「始まりの終わりと終わりの始まり」 (Hajimari no Owari to Owari no Hajimari)
“The End of the Beginning and the Beginning of the End”
Impeccable execution and a 60-minute premiere starts Re:Zero in a strong position. I’m surprised, and pleasantly so; this felt like an improvement on the source.
Execution, Execution, Execution
In my preview for this series, I admitted to some trepidation. The execution didn’t feel like it was quite there, even if the rebirth mechanic made me kept reading past where I normally would have stopped to write a preview. If there’s anything this first episode did, it was execute the story well. I actually laughed at some of the gags, and I knew they were coming! I had seen them before, and not long ago! That speaks volumes. They executed the story to the hilt, to good effect.
Part of that is the double-length premiere. That’s a huge help. Fitting two rebirths into the first episode without having to rush really helped give us a good, solid foundation. Not only did we meet the Half-Elf Who May Or May Not Be Named Satella (Takahashi Rie), we also got to properly meet Felt (Akasaki Chinatsu) and Rom-jii (Mugihito), as well as an antagonist in Elsa (Noto Mamiko). We needed to get that far to avoid my biggest gripe in the source—it took too damn long for hikkineet Natsuki Subaru (Kobayashi Yuusuke) to clue in on the rebirth mechanic, even though, as a gamer who frequently speaks in tropes, I feel like he should have defaulted to that instead of “weird dream.” I can understand him not thinking of that immediately, but he should have realized it by the time he saw Rom-jii alive. But when everything happens in one episode, that frustration is quickly forgotten, and we end with a solid foundation for the story to proceed on.
Everything else was just done well. Pacing was great. Animation was lovely. The seiyuu were all on point and well-casted, with Kobayashi Yuusuke nailing the comedy and Noto Mamiko being both scary and hot (but mostly scary). Plus Takahashi Rie is quickly becoming one of my favorite seiyuu, so glad to hear more from her. Special props go to Aketagawa Jin, Suehiro Kenichiro, and anyone else who worked on the sound or the OST; there were a few times when the soundtrack absolutely elevated a scene, such as when it completely stopped after Subaru announced he was unemployed in Rom-jii’s shop…and then the conversation started up again as if nothing had happened. Beautiful.
Honestly, I’m almost annoyed. I don’t like even the possibility of blogging two shows on Sunday—hell, I don’t like to blog at all on Sundays—and yet this and Boku no Hero Academia both had strong premieres. I was kind of hoping one would suck. Damn you, anime industry! Why can’t you arrange shows to better suit my needs? *shakes fist theatrically* *trips over one of Subaru’s weights* *gets transported to a parallel world*
Some readers get annoyed when I bring up that I’m an author. They think I’m self-promoting. No matter that intimately knowing what goes into creating a piece of fiction is often extremely relevant when analyzing another piece of fiction; clearly I’m self-promoting. And my protests that I would bring up my other jobs if only they were relevant to anime more often, fall on deaf ears.
So let’s do that. When I’m not writing books, I’m selling things, and I worked as a broker for several years, which is the position both Felt and Elsa were in here. (Elsa had a client, whereas Felt’s supplier was, obviously, unwilling.) Let’s discuss what Felt did wrong, and why she got split down the seam.
(No, I’m not bitter or anything. Why do you ask? Not bitter at all.)
As I said, I worked as a broker for several years. An electronics broker. Buy low, sell high, that kind of thing. Mostly I was a regular supplier, but when a shortage happened and customers got desperate for a part, you can bet the price rose precipitously. That’s part of the game. But you know what I never did? I never made a customer openly compete for parts with another customer when I had already accepted a purchase order. I might occasionally lie to the first customer and say that my supplier fell through, which is not real nice, but I’m not going to claim it didn’t happen. But make them openly compete? C’mon.
That’s where Felt made her big mistake. She traded her reputation for short-term profits. If the customer isn’t valuable and the profits are high enough, sometimes that’s worth it—but usually not. Reputation is worth more than its figurative weight in gold. And to do so with both customers present is amateur hour. It’s faster, sure, but it introduces all sorts of potential problems (them teaming up against her or both of walking out, etc). If Felt were smarter, she would have taken the deal she was originally paid for, maybe earned herself a future client, and kept all of her organs inside her body. Which is another thing—it’s not wise to antagonize people in a world where they might decide to kill you instead of paying.
Though in Felt’s case, it makes sense. She’s a kid, albeit a streetwise, jaded one. We’ll all just have to learn from her mistake, and hopefully Subaru will too.
Looking Ahead – Now It Really Stars
Like I said, the advantage of a double-length premiere is that the stage is all set, and now the strength of the rebirth mechanic can start to take effect. Unlike other magical-fantasy-action-harem anime, this one isn’t an action-adventure so much as it is a mystery or a puzzle. How can Subaru take the information he has and the tools that are available and make sure that everyone gets out of this alive, while also making sure the half-elf-temporarily-known-as-Satella gets to keep her insignia? Oh, and it would also be nice to find out what her deal is, as well as what Elsa’s is, because like I said, she’s scary/hot/scary (but mostly scary). What this episode did was ask a lot of intriguing questions that I now want answers to, which is something they wouldn’t have been able to do with only a single 23-minute episode.
As we did last season, we won’t be announcing what shows we’re covering until 2-3 episodes of most shows have been released. Please comment if you want to see Re:Zero receive regular coverage. Originally I was thinking it wouldn’t, because of the schedule conflict and my early doubts on the source, but now I’m not so sure. Tell me what y’all think.
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – Impeccable execution & 60-minute runtime help establish the world, characters, & story. The puzzle has been set. Now to solve it #rezero 01
- Interspersing the dark death scene with the normal convenience store scene made both of them eerie, and aroused interest from the very first moments. I liked that better than just doing the death scene first, since at that point we wouldn’t have known who even one of those characters might be, and therefore would be less likely to care that they’re dying.
- One good deed per day is…actually a good goal to live by. Also, it’s a convincing enough reason to help out, especially when combined with Puck (Uchiyama Yumi) vouching for Subaru’s lack of malicious intent.
- Speaking of, Puck is an adorable little meddler. Neko punch! Nyahaha~
- For some reason it really tickles me that the only reason Subaru is strong is that he works out to guard the house. It’s not usual for a hikkineet (note: yes, I’m using the KonoSuba term forever more), but throwing it out there early makes it an established fact, and he did presumably have the time. Plus, he kicked that one mugger in the nads, which was funny.
- It’s the little touches, like including the red-eye effect in the photo or not skimping on the blood. If the first season of Terra Formars had allowed this much blood, maybe I would still be watching it for the current (second) season. Though probably not.
My first novel, Wage Slave Rebellion, is available now. (More info—now in paperback!) Sign up for my email list for a FREE sequel novella. Over at stephenwgee.com, the last four posts: Inside Out: What Emotion Drives You?, Superhot: Storytelling through gameplay, Deadpool: Tonal Balance Through Non-Linear Storytelling, and Through their own flaws.
Full-length images: 29.