Re:Zero’s Second Chances Only Make Life Worse

In Re:Zero, modern teen Natsuke Subaru is thrown into a world of second chances to save lives, yet he’s pushed to his limits.
Audie Thacker | Jan 16, 2018 | 3 comments |

Re:Zero is a series I’ve heard about for a while, and it seemed like it could be good, so I finally got around to watching it. Overall, I was not disappointed.

Natsuke Subaru is a modern-day teen guy. But things go very strangely for him when he’s returning from a trip to the local food mart and, in the blink of an eye, ends up in a completely different world. Not only that, but in this new world he gains a very strange power—whenever he’s killed, he returns to a time in his past, which allows him to try to correct the mistakes he made that got him killed.

But as his story goes along, this power takes a heavy toll on him, as he see people he’s come to care about injured and slain in brutal ways. He can’t seem to find the answers to how to keep it from happening again and again and again.

Visual caveats

First, a content warning.

In the first part of the story, the fight at the loot house, there is a female character who dresses rather revealingly. After that the fan-servicey stuff is not so much of an issue.

Outside of that, probably the main content warning should be for the blood and violence. And those things could be serious issues for some people. Without going into details, I wasn’t exaggerating when I wrote that some characters are harmed and killed in brutal ways. I know some people didn’t like that kind of stuff in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, and this series is even worse in that regard than FMA:B, so I hope some of you can find that helpful in determining if you want to risk this series or not.

Pushing characters to the limit

It seems like I’ve read some advice for writers and storytellers about how they need to push their characters to their limits, make them suffer, put them through the wringer, or pretty much just make their situations as difficult as possible. I could hold up Re:Zero as a stunning, even extreme and drastic, example of pushing a character to the breaking point, and even going past that.

Starting about halfway through the current 25 episodes and continuing for several episodes, Subaru is pushed, and pushed, and pushed a whole lot more. Behaviors that worked for him early in the series suddenly work against him in this new situation, he makes bad decisions that cause people to not trust him, and even his attempts to act bravely only lead to him getting soundly thrashed. And that’s before he gets caught in a seemingly endless cycle of restarts, where every decision he makes only cause things to become worse, and where his weakness and helplessness are made starkly clear to him as his friends are killed time and again.

This isn’t the most enjoyable stretch of episodes I’ve ever watched, but story-wise it’s among the best. Subaru’s desperate and stupid decisions, and the ways the people around him respond to him, are very difficult to watch, and Subaru often acts like anything but a hero in this part of the story.

Getting pushed to the limit

In fact, probably about the only thing less enjoyable than watching a character get pushed to the limit like that is having it happen in real life.

Little is gained by sentimentalizing or romanticizing such painful times. They don’t always bring out the best in us; in fact, they often bring out the worst, or show us the worst that is already in us.

In Re:Zero, the difficulties bring out Subaru’s pride, selfishness, ignorance, and rashness, along with other faults and sins he has. For us, weariness may make us impatient, pain may make us angry, hopelessness may make us want to harm other people or ourselves, and that’s hardly an exhaustive list of causes and effects.

While the idea of getting multiple chances to do things right does work as an idea for some fascinating stories, real life isn’t like that. Our rash decisions and rash words cannot be undone.

Our hope, then, is that we have a Redeemer who was Himself pushed to the limits, and suffered many things, including the cruel death of crucifixion, and did so without sinning. Our hope, even for those of us who are already believers in Christ, is the same gospel of Christ crucified for our sins that we first believed. It’s something we don’t outgrow, even and especially when we think we’ve made some progress in our sanctification.

Along with that, there is the hope of knowing that the things we go through are not random or without purpose. Romans 5: 1-5 says:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Keep in mind the caveats from above. But if those elements won’t bother you too much, then I have no qualms about recommending the series Re:Zero.

Audie Thacker likes to think of himself as a writer, and so far his word processor hasn't been able to convince him otherwise, though one can't fault its efforts. He is the author of the fantasy novels Shifters: Manipulations and Shifters: Judgments.

Leave a Reply

Notify of

For notleia-senpai’s Happy Nice Time recommendation, I offer “Kino’s Journey.” It’s more of a slice-of-life story about Kino and her talking motorcycle Hermes (it’s played way less stupid than it sounds), who go on journeys to places like where’s its legal to murder someone or it’s an entire city-state on a boat where the overclass hires mercenaries to control the underclass. There’s an ironic twist to all of the stories, usually grim, but it’s balanced out by a slower pace and Kino’s level-headed approach to life. Also, Kino kicks butt even if she is moe-bait.


Oh, I believe you watch happy-nice-times, Thacker (even if it is moe trash like Non Non Biyori :P), you just don’t review them. It’s like if someone just kept reviewing big, stompy robot anime and so the noobs start thinking you have to like big stompy robots in order to like anime. It’s just a matter of exposure.