Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- (Season 2)
by Kim Morrissy,
How would you rate episode 14 of
Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- (TV 2) ?
Re:Zero is back, and it doesn't waste any time throwing viewers back into the action. The episode starts midway through Otto's confrontation with Subaru from the last episode with no attempt at recapping the twists and turns of the past cour. As I explained in the episode 13 review, there wasn't actually supposed to be a three-month break between this episode and the last, so I don't blame the anime for zooming ahead with the story. Besides, there was a lot to cover as usual. As was the case for a number of episodes last cour, this episode had 28 minutes without an OP or ED sequence.
As far as the story is concerned, however, there is one significant change between this cour and the last: Subaru is finally starting to turn things around. His bet with Roswaal represents a dramatic shift in the power dynamic between the two of them. Previously, Roswaal held all the cards by manipulating the events, but now Subaru refuses to let his emotions be clouded around him. In earlier conversations, Roswaal was framed from imposing angles to represent how he had the upper hand despite his bedridden state, but in this episode Subaru gets that treatment instead. He is finally confident that he has assembled all of the pieces he needs to pull off a true win where everyone survives.
It's also interesting how this scene plays the insert song from episode 7 in season 1, during the part where Subaru throws himself off a cliff in his desperate gambit to save everyone. The parallels between the two scenes are obvious, but I think that the differences are just as interesting: This time, Subaru insists that he will win without dying; besides, he claims, his power isn't actually that useful. Subaru has spent the entire season so far learning that the people around him actually do value his life, and this scene is him vowing that he won't rely on Return By Death as a crutch anymore. After all, you can't truly call it a happy ending if Subaru can't embrace his own happiness along with the others.
In a way, the episode sort of peaks there. The rest of the episode focuses on gathering the information that Subaru needs to secure his victory. We learn more about Ryuzu and Garfiel, the two wildcards at the Sanctuary, and we also finally learn about why Puck was keeping himself hidden, as well as some more hints about Emilia's past. At this point, it's getting difficult to keep track of everything, and it almost feels as if some explanations were deliberately cut short because viewers are assumed to have seen The Frozen Bond OVA. But even without that context, it's clear that Emilia had a very rough time in her mostly-forgotten past, and she's feeling particularly vulnerable when both Puck and Subaru break their "contract"/"promise" with her, so the emotional beats here still work.
In the afterword of volume 10, the first light novel volume covering this arc, Tappei Nagatsuki wrote that the theme of this arc is "self-reliance." I can definitely see that theme taking shape in this episode. Emilia has not been having a good time at all this arc. She's been relying on Puck and Subaru to save her, and she's been feeling down about her inability to overcome the trial on her own. But I think Emilia will eventually learn the same lesson Subaru did this season: that finding the strength within oneself to continue also means trusting others and being able to share one's burden. That's a different thing from using others as a crutch or being a passive damsel in distress. I hope to see some more agency from Emilia as this cour progresses, and this episode was a solid start in that direction.
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