Re:Zero is A Lot of Things. It’s set up as a pulpy isekai fantasy romp, but it’s also got horror, mystery, action, drama, comedy… and as Subaru finally comes face to face with his past, Re:Zero takes another direction entirely. This episode was a saccharine slice-of-life drama, complete with soft tones, Sakura petals, and tender string orchestration to really bring the feels home. It almost feels like it belongs in a completely different anime, but somehow, it totally works.
We finally meet Subaru’s parents, Naoko and Kenichi, and I saw the resemblance right away. Kenichi’s never met a problem he couldn’t playfully beat up, while Naoko’s wry smile subtly shows that she’s the real brains of the family. Their argument over rice pilaf is genuinely hilarious, even if it makes me never want to eat their cooking.
But Subaru’s got some soul-searching to do this episode. Walking outside with his dad, he gets a flash of anxiety and finally decides to open up about his childhood. For all of his suffering and karmic death in Lugunica, Subaru’s backstory is so… ordinary. His dad was a modern-day Renaissance Man with a loving family, a charming personality, and an enviable six-pack. Subaru tried to live up to Kenichi’s reputation, and succeeded for a while. But it all fell apart once he started middle school and wasn’t the best at everything anymore. He acted recklessly to get attention, which only alienated him from his classmates and made him so depressed he stopped going to school entirely.
To be honest, I was expecting a bit more, maybe? I would have thought Subaru was bullied, had abusive parents, or had some other skeletons in his closet. It still makes sense, though, and it fits his personality. Subaru is so determined to prove himself in Lugunica because he’s already tried and failed in Japan. He was a bright kid with a loving family, but the burden of high expectations and social pressure caused him to hide himself from the world.
But for all that, Subaru’s father never judges him. He never forces Subaru to go back to school, and helps bring him out of his anxiety attack by asking, “Is there a girl you like?” Yeah, actually, two, and they both appear in a gorgeously lit surreal vision. It helps Subaru remember how far he’s come, and how much he still has to do to save the women he loves. This part would be so cheesy if it didn’t have a good 28 episodes of buildup, but eh, I still love it.
Subaru’s heart-to-heart with his dad is emotional and gorgeously animated, but it’s his talk with his mom that really got me. Subaru starts talking about all of his regret, self-loathing, and feelings of failure, and Naoko simply reminds him to do his best in his own way. And then it hits him – for all that Subaru’s parents loved him, for all that they’ve supported him freely and without judgment, he can’t repay them anymore. He’s dead to that world, and he can never see his family again. All he can do now is fight for his chosen family, in another world.
And right before the episode ends, Subaru goes back to his old high school to see Echidna, waiting for him in a school uniform. (That sounds dirty, but it’s not. Actually, it’s Echidna, so it might be.) And we finally get to see the ED in its full glory! It’s a collage of the leading ladies, staring off into nothing as butterflies fly all around them. What does it mean? Is it symbolic of their beauty, the transformation Subaru must make to save them, or – as in Japanese culture – are they a sign of the departed spirits of the dead? Or maybe I’m just fanwanking, and someone at White Fox just thought butterflies look cool. Yeah, it’s probably that one.
It’s great that this season of Re:Zero has been so well-received so far, especially considering we’re four episodes in and there has been almost no action. Hey, I’m not complaining! I think this has been the best episode of a stellar season so far, and it hit close to home in many ways. But we’re still just getting started, on what might be the best story arc in the whole anime. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride from here on out, but all the highs and lows will be so worth it.