Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- (Season 2)
by Kim Morrissy,
How would you rate episode 15 of
Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- (TV 2) ?
Otto best boy.
I often find myself gravitating to the male side characters in light novels like this, maybe because well-written male characters are relatively scarce in the LN scene. But Re:Zero has always been really deft at handling both its male and female characters, and this episode was a prime example of that. Otto and Emilia get some meaty development, and the result is a very satisfying episode all around.
It's been alluded to before that although Otto has the ability to communicate with animals due to his Divine Protection (an ability granted to people randomly at birth), he has reservations about using it. His backstory makes it clear that possessing this ability has caused him a lot of grief, whether it was being bombarded with animal noises from his early years to being ostracized as a "bug lover" in his hometown. Learning about his past puts his support for both Emilia and Subaru into context. He's sympathetic to Emilia because he has faced discrimination in his own life, and he's drawn to Subaru because he saved him from the Witch Cult.
Although the "Otto" and "Emilia" sides of the episode are relatively divorced from each other, the unifying theme might be how good deeds have a way of going full circle. Otto was saved by Subaru, so he lends his hand in support. In the same way, Emilia was the first person to save Subaru when he first landed in the other world, so Subaru does everything he can to save her. And in that latter half of the episode, when he pours out his feelings for her and tells her about everything he loves about her, the wording of his confession bears a strong resemblance to what Rem told him when he was at his lowest. I like the thematic cohesiveness of this arc, and of Re:Zero as a whole.
That said, I've gotta be honest, folks. I don't really dig the Subaru x Emilia romance. Their conversation gets off to a rocky start because Emilia is dealing with A Lot, but one thing she keeps coming back to is how hurt she felt when Subaru broke his promise to stay with her. Even before you consider how important oaths, contracts, and promises are to a spirit arts user like Emilia, trust is an important part of a relationship between people. This isn't the first time Subaru has broken a promise he made with Emilia – it was the trigger that led to their parting in the Royal Selection arc.
Their conversation in this episode retreads similar ground to their earlier argument from episode 13 in season 1, but this time it ends with a kiss rather than a parting. I think that the big difference from Emilia's point of view is that she's feeling particularly self-loathing and vulnerable. Subaru's clearly trying to walk that fine line between giving Emilia the space to work out her own feelings and offering her the support she needs, but I don't think he managed it as well as Rem did. No matter how heartfelt Subaru's feelings are or how good his reasons are for hiding information from Emilia, I can't support a romantic relationship between the two of them at this current point. They're both good kids; I just think they need more time.
As mixed as I am about that scene, though, I do actually like Emilia as a character. I think she gets unfair flack for being too "soft" or "wimpy," as if her status as the heroine means that she's got to be a badass. The heroines in these kinds of male-centric coming-of-age stories often serve the role as muses or motivation to pull the male protagonist out of his ennui, so it rarely ever seems as if they deal with their own hangups and self-esteem issues that are unrelated to the hero. Emilia, however, has always had a lot on her own plate. Although it's frustrating that we rarely get a deep insight into what she's thinking or feeling, certainly nothing on the level of what Subaru gets, those moments when Emilia reveals her own desires and vulnerabilities are powerful to me nonetheless.
In the end, Re:Zero is a story where both the hero and the heroine are hopeless in their own ways. They hate themselves. They don't understand how other people could love them. But they save others, and they are saved themselves. Watching Subaru and Emilia come to understand what their lives are worth is cathartic in a way that few other stories have ever been for me.
"What matters isn't how you start or what happens in the middle. It's how it ends," indeed. I think of those words as an assurance that things will be okay. Even if you don't know it yet.
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