Y’all, I’m going to level with you. This one’s a bit by the seat of my pants. Usually I take extensive notes for each episode, but I was so entranced by this one that I didn’t want to miss a single moment. Let’s just jump in, shall we?
Satella is the final guest of the Witches’ Tea Party, and she just can’t stop confessing her love for Subaru. The poor guy is bewildered and hurls a slew of insults at the witch, but she notices that every bitter word is laced with pain and sadness. She tells Subaru to love himself, and not to insist on going it alone all the time. This whole time, he’s relied on Return by Death to save everyone, but the Tea Party has shown him how much it hurts his friends to watch him die. This seems like a very different Satella from the witch who massacred the Sanctuary a few episodes ago, but maybe that’s the contradiction of a witch. Maybe she gave him Return by Death not to curse him or make him suffer, but to make sure he survives through this dark and violent world? Just a thought.
Subaru breaks down, cursing his weakness and cowardice, and Sekhmet chastises him for acting so sad and pathetic. Driven to madness, he tries to commit suicide again by biting off his own tongue, of all things. But as the witches have a heated philosophical argument over his right to kill himself, Subaru goes deeper into the abyss. He thinks, “I don’t want to die”, and Minerva, reading his mind, brings him back from the brink of death with a love headbutt.
Echidna again offers her contract to Subaru, but this time he rejects her. Part of the contract would involve killing him like, a million times to see what happens. If Subaru wants to love himself more, he can’t have that! With a smirk, Echidna notes that Subaru will walk a dark path, and that to save himself and his friends is, well, greedy. Then, Satella gives her final goodbye, revealing her face for the first time. We all knew she looks like Emilia, but it’s still shocking when you see it. She asking Subaru to end her life when he’s ready, but Subaru resolves to save her once again. Even if he doesn’t know how, even if she isn’t worth saving – well, there’s gotta be some way out of this horrible system of witches and curses and death, isn’t there?
Subaru returns to the temple, but this time he’s outside with Otto. While he was at the Tea Party, his land dragon Patrasche ran in to carry his body out, even injuring herself in the process. Subaru wonders why in amazement, and Otto simply responds, “You really don’t know why?” Then Patrasche wags her tail like a dog and it’s the cutest thing ever.
Confronting Roswaal for the umpteenth time, Subaru tells the mad clown everything he knows to get more intel on the Sanctuary. But the negotiation again goes south when ol’ Ros drops his biggest reveal yet. He sent the assassins, Elsa and Maylie, to attack the mansion! The reason, he says, was to back Subaru into a corner, strengthen his resolve, and force him to choose between saving the Sanctuary or the mansion. Presumably, he also hired the assassins for their attacks on Subaru in Season 1, which raises so many questions. How long has he known about Subaru and his unique ability? How many of Subaru’s deaths were his doing? Does he really use magic to take off his David Bowie eye make up every day?
Subaru begs Roswaal to call off the attack, but this only convinces him that the young man is still too weak to help him achieve “the future he desires”, whatever the hell that is. Again delirious and feeling like he’s going to die, he wanders off into the woods, only to be rescued by Otto once again. Subaru tried to play it cool again, but the episode ends with an epic smack down from the lovable merchant. “Stop trying to put on a tough front in front of your friends, Natsuki Subaru!” he shouts, and the episode ends on an oddly comical note.
Okay, that’s a weird place to leave us for another three months! But other than that, this first half of Season 1 has been incredible all around. The worldbuilding has greatly been expanded, a ton of awesome new characters have been introduced, and the returning ones have shown so much more depth than when they were previously introduced. Tappei Nagatsuki has improved tremendously as a writer, transforming the series from a fairly generic fantasy (albeit with an interesting twist) to one of the best horror/suspense anime ever this side of The Promised Neverland. And despite the pandemic forcing a delay and less than optimal working conditions, White Fox still delivered top-notch animation, voice acting, and music. I complained a bit about pacing and not giving Emilia enough screen time, but those are just nitpicks in the grand scheme of things. The hardest part now will be waiting for Part 2, especially since I know all the juicy goodness yet to come!