Re:Zero Kara Hajimaru Isekai Seikatsu, also known by its english title of Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- is a 25 episode TV anime directed by Masaharu Watanabe and produced by White Fox, which is based on the light novel written by Tappei Nagatsuki of the same title. The plot revolves around our main character Subaru, who after walking out of a convenience store suddenly gets teleported to another world, with no explanation. While he initially thinks that it’s going to be easy, he learns quickly that living in another world isn’t going to be any easier than living in his previous one. However, he does have one ability, which he isn’t able to speak to anyone of: if he dies, he can revive from a previous point.
Even though the second season has ended, I'm going to be discussing the first season, because... well, can't be up to date on everything now, can we?
One of my favourite things about Re:Zero is that you can clearly see where the original author drew his inspirations from. That’s actually a thing I enjoy about a lot of anime and manga in general, seeing where a creator drew their inspirations from, and then reading or watching those works myself. Although in this case, I had actually watched what inspired him already. Those works being Neon Genesis Evangelion and Flanders no Inu (1975), which is a TV anime adaptation of the famous novel A Dog of Flanders. The clearest points of inspiration from Evangelion are the famous line “an unfamiliar ceiling,” various interactions Subaru has with Emilia and Rem, and Rem and Ram themselves.
Evangelion is chock full of famous lines of dialogue, one of them being “an unfamiliar ceiling,” when Shinji wakes up in places he doesn’t recognise, he would say that he’s looking at “another unfamiliar ceiling.” Subaru does the same, and this is a clear and obvious reference.
In episode 13, Emilia says that the version of her within Subaru's mind must be an amazing person, because according to him, she can seemingly do and understand everything, while she obviously can’t. This is contrasted in episode 18, with Rem saying that the Subaru she knows is an amazing person, which creates a very interesting contrast, which I am a big fan of. When it comes to the production, I have to say that it’s fairly mixed. I quite like the fact that the first episode is twice as long as a usual 24 minute episode, it really helps immerse you in the setting, as well as giving you a stronger first impression, since you’re exposed to more details and concepts than would otherwise have been possible in an episode of usual length. However, not all is great on the production side, with the occasional off-model character appearing a bit too frequently.
The land dragons, which the characters use to traverse long distances quickly, are CG, and it leaves a lot to be desired, as they don't look very good. Even so, my overall thoughst on Re:Zero are in fact positive. So why? The first reason being that the premise is just really strong, you get to see a character fail a lot, and when he fails he tries a new thing, it has a lot in common with video games of the Metroidvania genre because of that. The second is more what I like about anime in general, the fact that you can easily pin point influences. I've already gone shown examples of how it was inspired by Evangelion, so how did Flanders no Inu refrence it? At around the 23.00 mark of episode 19, the opening theme of Flanders no Inu starts playing from Subaru's phone, and his land dragon is named Patrasche, which is the name of the dog from Flanders no Inu. There's also a few thematic similarites between the two, although very surface level - the two main characters suffer. A lot.
In conclusion, Re:Zero is an engaging, although to its detriment, rather slowly paced drama which while inconsistent, has enough peaks to keep me interested. Seeing where the author drew his inspiration from is also really fun, and there's lots of small nods to other works which are fun to recognize. The fact that it is getting sequels makes the slow pace a little more bearable, but we'll simply have to wait and see to find out whether all this buildup ends up amounting to much in the end. I'm optimistic, and I am excited to eventually be abe to watch them!