Where we last left off in Re:Zero, Subaru was mysteriously transported into a Windows XP desktop world (Sorry, I had to!) with Echidna the Witch of Greed casually sipping tea right in front of him! It was an epic cliffhanger, but this episode ended with an even bigger one – so let’s not waste time and dive in, shall we?
They skipped the fantastic OP again, but Echidna’s show-stealing performance made up for it. The previous villain, Petelgeuse, was over-the-top and sometimes hard to take seriously, but Echidna is terrifyingly calm. Her charm lets her effortlessly trick Subaru into drinking cursed tea made with her bodily fluids (also, Subaru is a fucking idiot!).
But just a moment later, she starts talking about all the Sin Witches’ horrific atrocities with the same sardonic grin on her face. The animation is stunning, with a great use of color contrast and somewhat surreal imagery. It immediately sets the Witch of Greed as a threat unlike any Subaru has faced so far, even if she gets hilariously tsundere when Subaru leaves to go find Emilia.
He doesn’t get far, though, before we’re introduced to the Frederica’s infamous brother Garfiel. Nobuhiko Okamoto (Bakugo in My Hero Academia) was perfectly cast, as this guy’s another explosive douche who fights anything that moves. First he beats up Subaru’s poor land dragon Patrasche, and nearly attacks Subaru himself before he blurts out Frederica’s name. Garfiel relents, but not before some quality comedic banter to break the tension.
We finally reach the Sanctuary, where the villagers who fled during the fight with Petelgeuse are still hiding. But that name is a sarcastic insult – this place is a ghetto for demihumans who aren’t allowed to live anywhere else in Roswaal’s domain. (Don’t worry, we’re not going full BNA just yet.) Ram meets up with the gang, and has an awkwardly touching reunion with Subaru. And then they meet… Roswaal? What the hell is he doing here?
Well, the flamboyant wizard is recovering from a grievous injury, but being wrapped up in bandages does nothing to diminish his creepy charms. We learn that he has a long history with Echidona, who set up a magic barrier so no one can get in or out. The only way to destroy it is for Emilia to clear some sort of trial that already almost killed Roswaal.
Roswaal is clearly playing both sides, so either way, he wins. He reminds me of Hisoka from Hunter x Hunter, and not just because of the clown motif – both men are sly yet absurdly strong, indifferent to conventional morals, and will ruthlessly manipulate everyone to get what they want.
All the mysteries are piling on top of each other, but Emilia still needs to talk to the townspeople before she begins the trial. Even after risking her life to save them and offering to do it all over again, they don’t trust her because she’s a half-elf. It’s a painful moment, but Emilia takes it in stride by appealing to their common humanity. She talks sincerely and openly about her feelings and the importance of family, showing inner strength greater than any flashy magic. Our princess has come a long way since Episode 1, and watching her grow from a shy girl to a courageous and caring young woman is as essential to Re:Zero as Subaru’s character development.
Emilia begins the trial to the tune of the bopping new ED, “Memento” by Nonoc, but it immediately goes wrong when the lights go out and Emilia passes out in the temple! When Subaru goes in to chase her after the end credits, he inadvertently starts his own trial – he must face his own past, in his old bedroom in Japan, with his father standing right in front of him! This is why we haven’t found out Subaru’s backstory until now – Subaru has been avoiding his own past in isekai fantasy-land, and now he is forced to confront the real world that he left behind.
All in all, this was another great episode that gives way more questions than answers. What does Echidna know, and what plans does she have for Subaru? Whose side is Roswaal really on? Why does Garfiel hate Mondays? If I had to nitpick, I would have liked to see Echidna’s first scene a bit more fleshed out (some of the lore and extra dialogue was cut from the novels), but since they cut both opening and ending animations I don’t know how much they could have added. I loved reading this part of the story, and the stunning art, music, and voice acting brought it all to life. I couldn’t ask for a better adaptation.