“Parent and Child”
In the midst of sweltering summer heat (at least if you’re me – 30+ degrees Celsius is nothing to scoff at when you’re prairie Canadian!), Re:Zero apparently decided that going all in on 30 minutes (!!!) of warm , fuzzy feels and burning love was the right move this week. And frankly amidst my overheating I cannot fault what we received. Although undeniably couched in the magic of one particular Witch and coloured by nostalgia, this was the episode which finally gave us a good deal on info on Subaru’s past, and most importantly, the driver which ensures this kid won’t be backing out of his mission partway through.
Considering what we learned of Subaru’s real-world history way back in season one, I suspect a few anime-only fans might be surprised to discover this kid was a NEET. A full-on, true to god NEET. While this premise is the meat and potatoes of many light novel/manga/anime stories these days, I must admit Re:Zero’s version is arguably one of the more realistic takes on the concept, especially considering who Subaru was to start with. In effect we got a kid who outgrew his specialness, and in a desire to avoid failing to meet perceived expectations, wound up acting out and then retreating into himself to avoid the hassle of disappointing those close to him—and himself. The midlife crisis has been a meme unto itself for decades (see The Hangover trilogy for its concentrated form), but as Subaru shows the teenage years often feature a similar crisis of faith. Most often kids rise above the challenges of social cliques, parental intentions (perceived or not), and planning for the future, but plenty these days fall through the cracks, and Subaru was one of them.
When looking on Subaru’s past it’s easy to find fault with his choice as he realized he was just another nameless face in the crowd, but part of the blame (at least for me) must also lie with his parents. No matter how hilarious mama and papa Subaru may be (papa especially), both owed it to Subaru to give him a literal kick in the ass when needed to prevent him from falling in on himself. While the likes of Rem and Emilia may have enabled Subaru to realize his self-worth and grow beyond the shadow of father, such a dramatic intervention need not have been required if Subaru’s parents were more forcefully willing to voice their obvious concerns and make their son realize yes, he is his own person, and regardless of choice he will be loved. It might just be me and my family situation or even Subaru’s take on his own memories in this instance (as one scene poignantly suggests), but parental responsibility demands ensuring your child not only knows of societal obligations, but also personal obligations. Retreating into yourself and building walls may seem correct when young and downtrodden, but it only hurts as you get older and realize the only way to truly get ahead is with the assistance of others. Makes it kind of curious then to know if those Return by Death chest pains were only part of Subaru’s Witch-induced reminiscing, or if he actually had them when he was back in the real world; the latter would certainly suggest some long-term planning on the part of one particular Witch and somewhat explain how Subaru was one kid able to so easily skip compulsory education.
Considering Echidna’s classroom appearance though we’ll know how this little trip down memory lane plays out. After all, if there’s one thing a Witch’s appearance in this show foretells, it’s the oncoming rush of suffering before the inevitable Return by Death resurrection.
ED: 「Memento」by nonoc