Far too many anime start off their description of a given show as: “A normal High School boy…” it is such an overused line that it almost causes me to skip certain anime in my viewing feeds. In fact, one could argue that this trope is used nearly as much as harems in anime today and that is quite a shame. Re:Zero is an anime released this summer by White Fox that utilized this same descriptor in their description of the show and it was a stroke of luck that I was just bored enough to give the show a chance. And while the main character, Natsuki Subaru, certainly seems average, when he is thrust into a parallel world that houses magic, demi-humans and more, he is anything but. Which is, in part, why I hate that descriptor so much, it is misleading– almost every “average” High School that is a protagonist in an anime aren’t average or, at the very least, they are different enough to make the show worth watching. If a character was truly average, we would get a show of them simply falling asleep in class, procrastinating on their homework or getting grounded by their parents– instead we get somewhat normal people dealing with not-so-normal situations and they thereby transcend normalcy. And before you say, “But what, certain anime show us that stuff all the time!”, I want to clarify by saying that I mean that we ONLY get to see those things. But I digress….
The show follows Natsuki Subaru as he is thrust into a parallel world where magic, demi-humans (like humanoid alligators) and other things exist. Natsuki is a self-proclaimed homebody, a shut-in if you will, but his life spent gaming has taught him one undeniable fact: If you’re thrust into an alternate world, you are the protagonist and are, therefore, in some way special. But soon after getting there, he realizes that he has no money, starting gear or any powers to speak of and only finds one possible companion. A beautiful half-elf girl with a super adorable talking cat saves him from muggers and he vows to help her find something that was stolen from her. Together they set out across the city to find her lost treasure but get into some increasingly odd situations that culminate in getting murdered at one of the town taverns. This leads to the discovery of Natsuki’s protagonist ability: the ability to ‘reset’ the time and start fresh. With his new found ability, Natsuki sets out to stop their would-be murderer.
What makes this show pretty enjoyable is the main character’s self-awareness of the tropes that he finds himself in. When he gets to the new world he INSTANTLY thinks that he has become embroiled in some sort of RPG-style fantasy land– even accusing some people of being NPC’s. He assumes that he is the protagonist and is somehow special by default. But this doesn’t make him cocky or overconfident, he is rather humble in his approach to some degree and is happy and sometimes frustrated when the game doesn’t work out as he thinks it should. And, quite honestly his notion of being trapped in a game world has some merit, so there is an added layer of mystery there. Magic exists, creatures he has never heard of exists and he is even able to reset after he dies (so far), so either he is in a REAL world in which these things happen to exist or he is actually IN a game, not knowing or waiting to find out is part of the intrigue of the show as a whole.
Most of the characters are pretty likable also, Natsuki in particular bring a solid level of comedy as he fumbles around in a new world. He is reliable yet clumsy at the same time and that is a good dynamic to have in a show and it balances really well with Emilia’s, the half-elf, personality. She is also a bit more dynamic as she has certain parts of her personality that borders on tsundere but she is also extremely benevolent and kind-hearted– so I look forward to seeing how these two characters develop and grow overtime as neither fall into a generic archetype (yet). And the show has only about four episodes out but they have already introduced a number of other interesting characters one, of which, is an extremely bad ass serial-murderer, Elsa Granhiert, that is known as a ‘bowel-hunter’. She is extremely ferocious but also extremely smart and formidable and they didn’t kill her off after their first* encounter so we will definitely be seeing more of her!
But as great as the characters are, it is the flow of the first few episodes that really drew me in. Natsuki ‘resets’ a few times, but isn’t entirely aware that he is repeating events unto his second or third run-through. He gets to see events play out multiple times in different ways, each time with novice eyes before getting wise to his ability and deciding to act before harm can happen. But even with his foresight, things aren’t the same and he isn’t able to stop all damage from occurring– most shows would have been just fine letting him reset and having Natsuki just OWN Else easily, but this show makes it a true gritty battle and the audience doesn’t know who will win until the fight’s finale. But what is nice about having the main character do repeats, you not only get to learn more about the mechanics of the world that they’re in (without a narrator), you get to see different sides, outcomes and elements each time that weren’t there before. Each reset brings in a lot of the same details with a new perspective and so you get to see a lot of growth in very little time.
The artwork is…good, not great but good. It doesn’t really stand out to me especially when there are other anime of the same genre that are absolutely stunning. But it is by no means bad! I guess you could just say it is standard? The facial designs on the humans are normal but the show really stands out when doing characters that are a bit more odd– so Puk, the adorable tiny talking cat or the demi-humans look really cool, but everything else could have been done by essentially any studio and the end result would have been the same. Like.. I can’t place it but the art design for the main characters make me feel like I have seen them before? I attribute this simply to the standard way the studio chose to do the artwork as a whole.
Re:Zero is not without its own tropes or faults, but it is a show I intend on giving a solid chance to. The characters seem interesting, story format is engaging and allows its audience to really be mindful of the material at hand, and it has no problem revealing certain answers while leaving the rest to be a mystery that the series will answer (hopefully) with time. For now, I am satisfied watching a series unfold that has some real promise these season as it treads the line of being extremely funny and somewhat dark all at the same time!
Haven’t seen this show yet? Go check it out on crunchyroll’s website! You can sign up for a 14 day free trial by clicking on the photo to the right!