I feel like you really could’ve just made the whole thing one season instead of splitting it up in two parts, but I think I’m just yelling at an empty crowd on this point considering the thing got made in the end anyway, so supposedly, there’s not really any reason to complain.
If the Sanctuary isn’t liberated in a few days, a terrible snowstorm will envelop the place and call upon the Great Rabbit to consume all of the denizens within the protected barrier. If no one comes to help the mansion in a few days, a pair of assassins will clean out the place of all of the girls that’ve stayed behind. And with Emilia struggling to conquer the trials of the Graveyard in order to liberate the Sanctuary of the barrier that keeps its people inside, Subaru is forced to make a choice: save the people in the mansion or save the people in the Sanctuary. And, of course, he chooses option three.
While I’ve described Part 1 to be primarily setup with a lot of redos on Subaru’s part in order to try and figure out this puzzle box he keeps resetting to, Part 2 by comparison is the ‘solution’ with resolutions and notable answers that help round out at least a few of the things that I was asking during the first half of the second season. The dichotomy of the question and answer structure that Part 1 and Part 2 seem to have with one another makes this section of the story a more satisfying experience as all of the parts finally fall into place with the correct sequencing of events done so Subaru and co. can finally move forward with the story.
More than that, this section of the story comes with a lot of ‘answers’, or rather, character backstories and/or development that answers at least a number of the immediate problems I’ve had with Part 1 due to practically the entire cast having a level of secrecy that annoyed me to the point of partly not wanting to continue watching. At least half of the show this time around is devoted to detailing the past, whether it be explaining how the Sanctuary came to be or showing off an important character’s backstory that not only feeds into character growth, but also provides an insightful look into how certain players in the series go from their past selves to their present day counterpart, as well as showing off any new potential threats or players who may or may not be important pieces or obstacles down the line in later arcs or story moments. This bulk of ‘character’ is something I greatly appreciate because I’ve always felt like Re:Zero was always missing that aspect of storytelling despite having a great number of mysteries and obviously scarred individuals that have just never done anything because no one in this godforsaken medium thinks that talking is a viable situation to helping one person understand another.
That being said, in order to get a few of these answers or character moments, the show defaults to a rather unfavorable solution in order to give either a good push or raise some personal stakes or establish a multi-layered relationship between two individuals. And that is….monologuing. Or more specifically, character shouting where many words from one person are exchanged to the other in order to either convince them of something or to establish one’s motives as a sort of big reveal so the audience can finally understand why one character is going through such asinine lengths to do something. Re:Zero is already a pretty dense series given how many moving parts, worldbuilding, and conflicting motivations and/or parties are set in place with the structure of this fantasy world. And the fact that the characters default to sometimes backwards-sounding personal philosophies that sound both insane and genuinely confusing does not do the show any favors. There’re more than a handful of these in this season, and every time they show up, I always question whether or not I’m just too dumb to grasp the sheer amount of rapid-fire dialogue the series is throwing at me, or if the show is just trying to sound a lot more profound or smarter than it really is. And because of that, we end up with a rather mixed bag of storytelling.
By the end of it, Part 2 manages to give the audience a number of answers, leaves a few questions both new and old unanswered, and leaves the series on a generally good note despite previous things…happening. All of which makes me look forward to what’s coming next because we’re undoubtedly treating this section of the story as a save point. But by contrast, the density of the series and by extension, individual character motivation feels wonky and actually kind of out of place in this series. A lot of the dialogue-heavy or character specific moments feel dragged on or excessively convoluted to the point that whatever payoff they result in feels spontaneous or unearned. It’s not a major part of the show by any means, but they are semi-key points that end up bothering me because it never feels like there’s much build up prior, but the plot just demands that things happen so we can move forward with everything else. Which is fine…I guess, but convoluted doesn’t always mean better, and this series could really do with a little bit of simplification with either it’s its sometimes cryptic dialogue or how it goes about setting up the story.
With Subaru have already gotten his time in the spotlight in part 1, we turn our attention to our resident half-elf that everyone likes. Right guys? Well like it or not, Emilia’s role in the series is solidified with Part 2 as a result of a quite expansive backstory coupled with a number of key growth moments that turn her from the object of Subaru’s affections to a slightly more realized version of herself with a bit more depth, individuality, and above all, an important backstory that ties into the greater scope of the series. It’s certainly a nice surprise since I didn’t expect the show to even put in half of what we got here, but I think it’s a well-deserved bit of time devotion since up until this point, Emilia hasn’t really gotten much if anything to her character and was mostly just a figurehead for the series. Now that she’s actually a character, things feel a lot more rounded out in the cast given how now the person spearing the ‘Emilia Camp’ now has an actual character spearheading the whole operation.
Of course Subaru’s there, but I’d like to think he’s more of the one who pushes other characters to their destined areas. Much of his involvement in Part 2 is pretty much only plot-based as he’s the one making sure everything moves along correctly and gives a gentle (or hard) push to characters that need it. Since he got the spotlight last time, I’m not all that bothered that he didn’t get it this time, especially since there’re more pressing things that needed to be talked about since this arc was severely starved of answers.
But to make up for that, we have the rest of the Emilia camp, consisting of but not limited to new entrants like Otto and Garfiel, as well as older faces that were in the Roswaal mansion like Roswaal himself and Beatrice. Two previously really mysterious characters who held onto their secrets until only and only when the time was right. This area is really where the show decided to regurgitate everything it was holding onto before, as practically every major player in the cast this time around gets something to them whether or not it be a part of the larger backstory that sits as prior worldbuilding or present day development to shift their character away from their past selves. It’s honestly kind of liberating to understand everyone’s deal even if I think everyone is either a psychopath or a moron. While I do have my own qualms about a few characters and their questionable motivations, the whole is definitely an upside to the series.
I’d like to bring up the characters in Emilia’s backstory as a final point as important plot points and framing devices for her character. Which I believe were quite effective and helped serve the dual purpose of explaining things and giving way to new questions that need to be answered. Because this was pretty much our only source of new characters this time around, and it definitely does a good job of creating intrigue even if the only thing we know about the new faces are their theoretical power levels.
There’s not really a lot I have to say about the art this time around since White Fox has pretty much set in stone how they want the series to look and there’s nothing that’s truly a spectacle that’s worth noting. True there’re fight scenes that have a hilarious amount of projectiles being thrown (cause all magic in this world is just elemental projectiles), but the quality or technicality of those fights aren’t really anything to note no matter how suspenseful the show tries to frame them as. Still glad that White Fox wants to dip into that gore aspect of the series, although it’s much less pronounced than it was in seasons prior.
I will also say that the creepiness factor for the series wasn’t really here. Which I’m actually really sad about. I guess that makes sense cause this section of the story was more about a string of good things happening instead of…anything else, but the certain eeriness or brutality that came with Re:Zero normally just wasn’t here. Which maybe in the next arc we’ll get some of that back, but I’m not holding my breath.
On the note of music tracks, honestly White Fox, just don’t even bother making music for this series anymore. Similar to Part 1’s OP, “Long shot” by Mayu Maeshima is a song that shows up so few times that I legitimately thought until halfway in the series that we weren’t going to get an OP/ED duo to listen to. Episodes are structured to use as much of the airtime as possible to tell the story, often sacrificing the minute thirty OP slot in order to have ninety more seconds for the series’ story. Which is fine due to how involved Re:Zero wants to be. So why do you even bother commissioning or writing songs for the show when at best they get used for like three episodes? It makes no sense from a business perspective!
For the song itself, I’d honestly rate it lowest of all of the Re:Zero OPs. It’s not a bad song, but something about it sounds generic enough for me to not really care much about it. It’s definitely got the same tones as Realize or any of the Myth and Roid tracks, but it just doesn’t hit the same notes for me that would make me classify it as a ‘Re:Zero’ song so to speak. nonoc’s “Believe in You” is the emotional counterpart which I would say is much better than its OP sister. I think it’s partly because a lot of the episodes end on emotional notes and this is a great supporting song to that since unlike the OP, this one pretty much always plays at the end of episodes. It’s a worthwhile song for how the story beats are structured this time around, and I much prefer this one as a listen.
While I’m satisfied with how this arc wrapped up given how the show provided answers and the plot seemed to finally move forward instead of run around in circles in order to solve the same problem (as per usual), a part of me still doesn’t fully buy Re:Zero’s deal as some of its glaring problems stand in the way for me to really enjoy this show or recommend it as a must watch for those interested in something that by all accounts is fairly unique.
The show’s density still bothers me greatly. For a show that barely has fifty episodes to its name, the plot seems to have gone both somewhere extravagant and nowhere at the same time. While the Sanctuary plot certainly has its moments and answers to give, almost everything and everyone that was involved with the first season was replaced completely by a new cast, thus making all of Season 2 feel more like a detour rather than an inclusion to the overarching plot. Hell, as I’m writing this I don’t actually remember what really happened in the first season since it’s been so long since I’ve seen it and almost none of the characters over there are a part of what’s happening over here. And stuff regarding the royal selection should in theory be the main plot of the show.
Not only that, but character monologues in this show are more gibberish that vaguely sound philosophical instead of actual monologues with meaning. I feel like the author wrote these with the intention to try and tie them back to the seven deadly sins that the witches represent and try and be edgy and/or intelligent sounding by having characters shout big words or contradicting phrases to each other, but it all just sounds like rubbish and/or the story trying to hard. The same result could really be achieved with some simpler dialogue strings with maybe not trying to speedrun conversation, but I digress.
All that being said I still find interest in knowing what’s happening next due to the fact that Re:Zero seems to have some more dangerous players in this game, but by contrast, my interest wanes in anticipation of having to experience the same kind of writing as what I got here. Re:Zero is such a mixed bag for me because it both has some really interesting storybuilding points and interesting, albeit dangerous, worldbuilding that makes me want to know more about all of the crazy psychopaths that seem to populate every corner of this fantasy world. But by contrast the show has some really weird and some seemingly not so well thought out story and character moments that make me question the validity of this series. Definitely a show that’s nice to look back on but while watching…gives me a heavy sense of apprehension. Especially since if the series is going to continue this track of question and answer with every twenty four episodes being structured as 12 episodes each of ‘QUESTION’ and ‘ANSWER’ chunks, then I’m not really too invested in experiencing major story whiplash before getting a carrot on a stick that explains everything, but will still be tugged along in order to lead to the next section of ‘stuff happening’.
As such, I still recommend Re:Zero with heavy caution since while the show definitely deserves its popularity, to an extent it really doesn’t deliver on everything or deserves getting the elicited reactions that the show expects the audience to have when certain things happen. Because quite frankly I’m not interested in ham-fisted philosophy or words from a cast comprised of solely morons, psychopaths, or sociopaths, especially when aggressively yelling at a character that you love them and vaguely insulting them is considered as a positive bit of character growth when in any other situation I think that falls under the line of emotional abuse. But, you know, that’s the story I guess.