Re: Zero – 39 – Two Clowns at the Mercy of Fate

As with NeverlandRe:Zero’s second season picks up right where it left off when we last tuned in: with Otto administering some tough love on Subaru, who ultimately aceepts the merchant’s offer of help. His confidence and that wry glint in his eye restored, Subaru marches into Roswaal’s room and makes a bet: he’ll save everyone in the sanctuary and mansion without sacrificing anyone, all without resorting to Return by Death.

Roswaal notably doesn’t smile throughout this entire exchange until Subaru makes his resolve plain (and acknowledges the greed inherent in his plan), and Roswaal accepts the bet. Otto wonders if it’s simply because Rosy has never lost a bet. But like, er, an angry mob storming the U.S. Capitol to hijack democracy, there’s a first time for everything, and if all goes according to plan, Roswaal may find himself on the losing end of a bet for the first time.

Subaru isn’t going to rely only on himself to save everyone, but instead rely on and put his trust in his friends and allies. Otto got things started, but he alone won’t be enough. Ram seems intent on remaining on Roswaal’s side, though out of deference to their unspoken friendship she does give Subaru a key clue: that Emilia hasn’t figured out why she’s struggling in the trial, and won’t be able to pass until she does.

Subaru also visits Ryuzu for help, and learns that the Ryuzu he’s speaking to is one of three “supervisors” of the crystal, among the first four copies. Shima was once the fourth, but was relieved of her duties for her role in rescuing Garfiel from the graveyard when he attempted the trials. Thus Subie learns that a big part of why Gar is against the barrier falling is due to the fact his mother abandoned him and Frederica and “chose the outside.”

Emilia is exhausted when Subie visits her and asks her directly to tell him about the trial so far. He doesn’t promise she’ll feel better for telling him, but wants to share the burden of worry with her. She mentions how she was once frozen in ice (as we saw in the Frozen Bonds OVA), suddenly remembers her mother, then recalls a deal she made with Roswaal: if she won the Royal Selection, he would thaw the forest where her folks remained frozen.

Emilia feels she should be ashamed to seek the throne for such “personal reasons”, but our boy Subie can relate, to say the least, and assures her that wanting to help people is noble no matter how small the number. With Subie offering his unconditional trust and support, and helping her take the first step to resolving her trial stalemate, Emilia is able to finally fall sleep.

Unfortunately Emilia doesn’t awaken as peacefully as she falls asleep, as she sees a fuzzy memory of when she was a small child being separated from her mother before waking up in tears. Subaru took the step of pretending to try to harm Emilia so Puck would finally emerge in corporeal form, and he’s there when Emilia awakens.

Her elation is short-lived, as Puck is tiny—able to fit in the palm of her hand—and also has some sad news: he’s decided to break their contract, first forged when she was in dire need of protection from the arbiter Melakeura back in Frozen Bonds.

There are two primary reasons for this: first, the contract is blocking memories essential for Emilia to continue with the trial (and, incidently, life). Second, Puck is confident he can entrust his daughter to the one whose love for her is second only to his own: Natsuki Subaru.

That night, Emilia takes Subaru’s hand and asks him to stay with her throughout the night. With the seal on her memories broken, it will be a long and painful one. In one new memory, Emilia is being embraced by someone she calls Mother Fortuna, telling her that “all the people who told you ‘that kind lie’ wanted to protect her.”

Emilia wakes up, calls Fortuna a liar, calls Puck a liar, and when she sees Subaru isn’t there, calls him a liar. But I imagine Subaru had to leave her bedside to begin implementing all the various conspiracies he’s arranged with Otto. That morning, Emilia is missing, and Ram and Garfiel lead the search, but Subie already knows where she is: in the Graveyard. He sits beside her with an open ear and open heart, ready to help her get through this.

Re:Zero Season 2 Part 2 isn’t messing around. The witch’s tea party is over, as is Subaru’s crisis of confidence and competence, and oh yeah, Puck’s gone, just like that! It’s far more development than I expected, and with Emilia’s memory block finally lifted, her trial can proceed with the aim of raising the barrier on the Sanctuary. Takahashi Rie does some of her most beautiful and vulnerable voice work, and I expect we’ll get more of it.

Re: Zero – 38 – The Starting Line of Resolve

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Re: Zero – 37 – Seven’s a Crowd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Re: Zero – 36 – That One Most Precious Thing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Re: Zero – 35 – Trust the Process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Re: Zero – 34 – Down the Great Rabbit Hole

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Re: Zero – 33 – The Witch of Greed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Re: Zero – 32 – All of It Was Written

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Re: Zero – 31 – Not Unfolding as Specified

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Isekai Quartet – 12 (Fin) – Not Too Bad At All

Class A agrees to fight the three teachers (Rerugen backed out, not wanting anything to do with the other three) while Ainz, Tanya, Subaru and Kazuma must deal with Destroyer. It’s a great realization of the potential of putting these four together, and an appropriate way to end the first of at least two seasons of this super-deformed super-crossover.

Tanya’s shield gives Ainz time to cast Effulgent Beryl, pushing the spider back, and he then summons an entire army of chibi undead soldiers, many of whom flock around a very uncomfortable Aqua as Emilia smiles cheerfully, happy everyone’s getting along.

Ainz leaves the rest to Tanya, who flies Subie and Kaz up into the air. Subaru volunteers to fall first, cleverly using his Return by Death to attract a column of undead that serve as a shield against Destroyer’s beam. Kazuma then jumps, casting “steal”, which actually works for once, only not on underwear, but on a bolt holding one of the spider’s legs.

Finally, Tanya swoops in and grabs Destroyer’s purple headband, earning them the victory and 100 million points…but pointedly not the reward of returning to their respective other worlds! Turns out Roswaal’s “maybe” meant just that…”maybe.”

That said, the class is in agreement that this new world and school life aren’t that bad. It’s a good attitude to have considering they’re in store for at least twelve more episodes there, with a fresh batch of “transfer students.” Will the likes of Clementine, Mary Sioux, Priscilla, and Wiz be among them? We shall see, next season.

Isekai Quartet – 11 – Let’s Get Nuts!

Field Day starts orderly enough, with members of Class 2 and Class 1 exchanging pleasantries, and Yunyun, apparently from “Class 3” challenging Megumin to a battle (turns out she’s the only member of Class 3).

From there, a series of contests from tug-of-war to…donut grabbing(?), to the cavalry battle. The latter is worth 100 million points, rendering all the previous exercises and their somewhat random pointless.

Then the teachers join in, with Roswaal, Vanir, Pandora’s Actor, and a reluctant Rerugen wondering what he’s doing with these weirdos. Classes 1 and 2 decide to join forces to beat back the faculty, who then deploy their trump card, the Mobile Fortress Destroyer from KonoSuba.

While the show should be lauded for bringing in so many more familiar faces, it’s odd that Class 1 is only around half the size of Class 2 (though “Class 3” is a good joke), and for an episode with so much activity, there’s precious little action, which is to say…animation, only the suggestion of it through panning montages.

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.