Reviewby Kim Morrissy,
Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- Memory Snow
Subaru and friends defeat the Demon Beast Wolgarm, the source of the curse, and save the children of Irlam village. The characters finally get a moment of peace, and Subaru goes on a certain secret mission that he must not let anyone find out about. However, even though Subaru is wearing a disguise, Petra and other children of the village immediately figure out who he is. Now that his mission was exposed within five seconds of it starting, Subaru's "date" with Emilia could be ruined.
Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- is one of the better “transported to another world” light novel adaptations in recent memory. I'd go far enough to say that it's my favorite series in this subgenre, and I wouldn't be alone in saying that.
One of the main reasons Re:ZERO was so memorable is that it never pulled any punches with its drama. In a genre filled with overpowered protagonists and half-cooked conflicts, Re:ZERO's Subaru constantly struggled in the face of death to get anything done. When the fans talk about what was so great about Re:ZERO, it's the drama that they remember most.
Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- Memory Snow has none of that. It is a side story set between the second and third arcs, not long after Subaru has gotten settled in at Roswaal's mansion. The OVA represents the side of Re:ZERO that's easy to overlook when looking back on the series as a whole: the comedy.
There's a reason why the relatively comedic first half of Re:ZERO isn't as fondly remembered as the second half: the jokes were repetitive. Subaru would banter with the other characters and inadvertently reveal something unflattering about himself, and the punchline would almost always be at his expense. The series could be pretty amusing at times, but the jokes were generally “chuckle-worthy” rather than gut-busting.
The OVA also has the downside of only focusing on a small handful of characters. Re:ZERO has a very likable extended cast that could have been used for comedic fodder, but they only appear in brief cameo roles and have no spoken lines.
By narrowing its focus to only a very small slice of the series's appeal, Memory Snow was never going to be a satisfying continuation of Re:ZERO in anime form. Based on several stories in the Re:ZERO Short Story Collection, Memory Snow is the very definition of “filler.” It works as an appetizer for fans of the anime, but it's also a tease, especially when only a small fraction of the main story has actually been adapted so far.
Don't take Memory Snow too lightly, however. What this OVA may lack in substance it more than makes up for with laughs. Memory Snow is not only considerably funnier than the original series was, it's also a damn great comedy in general.
This time, the substance and delivery of the jokes have been changed up significantly. A large portion of the comedy is still in the rapid-fire banter, but Subaru is no longer the butt of every joke - the other characters get to be named and shamed, too. There's also a greater variety of jokes, from a KONOSUBA cameo to a hilarious extended sequence of deliberately terrible Engrish.
What makes Memory Snow shine as a comedy is how much care it puts into its timing and visual presentation. The characters deliver their lines with a snappy pace, and the pauses are well-timed to build up to each punchline. There's also a stronger focus on visual gags and creative set designs, perhaps to make up for the lack of action scenes in the OVA. My favorite sequence is modelled exactly like a Japanese variety show, showing character reactions in the corner of the screen while something ridiculous happens in the foreground. The visual execution of this OVA is so strong, in fact, that despite having read the short stories that formed the basis of Memory Snow, every single joke felt fresh to me.
It's also worth pointing out that despite featuring a scene where the female characters get drunk, the OVA still stays wholesome. It would have been completely expected of stories in Re:ZERO's genre to use this opportunity to make introduce some sexy-style fanservice, but there's only some light girl-on-girl skinship and nothing remotely racy. This is a positive or a negative depending on your perspective.
If there's one area Memory Snow definitely does slip up on, it's the music. Generally, the OVA repeats the tracks from the TV series, and the lack of versatility in the soundtrack for comedic scenes becomes evident in a 50-long minute OVA that focuses on nothing but comedy. That might explain why so much of the OVA has no background music and relies almost entirely on voice acting and sound effects to convey humor. There's also an awkwardly timed insert song partway through the OVA, which gives the impression that the story is wrapping up with a heartwarming conclusion, only it turns out there's at least another 15 minutes and one more insert song to go. I can't deny that some parts of Memory Snow feel awkwardly paced and lacking in focus, even considering that it's a filler story with little connection to the overarching plot.
Some of Memory Snow's structural problems may be related to how it adapts parts of multiple short stories into a single story. The OVA begins with Subaru and Emilia's aborted first date, a skit told in an Animate-exclusive store bonus short story, before moving abruptly into Subaru's discovery of an alcohol storage (from the “Alcohol Panic” short story). Then it tells the entirety of the “Some Like it Cold” story before returning to the “Alcohol Panic” storyline. As a single, cohesive story, this OVA worked better than it had any right to, but there's still some noticeable jumps between plot points, even for anime-only viewers.
Still, as far as filler episodes go, Memory Snow is one of the funniest I've seen. If you have any fondness at all for the light-hearted side of Re:ZERO, the OVA is worth your time. Re:ZERO's characters are likeable enough to hold their own, even in a story that gives them nothing to do. It's not the continuation fans were hoping for, but it's proof of how well-written Re:ZERO is as a whole. I get the feeling that this series could adapt to any genre and succeed.
Overall : B
Story : B
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : B-
+ Impeccable comedic timing and great visual gags, characters are likable enough to hold their own even in a filler plot
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