This Week in Anime
What Has Re:Zero's Subaru Learned?

by Nicholas Dupree & Michelle Liu,

Subaru was a divisive character in the original Re:Zero and understandably grated on some viewers' nerves. As we follow his journey through season two, Subaru continues to grow into, dare I say, a good person? Micchy and Nick look at the jam-packed first four episodes of Re:Zero!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

You can read our Daily Streaming reviews of Re:Zero here.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @NickyEnchilada @vestenet


Micchy
You know Nick, in a season this light I figured the odds of there being a piss anime were reasonably low. Like even if Steve and I seem to gravitate towards trash, surely the universe would spare us this time. Unfortunately, I have brain poisoning and can only come up with one interpretation for Re:Zero's witch tea party, and it's not a fun one.

I've seen Jojo part 5, you can't fool me!
Nick
Hey man, if I have to go 4 episodes now with barely any Subaru deaths I'll at least take this dumbass getting tricked into drinking All Organic Witch Hazel.
Hey, Subaru's been making some progress following his epiphany 9 episodes and 4 years ago! He's almost not a complete disaster now.
Just saying, by this time last season we were up to at least 4 Subaru corpses. Season 2 is being real stingy so far with just one.
Though it feels weird to call it a new season considering it picks up right after the end of S1 with virtually no re-introduction, dropping us straight into the post-whale hunting shenanigans of Subaru and co. as if it didn't have a 4-year gap between seasons. Like you could let the series autoplay on Crunchyroll and you'd never be able to tell that episode 25 doesn't lead immediately into the next one.
It's pretty impressive! It's funny to think Re:Zero debuted the same season as My Hero Academia, a series that's up to nearly 90 episodes across soon to be 5 seasons. Meanwhile Subaru's been in stasis so his Director could go make a rad magical girl/robot show, which I only bring up because IF YOU'RE READING THIS, GO WATCH GRANBELM.
Meanwhile Re:Zero only has magic ladies who also pretend to be schoolgirls sometimes, which isn't quite the same thing as magical girls. For one, I assume most magical girls don't feed other people their magical piss.
Technically I think the tea is supposed to be Echidna's spit, but we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves. Last time we visited the series was for the Frozen Bond OVA which finally gave us a look into Emilia's character after sorely needing it. And this season continues that trend by revealing she totally missed the 90's college rock trend.

Poor girl was probably stuck listening to the Swing Revival or Ska. A tragedy.
Though not as sad as the way Rem expects Subaru to be her hero. Subaru's probably capable of saving 15 percent in 15 minutes on Geico car insurance, but anything beyond that is pushing it. RIP Rem, the internet's favorite blue anime maid. You had a good run.
To be fair if there's anyone Subaru has a chance of beating, it's Anime Ben Shapiro here. It takes a LOT of effort to be dorkier than a guy who's worn the same tracksuit for 4 years but by god this guy did it.
Regulus is Just Asking Questions, okay? You're not allowed to mute or block him on Twitter because that's a violation of his First Amendment rights, which totally exist in magic JRPG land.
What, you think it's ok to try to kill him just because he killed your friends? Psh, so much for the tolerant Royal Candidates.

It's fitting they paired the Internet Troll apostate with the Literal Troll apostate. The Witch Cult really has their theming down!
Though compared to its importance last season, the Witch Cult really takes the backseat to the Witches themselves in this one. I'm sure the troll partners will be relevant at some point, but right now Subaru Natsuki's biggest hurdle is the Witch of Greed's trial of [gasp] self-reflection! And if there's anything Subaru Natsuki hates doing, it's looking at his faults with an honest eye.
I'm sure he'll be fine. It worked out well for him last time since he had an uncomfortably devoted maid to help lift him up from his depression spiral. Unfortunately Rem is busy getting some REM sleep at the moment so he'll have to make do on his own.
Yeah, to get into Subaru's revelations this season, we need to revisit episode 18 from last season, where Subaru admits that he isn't special and only ever wanted to play the hero for his own ego. Rem comforts him then by reassuring him that she loves him for who he is and not the person he pretends to be. That moment solidified her as Best Girl in many people's eyes but didn't 100% sit right with me - I think Subaru gets off a bit too easy, getting comfort from a convenient anime maid who apparently doesn't have a problem with his very real flaws. While that episode marks the start of his journey towards being a better person, I don't think the premise Rem gives him (that he's already good) is quite the thing he needs to hear.
Eh, I get that to a point, but the lesson that Subaru takes from that whole sequence isn't "Actually I'm great after all!" but rather that his faults don't have to define him. He may see himself as a pile of garbage cinched into a tracksuit, but he's also got qualities that people appreciate, even love about him. To me episode 18 is the moment where Subaru internalizes he's not a hero or a failure, but just a person with issues to work on and live with the same as anybody. Which is why he and Emilia are actually able to have a conversation this season without her looking for an escape route.
I think I'd like episode 18 more if Subaru legit had qualities to like, but S1 Subaru teeters too far into obnoxiousness for the revelation to quite work for me. Though as harsh as I'm being on him, I do think anything short of the gentlest of support would've driven him farther into self-loathing, which perhaps says more about the realities of dealing with people like Subaru than anything about the series per se. In any case I see Rem's confession as a set of emotional training wheels for him - she gets him started on the path to honest self-reflection so he can continue working out his issues himself. Rem and Emilia can help to a point, but the real hard soul-searching he has to go through alone.
And sometimes that soul-searching involves getting clocked by Isekai Bakugo.
If there's one thing I love about this season it's how every other character continues to dunk on Subaru. They're doing good work, even if they don't realize it.
We can at least agree on that! The boy's come a long way since his lowest point, but he's still a scrub, as evidenced by his absolutely basic taste in anime maids.

Boy knows his taste in anime girls and it's apparently just Emilia clones.
Ok I do legit like the detail that even before he got isekai'd Subaru was a mark for silver haired light novel girls. And that he's the brand of turbonerd who actually remembers Absolute Duo of all things.
He has a poster of Asterisk War! Who even likes Asterisk War?!!
Typically people too self-conscious to admit they like Chivalry of a Failed Knight out loud. Which fits Subaru pretty well. 10 bucks says he's got a Stella Vermillion body pillow stashed somewhere. Though before we dig into episode 4 I do have to complain at bit at how goddamn slow this season has been so far. Re:Zero is always kind of a slow burn as it builds into story arcs but this season has been especially frontloaded in cryptic nonsense. Echidna literally gives us a teaser trailer for the next like 5 antagonists.

Clearly that's all buildup towards the actual last boss, the entity known as the Beatrice Pout. I'm only half kidding when I say I bet she's one of the fabled witches.
All we know for sure is she had a past with good ol' Pete L. Juice from last season. To the point where she seems genuinely sad to hear he's dead.
She's got a bit going on! Like, say, how she doesn't love the way Subaru treats her like a tutorial fairy sometimes. There's more to Beatrice than giving quests, dammit!
And that's one of the things Subaru's still gotta deal with. He's gotten better about recognizing other folks' autonomy (like when Felis tries to pull out of their alliance to protect an amnesiac Crusch) but he can still get tunnel vision and be insensitive towards people he cares about.
Which doesn't make him pathetic or a bad person or anything! It just means he's a flawed person like everybody else. That he realizes as much is a huge improvement for him, though he still has to process the defeatist attitude he had towards his previous life.
He even sort of takes that lesson to heart later when he skips out on Echidna's wikipedia binge.

Granted he's also worried about his Not-girlfriend but y'know, he's learning in his own way.
Really, it's unfair of Echidna to expect him to want to sit around chatting with her considering she pissed/spit in his tea. Like even if she is basically omniscient and can tell him anything he wants to know, a lack of hospitality is gonna be a dealbreaker for some people!
If the tea is piss that's definitely a deal breaker, but if Echidna just wanted to explain Fantasy History and swap some spit Subaru could have maybe stood to hang around.
That sounds highly unsanitary to me, don't you think? Especially in these times. Echidna can hold her Fantasy History lectures over Zoom like a responsible educator.
I mean technically Echidna's already dead. I don't think you can catch the plague from ghost spit.
Maybe not, but Echidna has a fair bit of potentially lethal suffering planned for Subaru anyway so same diff.
But first she has a surprisingly kind "Trial" for him to go in. And by "trial" she means the soul-searching dream world episode you see in every robot anime in the last 30 years.
Remind me though, do those usually involve half-naked dads?
Not usually, though I think Aquarion Evol came close. But yeah, episode 4 is all about Subaru visiting some liminal version of his pre-isekai (presekai, if you will) life and confronting his parents about just how he became a self-loathing shutin. Complete with Moonwalking dad.
Aside from a handful of moments and the beginning of episode 1, this is the first look we've gotten at who Subaru was before getting isekai'd. We knew he was a tryhard dweeb with a serious case of self-loathing, but before now we hadn't gotten to see what his family or school life looked like.
Turns out Subaru's home life was a cursed hellscape that he was lucky to escape.

Like jesus, no wonder he has issues.
I will not hear this slander against mayonnaise. Subaru's family is actually perfectly fine! Though like all families they can get a little overbearing.
Look, I can understand liking mayo, even if I don't myself. But there is something fundamentally, ethically, morally, and spiritually broken about just eating it on its own, straight out of the bottle. Hell Subaru even has his own LABELED bottle. As if to suggest the entire family has their own discreet mayo jugs they drink like some sick perversion of Gogurt. If that's not wrong I don't know what is.
Welcome the mayo into your heart, Nick.
Anyway, besides criminal misuse of condiments, we find out Subaru's major affliction is in fact that most classic of anime complexes: Daddy Issues.

Though in Subaru's case he's got the opposite problem of most anime protags. His dad's TOO good and cool and supportive and the thought of failing to live up to that example left him basically paralyzed and spiraling for most of puberty.
Yeah, it's not a lack of a relationship with his dad he's worried about; they've got plenty going there. The problem is mostly in his head - Subaru has all the support in the world, but he has so much respect for his parents and so little for himself that he convinces himself he doesn't deserve their love. He's worried about living up to his dad's example, which makes him think he's a terrible person, which makes him try too hard to be quirky and likable, which leaves him further isolated from his very social father. It's a self-perpetuating cycle of self-hatred that he never got to break before getting isekai'd.
It hit especially hard when he admits he wanted his parents to start hating him. Because then it'd at least validate his self-hatred. He just...doesn't (or rather, didn't) believe he deserves unconditional love.
Subaru spent most of S1 learning that Emilia didn't owe him love just because he played at being savior. But there are (were) two people whose support he never had to earn because they chose to raise him in the first place.

Those two lessons are two sides of the same coin - no amount of unasked-for help can guarantee someone will love him. But similarly, no honest-to-god screwups can negate the love his parents already give him. Love isn't a measure of his inherent worth; it comes on the giver's own terms.
It's also interesting that this sequence isn't necessarily Subaru being taught it as much as it's verbalizing the changes he's gone through during all this fantasy turmoil. Plus it's pretty sweet to let him give a real goodbye to his parents, considering he has no idea if he'll ever see them again.

Ngl I teared up a little at that. As much of a scrub as he still is, Subaru finally understands how lucky he is that his parents loved him regardless of how much he thinks he deserves it. And it's not something to feel guilty over but to hold on to in his darkest times.
Even if his mom is...special.
Look I don't know what kind of parenting she's doing but I'm pretty sure between changing diapers and wiping toddler butts she's seen a lot more of his butthole than just that. Unless she means she's seen up his butt, which is admittedly pretty weird to bring up in conversation.
Between this and the mayo thing Subaru's mom is so cursed I'm willing to believe SHE'S one of the Witches and that's why he ended up in this whole mess to begin with.
Twist: everyone Subaru knows is a witch, including Julius and the tiny new maid.
So yeah, while I've still got some issues with how this season has gone so far (for the love of god can Emilia go ONE episode without getting knocked unconscious?) it's very much brought back the strengths that made the first such a huge presence years ago. Plus it's really upped its best girl game already.
I wouldn't mind an invitation to her tea party, yeah.
Just keep your mind out of the gutter.
Got it, no Love Nectar cookies.
Not yet, anyway.

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