After a little over three months off, the Re: Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu ‘anime’ – also known as Re: Zero – Starting Life in Another World – will return on January 6, 2021 . The previous chapter had ended on a ‘cliffhanger’ and fans couldn’t wait to see what fate would bring to Subaru. As if that wasn’t enough, the popular Tappei Nagatsuki play will also get a new game in January . What better time to talk about what is the grace of Re: Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu ?

We warn that there will be ‘spoilers’ of some elements of the story – especially around the psychology of Subaru Natsuki, the protagonist -, but not the plot in general. In this way, we invite you to watch the ‘anime’ or read the light novel for context.

A subversion of the Isekai genre

As its name implies, which literally translates as “different world”, the Isekai genre revolves around a maxim: the protagonist —an ordinary person from our planet, generally from Japan— is transported to another world . However, especially after its recent ‘boom’ in the second decade of the new millennium, other characteristics have been associated with this genre. Among these, it stands out that the protagonist, despite being a normal person, is quite capable. This generally comes hand in hand with a number of abilities – most of which are unorthodox in the otherworldly context – that give him a distinct advantage over other characters. Nor can the harem that haunts the protagonist be forgotten, even if he has the charisma of a brick.

All of the characteristics mentioned are due to the fact that the Isekai genre has more or less become synonymous with the fantasy of power. After all, what reader wouldn’t want to project himself into an extremely powerful protagonist with a line of girls chasing him?

From its first episode, Re: Zero subverts this archetype with its protagonist: Subaru .

When Subaru Natsuki arrives in the kingdom of Lugnica, the protagonist breaks the fourth wall assuming that he was transported to this fantastic world as the hero of a typical Isekai. Therefore, he must now possess a special ability. After all, that’s the norm in the Isekai. However, Subaru eventually discovers that his situation is somewhat different.

Being a ‘hikikomori’, a term used in Japan to refer to those people who isolate themselves from society, Subaru has no talent whatsoever. Although he remains in good physical shape, he is not a fighter. While he’s not stupid, his intellect isn’t remarkable either. The only thing he has going for him is the ability he obtained after arriving in Lugnica: Return from the Dead .

Dying is not fun

Time loops are quite a popular device in fiction. Although its precise origin is unknown, Doubled and Redoubled (1941) – Malcolm Jameson’s short story – is recognized as one of the first works to make use of this resource. However, it would not be until the 1990s and early 2000s that time loops became part of popular culture. Works like Time Spell (1993), The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (2000) and All You Need is Kill (2004) made sure of that.

Regarding its operation within the narrative, Re: Zero does not innovate the resource of time loops. However, it does give it greater emotional value.

As in other time-looping stories, Subaru can return to a “save point” after dying. In this way, Return from Death allows you to correct your mistakes to reach an ideal ending. However, there is a key difference from other stories that use the same device: Subaru never becomes indifferent to death .

In Re: Zero , Return from the Dead is not treated as a simple device through which the protagonist learns from his mistakes. No matter how many times he suffers it, death is a traumatic event for Subaru. Even when the idea of ​​”instrumentalizing” that power is considered, it would imply that the protagonist abandons his humanity and self-esteem.

Another aspect that makes Subaru’s power especially tragic is that only he can know of its existence. If he reveals Return from Death to another character, the protagonist runs the risk of dying or assassinating the person to whom he revealed his secret. No matter how much he loves himself, Subaru’s dozens of deaths are a psychological burden that only he can carry.

Subaru Natsuki: the portrait of a fallible human

We already mentioned that Subaru Natsuki is not a particularly talented individual. Despite this, he is the hero and protagonist of Re: Zero . Therefore, the stress to which he is constantly subjected when dying in his multiple attempts to achieve an ideal ending is inevitable. However, Subaru possesses another myriad of flaws unrelated to Returning from the Dead.

For most viewers, especially those unfamiliar with the archetypes and cliches of ‘anime’, Subaru can be insufferable. He is loud and even inconsiderate when imposing his will on other people. There are times when your ignorance hurts others. The funny thing is that his histrionics and impulsiveness are also annoying for other characters. However, Subaru’s attitudes have an explanation.

Being a ‘hikikomori’, Subaru’s social skills are nil. From the beginning, the protagonist tends to be optimistic and act like a clown with everyone he crosses. However, the Subaru that we see for a good portion of the series is not his true self. He is a projection / imitation of his father, a respected man from his community in Japan.

As if this lack of social skills wasn’t enough, the arrival in Lugnica created other problems. Having low self-esteem before being transported to the other world, Subaru found a ‘raison d’être’ in his status as the ‘hero’ of history. As traumatic as it was, Returning from the Dead was his power and it had allowed him to save many lives. After several “victories”, Subaru ended up developing a messiah complex.

Finding value in yourself

Despite the aforementioned flaws, Subaru is not a bad person. Even in his most selfish moments, he treasures the people he loves and would gladly lay down his life for them. However, this raises another problem. Given his low self-esteem, Subaru sees no value in his existence. For this reason, he plays with the idea of ​​”instrumentalizing” Return from Death.

Fortunately, his loved ones make him understand that his life does have value. Even if he doesn’t see it, other people appreciate him for who he is and the effect his existence has had on their lives. Not least, he learns that he must love himself and not give up his life.

As you can see, the psychology of Subaru and how this protagonist unfolds in a cruel world like Lugnica is one of the great strengths of Re: Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu . However, there are several things that we do not talk about. To know them, you just have to give this series a try. You will not regret it!

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