A few weeks back, I wrote at some length about Subaru, the main character of Re:ZERO – Starting Life in Another World and his rather entitled way of viewing the fantasy world he has fallen into. With this latest episode, Subaru is finally starting to learn from his numerous mistakes.
[This post contains spoilers up to episode eighteen of Re:ZERO]
Let’s start by recapping a bit. Despite being a stranger in a strange land, Subaru has believed himself to be the protagonist of his own otaku fantasy–destined to win the girl and save the world–regardless of how many times this has been proven false. Because of this, he has subconsciously treated the other characters, including his love interest Emilia, as things more than real, thinking people. As the “protagonist” (and the only one with time travel powers), he has believed himself to be the only one capable of making everything turn out right. After all, that’s how the story goes, right?
Of course, the truth is that he is by far the most ignorant person in the entire story. He knows nothing of the world’s history, language, magic system, or politics–and yet insists on throwing himself headlong into one situation after another that he doesn’t understand. The only reason he has made it as far as he has is because he quite literally gets a do-over every time he dies.
Yet, despite his failures, he has never questioned that underlying premise: that he alone could decide the outcome. Instead of learning from this central mistake, he has simply made new ones ad nauseam.
In episode fifteen, Subaru runs away from his problems–mentally retreating from them rather than confronting them–and becomes nearly catatonic as a result. This leads not only to his death, but Rem’s horrible torture right before his eyes.
In the next loop, he is so driven by rage for the one who killed Rem, Betelgeuse, that he loses sight of his self-professed goal to save Emilia. Yet, even when called out on this, Subaru is unwilling to accept that he has been (and continues to be) ruled by selfishness. His goal has never been to aid Emilia but rather to win her in his role as the hero of the story. He has always been focused on his own goal, but thanks to Betelgeuse, that goal has changed.
Still sure that he is in the right and the only one who can save Emilia/kill Betelgeuse, he goes to Emilia’s rivals in the battle for the crown, begging for their help. Yet, even as a beggar, his ignorance and arrogance shine through–managing to alienate all three of those he asks. So once again, he heads off on his own, leading to the deaths of Rem and Emilia, and, ultimately, himself.
Even as the enraged Puck informs Subaru of his three main mistakes before killing him (that he breaks promises, left the capitol and returned to her side, and let Emilia die), Subaru is unwilling to confront his own weak points. Instead, he seeks to run away again–this time physically.
He claims to Rem that he is going to give up because he has tried everything. But that’s the logical fallacy. He hasn’t done everything–but he has done everything he could think of. He has never once asked those around him for advice and then worked on a plan together. He has always taken it as a given that he decides the plan and that everyone else must follow it.
Through Rem and Subaru baring their souls to each other, Subaru is able to see his ego–his exaggerated sense of self-importance–and set it aside, wanting to start from scratch to become the hero Rem believes him to be instead of the selfish fool he’s been. He’s finally ready to ask for help and let those who know better than he take center stage.
It’s a hard-fought turning point for his character and one that will hopefully be the first step into making him a likeable protagonist. Though, given how soul-crushing Re:ZERO is in general, I doubt things will go easily for Subaru even with his grand realization.
Re:ZERO – Starting Life in Another World can be viewed for free and with English subtitles in the US on Crunchyroll.