Exploring Subaru’s Return by Death Ability – Re:Zero

We are 9 episodes into the second season of Re:Zero and there is no end in sight. 

Lucky, or perhaps unlucky, for Subaru he can’t progress until he makes no mistakes. The conditions for him moving from one point in time in the plot are bound to the return by death ability. We have gained important information about the ability from Echidna. I have been waiting for more concrete information regarding anything in Re:Zero. Part of the frustration and the pleasure for watching Re:Zero for me is the fact that Subaru is completely in the dark about everything. It’s made worse by the fact that he never learns quickly. Now we the audience have finally learned more about return by death. 

Thank you Echidna! 

What did we know before the witch’s tea party? Before the tea party we knew that while Subaru could die, his death wasn’t permanent. He would be brought back to the previous point in the story. Think of it as a save point in a game. He has to accomplish something or get to a certain point to move past that save point. The conditions for moving forward were largely unknown, but generally happened after a major plot point advanced. For example in the past Subaru had to help Emilia regain her insignia to advance the story. He also had to gain the trust of those in the manor. There was also the arc where Subaru had to forge an alliance with Crusch, defeat the white whale, and defeat the Witch’s Cult under the Archbishop of Sloth.

After a major plot point advance the story would move forward. Before the witch’s tea party it was loosely assumed that Subaru was supposed to be the hero and accomplish amazing things before we could move forward. 

Of course that was the loose assumption, there are definitely plenty of holes in assuming that Subaru needed to do something heroic to move the plot forward. How could the audience forget that return by death is a curse? We didn’t know why the ability would activate and under what conditions we could move the story forward. 

After the witch’s tea party we learn more about the true nature of return by death. First it appears that there is no limit to the return by death ability. We could have probably assumed that because Subaru had died so many times up until this point, but I like having confirmation. We learn that return by death was given to Subaru out of intense delusion by the witch of envy. We also learn that the return by death ability doesn’t allow him to make mistakes, this could also have been assumed based on past conditions for moving the plot forward. But as before I like having confirmation about abilities before making assumptions. These are the mechanics of the return by death ability, so what? 

The alarming fact about the return by death ability is that the conditions for moving forward are set by Satella, the witch of envy. She decides who gets to live or die. She decides who is a necessary sacrifice for moving forward. She decides what is important. Of course this could all have been deduced from the earlier interactions with the ability. However since so many things had gone Subaru’s way so far it was hard to detect that maybe this ability could work against him as well. We didn’t truly realize the terror of someone else controlling Subaru’s fates and actions until we lost Rem. It’s become more plain in this second season that return by death is working against Subaru’s wishes and working towards Satella’s personal ambitions. 

I am curious how knowing more about the ability will play out as the story progresses. Will Echidna find a way to dismantle the ability in order to thwart Satella? Will Subaru regret that he is no more than a puppet? Will he still find satisfaction in helping Emilia? If anything, learning more about the ability makes me even more suspicious that Emilia is in fact Satella. The fact that everything regarding the return by death ability has helped Emilia makes it very suspicious. After all Subaru and Roswaal are partners in crime to help Emilia ascend the throne. If it isn’t the case that Emilia is Satella, then how does helping Emilia help Satella’s aims? We will learn more as time goes on. 

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

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2 thoughts on “Exploring Subaru’s Return by Death Ability – Re:Zero

  1. I don’t think Emilia is in fact Satella given that Satella actually killed Emilia in episode 17 of Season 1. It just seems completely impossible given that Satella was around 400 years ago, and Emilia was born sometime after that. There is an afterlife in Re:zero as Echidna has mentioned, and there is also reincarnation as Arbiter Melakuera indicated in the Frozen Bonds OVA. We know from Beatrice that the legendary dragon, sage, and hero sealed Satella, the Witch of Envy’s because they could not destroy her body, and it’s likely that the reason Subaru smells more strongly of Satella whenever he comes back from the dead is because Satella’s soul is sealed in the afterlife, and Subaru’s soul and her soul come into close proximity after he dies. And if that is the case, Satella’s soul has not gone through the reincarnation cycle, making it impossible for Satella to be Emilia.

    The Witch Cult’s goal is to test Emilia to see if she would be a good vessel for the Witch, and if Emilia does get possessed, that will be the time when Emilia and Satella are the same person. I suspect Re:zero is heading to an ending where Subaru will have to kill Emilia when Satella possesses her body, leading to him not being able to be with her. If Satella’s goal and the Witch Cult’s goal are the same, it will be for Satella to possess Emilia’s body, and that would be why Subaru’s Return by Deaths are meant to benefit Emilia’s standing in the Royal Selection and save her life because that would require Emilia living as long as possible. I also wonder if the Witch of Envy was always hated. If she was, maybe helping Emilia become beloved in Lugunica will help the Witch of Envy feel a sense of love since she’ll have access to Emilia’s memories after the Witch possesses her, and the love Emilia feels from the people who want her to be ruler could be felt by the Witch of Envy, allowing to feel this love secondhand.

    In any case, I still think Priscilla, with her incredible luck, will play a role in killing Satella, and I think Subaru will get transported back to the human world where he’ll meet a Priscilla look-alike. I couldn’t help but include Priscilla in this discussion given what I believe about her and Subaru.

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  2. I forgot to note that Petelgeuse thought that he’d be reunited with the Witch in death, so it’s not that it’s likely that Satella’s soul is sealed in the afterlife but rather that it is almost guaranteed that her soul sealed in the afterlife. I don’t know why I forgot about that detail when I usually lead with that detail in discussions. Whatever Emilia’s connection is to Satella, the Witch of Envy, she isn’t Satella herself, but I have no doubt Emilia’s body is highly compatible with Satella’s soul given that the Witch Cult is testing Emilia’s body to see whether she’d be a good vessel for Satella;.

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