Re: Zero – 46 – What a Half-Elf Girl Wants, What a Half-Elf Girl Needs

Whereas last week felt at times dilatory and even inessential, it finished the careful cleaning and polishing of the table, allowing this episode to set that table with all the sundry flatware, silverware, and stemware. Subaru and Garfiel (who all along had beast blood thin enough to pass through the barrier) head to the mansion to stop Elsa. Before that, Subaru tosses the jewel containing Puck to Ram, saying she can “do as she likes” from here on.

Upon her emergence from the Graveyard, Ram is at the entrance to greet her and bends the knee and apologizes for not believing she’d get back on her feet. All Ram needs to see is Emilia’s straight posture, forward gaze, and steady hands to see she’s already become so much stronger. Emilia thanks her for supporting Subaru, but Ram sees it as having helped Emilia, since she was the one who convinced her that helping would be worthwhile.

Ram also has a request—the first she’s ever made of Emilia: to save her master, Roswaal-sama, who has been possessed by delusions and strayed from the proper path. To save him, Ram asks Emilia to win and assume the royal throne of Lugunica, thus fulfilling his wish. Emilia, wanting to pay Ram back for her help agrees to her request.

But who should suddenly emerge from the shadows but the very subject of their discussion: Roswaal! He’s arrived to offer his congratulations to Emilia for passing the first trial, but also to express his pity and sympathy for what he deems to be Emilia’s own curse: that of only knowing how to be loved by doing and saying what others expect of her.

When Emilia counters, Roswaal accuses her of using borrowed words and occupying places prepared for her by the will of others, forcing her to fit an ideal by being convinced she could do it. Roswaal says this is what Subaru did to get her to pass the trial, because he and Subaru are “two of a kind”, forcing their ideals on the women they love, and loving an ideal of her that doesn’t exist.

The old Emilia might have withered before such harsh words, but not the present one. Steadying Ram’s quivering hand with her own and taking a deep breath, Emilia responds with an excellent comeback: “Are you done?” She tells Roswaal how Subie said she was a pain in the ass, causing trouble for him when he’s done so much for her, and making it clear she was “weak, all talk, and insufficient in every way”.

But then Subie took her hand and helped her. If Roswaal calls what he said and did to be nothing but lies and deceptions, then she’ll turn them into truths, into wishes. That’s what she needs to do, and that’s what she wants to do.

Roswaal is impressed with Emilia’s growth, but still pities her, because he deems both the Sanctuary and the Royal Selection to be piddling concerns compared to the much larger matter: that the world is proceeding toward the “wrong destination”, and towards its end.

Emilia ignores this threat and proceeds into the Graveyard to face the second trial, but Roswaal maintains his pity and pessimism are justified; after all, he and Echidna “began” this; it stands to reason he’d be able to reckon when its end is near.

Roswaal then speaks to Ram, who be believes to still be fully “on his side”, having only been “putting on an act” with Emilia earlier about her request to her. He doesn’t mind that she assisted Subaru and Otto with Garfiel, as he’s glad she did what she felt was right. For now, he orders her to remain at the entrance for Emilia’s return.

This leads us to the one and only look backwards in time in this episode, when we’re shown the particulars of the bet Ram made with Otto, and why: because it was the best chance of getting her wish. She asks that Garfiel be taken down a peg, for Barusu do something about Emilia, and for Otto not to tell Barusu about their bet.

As a result of winning that bet—which she felt she would win due to Subie’s notoriously excellent timing—she finds herself where she wants to be: not at the Graveyard entrance as her master instructed, but in Ryuzu Meyer’s crystal chamber, confronting Roswaal with her wand in hand while he holds the Tome of Wisdom. She’s come to free him of the witch’s delusions.

Combined with Emilia eventual winning of the Selection, he shouldn’t have any complaints, and indeed he adopts an “I should have known” attitude towards Ram’s actions. After all, he assumes the long years in which she’s had to yield to him must have been “humiliating”, especially when her master was one of the men who destroyed her homeland.

Roswaal is in the chamber to use Meyer’s Crystal to focus and amplify his mana so he can make it snow in the Sanctuary. But because he once taught a younger Ram that “whatever on relies upon should be the thing that brings about their death”, whether it’s the sword, magic, or a demon.

But Roswaal asserts that Ram showed her hand a little too early, as she would have had a much easier time dealing with him once he’d already started setting up his snow day in accordance with his precious tome. But Ram didn’t want to face him as an empty husk, or in any kind of weakened state. That would have interfered with her wish for him to live for the future.

When Roswaal asks if Ram thinks she can win against him, she tells him she know she can’t, as her knowledge of his power is second only to Echidna’s. The thing is…she doesn’t have to face off against him alone, nor did she ever intend to. She produces the blue crystal and out pops Puck, a stray spirit who “happened to be passing by” and is all too willing to help Ram release the man she loves from his delusions.

Having seen what Puck is capable of, I like Ram’s chances, and I salute the expert maneuvering she did in order to end up in this position. But we’ll have to learn the result of their faceoff another time, as the episode’s final act shift’s to Roswaal’s mansion, where Petra is running and afraid. She wants to retrieve Ram and get her to safety, but she is cornered by Elsa.

There’s a heightened sense of danger and finality to this entire last act because if Subie is to believed there will be no more resets until this is all resolved. Whatever happens in these halls is going to stick. So yeah, I was relieved when lil’ Petra is rescued by Frederica, and warns her that she’ll be punished for disobeying her order to run away by herself.

This time, Petra does run away, and we only hear loud bangs from the battle between Petra and Frederica. Then Petra tries to locate Beatrice, hoping she’ll be able to help, but cannot locate her library among all the doors. That’s when Petra tears up and prays for Subaru come save them…and Subaru, who had just arrived, obliges, cheering a flabberghasted Petra up with his bright smile.

Elsa’s charge towards Frederica is suddenly arrested—by Frederica’s little brother Garfiel, parrying Elsa’s blade with the stout arm guards they used to play with. They have a frankly adorable little reunion where they express their wonder that they’re both so big now. Elsa lets them have some time together without attacking, probably because a.) she’s confident in her ability to beat them both, and b.) she’s got an ally in Meili running around somewhere nearby.

I hope Subie doesn’t forget about her, especially as he seems to be focused on the assassin duo’s third target: Beatrice. He’s there to “drag her out into the sunlight”, whether her precious tome told her he would or not. Things on any of the various fronts could go sideways in the blink of an eye, but it’s so far, so good with Subaru (and Ram)’s grand schemes.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Re: Zero – 28 – Desirable Existence

Subaru agrees to join Echidna for her “tea party” and brusquely gulps down the contents of the cup, which she identifies as “a body fluid of mine.” From there, the two proceed to have a spirited yet affable back-and-forth, with Subaru evoking quite a bit of amusement from the Witch of Greed. Echidna strikes a lovely balance between cool menace and warm feline playfulness.

For a few terrifying moments she transports them into an eerie void where she mentions all of the witches and what they were all about before the Witch of Envy killed them all. She then reveals the tea strengthens his resistance to the magical power that would already have caused most others to vomit or go mad.

Subaru is only able to chat with Echidna thanks to the “Sloth Witch Factor” that made him its new vessel after Betelgeuse died. The ruins in the forest are the Witch’s Graveyard, where Echidna’s soul is held prisoner. She grants him the right to face the trial of the Sanctuary, no doubt in hopes she can use him to free her soul. Before he leaves she licks her hand like a cat and warns Subaru: “I’m a very, very evil magic user.”

Subaru then finds himself out of the freezer and into the frying pan, with the fiery Garfiel about to pummel him into dust (having already done the same with Otto and the ground dragon). When Subaru mentions Frederica, with whom Garfiel shares hair color and tooth sharpness, Garfiel stands down.

Emilia is safe and sound in the wagon, and when she comes to, she adorably, belatedly shields Subaru from Garfiel. Still, her crystal grants her (relatively) safe passage to the Sanctuary, and Garfiel sees to that. Turns out the Sanctuary is a bit of a dump, with an ill-favored aura neither Lia nor Subie can shake.

Still, Ram is a sight for sore eyes, and welcomes Subaru with a Barusu rejoinder. Roswaal’s dulcet voice is also a sound for sore ears, but he looks sore all over, covered in bandages as a result of failing the trial of the Sanctuary. He had to try, you see, for neither he, Ram, the villagers of Arlam, or even Lia or Subie are allowed to leave the Sanctuary…at least not until someone passes the trial and breaks the barrier.

Subie and Lia address the villagers, in that order. While they’re happy to see the former, they’re weary as always of the latter. But again Emilia shows her growth by telling them how she feels, what she intends to do for them, and why. It boils down to her wanting families to be able to stay together.

She isn’t asking for their support in the royal selection in return, but even though she still feels unworthy, she’d appreciate the villagers’ friendship. An impressed Ram wonders what Barusu said to Emilia to enact this change; Subaru says Emilia figured it out for herself.

That night, Emilia stands before the entrance to the Witch’s Graveyard, and it glows with light in a sign that it accepts her as a valid challenger for the trial. Naturally, something soon goes wrong: the light goes out, even though it’s supposed to stay on for the duration of the trial. Subaru approaches the ruins, the light returns, and he rushes in to find Emilia passed out again.

He’s stopped in his tracks, but not by Return by Death. A voices says “first you need to face your own past”, and he wakes up in a bed. His bed…in his world. A world not depicted since he was transported away from the konbini parking lot. Before he can get his bearings his muscular dad rolls in and jumps on him as a wake-up call.

Like his otherworldly meeting with Echidna who definitely has Big Plans for him, Subie’s journey to the home of his past may only last a third of an episode, or it could be the whole episode, or the entirety of a mini-arc. Whatever the duration, this development gives me, to quote Echidna, “such beautiful expectations.” I can’t wait to see where this goes.

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 27 (S2 02) – Showing What They’re Maid Of

Emilia and Subaru bid Crusch and Felix farewell with thanks, hearty handshakes and best wishes. With Crusch’s memories gone who knows what shape the royal selection will take, but for now the priority is returning home and getting some answers. But upon returning to the village, they learn Roswaal, Ram, and others have yet to return from the Sanctuary.

Upon arriving at Roswaal manor (driven there by Otto), Emilia and Subaru are surprised to be welcomed by new maid, a “beast-girl” named Frederica Baumann. I immediately recognized the dulcet tones of Nazuka Kaori (Eureka), which complement Frederica’s adorably sharp teeth quite well. Turns out Frederica worked for the mansion just before Subaru arrived, and had been on personal leave until Ram called her back.

Subaru pays Beatrice a visit, and we see that extended isolation has not made her more pleasant to deal with. She’s downright prickly with Subaru, especially when he presents the gospel he took off of the dead Betelgeuse. Beatrice seems to regard “Geuse” as a dear friend who, like others, left her behind. She also resents Subaru once again using her as a mere “tool of convenience”.

Could this mean Betelgeuse was once good, or just that Beako doesn’t see the world in terms of good and bad? In any case, she has no answers for him, only the means to seek them. Roswaal’s intentions, the meaning of the Gospel, and answers about this “Witch Factor” thing all lie in the Sanctuary, which Frederica has been instructed to tell Emilia and Subaru how to access.

Before heading to the Woods of Clemaldy where the Sanctuary is located, Subaru says goodbye to the sleeping Rem and tasks new Maid-in-Training Petra(!) with Rem’s care, and Frederica with Petra’s care. Petra doesn’t have the maid-like manner of speaking down yet, but she’s eager to prove she’s an adult upon whom people can depend.

Frederica presents Emilia with a jewel that will help them pass a magical barrier that impedes access to the sanctuary. Petra bashfully gives Subaru a handkerchief as a kind of old tradition with travelers; he’ll return it to her stained from his adventures when he comes back.

The journey into the woods is uneventful at first. Emilia is nervous, especially considering Puck isn’t answering her calls to come out (Puck did tell Subaru he’d be relying on him to take care of Lia). She’s also apprehensive about hte possibility of meeting other half-elves in Clemaldy, a stronghold of demi-humans.

Her barrier jewel starts to glow, and Subaru decides the proper thing to do is to yank it off of her, causing her to pass out. The next thing Subaru knows, Emilia, Otto, and the wagon are gone, and he’s lost in the lost woods…not a great situation to be in! He encounters a small pink-haired elf in a white tunic and when she runs off he gives chase.

He comes upon a clearing where a stone ruin stands, and starts to walk through the front door…as Frederica said, will and resolve are as necessary as magic and strength in the Sanctuary. That’s when he’s transported again, this time to Windows XP’s default background, Bliss.

Just above him on the crest of a hill sits a woman with long silver hair having tea under an ornate umbrella. She introduces herself as Echidna, AKA the Witch of Greed. While voiced by Sakamoto Maaya (always a good decision), Echidna looks an awful lot like Emilia. But wasn’t the witch she said she resembled named Satella?

While this was mostly a getting-from-A-to-B(-to-C) transitory episode with lots of goodbyes between characters (and no telling whether they’ll ever see each other again), the intro of Frederica, Maid Petra, and of course Echidna represented major developments, and the steady buildup of Clemaldy as no place for the weak was highly effective.

It will be interesting to see if Subaru has reached a new “save point” for his Return by Death, or if that little trick is already obsolete. For now, he seems separated from everyone and unable to protect anyone but himself…if that. In other words, he’s been thrown right back into the Shit!

Re: Zero – Frozen Bonds

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

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

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

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

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

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

Re: Zero – Memory Snow

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isekai Quartet 2 – 04 – Time Cheaters

In a light, brisk episode that flies by even quicker than most IQ half-episodes, Roswaal informs the class that The Test is nigh, so they’d best study. Among the most nervous is Ainz, who in real life didn’t even finish middle school, and Aqua, who challenged Ainz to a bet to see who gets the higher score. Meanwhile Subaru feels nostalgic studying with Rem and Emilia, even though he can’t recall ever doing it.

The day of the test arrives, and a panicking Ainz stops time in order to copy someone else’s answers. However, Aqua is immune to the magic due to her goddess status, and both Subaru and Tanya also aren’t affected. When he sees Aqua blatantly cheating Ainz reconsiders doing the same and resumes time…before Aqua can get back to her desk. An unfrozen Roswaal makes her wait outside, while Ainz takes the chance that the answers on the test form the shape of its creator, Pandora’s Actor.

Unfortunately, the characters from Shield Hero don’t even appear this week after only the briefest glimpse of them last week. Hopefully they get something meaningful to do at some point…

Isekai Quartet 2 – 03 – Friends in Need are Friends Indeed

When the class is informed that Kazuma, Aqua, and three of Tanya’s underlings have been given “detention”, it’s natural for them to be curious about what form their punishment will take. When Darkness encounters them in a hallway, they look like they’ve been scarred for life, which only makes Darkness more curious (not to mention jealous!)

As we learn, detention duties have been left to Nazarick Area Guardian Kyouhukou, as the offenders are thrown into the roach pit, where instead of eating them alive, the bugs simply crawl in and out of every one of their orifices. Naturally, their friends consider the punishment too severe for the crime of stealing booze, and wish to reduce their sentence if possible.

Emilia, the nicest and most “good” of all of the students, makes a passionate appeal to Mr. Rerugen, who decides that the punishment will be reduced if the offenders do a good deed. Their classmates then create a situation during a lab experiment that, while providing an opportunity for that good deed to be done, is still innocent enough on its surface to be overlooked by Roswaal.

In practice, this means allowing Megumin to light a Bunsen burner. Even though steps are taken to control her Explosion, the entire lab table within the bounded field is obliterated, and the broken pipes soon flood the school. Roswaal takes the hint that there was no malice in Megumin’s act (it’s the only magic she has!) and that people just have “bad daaaaays.”

When the water threatens the principal’s cigar stash, he agrees to lift detention if the offenders can solve the flooding problem. Grantz, Neumann and Koenig capture the water with their boundary magic, which allows water goddess Aqua to finally show that she is, in fact, a water goddess, redirecting the water out the window Kazuma opens (he did his part!) and dispersing it into the sky as a lovely rainbow.

Not only was this a great showcase for various characters powers, but a nice capper to a serial “two-parter” in which the classmates have each other’s backs when school discipline goes too far. Finally, it’s a reminder that no matter what isekai show you’re from, nobody (other than Darkness of course) wants bugs crawling all over their bodies!

Isekai Quartet 2 – 02 – Mission: Imbibeable

Life is pretty sweet in this strange peaceful world for soldiers like Lts. Neumann, Grantz, and Koenig, except for one thing: there’s no booze. But Grantz discovered that Principal von Rudersdorf keeps a stash of “the red stuff” (i.e. wine) in his office.

Kazuma joins the three in a operation to retrieve the wine and get hammered. Unfortunately for them, noted lush Aqua is wise to their plan, tags along, and recklessly opens a cabinet and snatches the wine, setting off a number of booby traps set by von Rudersdorf.

Just as the lieutenants use their military skills to deactivate all the traps, Kazuma admires the flag of their empire on the wall, only for four Giant Toads from his world to come bursting out from behind the frame. The three lieutenants sacrifice themselves, believing Kazuma will do “a man’s job” and do the same so Aqua can escape with the booze.

Of course, Kazuma has no intention of being swallowed by a toad, so he casts Stealth and escapes, leaving Aqua to run for her life and eventually get swallowed up in the hallway. Naofumi does nothing to help her, and since Ram snitched, Roswaaal discovers the scheme and gives the five would-be winos detention.

Isekai Quartet 2 – 01 – Make that QUINtet

You heard that right: characters from a fifth Isekai join the already huge ensemble cast of Isekat Quartet. The first of them, Iwatani Naofumi AKA Shield Hero, is introduced immediately when he peeks into the class where all the other MCs are. He’s not transferring to their class, however: their only transfer student seems to be Megumin’s familiar, Chomusuke…who unlike Puck, has “student” status.

Raphtalia suddenly encounters Kazuma and Ainz Ooal Gown in the hallway and immediately assumes the latter is a monster that needs to be defeated, but Kazuma calms her down and they join her search for Naofumi. Filo, meanwhile, ends up in the pet area with Hamusuke and Death Knight. Raphtalia and Filo are reunited with the Shield Hero when he protects them from a particularly hard-hit baseball from the bat staff of Mare.

That’s pretty much it! The episode’s only eleven minutes, after all. Naofumi decides that while he’s not 100% sure what’s going on, he and his party will try to settle into a school life of following the rules along with the others who have been teleported. It will be interesting to see if he befriends the other lads from Japan…and here’s hoping Melty, Malty, or others from his world show up at some point!

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 16

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In an episode that doesn’t really come close to last week in terms of emotional or visceral impact, Subaru manages to stay alive the whole time. The beatings Subaru receives this week are more intellectual than physical (though he gets beaten up physically too), as he is outwitted, embarrassed, and enraged by each of Emilia’s rivals.

First up, the ever-calculating, ever-level-headed Crusch. Subaru asks her for military aid against the impending Witch’s Cult raid on Mathers’ domain, but Subaru is not able to convince her that it’s in her best interests to help, or offer anything she won’t profit from anyway if Emilia were wiped out.

She never once loses her composure as Subaru fumes and bites his lip bloody, ultimately resorting to begging. Crusch simply sees right through him, that there’s more to what he wants than what he’s saying, though as we know, there are things Subie simply can’t say that has nothing to do with pride or loyalty.

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Next up, Priscilla. Surely she remembers him saving her in that alley, right? Nope. Priscilla doesn’t even pretend to treat Subie with the slightest whiff of respect, offering to help if he’ll kiss her feet, but quite unlike Crusch, loses her cool completely when he actually tries to do so.

Just as he only managed to convince Crusch that he’s, at best, mad as a hatter, he only manages to convince Pris that he’s a detestable pig who will do anything, no matter how debasing, to get what he wants.

Priscilla is disgusted even to be in his presence, and extends her disgust to Emilia’s whole camp. And she’s clearly deeply disappointed; doubtless a part of her wondered if he wasn’t quite as “insignificant” as he seemed. Alas.

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o-for-2…will the third time be the charm? Subie doesn’t even bother going to Anastasia Hoshin, but they bump into each other in the street. While Ana seems a lot friendlier on the outside, she’s only playing games with poor Subaru, dangling something he needs (and a trifle at that; a carriage) in order to pump him for info on who Crusch has been meeting with.

Like a common schoolyard bully, the haughty Anastasia drops her mic and walks out of the tavern, taking her private army with her, utterly assured that Subaru is incapable of doing anything, giving him a curt lesson on being prepared for negotiations, and warning him that the things he does “won’t ever go away,” which hits particularly close for the respawning Subaru who has now struck out on securing an army to protect Emilia.

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Chance smiles upon him one more time, however, as he runs into Otto and a convoy of merchants carrying large amounts of oil. Oil that, I’m sure Subaru is thinking, could be re-purposed as some kind of weapon against the cult. Getting back to his old resourceful self, he also hires the merchants to help him evacuate Mathers’ domain. It’s a far more modest and improvised plan, but it’s the best plan he has, and time is a wastin’.

Naturally, even this plan runs into a snag, when a carriage he believed was right alongside his turned out never to exist, and a gigantic beast (probably the fog-making white whale Rem mentioned in episode 14) appears in its place, staring its huge eye right in his face as he shines his phone flashlight at it, causing it to let out a monstrous roar…

…And that’s where we leave things: wondering if that beast will send him back to the apple merchant’s stall (erasing all those unpleasant failed negotiations in the process), or if he manages to make use of that oil to progress his hasty, threadbare plans.

As Priscilla (not to mention Don Draper!) said, Subie “hasn’t thought this through.” True, but after a few more failed plans, absorbed blows, and lessons learned, perhaps he eventually will. OR perhaps he’ll simply keep suffering and dying shortly after watching those closest to him do the same, growing more and more insane from the trauma.

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Whatever the case, he’s certainly come a long damn way…

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P.S. Lovely new ED…and quite a departure from last week’s “Headless Subie and dead twisted Rem being buried in the snow as blood red credits roll”

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 14

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It stood to reason Subaru wouldn’t quickly or easily fix things with Emilia, or even determine how. As disheartening proof, Emilia doesn’t so much as appear this week. Her absence creates a yawning void considering where she and Subaru left things. Still, I had no idea things would get so much worse so quickly. And yet they do: Re:Zero lets the shit fly free into a very big fan, and nobody comes out clean.

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What’s devastating about what transpires centers on some intentionally harsh words from Felix that sort of echo what Julius had to say (and what he risked his career and chivalry to try to teach Subie, to no avail): Even if Subaru had a plan, even if he involved himself, even if he risked everything to try to do something to protect Emilia, it wouldn’t matter.

That’s how out of his element he is: those who would be his enemies (or at least the political rivals of Emilia) are doing their utmost to simply keep Subaru out of it, not because they’re worried he’d make things worse, but because he’d only end up dead, accomplishing nothing.

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Subie being Subie, he respectfully dismisses stern warnings from both Crusch (who if nothing else was a decent host) and Felix (who had been healing his gate) and heads back home to Roswaal Mathers’ domain as soon as he hears of reports of suspicious movement near the mansion.

The one bright light in the yawning abyss this week was Rem, staying by Subaru’s side no matter how pathetic he gets (indeed, largely because he’s pathetic), not due to any contracts or obligations or honor, but simply because she wants to.

We know what that means even if Subaru isn’t particularly receptive to it: Rem cares about him, at least as much as he cares about Emilia, and Rem won’t leave his side. Her “save a tiny bit of that for me”, talking about his feelings for Emilia, might be the saddest line of the show so far. She deserves so much more than a tiny bit.

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But as far as she takes him, even Rem can’t find it in her to take Subaru to whatever is going in the Mathers lands. Instead, she leaves for the mansion in the night, leaving a note pleading Subaru to heed her words: Stay behind; wait for her return; trust in her.

He can’t. He uses every means at his disposal to get closer and closer to the place no one wants him anywhere near for his own good. He takes Rem’s note as another endorsement of the “Subaru can’t do anything” narrative.

When he’s running in the dark and becomes suddenly surrounded by a circle of sinister-looking mages who don’t even bother to kill him before racing off, it’s clear that Yup, he can’t do anything…not about this.

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In case he didn’t get the message there, he finally arrives at the village near the mansion, and it’s the site of a massacre of men, women, and children. Was this the result of the intense public prejudice against Emilia’s half-elf lineage, which she barely ever mentioned to Subaru? Was it the work of those mages? I don’t know, but I’ll admit the sight shocked me.

But the village was nothing compared to Subaru entering the Mathers estate, seeing a bloody flail, and then coming upon the lifeless, bloodied body of Rem, as she recites her letter to him. I can’t believe Rem is dead any more than Subaru wants to, and though I wouldn’t put it past Re:Zero to make these myriad tragedies stick, one can’t discount the fact Subaru can do something no one around him knows he can do: Die, and by doing so, blow up everything that’s transpired to this point.

Will he do that? If he does Return by Death, where and when does he wake up, and what the hell can he do to prevent this? As for if he doesn’t RbD, well…I don’t particularly want to think about that.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 13

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The royal selection process becomes a lot more interesting when Reinhard officially endorses Felt, but you can’t take the slums out of the girl, and Felt turns the court off with her poor breeding and independent, tell-it-like-it-is nature. I’m still firmly on Team Emilia, but I do enjoy Felt rubbing her utter contempt for the whole process in everyone’s faces.

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Rancor builds around the court that just as a sewer rat shouldn’t be allowed to participate, neither should Emilia, a “filthy half-devil” with The Witch’s features. That sets off Subaru, who shouldn’t even be there to begin with, but he won’t stop barking, until Anastasia’s knight Julius confronts him, questioning his claim of being Emilia-tan’s “best knight.”

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Not to side against the protagonist, but Subaru is way out of line here, and I’m not sure I’m supposed to believe otherwise. Emilia really doesn’t want to grab him by the arm and lead him out like a mother taking control of her unruly child, but that’s exactly what happens, and it’s pretty ugly.

Far more surprising, and not altogether plausible, is Old Man Rom’s entry into the throne room to rescue Felt. He’s arrested immediately, and only spared summary execution when Felt changes her mind and agrees to participate in the selection.

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Mind you, Felt’s going to do things her way, which means rule with a healthy hatred of the country she struggled to mightily to survive in, and those who rule it. She makes an intense pledge to destroy the country all these rich bastards hold so dear and build a new one in its place. It sounds, on the surface at least, a lot like Emilia’s “everyone is equal” platform, only the 1% atop the old system won’t be equal to the 99% under Felt’s rule.

Felt may be just as contemptuous of the process as Subaru was, but she has a right to be, considering the life she’s lived and the fact she’s a legitimate participant. Subaru is nothing but an interloper, good intentions be damned. When Julius challenges him to a duel to show him what the knights he mocked are made of, Subie continues to learn, quite painfully, just how out of his element he is in this arc.

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It’s brutal to see him so out of sorts and so powerless to do anything about it. And this time, he doesn’t even have Emilia backing him up, because he’s going against his promise to stay put, which was a really bad decision.

Also bad? Thinking his Shamac spell would be of any use against a knight of Julius’ stature. Subie cannot lay a finger on him, and gets beaten within an inch of his life for refusing to yield. He also ignores a frantic Emilia’s cries to stop this madness, but he ignores them.

This is about more than just preserving Emilia’s pride, something he’s all too ill-equipped to do anyway. It’s about his pride as well. The only problem is, he’s all alone on this one.

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What’s shocking is just how little Subaru realizes how much harm he’s done in these last two episodes. That makes it all the more torturous when Emilia finally lets him have it after he wakes up from his unnecessary beating. Her anger and disappointment cast a gloomy pall on what would otherwise be another gorgeously-lit bedside scene.

To be fair, Subaru physically can’t tell Emilia about any of the previous timelines, but even if he could, how can she trust anything he says when he so brazenly breaks promises he made to her and causes so much chaos in the midst of a delicate succession process?

The time for second chances and slaps on the wrist are over for Subaru, who has never seemed more out of place in this fantasy world. Bottom line: the Emilia before him and the “vision” of Emilia in his mind, are two different people, and he has to come to terms with that.

What does Subie do to counter Emilia’s litany of harsh truths? He digs himself an even deeper hole, selfishly rattling off all of the ways Emilia is indebted to him. That goes about as well as expected: Emilia agrees to repay all of those debts quickly, so they can then part ways, then walks out of the room, stating how she had—past tense—hopes for him. Ouch.

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So far, in this arc, the bad guy is Subaru, but I hope it doesn’t stay that way. The hole he started digging last week became a virtual mine shaft into the bowels of the Earth, and he has no one to blame but himself. Climbing out won’t be easy, even if he dies and wakes up back before all this awful business at the palace.

At the moment, I can’t see any way to earn back the trust and respect he lost today, other than by not losing it to begin with. But what would impress me even more is if Re:Zero and Subie didn’t rely on the Reset button, but found another way to redeem himself.

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