Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- season 2
Fresh off the defeat of the big white whale, everything looks fantastic for Subaru and Emilia, as well as everyone else who got saved from said whale. But Subaru quickly finds out that Rem is just...gone. Her body is still there, but she can't move and nobody remembers her, not even her twin sister Ram. As it turns out, Gluttony - who created the humongous whale - has eaten everyone's memories of Rem, as well as part of Crush's. And if that's not bad enough, Subaru has to figure out why the mansion is attacked by Elsa AND what's going on about a barrier in a place referred to as "Sanctuary".
Stig: The first season of Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another world- is one of the better shows I've ever suffered through. Which is to say that despite my frustrations with some aspects of it, it was one of the better plotted shows I had seen, especially in the isekai genre. But by "suffered", I didn't necessarily mean the parts I didn't like (mostly episode 18), but also how hard the show could get with its main character. Re:ZERO could get dark at times, and not edgy dark, but... just violent and/or nasty.
Tim: My brother warned me season two was a lot darker than season one. He warned me, but I didn't listen. And it's not like season one of Re:ZERO was a super happy fun show, either. While it did play the occassional isekai tropes (guy fish out of water in new world, beautiful fantasy girls, medieval-ish setting), it was most certainly not the action-comedy most isekai shows are. Subaru being able to rewind time and undie did not in any way make the sheer amount of hell he went through in season one any easier on him, ESPECIALLY in the middle episodes, which was six episodes back-to-back of basically torture porn for the guy. Despite how hard it was to watch, I'd still hold it as probably as the best kind of isekai, at least of the modern era.
Re:ZERO's second season immediately picks up where season one left off (which, luckily for us, we remember well). Season one had some nice story progression, and season two does not disappoint either. Well, maybe it does disappoint a little bit in how the things that go on in season two have little to do with what was going on last season. Aside from the return of Elsa and the Rem memories going missing aspect, Re:ZERO season two feels more like a standalone sequel rather than a follow-up season. We're sure it'll come together somehow in the end, right? Right?
If you were wondering what all the things about Satella and the witches cult was all about, however, be prepared to learn absolutely...something. While Satella might be the one who gifted Subaru with everlasting revives, we do have a group of witches covering the ol' seven mortal sins, some of which we even get to meet here. The biggest player this time around is Echidna, the witch of greed. She takes a special interest in Subaru, inviting him to a tea party in her rather oddly serene alternate realm, and she seems to be the one who understands human behavior the best, even if she has her moments of eccentricity. (To say the least.) Aside from her interest in Subaru, Satella also has some ties with Emilia, plus one other person too spoilery to mention here. The show does kinda play up some of the witches in a rather non-evil way, even if what a lot of them do is questionable at best. Echidna's past also ties into someone else in a rather surprising manner, and not for the better, which we won't get into due to spoilerific territory.
The other new major players this season are Garfiel and his half-sister Frederica. Garfiel is one of the halfbeasts residing in the sanctuary, partially not by choice. His personality exudes "temperamental brat", which is exactly what he is. He seems to have some issues regarding his mother, and his ability to transform into a giant tiger-like beastman (resulting in me calling him Garfield more than once - Tim) makes him exceedingly dangerous, especially since he takes offense to most of the things Subaru does, at least at first. His more mild-mannered sister, Frederica, used to work as a maid for Roswaal. Compared to her brother, she is very polite and friendly, even though she shares the same sharp pointy teeth as her baby brother. (A bit jarring when she talks politely, always looking ready to eat. Heh. - Tim)
Otto, who we barely met in season one of Re:ZERO, steps up as a major player this season. Granted, the carriage taker is more often than not used as comic relief/a foil to Subaru, but he does step up to the plate finally near the end of the first half of season two, and in the second half especially. We also finally learn more about him this season as well, including his rather depressing childhood. (Bread and butter in Re:ZERO I know, but...) So yeah, it's nice to see him grow out (eventually) of his whiny spiel he had in season one.
Stig: While I liked that they kinda separated Subaru from the world he was thrown into - in the sense that yes, the things he does has the potential to influence said world, but it doesn't revolve around him - I wasn't sure how I felt about his big rant in episode 18 of season one, an episode that ended up being a bit of a soapbox rant for the author's dislike of isekai shows and their leads. Then again, I've never been a huge fan of shows that lean too heavily on lecturing its characters - and by extent, its audience - and the shoutier they get, the more presumptuous and obnoxious they can get about it too. (Just ask me why I was never a huge fan of Ano Hana.) But this season here actually does redeem Subaru's rant from the aforementioned episode by basically laying out more of what kind of character he used to be before his first return from death. You even get to meet his parents as well...kinda.
Tim: Season one of Re:ZERO kinda just had Subaru...teleported to this new world. Unlike most isekai protagonists, he wasn't killed or pulled into a game. He just sort of appeared there out of the blue on a walk home from the convenience mart. And in season one we learned zilch of Subaru's past. This season rectifies that with some help from Echidna, where we get to see for a couple of episodes Subaru "back" in his hometown. We learn he's an only child and had a bit of a complex regarding him versus his father (which would explain a lot about his season one behavior). We even get a cute scene with him and his mother near the end of this mini-arc. It gives one the feels in a nice way.
...which is good, because Re:ZERO season two needs all the happy it can get before it SLAMS YOU IN THE FACE with darkness.
And yeah, we're not gonna beat around the bush; season two of Re:ZERO is daaaaaaark. With the sole exception of Otto and some of Ram's snarky comments, there is very little in the way of comedy or light-hearted moments. And nowhere is this more noticeable or sadder than when it comes to Emilia, who'll you want to hug just like Subaru does by the time you finish watching season two.
So most of season two of Re:ZERO takes place in the Sanctuary, a sealed-off place that people are forced to live in due to a spell/curse placed on it many years ago. For Emilia to leave, she has to undergo three trials on her own, which push the poor girl to her absolute limit. So much in fact, she can't even complete the first trial no matter how many times she tries initially. Emilia's past is just as sad and painful as Rem and Ram's were in season one, raised by a loving aunt, only to have her taken away from her by two new characters: a creepy, easily irritable boy named Regulus and an even creepier little girl named Pandora. (Voiced very eerily in the Japanese version by Rie Kugimiya, in easily one of the most evil characters she's ever played.) It even ties into the past of a character who will make a surprise visit you'll recognize immediately, even if you can't really believe it really is them at first.
Pain is a good word to describe Re:ZERO season two. Remember the mansion that Subaru lives in season one? It gets destroyed by an attack later in the season by returning antagonist Elsa, aka Miss Bowel Cutter, and... someone else. (And even she has a childhood backstory this season, but not one that makes her sympathetic despite the situation she's in.) All the support Subaru had even in his darkest moments last season? Well, Otto aside, he initially starts with nearly none this go-round. Rem is out, Emilia is doing the trials, Ram can't stand him, Beatrice is stuck in the mansion, and Felix and the other princess candidates won't come to Sanctuary, mostly because of what happened to Crush. Somehow Subaru is even worse off than he was in his darkest hour in season one, and this time he doesn't have Rem to give him a heartfelt speech to perk him up either (but maybe someone else will step up to fill that role...?).
In one of Re:ZERO 2's darker moments, Echidna treats Subaru to a montage of all the times he died. As anyone who watched season one can tell you, Subaru has the ability Return to Death, which allows him to basically rewind his body back to shortly before he dies if the situation occurs (which it did a LOT in season one). What makes this a big deal is that this is the first him or us (the audience) get to see people's reactions to his previous deaths. It's a montage of sadness and anger; just like anyone would react to someone's sudden death, everyone handles it in a different way. It's a tough scene to watch in an already tough season, a chance to see the lenses of "what could have been"s.
So, with anyone having finally opened up or changed, you might have noticed there's one returning character who went to Sanctuary we haven't talked about yet; Ram. Well...
Tim: If I had to pick a character I hated in season one of Re:ZERO, it'd be Ram. I just hated how ruthlessly cruel, mean, and callous she was to everyone but Roswaal; even Emilia wasn't safe from her harsh words. Season two does very, very little to rectify this. Her twisted devotion to Roswaal is even moreso prevalent here than in last season, and at season's end made me constantly wonder "What does she even see in him?", and not in a jokey way either. It's not until nearly the very, very end of this season that Ran finally gains the tiniest of character development, but even with her sad childhood past, I still found it hard to care for her. She's a weak link in a show where characters otherwise learn and grow over time, leaving their worst traits behind as they become better people.
Stig: Ram was more of a background character for me, though. Yeah, I didn't really appreciate the snarky way both she and Rem tore into Subaru during his first moments in the Roswall mansion - which is a feeling I had even though I found Subaru mostly just annoying at that stage - but she did at least support first Subaru and then later Garfiel through action, so I don't really share Tim's hatred for the character, even if I don't necessarily like her either. Her feelings towards Roswaal might be...admirable, in a way, I guess?...but I also honestly don't get why she feels that way, even despite her best efforts at explaining it. Maybe future seasons will expand on that, and hopefully make her a bit more sympathetic.
Ram's refusal of change comes into sharp contrast with season one's other grumpy mansion dweller, Beatrice, who herself gets some much-needed development this season. Granted, it's shoved into the second half for the most part due to Sanctuary shenaigans, but it's there, and her past is still tied into other characters this season. This is another case where sadly spoilers would ruin what that is, but needless to say it's nice to see Beatrice finally thrown a bone after everything she went through in her life.
Re:ZERO was never a series afraid to show its characters' skeletons in the closet, but this season is more like a mansion. Even Subaru's Return by Death ability is nerfed this season, and he can't use it as a end-all-be-all solution to problems like he could in season one. With the exception of the Witches, every character goes through hell and back this season, and no one comes out unscatched. It's just the kind of series Re:ZERO is.
And normally shows this bleak would be one that we would avoid. But like we mentioned in the first season review of this show (link here), Re:ZERO's cast and setting are too engaging for this to be much of an issue. And again the show still gives us ocassional relief from Otto or a snappy line here and there from one of the other characters. But there's a time to be funny and a time to be serious. And unlike some isekai shows out there (hi, Combatants will be Dispatched!), Re:ZERO knows when it's time to be one or the other.
Better yet, everything Re:ZERO season two sets up, it follows up on for the most part. (Minus one big aspect that even in the final episode doesn't get resolved. Sorry, spoilers.) Sure, there's still the issue of the election and what's going on with that, but Re:ZERO still has the good sense to set itself goals and reach them by the end of each arc. It makes the mystery of the main overarcing plot a bit easier to keep at arms' length as you digest each individual story arc. It's a good deal better at tying up loose ends than, say, fellow isekai show So I'm a Spider, So What?.
Re:ZERO is still a bit too happy about its long conversations, though, sometimes as much as half to two-thirds an episode just having its characters just back and forth talk to each other. Even so, it looks nice enough that you can live with it. It also helps that Subaru is a good bit more tolerable this season, too. Even his outbrusts and cries are more than enough justified this season, when you consider the hell he and the others go through this season.
So yes, like with season one, we highly recommend Re:ZERO season two. If you liked season one, or don't mind a darker take on the isekai genre, you'll likely enjoy this season as well. We can't wait to see what happens next.
Extended conversations and overly dark moments aside, Re:ZERO is still very much a captivating show, and still one of the best isekai anime of the past decade. Highly recommended. — Stig Høgset and Tim Jones
Recommended Audience: Like season one, this show is not afraid to show characters die, and in rather horrific ways. Expect to see blood often during these scenes, too. Viewer discretion advised.
Version(s) Viewed: crunchyroll stream, English (Stig) and Japanese with English subtitles (Tim)
Review Status: Full (25/25)
Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- season 2 © 2020-2021 Tappei Nagatsuki, published by KADOKAWA Co., Ltd./Re:ZERO Life in a Different World from Zero 2 Production Committee
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