Let’s start this off with a story.
In 2016 my attitude towards Anime was that I was pretty much done with it. While I still read One Piece weekly and caught the yearly Gundam show, I was pretty much done and done with the entire industry. I was done with the tropes, the all too similar plotlines, the silly characters, all of it. Mostly because I was in a point in my life where I was figuring out the next steps in my career while working overseas, I just didn’t have time to devote to anime. It was not a feeling of anger or bitterness, but more in that I had taken up my fill of what Anime had to offer me, and I was just kinda over it.
A close friend of mine, however, wasn’t, and he was watching every anime season and always trying to make me watch the shows, something that I rarely ever took him up on. However in the summer of 2016 something changed, and the one-two punch of discovering High School DxD began to reignite my long dormant love for anime. It was then that for some reason I took my friend’s advice and watched the show that we are discussing today.
Needless to say, this anime was exactly the medicine I needed. So after the cut let’s take a shallow dive into Tappei Nagasuki’s ReZero – Starting Life in Another World.
ReZero at first glance seems like a standard by the numbers Isekai story, and that is very much what the show is trying to make you think it is. However it also one of the few shows within the Isekai genre that tries to do something different, something unique. The story is rather simple, we follow Natsuki Suburu, a shut-in NEET wasting his days away as he is teleported to a fantasy world. Upon meeting the beautiful half-elf Emilia, and then suddenly being killed after helping a thief named Felt, Suburu discovers that he is in a time-loop and after death, keeps resetting back to the same place, giving him a chance to fix the mistakes of the last loop.
Now that idea alone makes ReZero’s take on the Isekai genre already fresher and more interesting than most, and the first handful of episodes are some of the best among the genre because of it. However once the initial thrill of the concept dies off, ReZero might have just been another well done Isekai story, but then it reveals it’s second hidden trump card.
Once episodes 12 and 13 come around, ReZero reveals itself as being not just an Isekai story, but an Isekai story about tearing down and rebuilding what it means to not only be an Isekai main character, but what it means to be both an anime lead, and a man. For someone like myself, who was pretty much sick of anime up until this point, I was pretty sure I knew what was going to happen once episodes 12 and 13 happened. So when it didn’t, and when the story decides to present a more realistic view of the events, it knocked me flat on my ass and completely shattered my view of the series. That moment, along with the following events and the legendary 18th episode made me realize that this was exactly what my lapsed anime fan needed: A brutal teardown and acknowledgment of the bullshit anime tropes that had turned me off of the genre.
However, ReZero also mixed sugar with the vinegar and doesn’t spend its entire run shitting all over the things that make Anime, Anime. While that shows has some harsh things to say about Anime leads and overall ‘Otaku’ culture, it also wraps itself up in that culture and shows it that tough love that only really devoted parent could. This is almost perfect encapsulated by the character of Rem, who you could write a college level thesis on. It was this mixture of criticism and love that pretty much showed me that yes, Anime can be self-aware, it can be deep and it can be something more than itself. In just 25 episodes ReZero (along with an assist from High School DxD and later Cardcaptor Sakura) reignited my love for Anime and Manga and it has been burning bright ever since.
This shallow dive is probably a bit more personal than my other. One reason is that to really get into the story, you have to examine the two most important characters (Suburu and Rem) and I’ll be doing that sometime in the future. What you do need to know is that if you are a point where you are kinda “over” Anime, then this is the remedy cure you are looking for. ReZero was the answer to all my hang-ups with Anime, and aside from that it is just a well animated, beautifully told, and introspective and ultimately heartwarming show about self-reflection, dedication and what it means to be a hero.
The Isekai genre has yet to produce a “great work” in the sense of something like Dragon Ball, Cowboy Bebop, and the others. However, ReZero – Starting life in Another World is probably the closest the genre has come. It is a masterpiece, and I am completely serious when I say it the best piece of Anime created since the debut of the original Fullmetal Alchemist. It is one of my favorite Animes of all time, and its place in the pantheon of greatness will not change anytime soon. Check it out if you love Isekai, check it out of you are a fan of Anime, and check it out of you are sick to death of Anime too. It saved my personal fandom, and it might just do the same to yours