Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World-
Episode 23

by Theron Martin, Sep 4th 2016

How would you rate episode 23 of
Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World- ?

Re:Zero has had some nasty twists throughout its run, but the one near the near the end of episode 23 may be the most shocking to date. And yet, in retrospect, it should have been a reasonable possibility ever since we learned that the power of an Archbishop can body-jump.

That twist also solves one theory pondered by fans; it is Betelgeuse's whole essence, not just his power, that body-jumps. He can become any one of his “fingers.” Given what else we have learned, it makes total sense that Subaru would be an ideal host for him. After all, he has the Gospel (perhaps that's what allowed Betelgeuse to do it?), he has a strong affinity with the Witch's power, his magic type is aligned with what Betelgeuse seemed to be using, and he's physically fit. Of course, that doesn't make the image of Subaru with his head turned in Betelgeuse's characteristic style any less effectively disturbing. Subaru's (requested) death at the hands of Felis and Julius creates yet another cliffhanger, as the point he will cycle back to is now in question. After all, he did complete the mission that presumably defined the existing cycle (Emilia dying at the hands of the cultists), but he still died only a few minutes later. That never happened in previous cases, where days passed before he died again, so we could be in new territory here. The point at which Betelgeuse started to worm his way into Subaru's mind is also a factor, giving us a big conundrum for the final two episodes.

It was already a good episode up until that point though, with a lot going on to like. Contrary to what I originally believed, Ram laid her spell on the whole caravan rather than just Subaru, as part of a misunderstanding concerning an unintentionally blank letter. (Perhaps there was some sabotage there?) That brings up surprise #1: Julius is also a spirit user, which means that little ball of light we saw hanging around Subaru last episode was his doing. Less clear is whether or not Subaru's sensitivity to Julius's powers is based on something already established about him or a newly-discovered trait. Cultists infiltrating the caravan wasn't all that surprising; in fact, I would have been surprised if they hadn't. Likewise, the villagers jumping to conclusions about Emilia being to blame for the threat was also to be expected. (And technically, she is to blame.) We also get justification for her scene in the last episode. Felis's canniness on luring the suspected cultist into a place where he could be dealt with out of sight was also appreciable, as was Subaru and Julius's gradually improving relationship. This also marks the second new series I've seen in the last few days where a strong older warrior gets done in by an underhanded stab. That seems to be the way you kill warriors past a certain age in anime.

However, both highlight scenes apart from the ending twist belong squarely to Subaru and Emilia. His cleverness at using past experiences to dispose of one of the Fingers with mabeasts was a definite fist-pump moment, but the real treat was seeing Emilia finally back in action on her own – for the first time since episode 3, if I'm not mistaken. Her demeanor is so soft that it's easy to forget that she isn't helpless in a fight, especially in conjunction with Puck. Since she can clearly stand up to an Archbishop one-on-one, that implies that her deaths in Subaru's previous times through this loop were more due to being overwhelmed rather than overpowered, so Subaru's main contribution was not to save her but to bring enough backup that the fight would be more manageable. Her tears at the end – whether because she actually had to kill someone or because she realized that the encounter justified the villagers' distrust for her – was also a nice touch.

Although the technical merits in this episode are hardly flawless, director Masaharu Watanabe and his WHITE FOX team continue to do a sterling job depicting the expressiveness of their characters and making effective use of darker lighting schemes; it's hard to believe that his only previous lead directorial efforts were in bright and light-hearted fare like Wakaba Girl and the second half of Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals. This is the kind of effort that should put his name on the anime map. Continuing great use of music too, especially during the big twist at the end. There might be nitpicks to be had here and there, but this series is covering its bases too well to leave much room for them.

Rating: A

Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World- is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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