Episode Spotlight: Re:Zero 15

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Staff:

Director: 土屋浩幸 (Hiroyuki Tsuchiya) [9,15]

Writer: 梅原英司 (Eiji Umehara) [14,15]

Storyboard: 細田直人 (Naoto Hosoda) [10,15]

Monster Animation Director: 小柳達也 (Tatsuya Koyanagi) [Show-wide]

Last night I watched an episode of anime the visceral impact of which took the wind out of me and left me lost for words. I had to just watch the credits roll, silent and still as my spiraling thoughts slowly came back to me. After a night’s rest, I’m ready to get it off my chest: Re:Zero episode 15 was amazing!

Re:Zero has been a consistent surprise to me since it began last season. The product of famous action animator-just-turned-director Gorou Sessha and prolific yet forgettable writer Masahiro Yokotani, Re:Zero is a light-novel adaptation with a very light-novel premise: average guy ends up in a fantasy world surrounded by cute girls and a special power (the ability to restart his day when he dies). Like any healthy grown man, I was skeptical at first. But, ever since its first episode cut short the slow-burning cute and humorous antics by brutally eviscerating all the main characters it has chipped away at all of my doubts before finally obliterating them this week.

This episode kicks the latest arc of the show into gear, pitting our hero Subaru and his doting side-kick Rem against a disturbed cult and a giant ice-bringing monster who is probably the Jealous Witch herself. It’s easily the most suspenseful episode of the show, as, more than ever before, there’s a looming sense of impending doom and a true malevolent villain. On top of that, the emotion is as strong as ever, as Rem’s blooming love for Subaru and her hatred of the cult adds tragedy and yearning to the shocking events that unfold.

Re:Zero has been carefully building its characters from the start to fully capitalise on their foils, passion and drive in moments like this. It’s an anime that many other could learn from in that it has the confidence to slow down and give itself breathing space. There’s time for back-story, there’s time for Rem and Subaru to go shopping together or just talk about their day. Where other light novel series would keep Rem and Ram as cute fanservice maids, Re:Zero has let us witness them grow well beyond their archetype. Other light novel series would have their male protagonist unwavering in his resolve and personality, but Re:Zero gave Subaru a whole episode to wallow in self-pity after ruining his friendship with the heroine. And when this show needs to fire a punch it throws all the weight of its character development behind it and lands a truly crushing blow.

This week was one massive swing to the gut, a gripping ride of suspense, sorrow, fear, rage and an almost suffocating feeling of hapless despair. It hit me in a place that anime usually doesn’t even try to. I’ve seen more violent anime before, but I don’t recall many anime being so brutal to a character as sweet and cherished as Rem or going to such lengths to crush the soul of its main character.

The potency of this episode was further honed by some impressive animation work. The four main animators responsible for the episode are (listed in order of the amount of animation they contributed):

中村和久 (Kazuhisa Nakamura) [15] https://twitter.com/wfoxviper

木宮亮介 (Ryosuke Kimiya) [2,9,15]

又賀大介 (Daisuke Mataga) [3,9,13,15] https://twitter.com/matagadaisuke33

岩田景子 (Keiko Iwata) [1,8,9,15]

These guys are all  credited with both animation direction and key animation, meaning they had a great deal of responsibility and creative control over their sequences. While most of the episode was well executed, the most interesting animation-wise by far was the long scene in the cave with Subaru chained up and tormented by the maniacal cult leader.

This sequence was handled by Kazuhisa Nakamura, which is why he did the most animation on the episode. A new animation director for the show, and someone who is new to me, Nakamura displayed a strong understanding of how animation can be used to deliver atmosphere and impact.

Now I have seen my share of creepy cult anime villains waving their arms around and talking in an insane voice, but the way Nakamura crafted his movements is what made him creepy and unsettling rather than just comical. Nakamura had him cut unpredictably from jerky, nervous contortions into super-smooth, confident movements really gave credence to his vocal lunacy.

Similarly, Rem’s fury as she entered the cave and Subaru’s desperate rage as he watched her die was made so intense by the raw, visceral movements and drawings.

It’s hard to imagine 3DCG or even live-action conveying this scene with such fierce emotional power.

The closing shot of the episode was the final kick to an audience already down, a display of the monstrous power and evil Subaru is now helpless against. The staff involved knew they had made something special and gave it the ED-less credit roll, a well-earned cinematic send-off.

[HorribleSubs] Re Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu - 15 [1080p].mkv_snapshot_21.59_[2016.07.12_11.22.11].jpg

 

 

10 thoughts on “Episode Spotlight: Re:Zero 15

  1. >This episode kicks the latest arc of the show into gear, pitting our hero Subaru and his doting side-kick Rem against a disturbed cult and a giant ice-bringing monster who is probably the Jealous Witch herself.

    What? The ice monster was Puck, who went insane because of Emilia getting killed by the cultists. I have no idea how you missed this, it was even the same Voice Actor.

    1. huh.. maybe you’re right, I’ll need to rewatch it. I assume it was a beast possessed/controlled by or a manifestation of the Jealous Witch. Following that, I reasoned that the witch cult had used Emilia in some way to summon her.

      Doubt it’s as simple as Puck ‘going insane’, but I suppose that is Puck to some extent.

      1. Whoah, the second entry in the span of a year, and featuring a single episode – I’m so glad there are people gaining this kind of engagement with this work.

        What do you mean by some extent, btw?

        1. It could be Puck’s body but not necessarily Puck in control, or it could be Puck so corrupted by a dark force that his character has lost his identity.

          1. Rewatch the scene again, the beast has even the same earring as puck in its left ear (the right one from our perspective).
            He already called Emilia his daughter somewhere in the first few episodes. The extent of his power (the ice age he calls upon the whole country once Emilia dies) is precisely what happens once his contract with her is voided, as he has no reason to care about subaru or the world.

          2. Hmm that’s interesting actually, didn’t realise he had called Emilia his daughter. You’re probably right. So Puck’s presence there was not an intended consequence of the witch cult?

          3. None of Washi’s assumptions rule out any of your statements though.

            I also suggest you don’t make an exposition tours out of what’s going to be clarified as soon as the next episode.

          4. we don’t know yet if that’s what the cult wanted, but it’s what will happen once Emilia dies. They allude to it back in ep3.

  2. I’m pretty sure that there’s more going on that just Puck going off the hook because Emilia died. The presence of the cult and the timing in the series indicates that this connects to the jealous witch and the over-arching story of the show. I don’t think the witch cult just killed Emilia as an assassination but as part of some kind of ritual or event to summon something evil. But it is just a hunch!

    We will soon see either way.

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