When last we left our reviewer of Re:Zero, he was very obviously annoyed by the stupidity of the protagonist of this show. While, spoiler alert (in addition to the one above), Subaru has not gotten any better in Episode 17, my reviews would start feeling one note if all I did was discuss the terribleness of the central component of the show. With that in mind, all of my ranting on Subaru is going to be encompassed by the acronym Subaru Is Stupid And Should Die In a Fire (SISASDIAF). Ok, let’s begin.
Where last we left off, Subaru had convinced a group of teamsters to ride out to Emilia’s domain in order to rescue the villagers. Everything was looking up until the massive beast attacked, eliminating one of the carriages as well as the memories of the riders within.
Episode 17 starts on a high note with a thrilling chase between Subaru’s party and the dreaded white whale. Unfortunately for Subaru and the gang, escaping the white whale is more difficult than running in a straight line away from it. Seeing no other options, Rem knocks out Subaru with a karate chop that would have made Captain Kirk proud and jumps out of the wagon to fight the whale on her own. Once again, Rem proves to be the most selfless and devoted character in this show. And also a demonic bad-ass.
When Subaru regains consciousness, he finds himself alone in the back of the carriage. The driver explains to Subaru that Rem sacrificed herself so they could continue at which point Subaru demands they turn back to rescue her. Because SISASDIAF. See how that works? The driver explains that the monster cannot be stopped, having already killed the First Master Swordsman.
After Subaru settles, the driver very obviously forgets Rem’s existence. Even though this is the second time the driver has forgotten somebody’s existence after a whale attack, Subaru immediately assumes the driver is being a jerk and he punches him in the face. Because SISASDIAF. The driver takes it fairly well, all things considering. But after Subaru realizes the creature is after him due to his connection to the witch, the driver – showing a surprising amount of intelligence and self-preservation – pushes Subaru out of the carriage.
Subaru survives his fall, but finds himself face-to-Subaru with the White Whale. And the white whale looks hungry for some Subaru. Almost creepily so. Now that Rem is dead and it looks like he has failed, the smart thing would be for Subaru to die, right? Well, Subaru has changed gears. Now he desperately wants to live. Because SISASDIAF. Also, remember how I said the strategy of running directly away doesn’t work? Well, that’s only if you’re in a fast moving carriage. Apparently if you’re on lang it works just fine. Because reasons.
But let’s forget that for now. Subaru eventually finds the now empty carriage covered in cultist knives and blood and rides it lazily into town. It is nice to see that for once he makes it on time and everybody is still alive. Though nobody remembers Rem. A concept that Subaru cannot seem to understand. Because SISASDIAF.
The rest of the episode mostly involves Subaru arguing with people about the existence of Rem and arguing with Emilia that she should do what he says because he knows what’s best for her. It’s odd that he never attempts to explain the danger (SISASDIAF), but instead shifts from “come with me or I’ll make you” to “I will tell you about my power and how it works.” With everyone else there was an attempt for middle ground.
Then, like with many episodes of Re:Zero, we get some really interesting additions. The first is that Subaru is apparently able to kill the ones he loves (Emilia) by attempting to tell them about his Return by Death. The second is Betty nonchalantly discussing Emilia’s death and Puck’s ascension to godhood. Betty is a standout moment of the episode, refusing Subaru’s wish to kill him (because he now wants to die again) while ejecting him from the castle.
The last scene of the episode, like with most episodes of Re:Zero, is where the best parts lie. Subaru finds himself surrounded by cultists and the dreaded Betelgeuse. This time Subaru is able to see Betelgeuse’s invisible hand – a fact that bothers Betelgeuse immensely. Once again, Betelgeuse reacts by attempting to destroy something Subaru loves – Emilia. But this time he is foiled by the hero of the tale: Puck.
They have done considerable work in Re:Zero to make Subaru as unlikable as possible. While the supporting cast keep getting better, Subaru just keeps getting more desperate and less likable. I am really hoping for some payoff with this attitude shift, because it feels more deliberate than just bad characterization. And again, it is always fun to watch the pieces of the puzzle unravel and to ask the difficult questions. Like why does everyone remember the Master Swordsman if he got killed by the white whale? Why is Subaru able to see Betelgeuse’s power when he wasn’t before? Is it because the shift in his own power? And how will Subaru ever get out of this mess? Except by dying. Preferably in a fire.