma mostly worked on. Fretting over how long it took and how little time remains until the festival begins tomorrow.

Aqua has an extended temper tantrum, and can only be snapped out of it by a determined Rem, who substitutes Aqua for Subaru in an abridged reenactment of her seminal “Return to Zero” scene from Re:Zero episode 18, a rare instance in which we see both her eyes.

I knew as soon as Aqua said “step one” that it was coming. As for the faculty, they seem to know a lot more about why they’re all here, and leave it up to the students whether it was the right choice or not. Between those words and Destroyer, something big is on the horizon during and/or after the festival.

Re: Zero – Memory Snow

Firstly, this OVA/Movie isn’t new: it was released back in October 2018…but it’s new for me! And frankly, after one and a half seasons of watching the cast of Re:Zero in chibi form sharing the screen with the casts of 3-4 other isekai shows, it’s a rare pleasure to finally see Subaru, Rem, Ram, Emilia, Roswaal, and Beako in their normal proportions, in a more slice-of-life setting.

While these initial screenshots are disconcerting, one can be rest assured that neither Subie nor anyone else goes through anything horrible or traumatic in this Memory Snow side story; the worst thing that happens is he wakes up to an increasingly cold manor. Turns out the cold is emanating from Puck, who is undergoing Hatsumaki, a periodic semi-controlled bleeding-off of mana. It’s fun to learn that Ram shares Subie’s extreme dislike of the cold.

Subaru’s first date with Lia is postponed until the Hatsumaki is over, but he makes the best of a chilly situation by taking a page from his homeland and organizing a snow festival on the manor grounds. Everyone makes a snow sculpture while Subie, the village elder and Roswaal serve as judges. Even Beako gets in on the action, while Ram and Rem’s collaboration of a Subaru-Roswaal hybrid statue gets middling scores for being so creepy.

At the post-festival banquet, Roswaal cracks open a stash of booze hidden under the floorboards of Subaru’s bedroom. This results in what I believe is our first taste of both Tipsy Emilia and Tipsy Rem, who while unassailably adorable in their playful drunkenness, have limited energy stores and it’s not long before both are using Subie’s lap as a pillow. Ram, on the other hand, can mostly hold her liquor.

The group migrates outside, where Puck expands the Hatsumaki to give the villagers and surrounding lands a lovely late night snowfall; the spirits soon appear, thousand points of light dancing around the sky. Beako and Rem deliver their barbs to Subaru regarding his being named after a star of all things, but by night’s end everyone can jump in bed content after a very full, fun day spearheaded by Barusu.

With Puck’s Hatsumaki waning, the story closes with Subaru and Emilia finally having their date—and Lia unveiling her adorable outfit for the occasion. While this outing lacked its parent anime’s sadistic bite or any measurable stakes, it was a strong affirmation of the real reason why I kept watching Re:Zero, and will be tuning in to its second season: the characters. Subaru, Rem, Emilia & Co. are eminently fun to watch, whether they’re chibis in a high school or playing in the snow without a care in the world.

Isekai Quartet – 09 – Chibis in Bikinis

The beach trip is finally here, which means fans of the four series see the characters in modern swimsuits for the first time, albeit in chibi form. Still, the animation definitely seems to make Darkness more proportional as she does a thousand push-ups under Cocytus’ orders just so she can be gawked at by Tanya’s men. This, in turn, draws the ire of Ram and Visha, condemning the lads as scumbags for indulging the masochist with their stares.

The daytime events are pretty dull, but things heat up at night when the class splits up into groups for the big test of courage. Tanya is paired with Subaru, Ainz, and Aqua, and loses her cool when Aqua explains that she’s a goddess. Tanya initially mistakes her for Being X and prepares to launch when Ainz estimates to be Level 8 magical power on Yggdrasil.

Subaru stands between Tanya and Aqua, and along with Ainz all agree that Aqua is too much of a lightweight loser to be the Being X she’s talking about.  A couple of Tanya’s own men fall ill due to what she deems “lack of mental discipline”, but Ainz is duly impressed that Subaru took that wave of power in the face at point-blank range like it was nothing. Ainz asks himself what kind of mental stress Subaru is used to living under…If he only knew!

Isekai Quartet – 08 – Shopping in a New World

Ainz proposes a group activity during the class field trip to the beach, and Aqua immediately raises her hand in opposition…until she learns the idea was actually Emilia’s, in the interest of the various class members getting along better.

Aqua has definitely been the most antagonistic towards another character—in this case, the undead Ainz—but when Subaru talks about the purpose of a test of courage, joins Ram in castigating him. Still, everyone agrees that the night  activity will indeed be a test of courage; Emilia just needs Subaru to tell her what it is!

The students also need to head to a department store to buy swimsuits. You’d think that would mean they’d actually try them on, which would in some cases show many of the characters wearing different outfits—a rare occurrence to be sure. That doesn’t happen this week, as don’t yet make it to the beach.

Instead, Albedo and Shalltear try to pick out the best skimpy Speedo for Ainz-sama, and when Aqua crosses paths with them again, Kazuma plays peacemaker. He wigs out when he learns Albedo is a succubus (based on his experience in his isekai) but Shalltear drags her fellow floor guardian by telling him she’s still a pure maiden and laughing about it.

For that, Aqua actually takes Albedo’s side; saving yourself for the one you love isn’t anything to be ashamed of. Instead, she inadvertently drags Shalltear by declaring the only thing to be ashamed of is padding your chest, as her fellow goddess Eris—and Shalltear—do. A such, it is Albedo who gets the last laugh.

Isekai Quartet – 07 – We’re All Friends

This week is Re:Zero and OverLord cast-heavy, as we shift from Emilia expressing her excitement over their new world with Puck, and Subaru meeting Hamusuke (and being repeatedly gnawed upon), to Beatrice making a friend in Mare Bello Fiore, the meeker of the dark elf twins.

While I don’t endorse poor Hamusuke being locked in a hutch, Rem makes sure he promises to come to her, the nurse, next time Hamusuke gnaws on him. Subaru, of course, would rather avoid repeating such an experience.

After a brief cut to Megumin making an overly florid PA morning greeting, Subaru checks in on Emilia, who is working with Ainz and Albedo. Subaru gets to officially meet Ainz, and despite his fearsome appearance, senses the familiarity one gets from someone of one’s own (original) world.

Ainz notes something strange in Subaru’s chest, no doubt related to the mechanism by which he resurrects. Roswaal interrupts by announcing the entire class will be going on a field trip to the beach, leading Emilia and Ainz to commence planning an activity for everyone.

Some entertaining interactions, as usual, but this was definitely more of a quiet building-up episode to what is expected to be something none of the donor shows (other than Youjo Senki) really had: a beach episode.

Isekai Quartet – 06 – The Committees

Next up in the Cavalcade of High School Cliches? Selecting a Class Rep and other class positions. Albedo immediately lobbies for her beloved Ainz-sama, but Aqua won’t accept an undead rep; Albedo challenges that position by calling Aqua ugly.

Things don’t descend into bloody magical chaos only because Roswaal has a steady hand at the wheel of the class, and because Emilia comes forward as a nominee everyone can live with (Tanya, for her part, doesn’t want the job).

Ainz and Albedo are co-vice reps, and while the various committee members are selected among rest of the class. This splits up the four “factions” quite evenly, which Demiurge thinks Ainz sees an opportunity for the Guardians to manipulate the other factions (in truth, Ainz sees…nothing of the sort). 

Kazuma perhaps gets the worst grouping, as he’s the odd man out in a trio that also contains Tanya and Demiurge, who go together like peanut butter and jelly—not to mention possess various means of physically controlling people.

Demiurge’s words make Kazuma lie on the ground; Tanya’s stare, makes him stand straight as a board. He writes to his parents in his head: he’s thinking about not coming to school…again!

Out in the schoolyard the gym committee convenes, led by Cocytus by default (since he appears to be the strongest). But because Darkness is also on their team, things get weird fast, as she gives her enthusiastic masochistic delusions a P.E. theme. Dysfunction and hilarity appears primed to persist!

Isekai Quartet – 03 – Status Report

IQ continues to explore various combinations between characters through casual interactions. Demiurge ends up doing what he usually does—explain to all what Lord Ains has already realized: they’re trapped in another world and forced to become students. Only as usual, he’s several steps ahead of his lord and Ains has to pretend otherwise.

A flyer for an upcoming student talent show is distributed, which should also provide a vehicle for the characters to get to know each other better. Ram is typically ruthless in her criticism of Subaru, declaring his talent to be “failing at life.”

Beatrice is called a “little girl” by two of Tanya’s underlings, but when she visits the lounge to talk to Roswaal, it’s one of Tanya’s superiors, who uses his hypnotic voice to convince her to return to class. In “Betty” he sees another potential “demon in a little girl’s skin”, causing Tanya to sneeze (and Aqua to bless her).

Aqua’s mention of gods/goddesses, words Tanya hates, reminds her of “Being X”, and back in class she decides to confront Lord Ains in the off-chance he may knows something. But when she asks Ains to meet her, Albedo becomes defensive, eventually befriending Rem, as they both agree that love has no set conditions nor a duration to take root.

Note…there’s not much to say here, as this is an inherently uneventful show—Avengers: Endgame it is not! It’s more just enjoying all these characters bounce off each other with zero stakes.

Isekai Quartet – 02 – Roll Call

In its first two mini-episodes,  Isekai Quartet is content to let its audience bask in the sheer absurdity and awesomeness of watching characters from four of their favorite Isekai anime bounce off one another in a school setting. Their homeroom teacher, Roswall L. Mathers from Re:Zero, begins with introductions.

Ram notes that Kazuma, who is staring at “Barusu,” is wearing the same bizarre threads we know to be an IRL track suit. Little do both Kazuma and Subaru know that Ains Ooal Gown is also one of them, as is Tanya, but in different forms. I did enjoy Kazuma and Subaru’s reaction to Tanya’s very militaristic group’s introduction.

Since both OverLord and KonoSuba feature very similar fantasy races and spells, Aqua takes it upon herself to launch a preemptive attack on the Nazarick crew, since they consist of an undead, a vampire, a demon, and a monster. Momonga even recognizes the name of her spell, which he expects to be low-level, but actually hurts like a bitch.

Even more disconcerting to the guardians and their ruler is that Kazuma is able to simply bop someone as powerful as Aqua on the head and drag her off, scolding her for attacking her classmates. The next day, she has to stand in the hall with three water buckets, an ironic punishment for the water goddess.