Re: Zero is back! That’s right, the isekai that launched one of the bloodiest waifu-wars to date has returned for another season of fresh suffering for our poor protagonist, Subaru, and the season premiere wastes no time in getting us there.
The question is, was it worth the wait?
Sadly, if this first episode is any indication, I’m afraid not.
Picking up right where season 1 left off, Emilia, Subaru, Rem and the others are in a caravan after their battle with sloth. Subaru awkwardly confesses to Emilia that Rem had shared her own feelings for him, and that he was trying to come to terms with that – but Emilia can only offer a harrowing response:
Who is Rem?
Meanwhile, Rem and Crusch have a conversation a few carts away about the strength of their forces. Crusch comments that Subaru was right about Rem looking better when she smiled, and the two exchange pleasantries until an explosion rocks the caravan.
A mysterious man appears, decimating the cart that attempts to run him over as Crusch and Rem square off against him. After taking off Crusch’s arm effortlessly, he introduces himself as the Sin Archbishop of Greed, Regulus Corneas. He’s joined by another Archbishop, representing Gluttony – Lye Batenkaitos.
Rem attempts to stand against them, knowing that her “hero” – Subaru – will arrive to defeat them both. Unfortunately, she’s completely outclassed and Gluttony feasts on what appears to be her memories.
In the aftermath of the attack, dozens are killed and Subaru goes looking for Rem, only to find her in some sort of deep comatose state. The healer can offer her no additional help, and a grief-stricken Subaru uses a nearby broken blade to Return by Death, even though he assumes he’ll have to battle Betelgeuse and Sloth again.
Instead, he’s returned to the caravan, and Emilia still has no idea who Rem is.
Subaru explains to a sleeping Rem that despite his bold talk, his Return by Death can’t help her escape the situation she’s in. Puck arrives to offer some helpful information on the Authority of Gluttony, namely that he can devour one’s name to make people forget about them, or their memories…when both are eaten, they become an empty shell of themselves, which explains Rem’s predicament.
On his way down for a meeting with the major players from their previous Alliance, Subaru encounters Crusch in the hallway, who had her memories eaten, but not her name. She is shy, reserved…and lacks much of the boldness she had in the previous season. Subaru is obviously pained that his weakness has affected her as well, with no means of resolving it quickly or easily.
During the meeting, Felis comments that the attacks are only natural due to Emilia’s interest in the crown. He makes some hurtful comments about Emilia’s background, and after insulting her further, Crusch demands he apologize, which he does.
However, he suggests the previous alliance be dissolved in order to protect Crusch’s life and distance themselves from Emilia. Crusch objects, ultimately wishing to stand against her attackers, and with Emilia as well. Felis is moved to tears by Crusch’s determination.
Back in Rem’s room, Subaru comments that despite her confidence in him, he can’t find that “tough guy” attitude anymore. Emilia arrives just as he’s making these confessions to Rem’s unconscious body, and offers her help in sharing the burden of taking care of Rem…even though she has no more memories of her.
Now it’s Subaru’s turn for tears as he asks Emilia to turn around. She obliges, but as he weeps, she wraps her arms around him and he resolves to get Rem back – that he will be the hero she believed he was.
Season 2 of Re: Zero is off to a mildly disappointing start. Episode 1 feels rushed, replays the emotional stakes of the previous season, solves its mysteries almost as soon as it introduces them, and sets up some of the least interesting villains yet. But Episode 1 also had a lot of ground to cover, given how season 1 ended.
Episode 1 starts fairly strong, quickly reminding you of all of the existing characters and most of the relevant events. Subaru thinks back on all of the people who have helped them and seems actually grateful – a step forward for his character. But when he finally works up the nerve to confess that Rem is in love with him, Emilia can’t remember who Rem is.
Even though forgetting a character’s existence is nothing new in the show, this revelation felt like the start of an interesting mystery: with the whale gone, why does Emilia not remember Rem? It would have been fun to explore if they didn’t immediately cut to Rem and Crusch’s battle with Greed and Gluttony.
The battle of Rem and Crusch versus Greed and Gluttony was underwhelming at best. The animation of the only fight of the episode took a lot of shortcuts and provided little interesting choreography. And to make matters worse, neither of the villains feel that interesting. At least not when compared to Beetlegeuse whose insanity immediately resold the series. I enjoyed Greed’s calm and civility, but Gluttony’s obsessive yelling just feels uninteresting for now.
Fortunately, the episode picks up a little steam closer to the end. For the first time, Subaru’s death doesn’t set him back far enough to fix everything. It’s a great moment only partially undercut by Puck explaining Rem’s entire situation. Crusch’s memory issue is also interesting to watch. It gives great insight to her character without the trappings of royalty.
The episode is dense and there is a lot to unpack from it. In one episode they had to provide some closure from the Beetlegeuse fight, remind us of all of the currently relevant characters, and set up a new plot with stakes that are just as high as before. So it’s not surprising that the episode feels rushed. And for the most part, the show succeeds in getting us back up to speed and creating a new threat for our protagonist to defeat. Maybe now it can slow down for a little more intrigue and character growth.
All in all, Episode 1 of Season 2 of Re: Zero was disappointing. The strongest emotional moments felt like re-treads of previous seasons. The new enemies are lackluster in comparison to previous antagonists. And the only mysteries are set up and solved within minutes. Yet I am still hopeful that the next episodes capitalize more on the strengths of the series. The show does a great job of showing the affects of trauma on its protagonist and it will be interesting to see how Subaru deals with a problem he can’t just fix with his savepoints.