Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- (Season 2)
by Kim Morrissy,
How would you rate episode 19 of
Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- (TV 2) ?
It's been a rough journey, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. I'm talking not just about the events of Emilia's trials but also the experience of watching this flashback. With its drawn-out scenes, repetitive dialogue, and shaky character art, this was not the strongest Re:Zero episode, but in the context of the series as a whole, it makes the overall stakes of the narrative significantly clearer.
Looking back on the structure of Re:Zero's plot, each arc has successively introduced more of the broader aspects of the world beyond Subaru's limited perspective. In the larger scheme of things, he is a supporting character in Emilia's quest to win the Royal Selection so that she can save her frozen village. Unlocking Emilia's memories also means that the greater context of her narrative is revealed. We understand now why the Witch Cult is after her – it's because she holds the key to an ominous seal. In the end, she protected her promise to Fortuna to the end, which means that we still don't know what's behind that seal.
It was also important to learn that the Witch Cult is not necessarily a unified group, because it puts the scale of their attacks in the first season into context. In the previous episode, Regulus bore a grudge against Geuse, and he even lashed out at Pandora for a perceived slight. With their obscenely strong powers, the Sin Archbishops could probably crush Emilia's camp if they teamed up, but they don't do this because they follow their own whims. In her serene and unsettling way, however, Pandora has been manipulating everybody. It was a particularly striking moment when, after she uses her power to trick Geuse into killing Fortuna, she whispers to him the chilling words that he later repeats to Subaru a hundred years later: "It was all for love. You offered up your very soul to save the one you love. All that you have done was out of love. A beautiful, wonderful symbol of love..."
Finally, this episode leaves a very strong implication that Emilia's magic powers are actually incredibly strong – so strong, in fact, that she was the one who actually caused Elior Forest to freeze over in her desire to kill Pandora. Given that Emilia has not displayed anything remotely resembling this level of power so far, I get the impression that her contract with Puck may be keeping her powers restrained. In other words, this arc represents a turning point for Emilia in multiple ways, as she grows into her role as the heroine. The highlight for me was her conversation with Echidna, as she proves that she has the mental fortitude to face her past while also idealistically maintaining hope that she can save everyone one day.
Having said all of this, I still think this was a weaker episode. The neat directing tricks don't disguise that this was a dragged-out affair. Emotionally speaking, I think I would have been more moved by Emilia's grief if she and Fortuna didn't shout about how much they love each other on at least three separate occasions throughout this flashback arc. A little bit of narrative restraint would have been good in terms of maximizing the impact. Also, the art looked noticeably less polished this episode, especially when things return to Subaru, Otto, and Garfiel in the present.
But hey, we finally got an OP! Kind of a poorly edited one, but the song was neat and some of the cuts in it looked cool! After so long without an OP, I was thinking the chances of seeing one were a Long Shot... I'll see myself out.
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