Episode 03 of Subarashiki Kono Sekai marks the end of the first Reapers’ Game Neku has to put up with as he fights against Higashizawa, a game master with an interest in the culinary arts. But this episode is also marked with tragedy as two players face erasure due to the uncouth trickery of the Reapers.
Rhyme’s erasure was noticeably cruel because they were instantly remembered the circumstance of their passing. With a giant Tsukihime floor shark replacing a massive truck, the bitter irony isn’t lost on Beat, who is irate enough to waltz in on the Reapers Uzuki and Kouki as they’re celebrating their small victory with a round of Mexican Hot Dogs. While the conditions of that standoff are currently up in the air, it’d be hard for Beat to not be emotional when he was given a friendly reminder of what Rhyme used as their entry fee when Neku was piecing together what everyone had to trade in for a shot at rebirth.
On a similar note, Neku and Shiki’s victory against Higashizawa was staged effectively, making you think that Kitaniji wasn’t just going to bait-and-switch Neku like that. Going from making Shiki believe she was chosen to be reborn to pulling the rug out from under her by designating her as Neku’s entry fee was cold as ice. Much like how the video game frames this entire experience as a pitiless trap where the Reapers aim to shoot fish in a barrel with unfortunate souls ripe for the picking, that helpless feeling of being trapped in a rigged game is translated reasonably well within the anime.
Neku’s personability in the anime occasionally comes at odds with parts of the game’s script that were faithfully reproduced in the anime. Beat’s abrasive attitude around Neku and Shiki’s plea to let Neku be reborn for the strides he made for not being awful would only make sense if we came to know Neku for his in-game personality of being a standoffish prick.
On the flip side, him being quick to adjust to Shiki’s presence and aiming to get them all back home does make him easier to sympathize with. His despair as fate keeps jerking him around makes Neku easier to root for when he looks far more broken up and distraught as he learns about both his death in the real world and the truth that Shiki was chosen as his entry fee for being thrown back into the game. I suppose it’s the limitations of a DS game that add gravitas to the story’s emotional beats as you’re actually seeing Neku, Shiki, and Beat shift their expressions from nonplussed to devastated, as opposed to still images of the characters looking wounded.
Overall, it was a strong conclusion to the first Reapers’ Game match that Neku had to put up with. The anime was able to highlight the ways that Shiki had to grow and evolve as she made peace with her thoughts on her friend Eri. On the same note, these last few episodes showed us a Neku that became more empathetic as he gained the determination to live, find answers about what happened to him, and build an emotional connection to Shiki as he becomes more and more determined to free her back to the world of the living. What happens now with Neku entering his second Reapers’ Game will end up leading him into a myriad of even more mysteries, especially with the sudden emergence of a certain someone near the end of the credits.