Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World-
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 13 of
Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- ?
Watching a protagonist get his comeuppance for overreaching isn't terribly common in anime, but it isn't quite unusual either. It's a regular event in “coming of age” shonen, and it's happened in a more minor way a couple of times earlier in this series, but not like this. No, this is what a complete character meltdown looks like, and somewhat satisfyingly, Subaru isn't allowed to get away with his mistakes this time.
Consequences like these were probably inevitable after Subaru's behavior in episode 12, so this definitely didn't come out of nowhere. My dad would have described Subaru as “getting too big for his britches” after he disregarded his promise to Emilia, and then he goes even further by offending an entire order of knights to boldly declare himself a knight as well. Then he impugns their dignity by insisting that they were only born into their position, despite clear evidence that they had trained heavily to achieve knighthood. This isn't all as light-hearted as it initially could have been, and it's not a faux pas he can just tough his way through.
The series has actually been pretty reliable on this point. For all of his determination, Subaru rarely succeeds solely on his own merits; his victories always come from his actions leading other capable individuals to step in, but this time, they don't. Subaru gets on the bad side of these knights, and one beats him to a pulp over the insult in a duel that Subaru foolishly agrees to. However, his conversation with Emilia afterwards is much more painful to watch. When she calmly tries to get straight answers from him, he implodes. Things turn ugly as she questions whether he's really acting for her benefit – as he claims – or for his own. While this isn't exactly a fair question for Emilia to ask, as some degree of self-serving motivation is often implicit in even the most selfless behavior, Subaru chooses his response very poorly, perhaps out of panic as he sees the situation slipping away from him. He gives off the impression that Emilia (or perhaps more accurately, her love) is a prize that he should have earned by this point. Understandably, Emilia doesn't take this well.
While Subaru clearly felt that way on some level, I think it's also pretty clear that his frustration got the better of him, and that's not what he actually meant. Even so, he's earned the trouble he's in with Emilia now just as much as he earned her trust and affection (along with Rem's) up to that point. Sure, maybe he's being controlled to some degree by the Jealous Witch, but his behavior is too consistent with established patterns of his personality for me to give that excuse too much weight. After all, he's always given the sense that he sees himself as the hero of his own story, but he's now being pushed into a position where he isn't. His behavior may be ugly, but it's quality ugly, and his expressions during that conversation with Emilia only lend more weight to his breakdown.
While this is the dominant scene of the episode, there's still a lot else going on too. We get absolute confirmation that Felt isn't happy about the situation she's in, but she does indeed have that “make the jewel glow” touch. Watching her transform into advantage-taking mode when Rom suddenly shows up was a neat twist, but the series is pushing too hard to make most of the other candidates seem awful compared to Emilia. The ponderous process of selecting the next ruler is also turning out to be an ongoing flaw; for an event that seems like it should be deeply rooted in decorum, no effort is made to regulate disruptive outbursts. But what was up with Roswaal's little smile when Subaru got involved? Was he hoping that Subaru would do something that would force Emilia to be more assertive? I think that's why he wanted Subaru along, and he's a canny bastard if so.
Despite the early flaws and some occasionally shaky quality control in the artistry, the series is back on a strong path by the end of this episode. Subaru has dug himself a hole, and watching him struggle to get out of it should be fun.
Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World- is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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