Anyone who’s seen Re:Zero knows about the dynamic duo of Crusch Karsten and Ferris (aka Felix) Argyle. They stole the show in the Royal Selection and the White Whale battle with their incredible magic, subversion of traditional gender norms, and radical vision to destroy the pact with the dragon and rebuild the Kingdom of Lugunica. But their backstory isn’t part of the anime, it’s only in the light novel side story The Dream of the Lion King. So I’m sharing it, for those interested in exploring another side of this adorable power couple!
This will be different from most of my character analysis posts. It’s more of a summary/analysis of the novel as it relates to our heroes. Spoilers for the EX light novel, and the anime up to Season 2 Episode 1. If you want my no-spoiler recommendation, I’ll just ask: Do you like Re:Zero? Do you like Ferris and Crusch? Do you like reading? If you said yes to all three, then, well.. yeah.
Crusch was born as the only daughter and heir to the rich and powerful Karsten family. She always preferred men’s clothing and swordfighting over dresses and tea parties, making her an odd duck among the stuffy nobles. And she was critical of the regime, believing that 400 years of relative safety under the Dragon had made the ruling class greedy and oppressive. But she had two close friends: a young Prince Fourier, head over heels in love with her, and an adorable cross-dressing feline named Ferris, who owed his life to her and swore to become her knight.
Ferris’ ancestors had demi-human blood, but his parents were human nobles. Considering him a bastard child, they locked poor Ferris in the basement for the first nine years of his life, with nothing but tattered clothes and a few scraps of bread a day to survive. When Crusch found him during a meeting with the two noble families, she found Ferris malnourished and barely able to speak. Horrified, the Karstens took Ferris to their mansion and took him in as Crusch’s personal retainer. Ever since then, Ferris has had unwavering loyalty and love for Crusch, although she’s sadly oblivious to the “love” part most of the time.
And I guess I have to talk about this. A lot of people seem to be confused whether Ferris is a boy or a girl. While he describes himself as “a girlish young woman” in this story, he still uses he/him pronouns and identifies himself as a man to others. Volume 4 of the main novel series confirms it with this tasteful illustration…
So no, Ferris is not actually a trans woman. He’s a boy who dresses like a girl. But honestly, who cares? Ferris is Ferris. He’s my favorite character in Re:Zero by far. It doesn’t seem like Tappei Nagatsuki is super knowledgeable about the trans community, but it’s cool that he chose to include a gender-bending protagonist in his story anyway. If you want to say he’s trans or use him in trans memes, go ahead. At the very least, it’s a middle finger to the bigoted jerks who get angry about the genders of fictional characters on the Internet.
Crusch, Ferris, and Fourier had a bunch of comic misadventures in their teens, but it was Crusch’s 18th birthday party that cemented her as the heir to the Karsten House. A horde of demon beasts was on the move and ready to attack. Not wanting to cancel the event, Crusch snuck out of her own party, killed the monsters single-handedly, and came back dressed to the nines like nothing happened. Even though she prefers her military suit, girl can rock a femme look when she wants to!
Crusch and Ferris became stars of the nobility, and met with the prestigious knights Reinhard and Julius. But their joy wouldn’t last, as Crusch caught wind of a nefarious slave trade at the House of Argyle. Not wanting to open old wounds, Crusch set off without telling Ferris, only to find the truth was even worse than she thought. Ferris’ father Biehn was a necromancer, forcing reanimated corpses to fight the Karsten House! The slave trade was all a front to lure Crusch to the mansion. She was poisoned and captured on arrival, forcing poor Ferris to return to his old, unhappy home to save her.
The boy saw his father’s face for the first time in years. He was a twisted shell of a man. After Ferris left, Biehn killed his own wife in a fit of rage. Consumed by guilt, he spent almost a decade researching a forbidden spell to bring her back from the grave, committing countless atrocities and driving himself deeper into madness. But when he found out Ferris was the best healer in the world, he forced his estranged son to cast the dark magic himself. Ferris tearfully recited the incantation, and the corpse slowly stood up – only to choke Biehn to death, finally putting this insane family to rest.
Ferris ran away to find Crusch, but in a thrilling subversion of the “damsel in distress” trope, she’d already rescued herself! She used her incredible strength to break out of jail, and defeated the slave trader and his horde of zombie warriors in an epic climax. To be fair, she did have a little help – the family maid snuck down and helped loosen her restraints while the poison was wearing off. This was Hannah Regret, Ferris’ real mother.
But the world wasn’t done twisting the knife for Ferris and Crusch just yet. A few years later, a plague swept the kingdom, killing thousands and sending the government into chaos. (Too real…) One of the casualties was Prince Fourier, Crusch’s long time friend who had promised to marry her as equals. But even his passing was treated as a footnote compared to the death the King and the loss of the contract with the Dragon. Crusch was chosen as a potential successor to the throne, and made a vow with Ferris as her knight. They would permanently cut ties with the Dragon, dismantle the corrupt and oppressive government, and rebuild Lugunica anew so its people could stand proudly on their own.
Whew! That’s a ton of backstory, but I hope it helps make sense of why Crusch and Ferris are so amazing. These two have gone through hell and back for their ideals and for each other. Crusch is a fiercely independent woman, determined to live life her own way and change the world to the ways she sees fit. Ferris has been abused and judged his entire life for being a cross-dressing cat boy, but he’s still a bundle of joy and has amazing abilities of his own. They’re an unconventional duo with radical views, the kind of folks who change the world when the going gets tough. I was devastated to see Crusch lose her memories after all that she and Ferris had been through together, but I’m sure it won’t be the last we’ll see of them!
So I was thinking of doing another Re:Zero character post when Season 2 is over. It won’t be for a while but I was wondering which one you’d like best?
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2. Emilia, for sure!
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I’m going to play the “false dilemma” card and say all three.
Or the Kobayashi Maru card, if you’re a Star Trek fan.
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2. Emilia, for sure!