[Podcast] Chatty AF 3: The Re:ZERO Triangle

Two weeks ago we brought you a retrospective on Revolutionary Girl Utena with some of the most dedicated Utena analysts out there. This week we’re talking about a show very dear to my heart: my problematic favourite of 2016 and the reason I became friends with Peter and Frog-kunRe:ZERO. As I say in the intro, we will definitely talk about Re:ZERO again, but this episode focuses on the main characters of the central love triangle: Subaru, Rem and Emilia.

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Chatty AF 3: The Re:ZERO Triangle

Amelia and Peter look back on Re:ZERO‘s main characters with Caitlin, who just finished watching it for the first time and has some strong opinions to share…

SPOILERS: For the entire first season of Re:ZERO

00:00 Intro: What is everyone’s experience with Re:ZERO?
03:56 Subaru
22:03 Rem
37:35 Emilia
45:48 Would you recommend Re:ZERO?
51:01 Hopes for Re:ZERO season two
56:54 Outro

Recorded Saturday 18th February 2017

Music: Open Those Bright Eyes by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License


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  • Heavenspiercing

    An interesting podcast, which did give me a bit to think about! Re:Zero is I think my favorite anime in the past couple years (partally due to myself hardly being invested in seasonal anime recently) so I found myself really invested in the discussion. I found myself agreeing and disagreeing with a few points made, so I’ll go over some of my main points.

    I personally believe Rem is very underrated as a character, especially in regards to her being reduced to just every otaku’s waifu, both from her legions of fans and the ones that don’t really give care about her. Rem isn’t really given a complete character arc in the anime, but I’d still say she’s given plenty of development. Her relationship with Ram alone gives me a lot to write about, which is a shame because all people ever focus on is her relationship with Subaru. Speaking of, she gets a bit of flack from her haters for her worship of Subaru, but I think her complete faith, devotion, and worship of Subaru is not only supposed to mirror his idealization of Emilia, but also is meant to serve as a sort of repeat of the relationship with her sister. It’s not as bad here because Rem seems a little more aware of Subaru’s flaws as a person, but she seems very willing to overlook them.

    That, and her willingness to just settle for being second place in Subaru’s heart (eerily similar to her willingness to just serve as a replacement for her, in her mind, vastly superior sister), shows that she hasn’t grown quite as much as the end of the second arc would have you believe. Neither Rem or Subaru are “strong” people, far from it, so they’re making up for each other’s shortcomings by telling each how great they are and how they’ll be there for each other, but there’s only so much that can do. I doubt the confidence boost Subaru got from Episode 18 onward is in any way permanent considering he was only able to act like that so he could live up to Rem’s very high standards of him, and seeing his bravado noticeably falter several times during those final episodes (during which Rem was absent) kinda cemented it for me.

    I myself don’t have much problem with the way the final scene was written, because even after Subaru confesses, Emilia appreciates his feelings and is thankful for them, but she doesn’t give him an actual response as to how she feels about him, which I think is important to note. By not forcing his love on her but merely making them clear, and not demanding an answer and giving her all the time she needs to think, he’s respecting her wishes and feelings for the first time, which was her biggest problem with him in the first place. She never hated him for his actions in episode 13, she was just confused and disappointed, and if he was merely honest about himself instead of trying to poorly justify his actions or dodging her questions, she likely would’ve forgiven him sooner. Even besides, Emilia is at her core a compassionate person and still someone who cared about and thought of Subaru as one of her only friends, so I do believe she wanted to patch things up with him as much as he did with her.

    I do think it was perhaps poorly framed and a bit of an awkward spot to end it on, because it does give the false impression that “He saved the day, won the girl’s heart, and they both lived happily ever after” which rings rather shallow and also isn’t very true.

    Some of the side characters like Felix, Crusch, Priscilla, Al, Wilhelm and his wife, even Reinhard, do get a lot of backstory in side stories and novels to make up for their lack of development here. As for Felt, I have my own speculations about her role in the story and if I’m right, she won’t be relevant again for a very long time.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it! As you can tell, we have some disagreement amongst ourselves on various points, we’re pretty accepting of the idea that people will feel differently about different points.

      Your thoughts on Rem actually touch on my own thoughts. It wasn’t suitable to discuss on this podcast, but basically I think there’s a quadrant of Subaru, Rem, Emilia and Ram, where each of them in some way deliberately mirrors the other to some extent, Emilia mirroring other people the least and Rem mirroring other people the most. I would agree with you more on Rem being underrated as a character if she had any kind of goals or personal motivation unrelated to the other people in her life, if her arc with Subaru had led to her realising she needs to invest in herself. That chilling line she comes out with around episode 15, shouting “You’ve taken my reason to live, and now you’re taking my reason to die?” at the witch’s cult as they try to take Subaru away when she’s catatonic reflects what I feel is her biggest potential for character development. She invests completely in people, so completely that she as an individual disappears. I would LOVE to see that explored, and it really should have been from episode 19 onwards, but instead – nothing. So that’s my biggest problem with Rem’s character: she ends the series with very little development since the end of episode 11. For such a major and present character, she needed more, and the series would have been richer had they explored that.

      I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree on that final scene with Emilia, but that’s fine. I agree with your interpretation of her character, but I don’t agree that their interaction was a strong enough ending to an arc that was such a gut punch and, for me, series-defining. I hope they’ll build on it in season two, if they go back to their old schtick of Subaru making kind of sleazy and overly personal comments which Emilia deflects it will all have been pointless. If they actually reflect a change in Subaru’s attitude then maybe I’ll come around to your way of thinking. For the moment though, “He saved the day, won the girl’s heart, and they both lived happily ever after” is exactly where they land and it is deeply unsatisfying for me personally.

      Thanks again so much for your comment, we’ve talked about reading the novels (Peter’s reading the first LN right now) and recording again so I hope you’ll tune in if we do!

      • Heavenspiercing

        I have speculations about Rem’s role from here on, in regards to her relationship with Subaru. I rewatched the first half of the anime, and that Red Oni/Blue Oni story in episode 6 has got me to thinking it’s not meant to symbolize what that arc would have you believe. I’ll keep things vague in case I’m wrong, but I’m pretty positive Rem’s place in the story is far from over. Another reason I believe this is I agree that it wouldn’t feel right for a major character’s development to just kind of stop so early in the story (and if what I’ve read about is accurate, Re:Zero is intended to be considerably longer than most light novel series).

        Subaru’s *surface* personality didn’t change significantly, even though it’s clear through dialogue and his interactions with certain characters that he has grown out of a few of his uglier traits, such as his arrogance and petty entitlement, so I still expect some of his prior dynamic with Emilia to remain for a while longer. Like with Rem, it’d be odd if Subaru’s development just kind of stopped here, so in a theoretical season 2 (I want to say it’s going to happen because there’s no reason why it wouldn’t, but it’s still an IF at this point) I think much of his attitude toward Emilia will be dealt with. There’s still certain other things to keep in mind with his relationship with her, such as his idealization of her and his borderline worship of her as a person. As such, I expect a season 2 will show a lot more of Emilia that we’ve never seen before, and will very clearly express some of her negative qualities, her faults, her shortcomings, her troubles, maybe even the idea that she can be selfish, to show Subaru that she isn’t even close to the pure goddess that he still imagines her as. Anything about Emilia that shows she isn’t a perfect person is interpreted by Subaru as just an adorable quirk, so I hope that fact is shoved into his face.

        And thanks, if another one of these happens, you can be sure I’ll tune in!

    • Peter

      I’m also a big Rem fan. I loved her subplot and character development. I understand why she feels gratitude to Subaru and wants to support him. I even love the dynamic where they have mutually supported each other in the same ways when they were at their low points. It’s just that her current course of action doesn’t lead to any sort of meaningful end for her. Hoping she grows out of her hero worship/life debt of Subaru.

      I felt that Subaru has really shown that he has adjusted his reasons for doing what he does and is trying to correct the negative aspects of his character. He’s personally responsible for some tremendous positive changes in the world but he also seriously hurt Emilia’s chances of winning the election. It did feel a little storybook and I’m hoping Subaru spends the next season with an awareness that Emilia’s in charge.

      • Heavenspiercing

        One thing I noticed about episode 13 is that I don’t think Subaru’s actions really damaged her reputation. For one thing, her reputation is already rock-bottom because of her striking resemblance to Satella, so it really couldn’t get worse. The other thing is, I think it also helped her slightly in a weird sense. Everyone was afraid of her for the aforementioned reason, so having someone like Subaru, a complete weirdo, goofball, and general embarrassment for a “knight” would show that she really isn’t someone to be feared (as explicitly stated by one of the old men on the council). Not 100% sure how we’re supposed to take that statement but ah, yeah. XD

  • Though not your intention, this podcast reenforced my belief that I can safely pass on Re:ZERO, haha.

    • Oh no!! Absolutely not my intention at all… But it is a problematic favourite, so I can’t exactly object when people opt out of it. What specifically put you off?

      • The apparent premise (boy winds up in fantasy world populated by waifus) already had me leaning away, but the podcast seemed to confirm my guess that the MC would be, at least initially, insufferable. You did talk about his growth which could be interesting, but I don’t see myself sticking around long enough to find out.

        It’s possible that reading more about the show will cause me to change my mind. We shall see!

        And thanks for all of your work, AniFem team. 🙂

    • Caitlin

      Glad to have saved you the effort!

    • Peter

      I don’t blame you for not watching it, but I highly recommend it.

  • 0utf0xZer0

    Re:Zero was one of my biggest surprises of 2016 as I normally don’t care much for isekai light novels.

    I hadn’t actually thought much about why Emilia gives Subaru a fake name before. I always thought Emilia was slowly warming up to him prior to the first reset, and that part (not all) of Subaru’s problem is that he never successfully resets his expectations regarding their relationship to match the timeline. In fact what I saw as a budding romance between the two in episode one was the initial big draw for me (I’m a sucker for a cute romance), while seeing their relationship play out differently in subsequent timelines was a big draw for the following episodes.

    I do agree the ending was pretty poorly handled – to me, it felt like they forced in a happy end for Subaru in case they didn’t get a second season.

    In regards to Rem’s popularity, one cosplayer that my girlfriend and I know has cosplayed both Emilia and Rem, and said she liked Rem more because of her dark backstory. I also think some of her fans see her as kind of badass, another cosplayer I saw last year actually had a prop mace and was quite enthusiastic about integrating it into her photos.

    An online friend of mine who was a strong Subaru/Rem supporter was also a fan of Rem and Ram’s storyline in the second arc. I think he also saw Subaru and Rem as having better chemistry than Subaru and Emilia, as I recall him asking me why I didn’t see it as an issue for Subaru/Emilia that they hadn’t had any good chemistry since the first episode. Incidentally, despite being big moe fans with a tendency to like “sweet” types, both of us thought Emilia chewing out Subaru was a great scene.

    • Peter

      When she gave Subaru the name it was right after they had a conversation about him not being from around the area and showing an astounding ignorance of very basic information about their world. My theory is she gave the name to test his reaction. If he didn’t react to the word Satella then he might be telling the truth. That’s why Puck told her it was in poor taste.

      Based on what you and some other people are saying about your preference for Rem, I’m optimistic about Emilia getting more popular as the series progresses.

  • smashman42

    Sorry to be asking this a day late, but I tried searching for the answer myself but didn’t come up with anything.

    When you guys were talking about a potential second season, I got the vibe that some news had come out that it actually will happen, rather than just fan speculation. Is there any source for that?

    • Ah, nothing confirmed yet, just a general sense of certainty that it’s going to happen!

      • iron_maw84

        About a second season, the producer Shou Tanaka just came out from an recent award ceremony that Re:Zero that won and stated the plans to animate more of series in the future. While not an official confirmation, it’s about as good as given who it’s and how successful the series has been. Just thought I would share.

    • Peter

      They haven’t confirmed. I know White Fox is working on “Zero kara Hajimeru Mahō no Sho” in Spring which, from the title, visuals, and description, made me think it was a side-story in the Re:ZERO world about Satella. They also have Steins;Gate 0 and the Peacemaker Kurogane remake coming down the pipe.

      I believe they caught up to the light novels with the first season, so it might depend on how fast those are being produced. I’d say late this year at the very earliest but that’s just speculation.

      • 0utf0xZer0

        Despite White Fox’s involvement and the title, Zero kara Hajimeru Mahō no Sho and Re Zero are not related. Don’t expect you to be the last one confused by that.

        • Peter

          I figured it out but the name/story/trailer were pretty spot on. I’m actually looking forward to it to see if the similarities go any deeper than cosmetic.