One day a guy named Natsuki Subaru ends up in another world. No portal, no fanfare, he literally just walks out of a convenience store one day and an RPG-looking marketplace filled with both bipedal animals and people forms around him. It surprises him a little at first, but Subaru is an aficionado of fiction (alright, so he’s an otaku) and adapts very quickly to the fact that he’s been whisked to a fantasy world just like in his animes. He decides to start checking things out and gathering information but it turns out to be more difficult than he expected and eventually ends up getting beaten up by some thugs in an alley. He is ‘rescued’ when a beautiful silver-haired girl who can also use magic happens across the scene and he decides to help her find her ‘insignia’ – it was stolen by someone, and Subaru assumed that it was the small blond girl he saw run past him a little earlier. The girl’s cat-shaped spirit familiar introduces him(her?)self as Puck, and the girl as Satella.
Their search for the blond thief – whom they eventually learn is named Felt – soon lead them to the slums and a warehouse of stolen goods overseen by a very large man named Rom. When Subaru goes into to investigate, he finds Rom murdered, is attacked by a strange woman for being a witness, and then Satella is murdered as well.
The next thing he knows, he’s right back in the marketplace from where he started many hours before. He goes straight to Rom’s storehouse this time – to find the man alive. He waits around for Felt to show up to buy the insignia off her by trading his cellphone for it (which he tells them is a magical device, and because of the camera in it, it basically is according to them), however the woman who requested the insignia be stolen in the first place shows up, and she wants it a little more than he does. It is, in fact, the same woman who ‘killed’ him before…and when things quickly go south, it happens again. And, once again, Subaru wakes up back in the marketplace…
If that synopsis sounded pretty long to you, that’s because the Re:Zero‘s first outing is two full-length episodes which have been labelled as 1A and 1B. I’ll admit – glancing at the ‘boy goes to other world’ synopsis briefly and learning how damn long this was going to be filled me with dread…especially considering what a stinker the last thing I just reviewed was. So Re:Zero left me pleasantly surprised.
For one thing, it’s an extremely pretty show. I’ve said before that I’m really sick of the default fantasy world in fiction being so generic and european-looking, and even though it kind of is here too there’s this real sense of character and movement to it that gives it more life than a lot of other worlds in this genre. The backgrounds all look really great, and they’re heavily populated by all kinds of bipedal animals (alright, so they’re furries) – there’s also gigantic lizards pulling carts instead of horses and other fun little quirks. The only real problem with how things look is that all these furries are CGI enhanced – they look 2D but move in a 3D manner, but they move a little too much and the way they bustle around in the background is a little distracting. The 2D animated human characters are a lot better done, and they all have pretty charming designs. I actually really like the design of Satella (if that is her real name, and it’s implied to not be) and Puck, the cat spirit thing that can change sizes, is just adorable. If anything becomes the big annoying otaku flavour of the month I hope it’s Re:Zero because Satella is a character I wouldn’t mind seeing 500 figures of.
The other thing that really struck me in this show was how good the lighting is. It’s used quite a lot, whether it’s just the characters standing in a dark alley, or in order to show the effects of magic, the setting sun, or a lantern carried at night. It’s some of the prettiest lighting I’ve seen in an anime, and it’s one of those little things that really does improve the overall look of a show by leaps and bounds.
Subaru’s character is, so far, tolerable. I’m pretty damn sick of the self-indulgent otaku lead so I was glad to see that even though he could have easily been one, it’s a little more subdued. He still acts like an idiot when he first enters the alternate world, making a big deal out of how he’s a ‘main character’ and should have magical powers and beautiful girls, but it’s only a small part of the episode and the rest of the giant run-time is concerned a lot more with the plot than any self-congratulatory bullshit aimed at 2channers, which is what this kind of show usually does. I mean, don’t get me wrong, this is still a very ‘aimed at otaku’ kind of anime, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen one of these that havent made me facepalm every few minutes. The skimpy clothing on both Trap and the murderess are eyerolling, but on the whole there’s so far more to like than dislike about this show.
I’m not really sure if Subaru is time-slipping or if he’s literally returning to a save state like in an actual RPG – but I think the dual-episode beginner did a good job of showing two alternate routes to the same outcome. I imagine that, in the next episode, he’ll have to try to stop the insignia being stolen from Satella in the first place.
I’m kind of wary about another timeslippy series after the disappointment Erased turned into, but Re:Zero managed to grab my attention enough for me to want to check out some more episodes.