Isekai Quartet – 10 – Hootin’ an’ Hollerin’

When Roswaal announces that their Field Trip will be immediately followed by a Field Day with the “other” class, everyone looks around like he’s crazy. What other class? Sure enough, Subaru peeks into the next classroom (the one that didn’t exist before that day) and spots a whole other class of characters from the four shows.

This includes not only Ainz’s Combat Maids (which Subaru says is “a bit much” even though he’s surrounded by Demon Maids) but a Sword Saint of Subaru and Emilia’s world, Reinhard van Astrea. Hey, if you have all four shows at your disposal, you might as well use everyone you can!

KonoSuba’s Chris is also there, and warns Kazuma and the others from her world that if you die in this weird school world, you won’t come back. Why she specifically has that information is not explained, but there’s no reason to doubt it.

Still, Subaru successfully tests his “Return by Death,” and sound effects I hadn’t heard in a long time suddenly brought everything he went through back. It also makes a “mabeast” like Hamusuke come running, even though she’s not sure why.

The class leaders decide that victory over Class A is absolutely imperative:  winning means the possibility of returning to their respective worlds. Everyone in the class rallies together to ensure that victory…except for Kazuma, who would prefer to stay in this world and is too lazy to bother going back to defeat the Demon King.

His stubborn apathy brings out the worst in Tanya, who whips him into shape by going aerial with Puck and putting him through a brutal boot camp. Excited by the crystal bombardment, Megumin decides to join in the fun with an Explosion. Meanwhile, I hope either Class A or another class has Felt, Clementine, Enri, or Kyouya; it would be nice to see those guys again.

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.

So 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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So 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—like me and Franklin—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 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, but 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, natch. 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 justs 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 Beany 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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Berserk – 01 (First Impressions)

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“Guts, known as the Black Swordsman, seeks sanctuary from the demonic forces that pursue him and his woman, and also vengeance against the man who branded him as an unholy sacrifice. Aided only by his titanic strength, skill, and sword, Guts must struggle against his bleak destiny, all the while fighting with a rage that might strip him of his humanity. Berserk is a dark and brooding story of outrageous swordplay and ominous fate, in the theme of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.” —MAL

Full disclosure: I’ve never read the manga this is based on, so I came in knowing nothing. I also haven’t read Macbeth since junior high, so all I remember is that there’s a manipulative Lady in it. So forgive my ignorance and read on to learn a fresh perspective on Berserk unblemished by prior consumption of the material (at least that I remember).

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Berserk definitely has its draws: a lush yet grim fantasy world full of violence both human-and-human and demon-on-human; an overpowered cursed antihero with a bad attitude and even worse effect on the lives of the innocent; decent voice acting and a great soundtrack. Some  strong elements of horror (body and otherwise), blood, and gore, though all tastefully censored.

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Those pros were not able to overcome the cons for me, at least in the first episode. The cons are pretty big: the CGI animation of characters is distractingly weird. If you know my work you know I reviewed (and loved) two seasons of Sidonia, but for some reason this style works far better in a futuristic sci-fi milieu for me.

It took me a couple of episodes to get used to Sidonia (and I never got far with Ronja), but I’m less optimistic about Berserk. It’s not so much the uncanny valley effect as the inescapable feeling that these are wooden CGI armatures moving around very awkwardly mechanically.

That suits the frenetic combat at times, but any natural movements, including mouth movements and expressions, suffer greatly, marring the overall viewing experience.

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This comes down to a question of style: Berserk’s producers for whatever reason decided not to use conventional animation, and frankly, that could well be a dealbreaker. Even if not, the naked annoying motormouth Puck would be (sorry, Puck fans out there).

I can’t immerse myself in a world that announces its “fakeness” so transparently, in a manner most anime manage to avoid. Some say more and more full CG will be the future of anime, but with some notable exceptions, I hope that’s not the case.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 10

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Another unfamiliar ceiling…and another unfamiliar but very welcome occurance: that we may be able to bask in Subaru’s latest victories. He’s alive, the kids are safe and their curses are removed, and neither of the twins are dead, hate him, or want to kill him. This calls for a celebratory steamed sweet potato and some Puck-applause!

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For course, every silver lining has its cloud, which is this case is Beako’s latest unfortunate news for Subie: he still carries the curse of the mabeasts who nommed him, and that curse will allow them to essentially “eat” him remotely by taking all his mana.

He has only half a day. No surprise, then, that Rem has already gone out alone to hunt down the mabeasts who are on the other end of the curse, thus “canceling the meal” and saving Subie, whom she’s become rather fond of, clearly.

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Going into that forest is not for the faint-hearted, but Subie isn’t letting his Return By Death skill undermine his commitment: he’s going in like he has only one life to live, because he really does only have one life he wants to live, and it’s one where everyone, including Rem, is alive.

Joining Subie is Ram, who warns him she’s not the fighter her younger sister is, though she has a pretty nifty Clairvoyance skill, as well as some intimidating wind-elemental magic. Emilia is too drained from healing Subie, so she’s out, as is Puck, while Subie arms himself with the “sharpest sword in the village”, presented as a gift for his heroism.

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Notably absent from the party? Beatrice, despite her likely being more than capable of contributing offense. So while imperfect, the Subie/Ram duo gets off to a good start, with Ram showing off the damage her wind magic can do.

Then Subie gets a bright idea, using the very curse keeping him from talking to others about Return By Death to lure all mabeasts to his and Ram’s location, luring Rem in turn.

For the record, Rem is looking particularly badass and dangerous this week, as her Demon Mode makes her a formidable but also reckless and unstable killing machine.

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Despite Rem’s initial good intentions (saving Subie), because she’s gotten little carried away by the power of her horn (which Ram lacks), so it also comes as no surprise that after surviving a potentially fatal fall off a cliff, Subie and Ram have to deal with a Rem who isn’t too picky about her targets.

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I thought for sure this is how the episode would end: Subie unexpectedly catching a mace to the head and waking back up in the village inn with a sleeping Emilia by his side. It is a new “save point”, after all, and I assumed his Return By Death was only delayed last week so it could occur this week.

Mind you, I wasn’t happy about that prospect, which is why I was happy that Re:Zero decided not to kill Subie this week, either. Perhaps it’s aware of the potential for “Reset Button Fatigue”, especially after we only got a grand total of five minutes of victory to bask in.

That suspension of Subie’s death wasn’t certain at all, though. I like how the episode kept me guessing till the end, with a thoroughly berserk and unpredictable Rem flailing that mace around (sorry weapons experts) and Subie seemingly having few options.

Of course, I was also amused by the tactic he employs in his effort to cut Rem’s horn and restore her to normal: by tossing Ram straight at her, as a smokescreen for his strike. It almost works on the first try, too…but as Subie said earlier, the “difficulty level” is demonically high, to the point where nothing will work on the first try.

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That being said, “Fate-sama” quickly gives Subie a second chance to take out Rem’s horn, and he re-resolves himself not to wuss out at the last second, out of fear of killing either twin. That horn has simply gotta go. I hope he can get it, just like I hope all the mabeasts killed this week mean he’s no longer going to be remotely eaten.

Re:Zero’s action isn’t regularly head-and-shoulders above Kabaneri (despite being better in every other category) but it really distinguished itself this week with some astonishingly cool and exciting animation, made all the more compelling by how much we care about the combatants. Rem truly came off as a force of nature ready to explode. But here’s hoping she doesn’t!

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 09

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This week served a full plate of contradictions. The tasty morsels included: Subaru recounting the aspirations of each village child to compel Rem to participate, king of exposition Roswaal wearing reasonable clothes and flying off without any exposition, and Rem and Emilia devouring scenes bond-strengthening with Subaru. We also finally learn the source of the curse and witness some brutal combat in the forest.

Of all shows, Re:Zero has been remarkably good at packing its plates—often skipping opening or closing credits—and even though very little narrative has actually happened, the density and emotional impact has always earned it for me. Unfortunately, parts of this episode were slow, as if intentionally dragging its feet for an unearned cliffhanger ending. Additionally, many of the slower scenes were static, and the general animation quality was noticeably lower than normal.

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Focusing on the good, Re:Zero just nails Emilia’s character. She could very easily be the perfect nice girl central love interest, but the fact that she really doesn’t know Subaru’s motives—that she really doesn’t understand him at all—but accepts that he’s probably a good person anyway gives her a lot of nuance.

Her best scene this week is no different: she enters mid conversation, not even knowing what Subie’s said to Rem and Rin, gets the gist, and gives him a little prayer for safety. Their back and forth is compact, simple, but full of lovely facial expressions. Seriously—just watch how her mouth subtly changes when she’s happy, exasperated, or bemused.

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Rem gets two solid scenes as well, and while both are much more Subaru-pushed than the scene with Emilia, they are still quite touching. Also, narratively advancing, as we learn a little more about the need for barriers to protect human settlements from the creatures of the witch, and that Subaru reveals he knows she can smell the witch on him.

I greatly appreciated how these scenes are painted as less romantic than Subaru’s scenes with Emilia. Here he has a kind word, makes a pinkie-promise, and shows his trust in Rem. It’s friendship, not harem-building, and that adds nuance to the format that easily could be about getting all the girls.

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Intentional or not, the last strong scene starts and ends poorly. The animation leading up to the fight was lackluster, there was a lot of static dialog, and we still don’t know the motives of the villain. That abruptly changed with Subie’s epic kill. Like his fight with Rem several weeks ago, this had a ‘screw you I can take a beating’ vibe that makes all of the Subie fights enjoyable to watch.

Rem’s fight was decent too, for the most part. I get the sense that it ate most of the episode’s budget and the brutality was sweet but the storyboarding was weak. Call me a grouch, but having back to back ‘saved by your partner’s sacrifice’ moves, plus Rem being smashed by what looked like a dodge-able earth attack, felt generic. Eye-rolling, honestly.

The uneven quality of the fight aside, Rem’s brutality is a nice contrast. Specifically, we’ve only seen this kind of slaughter from evil characters before and…that’s kind of the point with Rem.

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Because this episode really works or doesn’t based on it’s reveals, and you will probably only enjoy it more if you’re looking at some of the details, this review has largely been spoiler free.

Technical shortcomings aside, my biggest criticism is that for all the things I didn’t spoil, a lot wasn’t answered. As Rem says, she has a lot of questions and we better be ready to answer. And hopefully soon.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 08

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Subaru wakes up, in the bed, once again, with the twin maids sitting beside him. This time, he volunteers to work at the mansion once more and spends as much time with them as he can, working his utmost to earn their trust from the start, so they won’t suspect and kill him! His second priority is finding and stopping the shaman who killed him and most recently Rem in previous loops.

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For the latter part, Subie learns from Puck that he has the somewhat rare “darkness” alignment, rather than any of the standard four elements. Excited to be able to focus his mana through his “gate” and perform magic for the first time in this world (aside from Return By Death, obv) he get’s a little too carried away and blows out all his mana at once.

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Like Explosion Girl in KonoSuba, this leaves him barely able to move, but he’s absolutely committed to continuing his tireless work with Ram and Rem, knowing his life and future may well depend on the results. Everyone notices that Subaru is simply trying way too hard, hiding his churning troubles beneath an overly chipper, caffeinated exterior. Something has to give, and it does, when he’s overcome by nausea.

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Emilia is outside the bathroom when he boots, and he can’t fool her any longer, so she takes him up on his desire to lay his head in her lap when the need arises, and it arises. Emilia is so kind and tender and matronly as she gives Subaru something he’s needed for some time: a pressure valve.

Safe in her lap, free of complications, he can let it all out, and Emilia is glad to see him not holding it in. In fact, it proves to her that he’s a truly good person, and she relays that to Rem. It’s such a lovely, calming scene, and the episode perfectly built up all that pressure and tension.

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His Emilia-aided lap pillow catharsis, then, turns out to be the means by which he achieves his first objective: earn the trust of the staff. Emilia assures Rem, who tells Ram, who tells Lord Rosvaal. I’d like to think that’s how it works, anyway!

That catharsis and its positive effects would not have been possible if Subie had been a mere houseguest and not someone doing his part in the mansion with the maids. He’s done being lazy and half-assing things; that’s how people have died in the past.

Of course, there’s still that shaman to contend with. He believes both he and Rem (at different times) were hit by a fatal spell in the village. Now he and both sisters will be going to the village together, and thanks to “Beako”, he knows there’s a way to detect a spell before it’s cast (much like a boss’s big timed attack in RPGS).

But once that spell is cast, it can’t be un-cast, so I hope to hell he’s careful and doesn’t have to go through all of this yet again. Another important thing he learned was that people who help him prefer simple thanks to elaborate apologies.

Honesty and simplicity are Subie’s tools of salvation. Cry when he has to, accept help without shame, and thank those who give it. If these people see every side of him, not just the artificial ideal, they just might not end up being the “poisonous flowers” he dreads.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 06

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Back in bed at the beginning of the loop, alive and with his arm intact, Subaru must now investigate his own murder of future past, all while attempting to re-rebuild the relationships he forged in the past two cycles. And while he continues to have no problems charming both Emilia and Puck, Beatrice remains as combative and intolerant of his visits as ever.

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The dynamic between Subie and the twin maids also changes this time around when, instead of asking for a job, he asks to be a house guest, which Roswaal grants. Roswaal, who has a chain on his leg, is clearly not the murdered, by the way, because that clue is to darned easy!

On the first day, Ram maintains a cool servant’s distance while offering her opinion that Subie is little more than a freeloader, almost as if she’s disappointed he didn’t ask for a job this time. Of course, she doesn’t know that there were other times, but as viewers, we do, and the producers know we do.

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As the days pass, however, Ram warms up a little more to Subaru, and actually sits, has tea, and listens to a tale from his world, about the red and blue ogres. The obvious connection to the red and blue-haired maids is not lost on me, no sir!

In this case, the “red ogre” is Ram, who is willing to interact more closely with the “villager” Subaru, while the “blue ogre” Rem, who doesn’t seem to be good at anything maid-wise…well, more on her later. Suffice it to say, Ram warns Subie in no uncertain terms not to share the ogre tale to her sister.

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More than himself, Subaru wants to protect Emilia, and if he can stop the cycle of being killed in various ways and ending up back in that bed, so much the better. To that end, he leaves the mansion and finds a vantage point from which he can observe without interference and take action against whoever or whatever attacked/will attack him.

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The answer comes when he prepares a couple of tricks to stay alive, and the identity of his attacker is revealed as Rem. She, who smiled so sweetly and innocently along with Ram as he left the mansion, was a wolf in sheep’s clothing all along.

With all the foreshadowing, it doesn’t come as a total shock, but it must be disheartening for Subaru to learn that the person he seemed able to befriend so nicely in the previous cycle was gunning for him all this time.

So now we know who is after Subaru. The question is, why? Is this her way of keeping him away from Emilia? Is she acting out of suspicion he’s a spy for her enemies? Where does the highly magical Beatrice, whom it’s revealed was the person who actually healed Subaru’s mortal wounds, fit in?

Also, will next week begin much like this one, with Subie dying in the first moments and waking up back in bed…or will Rem be so kind as to explain herself before doing so? We shall see, I suppose.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 05

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It’s a testament to Re:Zero’s balanced, fiercely-confident storytelling that even though it felt like this week would no longer have the element of surprise (since I was reasonably certain things would reset again at the end of this week), it still excelled at both differentiating the path Subaru takes in this go-around.

Not only that, it built up both the chemistry between Subie, the maids, and Emilia, as well as building up suspense for the possibility of things not resetting after all…before delivering yet another bombshell at the very end, proving it never lost its ability to surprise to begin with.

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One could be forgiven for wondering what the point of experiencing all the lovely and often funny slice-of-life moments Subie shares with his fellow mansion-mates, considering everything will be reset all over again.

Yet, for some reason, just as Subie is determined not to be disheartened and simply continue down the same path as next time (hoping to stick it to who-or-whatever it is that’s “doing this to him”), it doesn’t feel like a waste at all.

Part of that is that the character interactions are so good, no matter who he’s talking to. But he’s also retaining everything along with us (he’ll be able to read and write better next time), which will theoretically make each go-around that much easier, since the mistakes he made in past go-arounds could be avoided.

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So while another reset was in the cards, it wouldn’t come before Subaru and we learned a little more about why exactly a reset happened in the mansion to begin with, and even before that, it’s heartening to know that Emilia is fundamentally Emilia, Ram is Ram, Rem is Rem, etc., no matter how many resets occur. He’ll have no trouble making his promise to Emilia in any go-around.

The problem is making it to the next day to keep that promise. After forcing himself to stay awake all night, the room starts to shift and undulate, causing intense nausea. Is it a side-effect of Return By Death…or was he drugged? Then, when he apparently fights his nausea and wanders the mansion seeking help, he is seemingly attacked by someone or something making a very distinctive rattling sound.

The show is very coy about what’s going on (not wrongly so, as it adds to suspense), but it’s looking very likely to me that the reason Subaru reset at the end of last week was that he was murdered in his sleep. That would make this a murder mansion, and it completely changes the complexion of his next reset, when he could, at some point throughout the next go-around, come face-to-face with the person who sliced his arm off and killed him.

It could be Beatrice. It could be Lord Roswaal. It could even be one of the angelic maids who flank him the moment he wakes up. I’m confident we have a few general answers, yet the central tantalizing mystery remains afoot here, and I absolutely can’t wait to see Subaru solve it and break through this next barrier…if he can.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 04

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The next chapter of Re:Zero gets off to a strong start with a great Eva reference from Subaru followed by his and our dashed expectations he’d wake up with Emilia sitting by his bedside.

Instead he’s greeted by no one, walks down a hall loop, then solves it on the first try with his game master-infuriating natural luck, coming afoul of a “drill loli” sorceress who burns him, claiming it’s just a test to determine if he’s friend or foe.

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Waking up again in the same bed (the ceiling now familiar), he hears snide commentary in stereo about himself, then finds two maids, Ram and Rem, standing in his room. Emilia appears, and all is well. He surveys the massive estate where they’re staying, shows “Emilia-tan” Japanese morning calisthenics (a great cultural crossover), and meets the lord of the mansion, Roswaal L. Mathers, whom he not unreasonably mistakes as some kind of jester.

During a sumptuous meal, Emilia informs Subaru that she is one of the candidates in the running for ruler of Lugunica (her insignia was proof of her status), and with the present king’s whereabouts unknown, things are uneasy in the kingdom. As such, one can’t fault Subaru for requesting something relatively modest as thanks for saving her: he wants a job at the mansion. And hell, who wouldn’t? The place is fantastic.

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Once he’s fitted for a butler’s uniform, the twin maids show him the considerable ropes of estate maintenance. He proves he’s not particularly skilled at anything beyond solving Betty’s door magic on the first try every time, but it’s all stuff he hasn’t done before, so some teething is expected.

Ram and Ren are patient and discover some surprising things about Subaru (like his sewing skills), but are quick to nickname him Barusu (a blinding curse) and don’t go easy with the barbs. It’s a great sequence of Subaru once again starting to find his place, and it lulled me into a comfortable place.

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Ram, who it would appear has some kind of special relationship to her lord, reports to him that Subaru doesn’t make the best butler (or spy, most likely) and doesn’t believe interfering in his friendship with Emilia is necessary, since they’re both kids and “nothing will happen.”

That line is accurate due to the personality of Subaru and Emilia, but also proves prescient. But before it does, Subie and Emi have a nice little chat in the masnion’s yard/field. Emilia offer to heal Subaru’s wounds, but he wants to keep them as proof of his efforts.

He also asks Emilia on what amounts to a date in town when both are free, and Subaru ignores her concerns that being with her would be troublesome for him. When he goes to bed, he can’t even sleep, he’s so excited about their day tomorrow, until he starts counting Pucks.

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But then morning comes, and Ram and Ren call him a guest, and his wounds are gone. Return by Death has occured, only with a new spawning location: the bed in Roswaal Mansion. But when did death occur? Was his power trigger by something else? It’s another stunning turn for a show that’s been full of them.

This truly is a gem of a show that lulls us (along with Subaru) into a sense of comfort and security, then resets all the progress he made. Having to start over from scratch in this new timeline will be particularly demoralizing for Subaru, even though neither he no nobody ended up dead—as far as we know—this time.

But it speaks to the confidence of this show that it can sweep the slate clean with such regularity. Reset buttons are typically a way of making quick, neat endings; of making things easier for the writers. Here, the resets make things harder, since an entirely new route and new bonds must be forged.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 03

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Subaru is surprised to find “Satella” at the loot house before dark, but not for long, as he realizes her nature never changes no matter which timeline he’s in. She always helps the lost girl, then ends up tracking Felt down. However, just when Subaru is making progress mediating between the parties (by being nice to both), Elsa comes out of the shadows.

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Again, Subie uses his knowledge of Satella to summon Puck to shield the blade, knowing he’s still corporeal this time of day. But Elsa still manages to severely wound Old Man Rom. Puck and Satella launch a pretty-yet-terrifying counterattack with their green ice-like crystalline magic, but to no avail—like a cockroach, Elsa just won’t go down.

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During Elsa’s fight with Rom, Felt, Satella, and Subaru, she’s full of quips, and so is everyone else. As the blades and crystal saggers fly, so to does the juicy dialogue, which is just as sharp and satisfying as the action.

Subaru makes mention of how cool he is when he realizes he needn’t fear dead (since he can always start over at the vendor) but at the same time, really doesn’t want to die and have to start over, especially now that he’s made progress with both Felt and Satella.

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Satella goes down for a moment, but gets back up and helps Subie when she can from long range, while Felt is able to escape outside to call for help, which they’re going to need because Elsa is as relentless about disemboweling everyone as she is hard to kill.

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That help comes in the form of Reinhard, who is a resplendent model of ultracool fantasy hero timing, appearances, and dialogue. He doesn’t even take out his own sword, choosing instead one that’s lying around, so confident is he that he doesn’t need to go all out against the likes of Elsa, the “Bowel Hunter.” It’s also cool how Elsa knows him too, and is excited to see what he can do before she kills him.

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In a great bit of world-building even within this one loot house interior, Satella admits Reiny can’t go all out while she’s healing Rom. But when Rom is out of danger, she gives the go-ahead, and Reiny goes ALL OUT, launching a terrifyingly powerful attack that rends half of the bottle episodes bottle clean away. Outstanding presentation of an “overdrive” attack.

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Everyone celebrates the victory, until Elsa pops out of the wreckage, STILL not dead; only wounded. Fortunately, she chooses the better part of valor by retreating, but the fact she’s still out there with her chilling desire to disembowel everyone else is certainly…disquieting, as is the fact even that huge attack didn’t kill her.

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Her last attack is foiled by Subaru, who uses Rom’s giant bat to parry her blow, saving Satella in the process. When the coast is clear once again, Subie goes into self-aware fantasy hero mode, asking for something from his rescuee in return for his heroics: her name. She replies, Emilia, with just about the sweetest gosh-darn smiles of the Spring. A great little transaction.

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Even with all the twist and turns we’d experienced so far, Re:Zero still isn’t done yet, as when Felt finally produces the insignia she stole from Emilia to return it to her, Reinhard suddenly hardens his previously lenient stance (he’s off duty, so he’ll overlook theft) and formally arrests Felt, hitting her with a sleep spell when she resists.

Once again, the strong reaction from another world insider creates great gravity and significance for one innocuous-looking little piece of jewelry, like the name “Satella.” But this time, Subie didn’t call her by that name, got on her good side, and when the wounds Elsa made finally open, she heals him and prevents another reset.

I was really glad about that, because my heart nearly plummeted all the way down into the Central Dogma when it seemed like he was going to die. That said, I do hope Felt is okay—she seems to be a pawn in all this—and Subie and Emilia can secure her freedom without making Reinhard mad or getting the law on their backs.

Overall though, this week was simply a tremendous piece of entertainment. Succulent kick-ass combat, quick-witted, tasty dialogue that never felt in the way, and countless twists and turns that only added to the richness of the whole—this was the complete package.

And it was a brilliantly compact package at that, with 99% taking place in the confines of the loot house, without the setting ever seeming stale for a second. Eschewing the OP and ED were also a gutsy choice for what is just the third episode. Re:Zero is a must-watch Spring experience, and this was its best episode to date. Hopefully it keeps this up.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 02

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In the latest iteration of the timeline the first episode ended with, Subaru doesn’t fare too well; calling Satella ‘Satella’ has the same effect as calling someone ‘Voldemort’ in the Harry Potter world. When Felt snatches her insignia, she assumes Subaru was only meant to distract her and runs off, and when he’s short with the three thugs in the alley, he gets stabbed to death and returns right back to the fruit stand.

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That quick sequence of events is enough to convince Subie of what we already know to be the case: he’s caught in a time loop, returning to that fruit stand every time he dies. He even gives it a name: “Return by Death” (which is a little plain but accurate).

(I’ll mention, I thought it was weird how the fruit vendor knew about Subie finding his lost daughter in this timeline. Did he find her again off camera, or is the vendor simply mixing up his memories from a previous go?)

Now that he knows the score, Subie initially considers simply selling his cell phone for some fat stacks and simply enjoying life, but he can’t ignore the fact he knows what happened (or will happen) to the old man, Felt, and Satella. So he decides he’ll maintain course: trade his phone for the insignia and give the insignia back to Satella.

The next time he meets the 3 Stooges, he tries something different: calling emphatically for guards. A distinguished swordsman named Reinhard answers the call, and rather than being a hardass, his “nice guy index” goes off the charts. I imagine we haven’t seen the last of him.

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In committing to this plan, Subie is naturally hoping to bypass the whole everyone-gets-killed-by-Elsa scenario by making the required transaction as efficient as possible, but it doesn’t help matters when he bumps into Elsa in the street and she can smell his fear and anger…and even compliments him by using humor to conceal his aggression (taking note of her dark beauty)

It also doesn’t help that he starts snooping around Felt’s hut, provoking her into attacking him before he can explain himself. I will say he hangs in there pretty well in the fight with the nimble thief—right up until her hut collapses on him.

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He does eventually sort out his intentions with Felt, who can’t be too careful, as she doesn’t intend to spend her whole life in the slums, and means it when she says “Live Strong.” She admits were she not a successful thief she’d probably have to sell her body.

It’s a small detail, but Subie does seem to know how to talk to women after a fashion, first by appealing to Elsa’s beauty, then mentioning offhand that Felt does pretty well for herself in the looks department despite not wearing makeup.

That being said, he pushes his luck a bit by being empathetic to Felt’s situation and petting her head, which she does not like and responds by biting him…after giving fair warning, of course!

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Subaru is intent on getting the phone appraised by Rom and making the exchange before Elsa shows up, but Felt is suspicious of the hurry he’s in, and doesn’t want to close a deal without letting her other client make an offer. Subie thought he could sway Felt by getting Rom on his side, but Felt won’t budge, and when a knock comes at the door, she opens it without reservation, even though Subie warns her they’ll all be killed.

But something very different happens than happened before. It isn’t Elsa at the door; it’s Satella (or whatever her real name is), having apparently asked around and tracked the thief who stole her insignia to the loot house.

That doesn’t mean Elsa isn’t far behind her, ready to kill them all…nor does it mean Subie will be able to form the same easy rapport with this Satella as the first one, but the important thing is, everyone is still breathing, and the episode ends without Subie back at the fruit vendor. …Progress!

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P.S. I liked the OP, which features some backwards percussion and a beginning that’s the reverse of the end. Vocals aren’t bad either. Likely a future Monday OP.

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 01 (First Impressions)

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I enjoyed the simplicity of Natsuki Subaru’s transition from one world to the next: after buying some food at the Mini Stop, he rubs his eyes, and when they open, he’s simply there, in a medieval-style fantasy world filled with humans and demi-humans. Being a shut-in NEET, Subaru rolls with it, confident he’s seen this kind of world in games he’s played and can thrive if he plays his cards right.

And it’s a lush, detailed world. Like Grimgar, Re:Zero takes its time building out the world and its rules, but in a different way. Instead of providing long pauses in dialogue or action for us to admire the world and become attuned to its slower rhythms, Subaru is in the middle of a bustling city and bounces from one strong personality to the next.

Subaru also makes no bones about the fact he’s dead broke and lacking in magic or other skills. All he has is the physical training he put himself through to guard his home back in his own world, and that only takes him so far. He expects a cute girl to save him, but it’s not the first one (a tiny, fleet thief in a hurry), but the second (an silver-haired ethereal maiden with a spirit cat).

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The girl—a half-elf who calls herself Satella (and voiced by Takahashi Rie, a favorite here at RABUJOI)—and her spirit-cat Puck are looking for the person who stole her jeweled insignia (probably the tiny thief), and Subaru decides to help her on this mission after she stayed by his side until he woke up from his injuries.

The insignia hunt gives Subie and us the chance to explore the world further, and as the sun goes down it only seems to get more and more beautiful, especially when Satella entreats with a mass of lesser spirits on a bridge. We’re in firm Final Fantasy territory here, stylistically speaking.

But as the sky gets dark, so does the show, as Subaru enters an apparent loot house and finds a bloody corpse, then he and Satella get run through by a killer in the shadows.

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Then…things reset. Subaru is back where he started when he first arrived in the fantasy world. Instead of trying to locate Satella again, he continues his search for her insignia without her, ending up at the tavern where he was killed and meeting Rom, the man he found dead there before.

It isn’t long before the thief, Felt, shows up with the insignia, and Subaru offers to trade his cell phone for it, demonstrating with its camera that he can “freeze moments of time with it, to their amazement.

Then the planned buyer of the insignia, Elsa, arrives, and it’s clear from her voice and face that she’s the one who killed Subaru and Satella. Subaru manages to win the insignia in negotiations with Felt and Rom, but when he says he’ll be giving it back to its owner, Elsa turns deadly once more.

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She dispatches Rom, Felt, and Subaru without much difficulty—she’s just too quick and stealthy for a novice like Subie—and he returns to the street vendor once more, as if a reset button had been pushed. That being said, he has the memories of the last two times he was there, but not knowing what the heck is going on, he passes out from exasperation.

Shortly after awakening, he spots Satella passing by, and calls her out by name, apologizing for getting himself and her killed before. Satella, to his surprise, reacts with hostility to Subaru calling her by the name of an infamous “witch.”

A lush alternate fantasy world, a fish out of water and a clash of cultures, a pleasant friendship seemingly domed by murder most foul, and mysterious time looping—Re:Zero serves up quite a bit in its ambitious double-length debut, and even though it wasn’t even on my list initially, now it’s at the top of it.

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