This time last year distributor Anime Limited brought Part 1 of isekai series Re:ZERO to home video. Now the company have followed up with Part 2, which brings an end to the first season. Does it hold up to the charm of the first half of the season? Let’s find out!
Before we begin, if you need a refresh on what Re:ZERO is about or what led us to this point then you can check out my previous review from when the show was airing. With that said, it’s time to dive in!
Part 2 of Re:ZERO kicks off with Episode 13, set right at the end of the royal selection process that Emilia came to the capital for. Natsuki Subaru, having barged his way into the proceedings, claims to be Emilia’s knight, but Emilia rejects this notion wishing that Subaru would mind his own business. To make matters worse, Subaru antagonises Julius Euclius, one of the contenders’ knights, and the two engage in a one-sided sword fight which results in Subaru getting battered and bruised – both in body and ego.
The episode ends with Emilia arguing with Subaru and leaving him in the capital. Nothing Subaru does or has done makes sense to her and Subaru, unable to explain his inner feelings, is left frustrated, giving Emilia the impression he was protecting her for his own selfish desires. When Emilia returns to Roswaal’s mansion, Subaru is left to stew in his anger and resentment, but after Rem becomes aware of an attack on Roswaal’s mansion, the two make their way home, despite Emilia’s previous orders to stay in the capital. The road home isn’t an easy one, with the Witch’s Cult out to kill Emilia and the appearance of the White Whale – a mabeast (a powerful monster) feared throughout the kingdom. The odds are stacked against him, but Subaru is determined to make it home to keep everyone he loves alive!
This half of Re:ZERO is my favourite. It’s one of the most powerful sections emotionally because it sets out to break Subaru down. He’s gotten cocky and thinks Emilia needs him to survive, but her belief that everything he’s been doing has been for himself hits the nail on the head. Subaru might be unaware of it (at least to start with) but after repeatedly dying and facing the consequences of his actions, he finally acknowledges that he was indeed being selfish. When he hits rock bottom, Subaru feels like he should just run away, but with Rem’s encouragement, he realises that he must learn to lean on those around him.
As the series progresses, Subaru organises a group to help him take down the White Whale, including the legendary swordsman Wilhelm van Astrea, who holds a deep grudge against the monster. Wilhelm and his master, Crusch, agree to help take down the monster and see Subaru safely to his destination. It’s a life-or-death battle and Subaru only has one shot, having met a bad end numerous times previously. The stars have finally aligned and the knowledge he’s gained has led him to this point.
The White Whale battle is one of the most impressive in Re:ZERO. It’s also one of the longest fights we’ve witnessed and has the most characters to keep track of, but somehow it all works out. It’s captivating, well directed and, most importantly, absolutely filled to the brim with emotion. There’s a huge risk that one of our favourite characters could meet their deaths (the world of Re:ZERO is cruel after all) and the show keeps you on your toes all the way to the end.
If you’re interested in learning more about Crusch then this is the best time to read the first volume of Re:ZERO – EX, a series of side-stories set in the Re:ZERO universe. Yen Press (who have the main series licensed) have published three volumes of the series. I recently read the first volume and it helped me become a lot more emotionally invested in the core characters of the White Whale arc since my initial watch. As a fan of this universe, I certainly recommend giving them a go!
There’s something to be said for how well written this arc is. Love or hate Subaru, this half of the season turns our existing feelings on their heads. It works hard to make Subaru completely insufferable, to the point where even those who adore him will begin to hate him – but that’s okay! The fact it stirs such strong emotions within us is a testament to the strength of the writing. Of course those of you who didn’t like Subaru beforehand probably won’t get quite as much out of this arc, but I still think Subaru’s redemption is incredibly powerful regardless.
Re:ZERO Part 2 continued to be animated by studio White Fox, who’ve done a superb job of bringing the series to life. The studio make use of dark, grim colours as Subaru begins to break down and do a wonderful job projecting his emotions on his face. The fight scenes convey the action swiftly and with confidence. It’s easy to follow what’s happening and where everyone is while also getting caught up in the thrilling situation.
Music for the series continued to be handled by Kenichiro Suehiro (Space Patrol Luluco, Goblin Slayer, Golden Kamuy) and does an excellent job conveying the various emotions on display throughout this half of the season. It’s a much better soundtrack than I originally realised and on a rewatch it was much more obvious just how much it helps build up these episodes alongside the animation. The opening for this half of Re:ZERO was “Paradisus-Paradoxum” by MYTH&ROID, while the ending was “Stay Alive” by Rie Takahashi. Although we don’t see a great deal of either song (I’d guess the OP is used roughly half of the time, with most episodes forgoing it in favour of a longer runtime), they both fit the themes of Re:ZERO well and are well worth a listen.
One of the places Re:ZERO really shines is with its Japanese voice cast. My favourite among the cast is Yusuke Kobayashi (Shin Wolford in Wise Man’s Grandchild, Vooren Glantz in The Saga of Tanya the Evil) who plays Subaru because he manages to perfectly capture the frantic madness consuming the protagonist over the course of these episodes. I also want to give a shout out to Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (Kirito in Sword Art Online, Bell in Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?) who plays Betelgeuse, one of the leaders of the Witch’s Cult. Betelgeuse is a crazed, ruthless villain who would stop at nothing to kill anyone who gets in the way of him and Emilia. It’s a very different role to the ones Matsuoka normally plays, but he steps up to it wonderfully. The performance conveys that sense of true madness Betelgeuse requires and Matsuoka has a wide vocal range, allowing him to up the ante for the more demanding scenes.
This release of Re:ZERO also contains an English dub but having not watched Part 1 dubbed, I decided to only sample a small section of it. What I checked out was an okay watch but the English cast don’t capture the same charm of the characters that the Japanese cast do. Perhaps if I’d watched it dubbed from the beginning I would have warmed to it, but at this point I’m incredibly fond of the Japanese team.
As previously mentioned this release comes to the UK once again thanks to Anime Limited and is available on DVD and as a collector’s edition Blu-ray set. The collector’s edition includes a 52- page booklet, and on-disc extras include trailers and Episodes 1-14 of Re:ZERO Petit (shorts featuring chibi versions of cast of Re:ZERO joking about more everyday subjects). If you’ve been watching this season’s Isekai Quartet, you’ll know what to expect.
Overall, the second half of Re:ZERO offers a fascinating, engrossing watch as Subaru falls apart and then rises up anew. With a final arc that brings this first season to a wonderfully satisfying conclusion, Re:ZERO Part 2 will undoubtedly claim a piece of your heart.