Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-
by Kim Morrissy,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- (TV 2) ?
This week in Re:Zero, Subaru suffers his most gruesome fate so far: Death by rabbits.
I mean, damn. Getting eaten alive by a horde of evil rabbits has got to suck. Elsa's bowel-cutting seems downright tame in comparison to what went down in this episode. And yet... the killer rabbits weren't even the biggest highlight of the episode. At the end, Subaru manages to reunite with Echidna, and he finally gets to tell someone for the very first time about Return by Death. This episode runs the whole gamut of emotions, from intrigue to terror to despair, and then, at last, catharsis.
Once again, the storyboarding and direction outdoes itself here. Kenichi Kawamura reprises the role of storyboard artist this episode, delivering that final scene with a sequence of dramatic angles that successfully builds up the tension for an impactful release. He seems to have a thing for Echidna because he also handled her first tea party from episode 3. The meaningful looks she gives Subaru this episode really sells the curious connection the two characters have even after her absence from the past few episodes.
Baito Akai, who directed the climactic episode of Re:Zero's very first arc, handles the direction here; the sound choices and the timing leading up to the rabbit scene in particular paint an eerie atmosphere. As soon as the first rabbit appeared, I had an unsettling feeling that something about it wasn't right, but it took a while for the depths of depravity to truly sink in. There's something almost comical about the scene when the horde appears and Subaru is terrified out of his wits. But it stops being funny when his extended mutilation plays out as voice actor Yūsuke Kobayashi screams with utterly convincing agony. What ultimately makes that scene so memorable is its juxtaposition of the comical and the grotesque.
The rabbits might have stolen the show in the gore department, but the scene which directly preceded it was also plenty violent. Otto's abrupt death at the hands of a berserk Garfiel hits hard, especially after his declaration of friendship with Subaru last episode. Garfiel seems stronger than Frederica in their transformed states, perhaps due to having more beastman blood in him. He tears Otto in half with one strike, and the fate of the Arlam villagers and Subaru's faithful dragon Patrasche is no kinder. This episode really wasn't pulling any punches.
That's all the more reason why that final scene with Echidna works so well. Subaru has reached his lowest point in this season so far, and yet despite all the heartfelt bonds he had formed with others, he has never been able to truly confide with anyone about what he has been going through. I misjudged Echidna at her first appearance; I thought she'd be the manipulative type, but it turns out that being the Witch of Greed means that she's primarily just greedy for knowledge. She's actually quite a pure young lady at heart, huh?
Some of the larger pieces of this arc's narrative are starting to come together. It really says a lot about how many twists and turns there were in this episode that the conversation with Roswaal at the start ends up being an afterthought in this review, but his clarification that Beatrice isn't part of the Witch Cult feels very important in the scheme of things. The book Beatrice follows is the original, while the Gospels of the Witch Cult are more like deformations. I don't believe for a moment that Beatrice is a villain, and judging by Echidna's actions thus far, the witches don't seem like bad sorts either. History seems at odds with the truth, and I expect to see that get addressed further as Subaru and Echidna form a closer relationship.
Finally, to cap off this week's review, I have to point out what everyone was thinking when they saw Garfiel in his beast form: This world's orange cat really doesn't like Wednesdays.
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