Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho – 02

Wenias is a world where inaccurate assumptions abound while forgiveness is in short supply. It’s in a state where most witches hate humans, most humans hate witches. And it’s one assumption—that Mercenary is a witch-hunter rather than a present witch-harborer—that leads to an episode of trouble for Merc, Zero, and their third member Albus.

Merc & Co. are welcomed to the village with open arms, because they appreciate his service as a beastfallen witch-hunter. But when an old woman reports a ring stolen and Albus produces that very ring (which he found in the spring outside of town), the villagers, wracked with grief and pain from witch raids, turn on a dime and demand justice.

The villagers have been through too much, and suspect outsiders so much, that it doesn’t matter if Albus is in fact innocent, and they’re immune to calm discussions, only taking it as further proof of guilt. So Merc has to scoop up Zero and Albus and skedaddle while they still can. But the villagers, desperate to blame and punish someone for their ills, pursue them deep into the forest.

Only one villager—the old woman who lost the ring—has the trio’s side, and shows them a safe escape route. She does this to thank Albus for finding her ring—which was given to her by none other than the great witch Sorena—but also because she to is a witch, albeit one in hiding.

The older generation seems more open to negotiation, cooperation, and forgiveness regarding “the other side”, while the younger people on both sides want blood and fire to satisfy their thirst for justice. And yet just like this little incident with the ring in the village, Sorena herself fell victim to a misunderstanding, having been performing magic when a plague broke out.

She was blamed and burned to death, leading to the violent witch rebellion that rages on. But the witch-in-hiding with the ring believes there’s still hope that witches and humans can—and must—coexist peacefully, someday. The developing Merc-Zero-Albus trio is small-scale but important proof that she’s right.

Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho – 01 (First Impressions)

In a world where witches are hunted and burned by normal humans, a half-man, half-cat “beastfallen” witch-hunting mercenary encounters a petite, seemingly young witch named Zero in a forest.

They make a pact: the Mercenary will be Zero’s guard as she searches for her associate Thirteen. In exchange, she will make him human. She’ll do so using magic from the Grimoire of Zero, so-called because she wrote it. She impresses that upon a young witch named Albus who tries in vain to hunt the Merc. 

Fresh of the heels of Re:Zero, this similarly-named, similarly-set new show eschews the modern-guy fish-out-of-water angle for a more straightforward pact-between-classic-foes story.

The nameless (for now) Mercenary fears and hates any and all witches, and kinda hates himself too, for causing his family and village to suffer and die. But he’s got a good heart, so he’s not going to leave a hungry, cute little girl in the forest.

Does he bite off more than he can chew, oh, definitely. And a great deal of the appeal of this otherwise not-too-original fantasy milieu is in the relationship that forms between the Mercenary and Zero, complete with lots of informal, playful banter.

It’s an intro that doesn’t try to do too much, but gives us a good-enough glimpse of the situation and then focuses on the two lead characters, quickly breathing life into both so we care about them immediately.

Is there excessive explanation of “sorcery” and “magic” and the differences between them? Sure, but because Merc wasn’t totally informed himself, Zero’s lessons at least serve the story rather than simply bring us up to speed.

Also, there’s the fact that this seemingly-young girl literally wrote the book on magic, to the extent that fellow magic-user Albus has his ass handed to him when going up against the author. And they’re on a journey to a place with a defined goal, which can be nice for contrast when watching other, more mysterious shows.

Add the fact it’s a Monday show, and Zero looks like a keeper.

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 19

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MAN, I LOVE IT WHEN A PLAN COMES TOGETHER.

It’s a tired phrase, but I can’t think of a more apt use for it than the latest Re:Zero, where Subaru gets to start over from Zero and doesn’t squander the chance. Rather than begging like a babbling loon for an obscure, partially-formed goal, he comes to Crusch Karsten—and Anastasia Hoshin, and the Merchant’s Guild—with a sensible, viable arrangement, with the White Whale at the core.

In this manner, Subaru unwittingly becomes the catalyst for a grand battle that was in the making long before he arrived in this world. EVERYONE detests the White Whale. Thanks to his past lives, he not only knows how to properly approach and negotiate with these people—from a position of strength and common cause, and pride—he knows where the White Whale will show up next, and most importantly, when, thanks to his “metia.”

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When Subaru is speaking to Crusch, and Felis, and Wilheim in a manner that makes them receptive, he seems to find the unlikely hero within himself, a hero who has united groups with various opposing interests in less important areas but a shared loathing of the White Whale.

And because of the way he composes himself and presents his plan, everyone is not only willing, but eager to hear him out. Crusch is suspicious at first, but she can see the wind of dishonesty when someone lies, and Subaru, though clearly still intimidated, is making an honest, courageous effort that she doesn’t overlook.

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Part of me hated Crusch for so cruelly refusing Subie’s assistance the first time around, but I couldn’t blame her, as he was giving her no reason to help or believe him. Here he did his homework, recalling all the various goings-on in his past lives (combined with Hoshin’s major burn) to uncover the battle Crusch was preparing for anyway, and offer something that could give them all a decisive advantage over their foe.

Everyone works through the night to get ready, and Subie meets Hoshin’s mercenary captain Ricardo, numerous veterans who came out of retirement to, like Wilheim, avenge their lost loved ones upon the Whale. Subaru sees this is bigger than him, but none of this would be possible without him. He’s making it, damnit…he’s making it!

And God, it’s so good just to see everyone smiling and laughing again, even if it is, in part, to hide how goshdarn scared they all are of the task before them.

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This week, Subaru succeeded in all the ways he failed in previous attempts to save Emilia all by himself, or with last-minute help from others. Even though Priscilla isn’t a part of the alliance (and is totally absent this week), her reaction to Subie trying to kiss her feet was a powerful lesson Subie keeps with him, and is brought up again when he chooses his ground dragon, a breed known for its intense pride. He can’t accomplish anything alone, and he can’t inspire or convince others without that pride.

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Last week was ALL Rem and Subie, elevating Rem to “best girl of the year” status for many. I don’t have many strong arguments against that, so I’ll let it stand, especially when she doubles down this week on her absolute faith in Subaru, keeping his spirits up even when he starts to doubt if his cell phone will actually help them (considering how cruel this show can be, I too was worried this to all be for nothing).

But now Rem isn’t the only one trusting of or grateful to Subaru. He’s convinced two candidates battling for the throne to join forces, for crying out loud. And the merchants! As for stern-faced Wilheim, he gets a lot more fine strokes this week as one of those older men in this world who lost something to the WW, and is grateful for the opportunity to avenge his wife (who was once Master Swordsman, underscoring how dangerous the WW is).

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Perhaps one of the best moments of a highly satisfying and morale-boosting episode, another gem in a show full of them, is the moments of silence as the hour of the Whale’s arrival approaches. There’s so much built-up tension, combined with the possibility that it might not show up, or that the Witch Cultists would ambush the army.

Then the silence is broken by a strange electronic musical noise that took be totally off-guard (even though he said he’d set it earlier): Subaru’s cell phone alarm.

The cheerful chime feels like a terribly foreboding harbinger to some foul occurrence, but then the whale makes its appearance, and Subaru charges in first with Rem loosing her magic with prejudice. That changes Crusch’s face from terror and worry to a defiant smirk, and the battle begins.

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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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