Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- (Season 2)
by Kim Morrissy,
How would you rate episode 21 of
Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- (TV 2) ?
Even though the story is firmly back in the present now, the pacing still has its problems. From a directing and storyboarding perspective, it's also one of the weaker episodes, as it mostly depicts characters standing in a single spot while expositing. The anime has generally been excellent at conveying the weight of its dialogue scenes through clever storyboarding, but this episode had a bit too much "talking heads" for my liking.
It's a real pity that I'm not enjoying this second cour as much as I thought I would. If the first cour was about building up tension and layers of mysteries, the second is about the payoff, but that payoff just hasn't turned out to be as satisfying as I thought it would be so far. Part of that is because the solutions to mysteries don't tend to be as interesting as the speculation, but it's also because the key moments have been getting bogged down with roundabout dialogue that isn't strictly relevant to the emotional thrust of the scene.
For example, Ram's confrontation with Roswaal is overall very important in establishing the evolving relationship between the two characters, but they didn't need to ponderously explain their motivations and actions to each other. The idea that Ram is ultimately acting against Roswaal because she feels that it's better to crush his delusions for his own good was conveyed earlier in the scene where she kneels before Emilia; I felt like it didn't need to be reiterated twice more. I also felt that her entire conversation with Otto could have been cut without losing much, because Roswaal's shocked "So this is the main reason you agreed to Subaru-kun's plan?!" when she brings out Puck is enough to prompt the viewer to fill in the gaps.
This sort of thing is an issue with the series composition writing more than anything. I don't necessarily think that "show don't tell" is a hard and fast rule for writing, and I've never had a problem with the pacing in the original novels, but the over-reliance on dialogue to explain the action is frankly less enjoyable in visual form. This season's attempt to include as much dialogue from the novels as possible has resulted in scenes that drag on longer than they should and episodes that lack a tight structure. That's been more of a problem with this cour compared to the first one because it's structured like the denouement in a mystery novel, where the detective explains the meaning behind everything shown previously. When that denouement is taking place over the course of multiple episodes, it starts to get wearisome even to a patient viewer.
You know what was good about this episode, though? Subaru, Otto, and Garfiel. I'm really enjoying this band of three stooges, especially Garfiel now that he's channeling his boisterous energy into productive matters. The reveal that, like Frederica, he's only a quarter-beastman was also very well-timed. It lines up with what we learned about him in episode 16. He sought to maintain the barrier in the Sanctuary because of his self-loathing and abandonment issues, so it's not actually a surprise to find out that he could have left this whole time. I also had to laugh about how he has abs of steel strong enough to deflect Elsa's bowel-cutting blades. With him tag-teaming with his older sister, our heroes might actually stand a chance now against the assassins at the mansion. As usual for Re:Zero lately, this episode ended just when it was getting good.
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