Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-
by Kim Morrissy,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- (TV 2) ?
"A Step Forward", this episode was called. You know what that means in Re:Zero terms: It's time for Subaru to die!
Before we get to that cliffhanger ending, though, let's talk about some of the substantial reveals in this episode. First of all, Echidna confirms that Subaru's touching reunion with his parents from last episode happened in a world fabricated from his memories. This fact doesn't come as a surprise to Subaru, and he admirably resists Echidna's psychological needling about it. This is what ultimately lets him pass the trial with flying colors. Echidna's reactions make it really clear that she finds Subaru amusing and would really prefer him to progress in the trials.
This idea that maybe everyone would be better off if Emilia gives up and lets Subaru do everything underscores the entire episode. With the abrupt way episode 3 ended, I thought maybe that there was some kind of interference with the trial that prevented Emilia from advancing, but this episode confirms that in this case, at least, she was unable to face her past. After her first aborted attempt, she tries again the next day and still fails. Garfiel questions whether Emilia truly wants to face her past despite the brave face she puts on, and even Emilia's benefactor Roswaal goes out of his way to keep secrets from her. It's like nobody has any faith in her at all.
I've got ambivalent feelings, but overall I kind of like the conflict here. From the audience's perspective, Emilia has mostly been the damsel in distress. She truly, earnestly wants to prove herself, and this is her time to shine. In any other story, she would immediately start kicking ass, but this is Re:Zero we're talking about. Just as Subaru had to go through hell and back to find the resolve to be a hero, Emilia has to start from zero as well. All of this sounds interesting in theory, and I have faith in her just as Subaru does. The only problem with this setup is the lack of insight from Emilia's perspective. While I think that The Frozen Bond OVA partially addresses this issue, it doesn't make her failures right now any easier to watch. Subaru's character journey had catharsis because we followed his perspective every step of the way, but I really have to wonder whether Emilia's eventual successes will feel as satisfying.
Speaking of The Frozen Bond, the TV anime so far hasn't directly addressed Emilia's past, but I think at some point, we're probably going to start seeing some of the material from that OVA get revisited with some extra context. Otherwise, Emilia's growth can't progress at all. I won't discuss the content of The Frozen Bond here, but it's available on Crunchyroll, and there's no better time to watch it.
There are some other intriguing points about this episode. Roswaal's conversation with Subaru makes me think that he somehow knows about Return By Death. Otherwise, his confidence that things will work out the way he envisions would be entirely unfounded, as Subaru himself points out. And if he does know about all those timelines where everyone dies, then his callousness knows no bounds. With friends like these, who needs enemies? We also get some hints that maybe Frederica is plotting something ominous herself, and things are definitely not looking good at the mansion when Subaru shows up back there and immediately has his intestines cut loose.
That's right, this episode marks the return of the Bowel Hunter Elsa. She was one of the more entertaining villains from the first season, and something tells me she'll be harder to beat without Deus Ex Reinhard around. As morbid and perverse as it is to say, I'm relieved that Subaru has finally died, because that means that the loop will begin in earnest and the mysteries will start to come to a head.
According to one of Re:Zero's animation directors on Twitter, their work after this episode was done from home, and they're still stuck at home right now. In more ways than one, it feels like we're entering the unknown from this point on.
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