Image source: rokudenashi_tv on Twitter

While it seems undeniable that the primary relationship in Akashic Records of Bastard Magic Instructor is the potential romantic relationship between Glenn Radars and Sistine Fibel, necessitating that most of the characterization focus be on those two, the most interesting character is the least explored: the strawberry tart loving Re=L.

[This article contains major spoilers for Akashic Records of Bastard Magic Instructor]

Re=L’s backstory is as complex as it is interesting. As one of the students and compatriots of the slovenly, demoralized, and unmotivated title character—substitute magic teacher Glenn Radars—Re=L stands out. While I appreciate Sistine’s background as a scion of a great magical and noble family trying to be the best magic student she can be, and Rumia’s background as a princess-in-hiding whose death was faked for her safety, Re=L still stole my attention. Undeniably, I’d have loved to see (or would love to see in the future) a series that focuses on Re=L entirely.

What so intrigues me about Re=L is all the philosophical, psychological, and biological questions her very existence poses.

Image source: rokudenashi_tv on Twitter

Re=L stands for “Revive Life” and is part of a secret (supposedly abandoned) project to reanimate the dead. Sort of. In reality, it’s not so much “reanimation” as it is what we would consider “cloning.” The use of white magic (concerned with life energy) and alchemy (concerned with creation and manipulation of matter) disciplines in the world of Akashic Records of Bastard Magic Instructor leads to a sort of “biosciences” equivalent. And Re=L is the successful conclusion of this magical approach to “cloning.”

Because this is magic, while it starts with the genetic code of the person one is trying to “revive” or “clone,” it also contains the memory data of the individual up to the point at which they died, and the so-called “astral code” (or the soul) of the individual. So the theory goes, if you have all three—the DNA, the memories, and the soul—you should be able to use the “bioscience” combination of white magic and alchemy to produce an individual indiscernible from the individual who died.

Except, as Re=L shows, this doesn’t really work.

Image source: rokudenashi_tv on Twitter

Re=L is absolutely a real person (Re=L, real, Re=L, real…), but she is not the person on whom she was based. She is supposed to be a “revival” of a young mage named Ilushia. We barely see Ilushia, but she is at least implied to be a competent mage working with her brother, Sion, on the Project: Revival Life research. We can deduce that Ilushia, even if young, is likely mature enough to be involved in this kind of research. She also has reddish brown hair, while Re=L has a light blue (itself a strong indication that the process is not a “perfect” copy inside and out).

Hair color aside, Re=L clearly is not Ilushia. Despite having the mage’s genetic code, her memories, and her soul, Re=L acts and feels like a small child whose memories and abilities, while shared with Ilushia, are clearly imposed. Glenn himself tells Sistine and Rumia that while Re=L may look about their age (in fact she appears even younger), that she is in fact mentally a small child. While it’s easy to think he’s speaking in terms of “mental age” vs. “chronological age,” I think that’s reverse of the truth. I believe that, based on Glenn’s own history, Re=L cannot be more than three years old chronologically.

Basically, Re=L can speak, she can cast spells, she can fight, she looks about 12 or 13 years old, but she was only “cloned” around the time Glenn left the Imperial Mage Corps. Her “imposed” memories and abilities don’t change the fact she’s processing as a toddler. Which is why she has no control over her emotions, she has a limited attention span—hell, even her object permanence is sometimes seriously weird. She has an extreme fear of abandonment, yet switches targets of that “protection” or “being protected” in a matter of minutes in ways which make perfect sense for a toddler, but not for a preteen.

Image source: rokudenashi_tv on Twitter

Re=L is likewise her own person because her first hand experiences have to be integrated with her “learned” experiences, the ones gained from Ilushia, but not truly experienced by Re=L. This is why Re=L has trouble understanding complex social cues as well as concepts like “love,” “family,” “friendship,” or even, “we don’t always eat because we have to, we often eat in groups because of the social importance of breaking bread together.” Just because she knows that Ilushia understood these ideas doesn’t mean that Re=L understands them.

Re=L is the one character that really questions the idea of “everything psychological is biological,” explores “how are humans different from things” (after all, she was made from a recipe, like lead is turned into gold in alchemy) and tries to tackle “how does experiencing an experience change the perception and understanding of that experience.” This is why in psychology we spend so much time on twin studies. It’s the closest we have to “clone” studies. Sadly, Re=L is brought to life only as Ilushia dies, so we don’t get to see a prolonged comparison between Re=L and Ilushia.

Re=L reminds us that we are more than the sum of our parts. She is not Ilushia, despite having all of Ilushia’s “component parts.” The moment that that Re=L starts interacting with the world, she is Re=L. And also, undeniably, she is real.

Akashic Records of Bastard Magical Instructor is streaming on FUNimation and Crunchyroll.

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