Subaru has taken a turn for the worst. And not in the “today Subaru got his arm cut off and is bleeding out” or the “Subaru has contracted a curse that will kill him in 12 hours” way. No, Subaru’s character has gone off the deep end, ranging from eager and overly excitable (as per usual) to downright unpleasant.
Season 2 is off to a slow start in a show that has a fantastic premise and great characterization. Generally. In Season 1 of Re: Zero, the main character, Subaru (person, not car) was transported to another dimension where his main defining ability is that when he dies, he revives at a prior save point. Yes, the ability we all take for granted in video games is all he has. This gives us the opportunity in Season 1 to watch Subaru die over and over and over as he slowly pieces together why he is dying and how he can prevent future dyings.
Throughout season 1, Subaru meets the supporting cast, which I will describe briefly for the purposes of making my later comments necessary. Emilia, the object of Subaru’s affections, is a half-elf in the running to be ruler of the country who is hated because her half-elf lineage and silver hair makes her appear a lot like the evil witch that everyone is afraid of for some undisclosed reasons. Her servants, Ram and Rem, are twin ogres who have grown affectionate for Subaru ever since he risked his life (multiple times) to save him. Finally, Reinhardt is a knight that Subaru briefly met in the beginning of season 1 who saved his metaphorical bacon before kidnapping the thief girl, Felt for undisclosed reasons.
Now you’re caught up. Yay.
Episode 13 opens with Emilia being summoned to the capital. Subaru, now under the belief that everything bad will happen to Emilia if she is ever more than 6 feet from him, begs her to let him join. She agrees, but on the pretense that his purpose for joining is to heal his gate (the source of magic and mana) after he expelled so much magic saving the ogres.
From there, the rest of the episode is a mixture of Subaru being jealous and Subaru not listening to any request of Emilia’s. When Emilia tells Subaru she must go to the castle without him, Subaru convinces Rem to let him leave so he can sneak into the castle to protect her from his delusions of evil.
Inside the castle the ceremony begins with general condescension to Emilia as the half elf, and the reintroduction of Felt as the last girl magically selected to be in the running for ruler of the country with her knight being Reinhardt. The play between Felt, who has no desire to be a ruler, and Reinhardt smugly taking his place as her knight is probably the highlight of the episode.
The second most cringe worthy scene takes place in the castle as Subaru yells at everyone for belittling Emilia who continually tells him to shut his stupid mouth, but to no avail. This angry outburst is followed by Subaru declaring that he is Emilia’s knight despite being surrounded by actual knights in matching battle armor. One of the knights, Julius, becomes angry at the presumption and calls out Subaru for acting like a jerk, but Subaru does not back down. Julius then challenges Subaru to a duel and beats the ever living snot out of him – which was completely and utterly deserved.
Following Subaru’s beat down, he wakes up to find Emilia sitting at his bedside, angry that he participated in the duel. Subaru chooses to defend his actions by screaming at her – telling her that he is the reason everything always works out and that she owes him more than she could ever pay back. In response, Emilia agrees to pay him back by having him healed and leaves to return home.
This character shift for Subaru is a huge let down for the show. For a character who a season ago happily accepted mediocre boons – such as being able to pet a cat – for saving people’s lives, Subaru’s sudden turn about is ridiculously out of character. For someone who had always been so sincere even when he was continually being killed by his friends, his sudden anger at everything feels out of place. It almost feels as if the show writers felt the need to weaken his character so that he could use his ability to not only save lives but to grow into the person he already was.
The highlights of Episode 13 definitely include the introductions of the new characters. Particularly the other members of the royal selection were enjoyable to watch on-screen, from Priscilla, the arrogant girl whose knight only wears the metal helmet portion of a knight’s armor to Crusch, the professional woman whose knight is an effeminate male cat creature which confuses the hell out of Subaru. And let us not forget Felt, who after being coerced into running for ruler gives as he proclamation a desire to destroy the entire system.
It is nice to see changes to the show and the introduction of a bigger story; it’s just a shame that it had to take place at the cost of Subaru’s character.
Episode 14 fairs slightly better with Subaru feeling bad about how he lashed out at Emilia. He spends his time training with one of the other servants and drinking tea with his host Crusch. The scenes give us hope that Subaru’s outburst was a thing of the past and that he would spend the rest of his time trying to make things better.
Which makes it even worse when he goes back to his old ways. Upon hearing that there has been some trouble back at the castle where Emilia is staying, Subaru decides that he must return to help her. Crusch informs him that she is only hosting him as part of her contract with Emilia and that him leaving would breach the contract and turn them into enemies. Subaru brushes this off and even snaps at Crusch before heading out with Rem.
Rem, who apparently still loves Subaru despite him acting like a grade-A jerk, puts him to sleep and rushes on without him. This is a great play by Rem, who has seen how powerless Subaru is to affect even the smallest change on his own.
Subaru, true to character, rushes after her only to arrive at the village too late, finding the villagers dead along with Rem.
The ending of the episode, with all of the needless death, tells us that Subaru is probably going to die soon and revive early enough to stop it. I can almost feel the next few episodes playing out. One where he wakes up after the duel, just in time to fail to convince Emilia that she should keep him by her side – followed by the same death and destruction. This followed by more episodes of character building until he finally figures out how to have a conversation with Emilia that doesn’t include him acting like a jerk – followed by character redemption and everyone winning. It wouldn’t annoy me as much if Subaru’s character didn’t feel so artificially terrible – like the writers realized they had made a too-likable character so they had to tune him down for more character growth.
Episodes 13 and 14 were a poor start for season 2 of Re: Zero. While the episodes introduced some interesting new challenges and quirky new characters, it did so at the cost of Subaru – the most likable character – being turned into a jealous and selfish prick. While I am interested to see how Subaru fixes all of these new problems, I am less excited by the character growth of a stunted character.