It's not hard to find Isekai anime these days, as seemingly everyone and anyone can appreciate the idea of being whisked away to some fantastical world away from the hustle and bustle of an eight to five job with bills. However what happens when that world greets you with a glaring problem, that you're not special and this is not your story. Suddenly that idea seems less appealing, doesn't it? Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu, roughy translated, Re:Zero Starting Like In Another World, is precisely that. It's a story that merely follows a character, who for all intensive purposes, is not a main protagonist in the traditional sense. This anime sucks you in with twist after dark twist, making you fear for everyones safety, and only rewarding you for your nail biting and hair pulling at the very end.
In the beginning, there was a connivence store, where our 'main protagonist' is making a very routine run for snacks. His name is Subaru, and upon exiting the store he suddenly finds himself in a world of fantasy. While this change of venue is a shock, he seems to take it in stride and is actually excited at the concept of being summoned to a new world. However he quickly discovers that he has no powers, no money, no cool weapon, and no beautiful woman claiming to have summoned him. Just when his luck can't seem to get much worse, he bumps into a group of thugs who prove that, while he is physically fit, he is no match for those with fighting experience. His savior appears in the form of a beautiful silver-haired half-elf named Emilia, and together with her fluffy spirit cat named Puck they scare the thugs off and save Subaru. Obviously smitten with Emilia, Subaru pledges himself to helping Emilia track down and recover a pendant that was stolen from her. This leads them to a hideout at the edge of the city limits, where Subara discovers what his special ability is after stumbling into a murder scene and ending up cut down along with Emilia; Save Points.
The conditions of when and where his save point will update are vague at best, but this is what allows Subaru to learn from his mistakes and overcome obstacles. It's rough going the first few times as he is killed again and again, but eventually he catches on and figures out what his unique ability is all about. That doesn't make it any easier for him to experience death of course, and he isn't immune to pain, so he doesn't rush headlong into battle. Subaru is, in a word, weak. There will be times you love him for his actions, but there will also be times that he is literally the worst thing about the anime. He's human, he makes mistakes, a lot of mistakes actually, but he shines through when enlisting the help of others and using his knowledge of past experiences to make battles easier or more advantageous. For example, later on in the season, we get this big battle against a giant sky whale. Subaru has already died many times over by this point, in some pretty brutal ways, but he uses his knowledge of the whale, the people he recruits to fight the whale, and lessons that life up to this point has taught him to turn the tides of this grand battle in his favor.
Now while that may sound like he is an important character to this story, that's just because we are following his every action. Like the lakitu that follows Mario around in Super Mario 64, Subaru is only a main character because the camera is fixated upon his person. Now I will admit there are things that do make Subaru 'unique', aside from his save point ability, and those things are his connection to the most feared character in this world, the Witch of Envy; Satella, and the fact his magic has the rare darkness element. The more important of these two is obviously the witch, who we never actually meet, but see inklings of whenever Subaru attempts to reveal his power to others as time seems to stop and hands of smoke grip Subaru's heart. This actually leaves Subaru smelling a lot like the witch, which he uses as a double edged sword in battle against witchfiends and those who can smell this scent. He even uses it to clear his mind of a witch cultist named Petelgeuse, one of the main antagonists who really get under Subaru's skin, and can jump between bodies but is kicked out by the witch that seems to reside within Subaru's soul.
This anime was great at making the worst things you could imagine come to fruition, as lovable characters are slaughtered, Subaru's mind is broken like a glass pane, and the world is frozen over by an enraged Puck. Friends can become enemies, enemies can be hilariously evil, and the most powerful characters can seem so small. Nothing ever felt safe or sacred, which made for some really intense moments that never were predictable. Truly this was an anime that successfully found a way to make someone so important to its story, seem so insignificant in the world they are placed in. In all my years of watching anime, this was by far the one that had me guessing what was going to happen the next episode the most. And I want more! But the way this season ends, how it's handled, it just feels like so much completion. There's even a successful confession by Subaru to Emilia, like, a really successful one, that leaves no second guessing as to his feelings for her, and leaves you wondering, that just maybe, Emilia might just be that witch that loves Subaru so much. But hey, that's just a theory, an anime theory!
Genres: Dark Fantasy, Isekai, Adventure
Animation: For the first time in a long time this was a series I watched in Bluray, and my god was it majestic. White Fox was insane with the animation, a studio that also worked on Stein;Gate, Jormungand, and Akame ga Kill! So this is a studio very familiar with blood and gore, dark themes, and epic battles. Likely made ever better by the Bluray upgrade, as all good anime get them, I was never not impressed with the quality.
Voice Acting: What a cast! From the clown-like lord Roswaal, to the oba-loli Beatrice, the Rem and Ram twins, and even a hated antagonist like Petelgeuse were a joy to listen to. Subaru himself is no pushover either, but his character is meant to be just another face in the crowd so his voice has to match, to which Yūsuke Kobayashi does a stellar job.
Favorite Character: Constantly? No one. Everyone in this anime has their ups and their downs, more downs then ups, but if I had to say someone who remained a positive on average, then perhaps I should say Wilhelm. A man, a butler, a master of sword craft, a powerful ally, and someone who is obsessed with killing the White Whale that took the life of his beautiful wife. He lends his sword-arm to Subaru in multiple occasions, and is instrumental in the defeat of the witch cult that targets Emilia. He also is rocking a damn good look.
Re:Zero - Starting Life in Another World gets a 9.2 out of 10