Re: ZERO–Starting Life in Another World is one of the best anime releases of 2016. I understand that this sounds like a bold claim. But when an anime is gripping enough to guarantee me watching the entire thing before the first episode is even over, that likely indicates that it has something going for it. Let’s start with the first episode since it is a doozy.
Enter Subaru Natsuki, a somewhat stereotypical shut-in who wakes up to find himself transported to another world. Realizing the situation he is in, he hilariously assumes that he is a protagonist-like figure, somewhat ribbing on how common this trope is starting to become in anime. After almost being killed by a group of thugs, he is rescued by a white haired half-elf who tells him to call her Satella. She is looking for a thief who stole an emblem from her. Subaru chooses to tag along with the half-elf, mostly since he has nothing better to do.
Eventually they find where the thief had brought the emblem to: a loot house located in the slums of the city. As they begin to investigate, they are attacked from behind, and killed. Now here is where it gets interesting, as this is not the end to their story. Rather than this being some lead-up to an alternate protagonist, it is instead the reveal of Subaru’s hidden power, and one of the series’ core concepts. When Subaru dies, he is reset to a specific point in time, with all of the knowledge he acquired on the first loop.
This repeating story is where the plot gets interesting, as rather than a long stream, it unfolds more like a wide river, broadening at each reset. Whenever Subaru dies, he finds out more about the current situation he is in; secrets that he never would have unlocked without the proper pre-requisite knowledge. For instance, by the end of the first episode we learn that Satella is not actually the half-elf’s name. Only after multiple resets does Subaru actually learn her name. This is the core of the plot, a situation unfolds, and Subaru must find a way to deal with it, but usually he ends up failing because he lacks perspective.
The alternate world concept and the death reset are reasonably common tropes, but it’s odd to find them together, or so effectively used. While Subaru has to learn about the world around him, he also needs to struggle with his death rewind ability, as it’s not exactly the most fun activation cost for an ability. Even when the show seems to use generic anime tools, it usually finds a way to subvert them or utilize them in a more realistic fashion.
But the heart of the story is not the world defining moments. What creates this story is the interaction between the characters and how the story analyzes its protagonist’s flaws. Even from the first episode, you can tell that the characters are not just two-dimensional stereotypes. It is certainly a character piece as much as it is action; considering that they manage to pull off an entire episode with just two characters talking. There is a point about halfway through that flips the game around and drastically alters the tone. This is seen by some as a bad thing, but for me and a majority of the people watching, it made the show ten times as good.
To top it all off, the animation and musical score are on par with shows like Fate/Zero, or Fullmetal Alchemist. Both of these factors are most noticeable during some of the more elaborate fight scenes that each arc usually culminates in. They go together to make some of the most epic battles that feel fluid and dynamic, with a great sense of pace. Even just the colours themselves are bright and expressive, but they can shift to dark and disturbing when heads start to roll. Though it generally has good animation, there are some uses of CGI that noticeably stand out, and are unsightly, especially in contrast to the main art. However, this is generally reserved for background characters in larger city settings, so it doesn’t detract from the experience too much.
Re: ZERO–Starting Life in Another World is all about the struggle. It is about a cruel merciless world. However, it is also a bright adventure, which somehow turns out for the best. This isn’t through an overpowered protagonist, or whimsical luck. No. It is only through hardship and learning from one’s mistakes that victory can be achieved. It is an amazing watch, and I would say that all 25 episodes are worth it.
Tyler Cooke hails from the small town of Alliston, Ontario, right outside of Barrie. He is known as a quiet individual, but also as the most boisterous character in class, depending on the day. His hobbies include reading, playing tabletop games, scouring Tumblr for memes, and of course playing video games.