What They Say:
As Subarus literal death-defying life in another world continues, so he finds himself drawn into the politics of the dangerous realm he s been transported to as their royal election comes to the fore.
With Emilia taking a prominent place in that process, Subaru comes to realise that the lives of those he cares for are in great peril. But are the malevolent powers behind this peril too great for even his ability to Return by Death , and more importantly does he have the mental fortitude required to rise above the incessantly harrowing experiences which await him? Life, death, love and hatred all collide in these darkly spectacular episodes of Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World.
The sound quality has options of 2.0 Stereo/Mono English dub and the Japanese a 2.0 Stereo/Mono option. Despite the lack of 5.1 options I was still not needing to adjust the settings of my audio though sometimes the focus is more that the voices are coming through more than the music at times. Aside from that, there were no complications of the audio throughout the release and there were no problems with the video synching in with subtitles as definitely acceptable as a DVD release. (That and you have to enjoy the scenery buffet whenever Betelgeuse speaks in either language…)
Similar with the audio, the video is set in 16:9 – 1.78:1 aspect ratio via NTSC transfer to PAL format – with DVD releases nowadays the effect definitely seems more grainier compared to HD and this is pretty more in your face in certain areas as the title screen is more grainer and even during the show, there is definitely that effect of quality. (No dreaded pause and the animation blurs though)That said, the animation was good overall, minimal use of CGI compared to other shows (at least that I could notice) and with the high impact attack sequences the show does deliver quite well in the animation and visual department. There is a problem with the darkness at times though especially when the White Whales attack happens which can make it a tad blurry in comparison to the town scenes but with the amount of blood spilled, it is a little off-putting. Not to the point of being a problem to the show but it is noticeable.
There was no packing for this test release however the Blu-Ray version of this (I’m reviewing the standard DVD) will get collector’s packaging.
The menu is quite basic – a still image of most of the cast involved (Subaru, the Royal Candidates, their second in commands and Betelgeuse lurking on the left) on a white background with your choices of Play All, Episodes, Set Up and on disc 2, Trailers. All select quickly with just minor delay (closer to a Blu-Ray than a DVD) so whilst basic does the job.
On the DVD release, the only extras are trailers for the following shows; Twin Star Exorcists Part 4, Overlord, Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World, Steins Gate, Deadman Wonderland and Death Note: Double Feature (Live Action). However, the special edition Blu-Ray version also contains a 52 Page Booklet and the Re:PETIT ~Re: Starting Life in Another World From PETIT~ shorts, as well as the textless opening and closing songs.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Re;Zero was one of the big series back in 2016, and the first half of the series was a good indication of where it was going and the idea of death and rebirth with Subaru’s ability to return back to a specific point in time after dying. I definitely had some problems with it (the main one that Subaru seems to have no explanation how he got to this RPG World nor caring – a similar problem I had with Overlord) but the cast of characters were interesting and I was wondering how it would go now we have several options with the royal candidates and what would happen…
…it turns out, a lot of stuff happened…but also not.
We start with the big reveal that Felt was the final royal candidate despite being from the slums which causes tension, and also with Emilia being a half-elf this also gives problems of her reminder of the dark witch, leading to a duel between Subaru and Julius which Julius wins easily – with the 4 candidates plus Felt (who really couldn’t care less but enters so she can destroy the nation which she hates ^^) it leads to confrontation between Emilia and Subaru and as Subaru cannot tell her about his ability, it leads him to going insane as he explains all the times he has helped her in the past (which she wouldn’t have known due to different timelines) and in turn, Emilia expels him from her court and thus, ending their friendship.
Now this is where a problem occurs for me with the show because Emilia herself now becomes distant and even before this you felt that Ram/Rem (particularly Rem) were more interesting characters and now, this puts her out of the story for the majority of the second half and well…you’ll see where it goes.
Subaru instead tries to get stronger for Emilia’s sake, and seems to instead getting friendlier with the most likable of the candidates Crusch, a tough no-nonsense woman with her bodyguards Willheim and Felix, but Rem notices something wrong via her connection to her sister…and leads to Subaru finding her dead in the village, and then the mansion Ram also dead. Subaru then dies in a sub-zero room which resets him to the vendor stall from the 1st half but after he broke up with Emilia. Because of this, his sanity is even worse and he gets captured by the Witch Cult….which introduces us to the most memorable villain of the series Betelgeuse, the epitome of Sloth and an over-the-top insane wacko. He is pure evil and insanity…but at the same time utterly hilarious with just so over the top he is he becomes instantly more memorable than most of the cast.
Betelgeuse tortures Rem who sacrifices her life so Subaru can escape, where he takes her body back to the mansion, but again Ram is dead and Puck has turned into his giant form, and upset with their deaths, blames Subaru and kills him. Another reset to the stall, and Subaru now knows Betelgeuse’ cult is behind the mansion attack, he begins to see if he can get help from the other princess candidates. However whilst Crusch is understanding, she believes he is getting more insane and has no benefit to help her rival, Priscilla is of course incredibly bitchy (but makes a point about his lack of loyalty) and Anastasia tricks him into giving him information on Crusch without any help in return (though gives him useful advice which may come in hand if he has to reset again..hint hint). So Subaru goes to evacuate everyone but here the other antagonist that has been built up comes into play, the mythical White Whale….
Rem sacrifices herself (again) for Subaru but because it is a mabeast it is attracted to Subaru but manages to get to the mansion but it is clear the White Whale can destroy memories as Ram has no memory of her sister, so when Emilia appears he decides to tell her about his power…which in turn kills her. The return of Beatrice however teleports them out the mansion but when Betelgeuse shows up, Puck transforms and kill him and the cult, but because Emilia is dead, he blames Subaru and kills him again. So another reset, and this time it seems things are clearer as we get a progression as Rem confesses to him despite him being in love with Emilia – this snaps him out of it, and now begins planning.
This is what I meant earlier how the show does a bait-and-switch as by the end, when Emilia returns, you are much more invested in Rem because of her sacrifices, her development as a character, her kindness and love for Subaru, even when she knows she’s lost, she still is loyal to him and vice versa, but can’t get completely what she wants. You really fall for Rem’s character as the most likeable cast members and it does feel by the end of the show, it is a little disappointing…
But the story now has an angle with what Subaru has learned both from the attacks, and from the interactions with the princess candidates as Subaru now figures the white whale is the main problem before the cult but still has to make sure Emilia’s mansion is protected. So first, he joins with Crusch’s camp by offering a deal with them so Crusch has something to fight for (even using his cell phone as a catalyst) and this also leads Anastasia’s camp to join them as well. It gives development to Crusch as the two become quite good friends, and even Wilheim gets a back story as we learn his wife was killed by the White Whale and has always wanted to defeat it. As the battle begins, they realise the fog the whale creates is what is causing the removal of people from their minds, and then two more whales appear though Subaru realises they are illusions and need to kill the main one. Subaru forces it to follow him and through a plan, Wilheim manages to kill it and Crusch lets Subaru have some of her soldiers as does Anastasia…though it does bring Julius back into the fray which gives a fun dynamic as the two are clearly both enemies but also pretty much become best friends throughout their banter.
So now the Witch’s Cult is up with Subaru again using the smell of the Witch to draw him out and Wilhem apparently kills him. However, his soul goes into one of the Fingers (his minions) and his ability, the Unseen Hands which Subaru can see but others cannot which causes some of the soldiers to die. Wilheim manages to save Subaru, but is attacked by Ram of all people who thinks Subaru abandoned Emilia. Subaru manages to explain what happen and lead to evacuate the villagers but one of the villagers was a member of the Cult which knocks out Subaru, and they realise the spirit of Betelgeuse can be transferred into other Fingers – Emilia fortunately defeats the final one, but then in turns out Subaru can also be affected by it. Realising he cannot do anything, Subaru asks Julius and Felix to kill him…which they due…
…and this time the reset is back to the meeting after the White Whale battle. Now he knows about the possession ability, Subaru changes tact to take out the fingers before Betelgeuse and Wilheim goes first to evacuate the village with Subaru hiding under a cloak to convince Emilia of the evacuation and hide his presence from Betelgeuse as he now knows there are spies among the village. To combat this, he hands out the plan earlier than what the spy would expect which catches them, and then he goes after Betelgeuse. Anastasia’s warriors Mimi and Tivey take out the fingers whilst Subaru draws out Betelgeuse and he and Julius attack him, with Subaru guiding Julius as he can see the Unseen Hands….
…with Subaru using his Return by Death to block Betelgeuse’ possession, he finally is killed though the Unseen Hands manage to hold him together, but with Julius’ help, they finally seal his soul and save Emilia from potential death when discovered explosives were put on the evacuation wagons. It ends with Subaru and Emilia reuniting, him explaining his action and his love for her and happily ever after…..?
There is clearly seems to be more of us but with the second season not yet out or confirmed, it feels it ended like this just in case, as it is very ambiguous and dare I say rushed? Again, the fact Emilia is not a big part of this makes Subaru’s confession feel very put on. Now granted, he has pretty much been in love with her since the start so it is understandable, it is just that Rem’s development throughout the arc made her feel like a much better character (not helped by Subaru’s mostly bland character which gets better because of his acquiring knowledge but even that is just because of the amount of resets he had) combined with Subaru’s descent to madness was caused by her, and Rem was the person who cured him from it….it does make you feel favouritism towards Rem.
Not just that, but because the cast of characters focuses on Subaru’s journey, a lot of characters from the first half (Ram, Beatrice, Felt…seriously, her reveal as a princess was literally that, and then she played no further part in the entire arc) don’t really get involved much. Fortunately, we do have characters like Crusch, Wilheim, Felix, Julius and Anastasia who get their moments in the second half (Crusch, Wilheim and Julius in particular – Crusch being the one noble princess, Wilheim with his mini arc of avenging his wife, and Julius’ love/hate relationship with Subaru) which do make them memorable and offer an alternative to the first half.
The series itself I can see what it became popular – it offers a unique twist on the ordinary human into another world angle with the death/rebirth angle, and the cast of characters are unique and quite fun at times. The story also develops really well with elements of why people would hate Emilia as a half-elf, the subjective distrust of people from lower rank but also knowing some of the higher ups aren’t bad at all (Crusch) whilst others are totally hate sinks (Priscilla) and others are somewhere in the middle (Anastasia). Subaru himself can be a bit bland and his journey is due to how he learns – his snap into insanity was a depressing time for him and again, it’s Rem’s doing that gets him out of it, which could make fans feel her confession was something she should have ‘won’ over Emilia, but that’s a story for another time.
Overall, the show is definitely watchable (highlighted by Betelgeuse being an extremely worthwhile and memorable villain – seriously his over the top evil antics might make you want to kill him…but he’s also so entertaining that you can’t take your eyes off him) – and worth a rewatch so you can see the moment when the light bulb in Subaru’s head clicks. However, as one of the breakout series in popularity, I didn’t feel it was anything special or amazing. Definitely good, but a series I won’t remember too much when I look at stuff I want to rewatch in the future.
Re;Zero, whilst I wouldn’t say is overrated, I would say it definitely has its flaws. The ongoing story is good, and the reset strategy works to the point you wonder when it will stop or when it will be explained, and with small plot holes still not explained, it is hard to really root for Subaru at times. That said, his supporting cast – with Rem, Crusche and Julius in particular standing out – bring the show forward, combined with a very memorable villain in Betelgeuse means the story definitely feels like it will continue. You may or may not be disappointed at the ending but the journey getting there at least will make you realise that the series was at the very least, worth a watch.
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: C-
Released By: Anime Limited
Release Date: May 27th, 2019
Running Time: 325 minutes
Video Encoding: PAL
Aspect Ratio: 1:78:1 widescreen
PlayStation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.