(Photo Credits, KADOKAWAanime)

Re:ZERO – Starting Life in Another World is the winner of multiple awards such as Best Fantasy, Best Girl, and Best Japanese Voice Performance. (Photo Credits, KADOKAWAanime)

When it comes to the anime market, it is oversaturated and highly competitive, mainly with the Shonen genre (action aimed at teenage demographics) dominating everything with the Isekai genre behind it (the Isekai genre consists of a character going to another world). However, once in a while, there is a masterpiece that stands out from the rest.

Re:ZERO – Starting Life in Another World is an Isekai, horror anime that follows Subaru Natsuki as he’s transported to a fantasy world where he is cursed to die and restart again over and over thanks to the ability, Return by Death.

As the name implies, Return by Death lets Subaru come back to life after he dies; however, there are drawbacks. The first drawback is when he comes back to life, he restarts at a randomly placed checkpoint.  These checkpoints are randomly distributed, so there’s always the fear that Subaru may be stuck with a terrible future. The second drawback is that he remembers the pain and feeling from dying, which chips away at Subaru’s mental state. The third drawback is that he can’t talk about the curse as the Witch of Envy (the most vile of all the witches and commonly referred to as “The Witch”) will silence him or kill whoever hears it. The final drawback is when Return by Death is activated or Subaru attempts to tell someone about it, he will be covered in The Witch’s scent, which attracts Mawbeasts, monsters of The Witch’s creation.

Sounds unfair right? And you’d be correct. The world is set up against Subaru from the very start, which drives the horror aspect of the show. Subaru is constantly dying in more and more horrific ways, all the while forced to watch those around him die over and over. The visual style helps sell the horror aspect of the show as it’s naturally very vivid and colorful.  But it quickly turns dark and gloomy in parts where Subaru and others die, which emphasizes that the act of dying isn’t pretty or blissful. He’s constantly beaten down mentally and emotionally, again and again, never being able to talk about his pain or what he’s been through. This leads to the major themes of the series being unfairness and isolation, and if the events don’t hammer that in, the soundtrack definitely will.

The soundtracks for the series are absolutely beautiful. All the soundtracks are composed by Kenichiro Suehiro, and he does a great job of setting the tone of scenes with his music. The soundtrack includes everything you could want for a fantasy, horror anime. There are songs like Fantasy Lied that bring a tone of beauty and seclusion. Then there are songs like Rondo of Love and Darkness which gives off intense vibes with the violin and chanting but ultimately sounds pretty epic. Finally, Whereabouts of the Past evokes feelings of comfort and salvation. 

Along with the soundtrack, the show’s openings are awesome, especially the first and fourth openings. The first opening features Redo by Konomi Suzuki, which captures the constant struggle of restarting in music with distorted instruments and the lyrics. This is also built upon by the visual style of opening with the distorted characters and a reversal of one of Subaru’s deaths. The fourth opening (my favorite out of all the others) features Long shot by Mayu Maeshima, which captures the tension and stakes with a fate that Subaru has to overcome. It’s the most visually heavy out of all the openings and most visually appealing with the distortions and fighting.

One of the best things this series has to offer is the characters and their development. There’s Subaru Natsuki who is the charismatic, shut-in nerd but is self-conscious about himself and how he’s lived his life. Emilia who is a Half-Elf that is condemned by the world for having characteristics resembling The Witch. Beatrice is a spirit contracted to guard the forbidden library in the Roswald Mansion. The demon sisters Ram and Rem are the head maids of the Roswald Mansion. Then, there’s Margrave Roswald who is the lord of a domain and houses Emilia, Beatrice, Ram, and Rem. 

And because Return by Death is such a prominent force in the series, it often leads to the viewers seeing completely different sides of characters in each loop you typically would never get to see in regular linear series. These restarts also add a layer of understanding to the scenario for Subaru, giving him a chance to overcome the odds that face him.

Along with that, both the Japanese and English voice actors do amazing work in bringing the characters to life, especially Yuusuke Kobayashi who voices Subaru Natsuki and won Best Japanese VA at the Crunchyroll Awards for his part as Subaru. Kobayashi does a fantastic job in bringing out the suffering and loneliness Subaru is going through in the series.

Now as there are both Japanese and English dubs, there are bound to be some changes in the dialogue. Surprisingly, the dialogue is pretty consistent between the two for the most part. In the places where the dialogue in the English dub has been changed, I’d honestly say that some of the line changes improve on the original dialogue in the Japanese dub. One example of this would be at the end of episode 33, The Value of Life (one of my favorite episodes in the series) where they changed the dialogue for Echidna, The Witch of Greed, and ultimately made it a more powerful moment.

If you’re interested in watching this show (which I highly recommend) you can find it on HBO Max, Crunchyroll, and VRV with a few other recommendations. If you’re watching on Crunchyroll or VRV, I recommend watching the Director’s Cut of season one as they redo some of the animation and it’s uncensored (The Director’s Cut of season one is the default on HBO Max). I also recommend watching The Frozen Bond OVA after watching the Memory Snow OVA as part of it takes place after Memory Snow and it gives a backstory on Emilia. I finally recommend watching episode 34, Love Love Love Love Love Love You with headphones on, it makes the experience scarier.

Re:ZERO – Starting Life in Another World is a plot-heavy, horror masterpiece. There’s never a dull moment with the tension of death and character development throughout the show. And with the release of season 2, it has completely outdone itself in every form, adding more depth to the characters, the world, and making the stakes higher than in season one.