Re:Zero – Director’s Cut look at Natsuki Subaru

I dislike Natsuki Subaru, but I can understand his desperation.

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I first watched Re:Zero years ago and I can say that while I loved the anime, I had no love for Subaru as a protagonist. Re:Zero presents an interesting universe, interesting characters, plenty of interplay between those characters, interesting plot and an impactful story. Still with all of the things going on that I found fascinating and view worthy, it was difficult to follow Subaru as the protagonist. Perhaps that is part of the trick in the story telling, where I dislike the protagonist and so it enhances the rest of the story. After beginning to watch the director’s cut of Re:Zero, it has changed my perception of Subaru so I better understand his actions as a character.

A quick aside the director’s cut makes for an overall better viewing experience of Re:Zero and paces much better. That’s my go watch the director’s cut plug, and now back to Subaru.

First we need to consider Subaru’s background. Subaru is a hikikomori, or loner/shut-in, who is dragged into another world. Nothing new really for the isekai genre but nevertheless it’s important to start there. Subaru is your average hikikomori who browses manga at the convenience store while purchasing instant ramen and potato chips (I have been there). He also has terrible social skills. To make matters worse Subaru is in love, head over heels, for a girl that is outside of his league. The best part is that he only met that girl for a day. Clearly Subaru is going to struggle because he doesn’t understand how his own world works in terms of social engagement; neither will he understand another world with completely different rules and social inner workings. Subaru states anything that comes to his mind in a blunt manner.

Putting aside the fact that Subaru is lacking in social skills, it’s important to know that Subaru lacks a sense of what reality is. Even going to another world he acts as if that is natural and to be expected. He has a sense of excitement and he tries to discover if he has any magic powers, or superhuman powers, that will enable him to excel in a new world. Subaru fully expects to be overpowered in some way. Following his bad logic, finding the woman of your dreams is destined to happen. When he meets Emilia for the first time he finds himself already in love with someone he has never met before. And Subaru continues to love this girl after it turns out that she wasn’t honest with him the first time they met. It’s a hikikomori dream to go to a new world with fantastic abilities and find the woman you love. But of course that dream is misplaced far from reality. Being honest, no one should ever expect that to really happen. Subaru is detached from reality.

Subaru might in fact be among the worst prepared individuals to go to another world. Luckily for him, or rather extremely unlucky for him, he does get an ability called “Return by Death” that can bring him back to life after death. With the ability when he dies, he is brought back to a previous time point before his death actually occurs. This causes Subaru undue frustration and distress. When the events of the past keep repeating over and over due to his untimely death, or an outcome occurs that Subaru didn’t expect or want, he keeps trying desperately to get the outcome he wants or is satisfied with.

When things don’t go Subaru’s way he finds himself desperate. After suffering painful death after painful death it makes sense. When death should be a release from mortal worry, for Subaru it has the opposite effect. If anything he tries to find a way to avoid his own death from repeating itself and get an outcome that he wants. “Return by Death” is an agonizing and torturous ability. Subaru can’t accept that a story could go differently than meets his own expectations. He is constantly imposing his wants on others. Everytime that Subaru wants a different ending he has to pay with his own life, over and over again. Subaru even puts what he wants into perspective for Ram.

Subaru explains one of his country’s fairy tales to Ram after learning about some of the isekai world’s stories. He explains the story of the red and blue ogre, which has some striking parallels to the situation that Ram and Rem are in. When telling the story Subaru has no idea about the background of Ram and Rem. Ram asks after the story which of the two ogres he would rather be friends with. Subaru indicates he wants to be friends with both. Ram then declares if Subaru wants to be friends with both ogres he must be an indecisive and adulterous type, and that he would regret that decision. Subaru wants what he wants, even if those two wants in the case of the red and blue ogre appear mutually exclusive. He has no clear ambitions or direction that he is going. That lack of ambition plays against his other wants, such as wanting Emilia.

In Subaru’s defense, why give up on what you want? Why settle, when you could have a better outcome than the original outcome. Should Subaru have settled on certain outcomes even if they were less than ideal? In Subaru’s shoes I don’t think I could have given up if the outcome was bad. I can understand why Subaru is so desperate to make things right, or to make an outcome that he thinks is right. He wants the best outcome he can possibly get, with Emilia being his guiding star. Subaru follows his heart and his desires. Keep going Subaru, even though your desperate.

 

Agree? Disagree? What are your thoughts? I want to know!

Is there anything you would like me to cover? Do you want to know my thoughts on anything? Have something I should know? If you answered yes to any of the previous questions, comment below!

4 thoughts on “Re:Zero – Director’s Cut look at Natsuki Subaru

  1. “I first watched Re:Zero years ago and I can say that while I loved the anime, I had no love for Subaru as a protagonist.”

    Damn right, he was pretty frustrating.

    After reading your take on this, I’m honestly quite convinced by your points. I too would definitely change an undesirable outcome if I had the means to do so. But considering the price is your life, Subaru’s behaviour can indeed be justified by the mental toll this has on him. I haven’t yet watched the Director’s Cut, but it does sound like an interesting watch.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Watching the director’s cut put the idea in my mind. The way the story was paced and seeing the same story unfold in another way made me rethink some of the first ideas I had.

      Its interesting how a slight shift in watching the show in 50 minute segments makes it feel different. In reality most of it will be the same but I prefer the format of the 50 minutes because it feels more complete.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post. I think Subaru has been unfairly criticized for some time now and you’re absolutely right that we need to consider his character. They way he reacted to being taken to another world and his attempt to use magic should tell us that we’re not dealing with a rational person. For all his flaws, however, Subaru always acts with the best intentions. He could have given up at anytime and run away but he kept putting himself in danger and even allowing himself to die to redo things. He’s definitely annoying but I think he’s a very interesting character in a genre that is usually very straightforward.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that he is an interesting character. For all of his flaws he does make the anime interesting. Watching him try his best to get favorable outcomes can be painful, but in spite of everything working against him at all times what he accomplishes with his ability is amazing.

      I would probably take an easier route. I wouldnt like to be disemboweled or crushed by a mace.

      Liked by 1 person

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