Sagrada Reset – 03

Two years have passed, as has Souma Sumire, and Asai Kei is a lot more careful about changing the future after losing her. But when client Murase Youka comes to them requesting they revive her cat (recently killed by one of the anime world’s infamous murderous drivers), he dives into the mission with what passes for him as enthusiasm. It would, after all, prevent the client from shedding tears (though she doesn’t strike me as the emotional type) and that’s the reason Asai got into this business with Haruki.

As Asai and Haruki investigate (which leads them to a cat-loving and cat mind-inhabiting informant) there’s an ongoing flirtation being carried out, mostly by Haruki. Sure, Haruki is kind of muddling through, and Asai isn’t the most receptive (he’s seemingly put off when she talks like a cat or asks if she should wear a new yukata or miniskirt), and it might be the stealthiest romance of the season…but it’s a romance in play nonetheless.

That, and Hanazawa Kana’s measured but increasingly warm delivery, keeps me from going all Seika Nono and falling asleep over this show. I’m not going to make excuses, it is slow, and deliberate, and sometimes boring. But last week showed that if one is patient with Sagrada Reset, one has a tendency to be rewarded accordingly.

So it is that Asai’s classmate Minami Mirai (a fan of the occult) ends up suspended above his bed on a (second) saturday morning. Somehow saving the cat resulted in a present very different than the one Asai wakes up to at the start of the episode. And it all has something to do with what Murase was doing while Asai and Haruki were saving her cat. We know she can fly, so that’s a start. But so far, this show solves mysteries in episode pairs, so we’ll have to wait until next week to see where this is going (or where it’s gone).

Sagrada Reset – 02

Just when Asai determines Mari is the result of her mother’s ability to create a clone of her never-born daughter, an agent of the “Bureau” (or “Kanrikyoku”), Tsushima, arrives to take her away.

The father left town, and now the mother will do the same, leaving the virtual Mari a virtual orphan. That doesn’t sit right with Asai, so he has Haruki reset, and the formulation of a plan commences.

It’s actually pretty impressive how quickly and efficiently Asai directs the service he and Haruki are likely going to be providing throughout the run of the show: “erasing tears” by resetting and fixing the cause of those tears.

Their classmates assist with their own abilities, but when the one who allows Asai to share his memories with Haruki bristles at the prospect of defying the Bureau, Asai cuts himself with a broken ramune bottle until Tsushima gives permission.

Everything works out perfectly: Asai, with the help of the rest of the group, is able to show Mari’s mother the error of her ways; to stay and continue raising the girl who may not technically be her real daughter, but loves her nonetheless.

With Haruki and his classmates’ combined powers, Asai has gained the power to “erase sadness.” In the process, he’s also managed to awaken some feelings in Haruki, though the road is long.

He discusses this in great detail with Souma Sumire, who is a tough nut to crack: you get the feeling she’s glad Asai may have found his calling, but a part of her also regrets bringing him and Haruki closer together.

Mind you, the relationship between Asai and Haruki doesn’t become a romance overnight. After all, Haruki has only gained back a small portion of the full spectrum of emotions most humans carry and experience. She cuts her hair at his suggestion, but also confuses trust with love. Asai proves it when they kiss and there’s no spark.

Then he undoes the premature kiss by asking her to reset. After seeing what they managed to accomplish with Mari and her mother, Haruki believes following Asai’s lead is her “zeroth rule”, so she complies.

But in the period between Haruki’s Save Point and her Reset, Souma Sumire falls from the bridge, into the river, and dies, as we witnessed at the end of last week’s episode. Seeing her wearing the dress and holding the red umbrella rendered her a dead girl walking, and gave her last conversation with Asai far more significance than he could comprehend at the time.

When Haruki finds Asai quietly mourning on the rooftop, she demands he instruct her to reset…unaware she just did, and it’s too late. When she sees Asai crying, she can’t help but do the same. She’s following his lead, but also realizing that this is what the two of them have to stop from happening to others at all costs.

There’s a huge jump of two years to when Asai and Haruki, now high schoolers, are recruited by Tsushima into a Bureau-sanctioned “Service Club”, where they can erase sadness in an official (and supervised) capacity.

It’s a pretty jarring time leap, to be honest, but it means the first two episodes were always meant to be a prologue in which the pairing of Asai and Haruki was made and their shared calling revealed. Now the real work begins: both the sadness-erasure work, and the emotional-awakening-of-Haruki work.

Sagrada Reset – 01 (First Impressions)

Asai Kei is introduced by class rep Souma Sumire to Haruki Misora, a stoic and seemingly emotionless girl who has no friends. Because Haruki has the ability to “reset” the world up to 3 days into the past, and Kei has a supernatural five-sense memory, Souma believes they’re perfectly suited to joining forces for good.

Sagrada (or Sakurada) Reset is a bit of an odd duck, like its two leads. On the one hand, it subtly, delicately paints the picture of a small town that is totally normal except for the fact that half of its residents possess supernatural powers. It also delves, if not too deeply, into some interesting philosophical ideas about what constitutes “goodness”—Sumire’s story of Zen and Gizen to Asai being one of the episode’s high points.

But there are a few issues. First of all, this episode felt like it took forever to run, and although it accomplished a lot, it just didn’t feel that eventful. That may be okay in a 24-episode show, but the earlier a show can impress me and draw me in, the more likely I am to commit to such a show.

I also don’t mind a matter-of-fact, stoic duo, but that comes with the caveat that sometimes scenes are going to feel slow and listless. It didn’t help that this was a very talky episode, and neither Hanazawa Hana nor Ishikawa Kaito ever raise and barely modulate their voices throughout all this talking. Yuuki Aoi breathes some energy into Souma, but I wager she’d be the quiet character on any other show.

The episode also seemed reluctant to demonstrate the characters’ special abilities (and didn’t even name one for Souma, who may well not have one); indeed, if one were to blink when Haruki whispers “Reset” in the wind, you’d miss her ability altogether. Yet on another level, it’s intriguing that such powerful abilities are presented so plainly and elegantly, rather than, for example, a CGI light and effects show, or even worse, floating TV screens.

Two things at which Reset excels is its ambient sound design, and it’s awareness of its leisurely pace, which it uses to drop a sudden twist at the end: that the little girl Haruki has been sitting with recently has actually been dead for seven years. I definitely want to learn what’s up with that and how such a predicament will be resolved (presumably by our duo), and so there’s a hook for continuing to watch.

The “cold close” apparently showing Souma (same hair and eyes) falling off a bridge to her death compounds that desire to see what happens next. Like Akashic Records, there’s potential, but I’m banking on the fact that neither show’s strongest episode was its first. Unlike Akashic Records, there’s a stiltedness to the cast that exposes the fine line between ‘subtle, deliberate’ and just plain dull and tedious. So we’ll see.

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 – 07

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Subaru is able to escape Rem by blinding her with his cameraphone flash, but only temporarily. She slices his leg off, heals it, then starts cutting him up until he’ll talk. She smells the Jealous Witch all over him, and so believes he’s a spy for Emilia’s enemies. She ignores his claims of innocence, and before he can tell her how much he likes her and her sister, she cuts out his throat, and he wakes up once more in that bed.

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Unsure of what will happen if he dies a fourth time, he tries to switch things up by telling Emilia-tan exactly what’s going on, but before he can get the words out, some vile spectral hand clutches his heart and threatens to burst it. The sad part is, Emilia would have likely believed every word he said, if only he was able to say them.

But he can’t, so he has to try something else. When Beatrice visits him in his room to apologize for the first time they met, he asks her to protect him, and she forms a binding contract with him right then and there. He spends the final night before all his previous deaths in the forbidden library with her, and awakes the next morning, elated to be alive and having broken the loop.

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But while the last time he broke the loop, everything turned out fine and dandy, this time Rem seems to die in his place, of the same energy-sapping spell that brought him down the first time he was murdered in the mansion.

While Rem was the sister who hunted him in the past loop to protect Emilia and her sister, this time an enraged Ram vows to avenge Rem by killing Subaru. Beatrice shows up to protect him, like he promised, and Emilia is willing to trust him as long as he explains himself…

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…But he just can’t. He knows now if he even tries to utter anything at all about his predicament, he’ll be killed by that evil force clutching his heart, literally choked with fear. All he can do is separate himself from the standoff, but running only makes Ram think he’s guilty.

All Subaru wants to do is get away. Away from that house, where everything he said and did there was always under the suspicious pall of the twin maids, due to a smell and an influence he didn’t even know existed and still doesn’t understand.

He hopes by offing himself voluntarily over a cliff, he can undo all the suffering that he caused, directly or indirectly. Beatrice tracks him down and confirms really what he wants. “What’s lost can’t be reclaimed,” she says.

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But…with Subie’s ability, can’t what was lost never becomelost to begin with, and thus not need to be reclaimed? And is that not just a roundabout way of reclaiming something, namely a happy future for the inhabitants of the mansion?

Subaru agrees there’s nothing he can do here, and as much as he hates it, he must endure the fact that the Emilia, Ram and late Rem of this loop simply can’t remember all the good times they had in other loops. But he does remember, and they’re the same Ram and Rem throughout them all; the Ram and Rem he’s fallen for. Now that he’s saved his own life, he’s going to take it, in hope that resetting of his own free will will enable him to save them. It’s a gamble, but it beats staying where he is.

Honestly, this show is so damn good. Breaking up its own pattern by making things worse even when Subaru breaks the loop, and giving him the added problem of not being able to properly explain what’s happening to him. The vice just keeps tightening for our protagonist, and while he hit some emotional lows this week, his old can-do self shined through at the end. I honestly don’t know how he’s going to save Rem and Ram, but I most eagerly await to opportunity to watch.

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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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Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 12 (Fin)

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With the overarching objective of saving Kaori successfully and satisfyingly (if tragically in terms of the cost of Yui) achieved, I had no idea where the show would go in its final act. I’d argue in its post-main-plot-resolution state it was just as successful and satisfying.

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The odd feelings of deja vu and of some kind of ‘absence’ in the astronomy club and in its members’ lives don’t simply go away. On the contrary, the feelings get even stronger for Sou, who is constantly reminded every time he sees something or somewhere that Yui had once been in another timeline. Also, there are lots of coincidences like everyone who had Uchihama Syndrome suddenly waking up…at once.

That makes sense (in the science of the show), because she came back a lot, and because the human brain is a quantum turing machine (again, in the show), it is capable of retaining information it recorded in other timelines. But still, for now, that ‘temporal residue’ manifests faint echoes or mirages. Enough to get Sou thinking, but not about anything concrete.

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For her part, Kaori seems to be alright after Sou rejected her the previous day. She comes right out and says she feels like she can move forward now, which obviously wasn’t the case when buses kept killing her. Sou’s recollection of the rejection, particularly the reason, are hazy to him (he did hit his head, after all).

Kaori insists he said he only sees them as childhood friends, which suggests that he didn’t say he couldn’t love her because he already loved Yui…because Yui didn’t exist anymore. And yet…he keeps being reminded that someone existed at some point; most strongly when he finds an old mannequin where he had found a naked Yui so many times ‘before.’

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Surprisingly, we head back to the future where an old, worn Sou and a weary Airi continue to look over a comatose Kaori. Here, they’re resolved to the fact that Yui may have failed in her final attempt, though even if she succeeded, the universe they live in wouldn’t necessarily vanish, but continue along in parallel to the one she created by saving Kaori.

When Airi wonders out loud whether Sou only ever saw Yui as a tool, and sent her to the past knowing she would disappear if she succeeded, you can feel her own bitterness and impatience with Sou, as she’s the living, breathing, non-artificial woman right in front of him with whom he could have found happiness had he only let go of the past and let himself.

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The day of the festival arrives, and their planetarium cafe finally goes off without a hitch. But yet again, being there gazing at the stars and hearing the same things he said about them to Yui both in the past and future, Sou starts to get deja vu again and cries, but about exactly what he still isn’t sure.

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He even gets a flash of the night he and Yui gazed at the stars alone, only there’s nothing but a dark cloud where she sat. Compare that to Kaori becoming the most visible person at the school and named Miss Uchihama, and it’s as if the fates of Yui and Kaori were reversed.

Then the school pop idol Karin comes by the club room to regale them of her experience on stage, when for one moment she saw the friend she thought she had but no one else had remembered. Karin, like the club members, had clearly formed a deep enough bond that her brain retained memories and even imagery of Yui even after she vanished.

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That same ability to retain is echoed in a car ride (MAZDA FD RX-7 FTW!!!) in the future with Airi and Sou, who tells her that even if Kaori was saved and Yui never needed to be created by Sou, the memories and emotions still within past Sou’s head will ultimately lead him to create Yui anyway, but for a different reason; one that really capitalizes on the whole ‘chicken or egg’ nature of the show.

Sou won’t be able to stop picking at that mental scab, and when the time comes, he’ll create Yui because he wants to see her again.

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Then, after a worrisome delay, the effects of Yui’s actions reveal themselves in future Sou’s timeline, and Kaori finally wakes up, her mind no longer trapped behind a causality roadblock.

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The resulting passionate reunion and hug is a real showstopper, and yet I noted Sou’s words well: “You came way too late, dummy!” I wouldn’t be shocked if at this point, even this Sou’s love for Yui outstrips whatever romantic feelings he had for Kaori.

That’s not to discount his elation at Kaori waking up, but he isn’t elated because the love of his life woke up; she isn’t that anymore, nor was she ever. He’s elated because his beloved childhood friend woke up, without whom he had been just as lost as she was.

His true love, meanwhile, has yet to be born. It’s a little weird to think that Sou was the creator of his own true love, because that’s a kind of situation ripe for the assignment of sinister undertones in a lot of fiction, be it literary or visual. But if ever there was a case of ‘good playing God’, this is it.

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Let’s not forget that Yui couldn’t have been made without some of the information from Kaori’s brain. It’s as if Sou would have been able to fall for the person Kaori is, if only she were someone else. Yui was that someone else.

As the box beside the computer in the club room glows once more, I have more questions, like ‘if Yui is coming back, how did that happen without a comatose Kaori?’…but the time for questions has ended, and I’m satisfied with the answers I did get, plus the ones to questions I didn’t even ask. This show was a nice bit of light sci-fi romance that I don’t regret sticking with.

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Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 11

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Yui is in a predicament. She was sent to the past to save Kaori’s life, but it wasn’t as simple as keeping her away from the runaway bus. Now she’s finally cracked it, and Sou simply won’t leave her alone.

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And then there’s the slightly more pressing matter of…her existence. I’m not sure Future Sou and Airi told Yui, but if she’s successful in saving Kaori, Sou will have never had to create her, so she will cease to exist. That’s not really ideal, because after all this time she’s fallen for Sou and can’t deny part of her wants to be with him.

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Whether or not Sou and the others recall even a faint glimmer of having known Yui before she entered their lives (from the previous times she went back and ended up naked in his arms), on this, perhaps the last time she can come back, Yui finally stumbles on the answer to saving Kaori: by having Sou give her a straight answer.

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With no other ideas, Yui decides to facilitate that course of events. She can no longer afford to be subtle or clever (and in any case that never worked before) so she just comes out and tells Sou that Kaori will confess to him tomorrow, and that he has to give her an answer. The thing is, after how Yui has acted the last few days, Sou takes this in a much different way than Yui intended. It’s almost a case of unintended reverse psychology.

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Kaori reacts the same way when Yui is equally upfront in insisting she harbors no romantic feelings whatsoever for Sou. Kaori isn’t buying what Yui is selling, even if Yui didn’t have possess fragments of Kaori’s memories and personality that come through in her behavior and demeanor.

Kaori can tell Yui’s lying…because she is lying. But Kaori will still confess. No matter what happens, she can’t move forward the way things are. This is also literally true, as every time Sou hasn’t answered Kaori, she’s ended up dead shortly thereafter.

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Things go almost like clockwork on the fateful day, but only in where people are, and when. In terms of what’s said to who, things go far differently than Yui imagined. Despite her feelings for Sou, she never imagined his straight answer to Kaori would be a rejection. After all, they grew up together. Kaori has had so much more time with him! Surely he must return those feelings! Well, he doesn’t…and ironically, it’s thanks to Yui.

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This time Kaori stays at school while Sou chases once more after Yui, who had done her best to say her goodbyes, both to her friends and to the town. But so flags her down just as the bus arrives. It crashes as before, but Yui and Sou avoid it and survive. The loop has been broken.

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It’s here where Sou tells Yui he rejected Kaori…because he really loves her. Yui returns his confession with her own, plus a kiss (get out of the street, lovebirds!), but she knows this is the end for her. Her mission is complete, so she was never created, and she disappears. Put simply, this is time-trippy romantic tragedy done right.

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It’s not the somewhat silly kind of ‘vanishing in his arms’ disappearance either, though she does go a bit translucent. Rather, time continues as if she had never been there. Well, almost. The astronomy club finds Sou at the crash site, and everyone thinks very hard about whether everyone is really accounted for. Furthermore, Sou puts his hands to his lips, where a Yui that never was just kissed him.

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In every physical form, Yui is gone, or rather never existed…even in the group photo, BTTF-style. But somewhere in the hearts and minds of the others, particularly Sou, a part of her still seems to linger. An absence is felt, even if they know not why. Was Sou’s rejection of Kaori negated? Is Yui well and truly gone? Have we really seen the last of her?

I honestly have no idea what’s going to happen in next week’s finale. I kinda like that!

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Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 08

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Whoa…Déjà vu…sorta but not quite! After much foreshadowing and foreboding, we’ve returned (arrived?) at the day before Kaori’s tragic death-by-runaway bus, which is when the first episode started. The most noticable difference between this timeline and that one is, obviously, the presence of Yui. Everything seemingly reset when she showed up in Sou’s arms. Now we’ll see if her actions of the last six episodes paid off and if Kaori was saved this time.

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For the record, I must confess that I loved Suzumiya Haruhi’s infamous “Endless Eight” arc, partially because I love anything that involves time travel. Unlike E8, a lot of time has passed since the first time we saw these events, so while the settings and conversations and general timing of the days are familar, they’re not fresh in our mind, and in any case all the details are different; even little details like what Sou buys for lunch.

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A bigger difference is the influence Yui has had. While her primary mission seems to be protecting Kaori, that’s made more difficult by Kaori considering her competition. As the episodes have progressed, Yui has grown closer and closer to Sou, and Kaori doesn’t like it.

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But she couldn’t do anything about it until the day they see the stars, because that’s when she confessed to Sou in the last go-round. Unfortunately, something Yui can’t control is how the Sou of this time responds to Kaori’s confession, which stays exactly the same: he doesn’t give her a straight answer and Kaori gives him time.

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Even though a weight has been lifted from her shoulders, the fact she doesn’t have an answer from Sou keeps things awkward, and keeps it difficult for either Yui or Sou to stay close and keep an eye on her.

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It hardly helps matters when Kaori spots Yui talking animatedly with a blushing Sou while gazing into his eyes in the hall. Sure, they’re talking about Sou and her, but she can’t hear from that distance, and in any case she knows what she sees in Yui, because she sees it in the mirror everyday: love. Yui can’t hide it, and that plays heavily into the failure of her mission.

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Pissed off at the world, Kaori rebels a little, flaking out on Yui and going off to sing karaoke with classmates. Her conscience makes her eventually turn around and head back, but by then, Yui has gone after her. Then Kaori heads to the site of her previous death, and while again, the details are slightly different, things end the same way: very, very badly.

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When this happened in the first week, it was a bold play that elevated the show. So dark and morose and terrible was that hospital scene, that it’s no surprise it effected us just as much as it did last time, if not moreso. We were hoping, hoping Kaori’s mother wouldn’t collapse to the floor in grief this time. When she did, our hearts sank all over again.

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With that, we cut back to the lab where Yui floats in a glowing blue tube, and hear the voice of Sou call her name before the credits roll, and the questions come rushing up: was this the first time? The last time? Why Yui? How and when did she originally meet Sou? Will things reset again, or will we see more of this timeline? Can the future even be changed, or will the universe keep finding ways for Kaori to die on that day, having never gotten an answer from Sou?

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