Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 18

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In which Subaru truly does return to “Zero”, and this show continues to surprise

Other than a thorough and devastating dressing-down by MegaPuck (during which time Subie slowly freezes solid and shatters) and another Return by Death, this episode consists exclusively of one conversation between Subaru and Rem, presented only with intermittent flashes from the past.

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lot is covered, with a great deal of emotion flying around. It takes a great deal of attention to sit through and absorb, but if you like Subaru (or are at least rooting for him) and you like Rem, you probably liked this episode a lot, I for one was riveted.

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There’s also a good deal of rejection in their long, sprawling discussion, which takes place in a very pretty part of the city with a lovely view, on a clear, crisp day. First, Rem rejects Subaru’s desperate plan to run away together, because it would mean giving up on the Subaru she fell in love with.

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Rem can’t possibly know how much Subaru has been through already, and how he finally decided to give up after much suffering. But damn it all if I don’t get soppy-eyed as she beautifully describes the perfectly fine future they’d have together if she went with him. But again, she’s not ready to give up on him, even if he’s given up on himself.

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Initially in the talk, I was on Subaru’s side, because I was right there with him when Rem, Ram, and Emilia died again and again, often in awful, horrifying ways. Like him, I’m from the real world, where I, unfortunately, am not a hero. If I ended up in a fantasy-RPG-style world like he did, I might think for a time, that I had suddenly become one.

But Subaru learned the hard way that he is, as Puck put it, useless. That every time he’s talked big, he’s come up short in the quest to save everyone. It’s hard to argue, considering this is the most persistent impasse he’s come to, which has led to the darkest places…and there’s only so much a dumb do-nothing kid from the modern world can take, right?

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Subaru tries, with the same passion he ranted at Emilia, to drill into Rem’s head all the ways he is a complete and utter failure of a living thing. But she simply doesn’t buy it. She comes back with all of the reasons she loves him, and describes in detail how she felt when he rescued her from herself. Not only did she fall in love with him then, but he restarted a clock that stopped for her when her village burned. He is her hero.

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Rather than run away from everything, she’s going to stay right where she is, and so is Subaru. Whatever troubles they have, they’ll figure it out together; support each other; make up for each other’s weaknesses. Do what they’ve done up to this point. Rem makes her love for him plain as the blue sky above them.

So when Subaru rejects her because he still loves Emilia, it stings quite a bit, but for Rem, better to have a Subaru around than not, whether he loves her the same way back or not.

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So when Subaru puts forth his plan to move forward and try to save Emilia and asks for Rem’s help, Rem humbly accepts, but makes sure to tell him how cruel it is to ask such a thing of someone you’ve just rejected. Subaru, in turn, reminds her she rejected his running-away plan first. Touché!

They both have a good laugh – it’s been a long, exhausting talk, but look at what it has wrought! Subaru, who had been brought so low, he was starting to think—like me and Franklin—that he really was immensely over-his-head with this whole hero thing.

He had bags under his eyes, he was utterly done with everything. And now he’s back in the game, in far higher spirits, and even smiling and laughing. Quite the transition in one talk!

Time will tell if Subaru is simply grasping one last time onto the hope of one (Rem) who is, at the end of the day, ignorant to his past failed attempts, and doesn’t understand just how weak and ineffectual he is.

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Is this a glass-half-empty or a glass-half-full show? I’m still not sure, but it’s a half-full episode, which rejects what I’ve been thinking throughout this second half: that Subaru simply can’t cut it in this world, as much as he and I and Rem may want him to.

I’m looking forward to seeing what, exactly, returning to “zero” means for Subaru, and if somehow all the insights he and Rem gleaned from this long heart-to-heart will help them. Until then, this was a powerful episode, despite not much physically happening.

What did happen was Kobayashi Yuusuke and Minase Inori delivered some powerhouse performances that really drew me in and restored my faith in the possibility of a happy (or at least happier) ending. Mind you, Re:Zero may just be setting us up for more dark times made darker by the fact everything said here may end up being lost. But I hope not!

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Hai to Gensou no Grimgar – 07

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Ranta believes that the party now knowing about Mary’s past doesn’t change anything, at least in a practical sense. You can’t be friends with someone who simply doesn’t want to be friends with you, and he doesn’t see why they need to go out of their way to accommodating her because she had a tough past. They’ve all had tough pasts.

But that last point is the hole in Ranta’s logic: they’re not so different from Mary, so they can find a way to connect. They lost Manato, their leader, but Mary left a part of herself down in the caverns where her friends were killed. Haruhiro and the others managed to pull out of a similar tailspin because they were still together, and were able to work through the pain.

Shinohara and Hayashi also live with the pain of losing friends they cared about, but didn’t realize until they were gone that they had to treasure those bonds while they were still around. When Haruhiro hears Ranta’s grievanes about always being dismissed or ignored, he listens and takes it to heart: Mary isn’t the only one he hasn’t been attentive to.

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After the party tentatively agrees that they’re all friends, and that they should embrace Mary as one as well, it all comes down to execution. Haru is clearly apprehensive about the conversation; so much so Yume has to jump on him so he doesn’t reveal their position to a goblin (albeit one who has his dagger). By the way, I liked how Yume acted to protect Haru, their leader, from his own emotional desire to get back what he lost, since a dagger is far easier replaced than a comrade.

When Haru asks to speak to Mary, she seems resigned to the fact he’s about to kick her out, just as she’s left so many other party’s after her trauma. There’s the underlying feeling she’s contributing all she thinks she can, but it isn’t enough, and that frustrates her. She’s trying to find the Mary she left behind.

Obviously, Haru doesn’t want her to leave. Instead of pry into her past, he gives her the past of their party, painful as it is. He tells her how important Manato was and how hopeless things seemed without him. He admits he agreed to her joining the party because they needed a priest to survive, period.

But now, after some time, he’s decided, and all the others agree, that she’s become more than a hired hand. She’s become a valued friend, one he wishes to cherish as much as all his other comrades. Shihoru, Yume and Moguzo share the same feelings. And yes, even Ranta relents, buying into the generous atmosphere in the room – leading to one of present-day Mary’s most expressive looks.

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Now that Mary knows the score, and knows that her new comrades also carry pain with them every day, she softens a little more. She doesn’t join them in shopping for Moguzo’s helmet, or any of several subsequent meals, but not because she doesn’t want to, but because she’s easing into a new situation. “Not yet”, she says, which isn’t “no”.

Like all things in Grimgar, Mary’s coming-around takes time, not because the show is stalling, but because such things take time in real life. It’s great that they think of her as a friend, but she still needs to process that and figure out how to have friends again.

Haru takes the party out to fight goblins in the city ruins day after day, creating a strict routine. Each time they go out, they get a little better as individuals and as a team, and rather than spend on better accommodations, they invest in better equipment. Soon, Haru notices it’s getting easier to kill goblins – the spot where he needs to cut is now lighting up in his head.

Repetition strengthening muscle memory, and increasing the efficiency of his motions. They make the most of their newfound skills, and fill each other’s shortcomings. They also include Mary in on their downtime chatter, including Ranta tactlessly asking Mary which guy she prefers (she doesn’t answer).

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After taking things one day at a time for many days, Mary finally agrees to come to the tavern, and it’s a wonderful moment to see her in the middle of the party, sharing in the glow of the fire. Shinohara and Hayashi are also relieved to see her finally looking like she belongs in a party.

Before long, the time comes when it looks like Mary is going to move in with the others. On the last night she’s on her own, Haru is out in the courtyard, where Manato comes to him once more, likening the excitement and anticipation Haru feels to the night before a field trip (a rare look into their unknown past lives).

I don’t see Ghost Manato as a real ghost physically there, but the memory of Manato who appears when Haru is alone with nothing but the calm of night and the crackle of the fire nearby. But that doesn’t lesson his importance as a presence Haru treats like Manato.

The new leader wants to show the old leader what kind of party they’ve become. Other tavern patrons may be half-mocking in calling them the Goblin Slayers, but it’s a name Haru intends to wear with pride.

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Hai to Gensou no Grimgar – 06

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Grimgar simply keeps knocking it out of the park with its quietly ambitious yet nuanced character work. Ranta grows more likable by the week. His reaction to Shihoru’s misunderstanding of Haru and Yume’s long tight hug is true to who he is, but balances the jealousy with playfulness (wanting all the details; disappointed when Haru gives them to him).

But Shihoru’s apology, public and early in the morning as it is, is a crucial step forward for her, too. The misunderstanding gave her an excuse to go to and talk with the boys, and the less isolated the genders are from each other, the more cohesive and efficient team they’ll become.

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But the star of this week’s episode is unquestionably Mary, followed by Haruhiro. Haru and Yume have decided to try to reach out to Mary more, and Shihoru and Moguzo are also game (Ranta is the lone holdout, blaming Mary for isolating herself).

Naturally, it doesn’t go perfectly; attempts at small talk with Mary are swiftly batted away. She’s in the party, but apparently only to do her job by the limited parameters she herself has set.

Then again, in the midst of battle as she’s hanging back as usual, Mary finally pipes up, scolding Moguzo for falling back after such a minor wound from a goblin. She’s absolutely right, too: Moguzo is a warrior, he has to keep slashing and smashing forward to be effective – and survive.

Her observation helps Haru realize Mog needs a proper helmet so he can go all out. Mary also heals his head wound, only after the battle (Ranta’s scratch goes address only by a warning that he’s almost hit her last nerve). Haru’s takeaway: Mary made a contribution beyond her strict role as healer. It’s progress.

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That night, Haru, Mog and Ranta finally invite the girls to join them at the tavern – another important gesture in building team cohesion, but also an acknowledgement that the five of them aren’t just party members: they’re friends.

They care about each other, and hanging out while not fighting is only natural. They freeze up, however, when Mary enters. No one calls her over, or even says hi. They just stare at each other, and Mary takes a lonely seat at the bar.

The group wrings its hands over the failed encounter, but before long Ranta starts underestimating Yume’s bust, and Mary is forgotten…until they see her talking to Shinohara, master of Orion. Could he be a source of info on Mary they can’t get from her?

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In the episode’s best scene, in a place where Haru and Manato often talked over the fire, the night noises fade away and Manato appears before him, just as he’s doubting both his ability and will to lead the party.

This Manato “ghost” tells Haru not to waver, and rather show him what the party is made of. While Haru may not want to be the leader, he cannot simply forsake the faith Haru put in him, even if there was never an overt promise to take over should he die.

The sound and camerawork create a hauntingly sad yet also calm warm atmosphere (thanks to the fire and Manato’s presence). When Haru “returns” to the “now”, the night noises are brought back up, and Manato vanishes from the shot.

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Whether being “nice” to Mary is working or not, Haru and the others see even more change in her the next day, when she not only protects Shihoru from a charging goblin (after which Ranta protects Mary), but fights on the front line, demonstrating her staff skills for the first time.

Still figuring out how to communicate with Mary, Haru offers her a simple thanks, which she nearly seems to say aren’t necessary. The episode makes sure to linger on Mary after everyone else has turned away, to see delayed responses in her face and voice that suggest she’s keeping a lot pent up inside her.

That evening, Haru invites Mary to join them for a bite, and rather than turn her nose up, she politely declines. Haru decides to go to Shinohara in order to learn more about Mary so he can understand her better. Shinohara refers them to Hayashi, who was in her previous party.

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As we learn, she was his party’s Manato: making everyone around her better (and more importantly, feel better), while keeping everyone at 100% health at all times and keeping them on the right side of the razor-thin edge between victory and defeat. More than that, Hayashi & the others were her dear friends.

Bright, cheerful, and strong, her party rose quickly…and fell even faster. Rather than run from a major boss, they decided to challenge it. Mary ran out of magic early in the fight, and they lost three comrades, thus destroying the party. After that, Mary “stopped smiling”.

No doubt blaming herself for the tragedy that befell her party, now she’s far more reluctant to form close bonds with her new party. From her experience, being too close to and being too nice to them gave them undue confidence, causing all including her to drop their guard, which was enough to shift them to the side of catastrophic defeat.

It all makes sense now. Now Haruhiro understands Mary’s attitude and manner with them. It’s the flip-side of their party: they lost their Manato, but she lost her Haru, Moguzo, and Shihoru. Haru & Co. Mary then, it would seem, simply needs time, understanding, and the knowledge that it’s alright to survive, to make new friends and care about them.

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P.S. There’s a new OP with Mary as a full member. I liked it! (The ED stayed the same, but I love that drawing of the original party of six, so it’s fine).

One Week Friends – 10

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I went there recently in Nisekoi, and Golden Time before it…down to rock bottom: the lowest possible point for our protagonist in dealings with his love interest. The question going into this week was, will things start to look up this week, or would One Week Friends still have deeper depths for Yuuki to plumb?

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Well, things aren’t great, but they could certainly be worse. Kaori’s memories have reset, but she still has her diary, it informs her that Yuuki is her friend, and she seems willing to continue along that path with him. But Yuuki’s frustration is both palpable and understandable. All of his work, ruined by a random transfer student. I can imagine him protesting through the fourth wall: “Who’s writing this stuff?”

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Having Hajime around could be a source of constant strife for Yuuki, as its possible anything he happens to say to Kaori, regardless of motive, could reset her all over again, and there’s only so much a guy can take (the realization Kaori doesn’t know what the 18 grams of sugar means causes him to break down on the staircase). It’s an untenable limbo.

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Something has to give, and that something oddly turns out to be Hajime’s ignorance of Kaori’s condition. He’s as skeptical as Yuuki was, but now he at least knows how his words could have been a bit harsh under the circumstances. One couldn’t really blame him for believing she had simply discarded him, but now he knows the truth, or at least the truth Yuuki is aware of.

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When Hajime hears about how Yuuki and Kaori maintain their friendship, the pain from Kaori’s perceived betrayal likely fuels his opinion on the matter: it doesn’t sound like a real friendship to him at all. Kaori is merely writing in a diary, after all, and the facts in a diary can be changed by the author. It’s true, a diary is no substitute for memory, but the latter can be just as open to interpretation.

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Hajime tries to re-germinate a kernel that Yuuki had previously tabled; the possibility Kaori is making this all up. He’s aware of that possibility, but he feels he wouldn’t be worthy of being her friend if he didn’t trust her, and he’s decided to keep trusting her, even if she’s making him jump through more hoops than most normal friends would. The last thing he wants to be is someone like Hajime.

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Stray Observations:

  • After Yuuki’s first, somewhat hostile chat with Hajime by the drink machines, when Hajime leaves, we half-expected Shogo to say “I kinda like that guy!” half just to mess with him, half because he means it.
  • Further complicating matters for Yuuki: Hajime is much more on par with Kaori in the academics department. They also used to study poetry together. Aw, jeez…
  • Big development in Shogo+Saki: unable to marry Kaori (she doesn’t live in any of the twenty U.S. states that allow same-sex marriage), Saki comes right out and adorably proposes to Shogo, not jokingly at all. Shogo, caught off guard, quickly retreats, but Yuuki sees how red his face got. That’s one damn fine supporting romance there. So economical, yet hits hard!
  • I’m convinced the show is just trolling us now with the Crêpe Dates. How many times now has Yuuki tried and failed to take Kaori out for crêpes? Will it ever happen without a hitch? IT HAD BETTER.

Koimonogatari – 06 (Fin)

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Sengoku traps Kaiki in a enormous mass of snakes. Kaiki starts to talk himself out of dying, telling her he knows about her dream to become a mangaka. He tells her that nothing is irreplaceable for humans, not even her love for Koyomi, and if she remains a god she will never be happy. She eventually cools down and the snakes disappear.

Kaiki implants a slug oddity to extract the snake talisman. Koyomi arrives; Kaiki tells him to take the exorcised Sengoku home and disappear from her life. While departing from town, he is ambushed and beaten to death by someone he believes to be a junior-high victim of his past con, who mentions the same name Sengoku blamed for her predicament: Ougi.

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“Then do you want to become a manga artist?”

Sengoku has seen through all of Kaiki’s intricate lies and preparations. He’s beaten, and he knows it. But those seemingly innocuous, small-talky words above, he changes course. Armed with fresh insights on Sengoku’s situation, he abandons his previous strategy for a new one. In this regard, he practices what he preaches to her: nothing should be so important that it can’t be replaced. Humans can re-do anything at anytime, be it god-deception plans, romances, or dreams.

Half-forget what we said last week: Kaiki doesn’t quite regard Senjougahara a daughter, but  as a past love. One who was as useless with him as Sengoku would be with Koyomi; some people fit others better. In their last phone call before Kaiki’s demise, Senjougahara expresses satisfaction that she was able to deceive him into believing she loved him. We read that as her saying in her very Senjougahara way that she’s glad her (genuine) feelings reached him, even if only for a time, and it didn’t work out.

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Even if we never learn the truth—be it about Senjougahara and Kaiki or the conspiracies that Kaiki contemplates before he dies—in future series, we can say with certainty and with no intent to deceive whatsoever that this was our favorite arc of the series, which transformed Kaiki into the anti-heroic, romantic, ultimately tragic human being the arc’s retro opening portrayed.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)
Final Cumulative Rating (26 episodes): 7.957
MyAnimeList Score
(as of 12/30/13): 8.79

Stray Observations:

  • Now we see the reason for the retro OP: the retro-styled half is the romantic ideal of Sengoku’s secret manga, while the contemporary-styled half is the harsh but human reality. Very neat.
  • We’ll admit that for someone ruthless enough to casually add to her kill-list, Sengoku sure keeps Kaiki alive for a long time, doesn’t she? Perhaps she didn’t gag him with snakes because part of her was giving him the chance to talk her out of godhood?
  • Sengoku blamed Ougi for her becoming a god. The kid who killed Kaiki got his/her info from Ougi. We suggested that Ougi was related to the darkness that dispatched Mayoi; was all this Ougi’s way of dispatching Kaiki?