Seasonal Showcase — Re:Zero’s Confrontation With the Past [Summer 2020: Week 4 and 5]

In the past two weeks of Re:Zero, we’ve seen two perspectives of confronting the past regarding how Subaru and Emilia handle their own issues. While we still don’t have the full details of Emilia’s situation (although we can make assumptions at this point with some of the backstories from the OVAs), there is no doubt that they’ve both had their own troubles and issues when it comes to how their past selves have handled particular situations.

Looking back to Season 1, we’ve had a large overview of Subaru’s mentality regarding how self-righteous and selfish he was when it came to trying to fulfill his own desires and wants, to the point where it took several episodes in order for him to get knocked out of that mentality due to the hardships he faced at the time. While we still see bits of that shine through Subaru’s personality now, he’s obviously undergone a full transformation thanks to those hardships as well. By looking at Episode 29, we can get a lot more context about Subaru’s past life before he was isekai’d off into the universe of Re:Zero as we know it. 

Episode 29 was pretty interesting when you look at Subaru’s character as a whole and the dynamic of Re:Zero as an anime as well. Not many anime that revolve around isekai settings allow the characters to really experience the maximum growth potential because they aren’t placed back into the setting that allowed them to get into that state to begin with. Because of the Sanctuary and the need to pass the trials to be able to be freed from this barrier and town, there’s gained an opportunity for Re:Zero to be able to do this by flinging Subaru and Emilia into their pasts to see how they handle themselves as they are now (since they both qualified to participate in these trials).

Even beyond that though, it’s clear to see how much Subaru has grown since the first season when he reunites with his parents in this flashback-esque setting. While Echidna reveals to us later that this is only a very faithful reconstruction of the setting itself, this does not undermine the value of what Subaru had gotten to experience with his family. Episode 29 allowed us to sort of walk through the mindset and “past life” of Subaru in order to show that he’s grown a lot since the first season. Being able to talk with his parents about his insecurities and his accomplishments was a huge step from the previous him that we experienced in the first season of the anime. He even admits and comes to realize that while he’s not perfect in a lot of regards, he doesn’t need to be as his parents would have accepted him even if he hadn’t lived to their expectations, resulting in even further growth for his character as well.

This was all put to the test in episode 30 though and serves as a perfect foil to episode 29 from Emilia’s perspective. Since Emilia is also undergoing similar trials in order to try and save the villagers (and also presumably allowing her own personal character growth to take place), it’s clear that she, too, has a lot of past struggles to reconcile with, as other parts of the series have alluded to. What makes episode 30 intriguing though is that while Emilia is one of the outwardly stronger characters in the show being able to be unphased by a lot of the events that happen, it’s clear that it’s only an outward appearance and the real struggles are happening as internal conflicts and mental breakdowns, as the episode depicts right out of the gate.

It’s pretty interesting how Re:Zero has decided to refocus itself this episode onto Emilia herself, because, as I mentioned earlier, a lot of Emilia’s character traits have only been alluded to and not necessarily outwardly expressed. I think that’s of no fault of Re:Zero itself, but it seems that Emilia’s mental fortitude could only be addressed once Subaru was strong enough to do so, which is something that Roswaal mentions near the end of the episode as well.

That’s also not to say that Emilia needs Subaru himself in order to develop her character, but the support that Subaru provides Emilia is going to allow her to comfortably push herself through the struggles that she faces in these trials ahead. Subaru even mentions that he could probably do the trials in her place, but he wants her to be able to do them herself as it will be more beneficial for her confidence and character to be able to confront her past as he was able to do. It’s clear that Subaru at least wants Emilia and himself to be able to stand together on the same level, despite what the reasoning behind that is, as Re:Zero has always been somewhat ambiguous as to what the relationship dynamic between those two really is.

Re:Zero has always been the sort of the show to tie everything back into itself though, and episode 29 and 30 were no exception to this rule at all. Even with the discussion of the royal selection still at the forefront of Rosewaal’s mind and motives, enough to have a discussion with Subaru about how he’s been a “knight” of Rosewaal’s and how their goals are similar in nature, it’s still a pertinent aspect of this show’s politics and likely plays a part into the current arc of the show regarding the Sanctuary and their escape from this village. Even as the end of episode 30 gets ready to roll the credits, we continue to see those tie-ins as well, allowing Elsa (from the first arc of Season 1) to re-appear to disembowel Subaru, likely creating a reset situation for Subaru.

Personally, Re:Zero continues to be this never-ending sort of ride, where the show has so many moving parts that it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen next, and I think that’s largely one of its biggest appeal factors to audiences across the globe. There’s a lot of emotional investment that comes from the show, especially in this second season, being able to relate to characters like Subaru and Emilia. Dealing with your past is something that everyone deals with on some level, and likely many people still are struggling to deal with those sorts of situations well into adulthood as well, which makes the second season even more relatable than perhaps the first season felt.

It’s also clear, though, that a lot of this seems to be build-up for something larger happening behind the scenes, and I wouldn’t put it past this show to continue the suffering train that’s its largely known for from Season 1.

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