What’s it about? Sota Mizushino wants to tell stories as good as the light novels and anime he enjoys so much, like Elemental Symphony of Vogelchevalier. While watching an episode on his tablet one day, it flickers to show eerie messages like “You cannot escape from here” and “CHANGE BEFORE YOU HAVE TO”.
Suddenly, the world around his tablet disintegrates and he finds himself in the situation he has just been watching – the world of Elemental Symphony of Vogelchevalier, where heroine Selesia is piloting her mecha, Vogelchevalier, to defeat a mysterious stranger attacking her with a barrage of flying swords. Realising Sota is there, Selesia dives across to rescue him. She finds herself in Sota’s bedroom, guard up and confused by Sota’s insistence that she is an anime character.
This is my favourite premiere so far, and a serious contender for Anime of the Season (comparing like to like and putting aside the great sequels airing right now). Let’s talk about Selesia first.
Selesia has a costume with an open boob window. However, I can pretty much guarantee you will forget all about this as the camera does not close-up on her chest, her breasts don’t have a fanservice jiggle and she is consistently framed in such a way as to centre her characterisation, either through eye contact or through powerful poses which deliberately avoid upskirt shots.
I’ve been accused many times of being a prude who just wants all female characters covered completely at all times. Selesia is a perfect example of what I actually want: all female characters treated consistently as characters, not future erotic merchandise. Selesia’s body is animated to convey information about her personality, mood or power dynamics in a given scene rather than to fluff the straight male boner supposedly required to tentpole the anime industry. This is a low bar; character treatment like Selesia’s shouldn’t be rare.
In addition to not being objectified, she is also quick-thinking, grounded and confident. When Sota’s mother calls up to him to stop making so much noise, she pulls him quietly inside his bedroom and shuts the door behind her before speaking in a low voice. When he reveals that he knows certain intimate moments of her life through the anime, she is embarrassed but soon regains her composure. She even gets Sota to relax after he desperately tries to make her feel better by babbling about how much he loves her show.
Another anime would take the easier option of having Selesia completely oblivious to her surroundings, causing all kinds of problems for Sota even as he recognises the tropes he suffers from. There would be boob grabs, upskirt shots, magical explosions collapsing Sota’s building, all the wacky hijinks you could imagine. Re:CREATORS stands out for its obvious wish to keep its character responses and interactions more plausible.
This includes Sota, who is confused by this turn of events but wastes no time on the “This must be a dream!” or “Have I got caught in a film set?” schtick a lesser story would attempt. Instead, as Selesia holds a sword to his throat he realises the only way to convince her of her character status is to show her. He ducks away from the sword to grab a magazine she features in, then reads some dialogue from the light novel her anime is based on. He could be much cartoonier than they have made him, particularly considering that, as yet, he appears to have no particular powers or hidden strengths.
However, this is the land of “the gods”: creators of stories like the one Selesia is from, and as Sota longs to become,suggesting he will play a role with more agency in later episodes. We get a glimpse of others like Selesia, in less revealing clothes and seemingly with more of an understanding about the different worlds. Each has her own power and personality, and we can assume there will be both great battles and light comedic interactions between them. The premise is a solid one, the story well-paced and intriguing, and the as-yet unexplained opening sequence suggests they intend to actually say something of substance.
There are traps Re:CREATORS could fall into, but given the traps it has consciously avoided so far I consider this premiere a statement of intent to do right by its characters and its premise. It’s a shame that more people won’t watch it because it’s an Amazon licence, but if it doesn’t undermine itself then we can at least recommend it as a DVD purchase by the series end for those unable to access it any other way.