This will be a smaller character dive than the last two. Natuski Subaru was a character who deserved two parts because his character journey and development was heavy enough that it needed to be. For our character today however I want to focus the dive on the effects that this character has in relation to Natsuki Suburu and his character journey. So after the cut let’s take a character dive into ReZero’s Rem
The reason I am focusing on Rem in relation to Suburu’s journey is that while Rem’s story is well told, it is also a story that anime viewers have seen before, and frankly her effects on Suburu’s character arc make for much more interesting observation. Ok? Ok.
Now…you might have heard of Rem or seen her even if you haven’t seen a single image or episode of ReZero. Rem is popular, and I mean REALLY. FUCKING. POPULAR. She swept awards during the anime’s debut year, has created over a metric ton of fanart and has sold more merchandise than any other anime or anime character since, well I can’t even remember. Not since Fate Stay Night’s Saber has a character design struck as much gold as this one and you can see why it would. Rem frankly checks too many boxes.
- She’s petite and cute, but with a chest that is busty and perfectly proportioned to her form.
- She’s dressed as and is a maid, and maids are like catnip to otaku and Japanese viewers. Maid cafes exist for a reason.
- Her voice actress plays her perfectly, with just the right amount of cuteness that never feels overloaded
- Her face is the perfect amount of ‘moe’ with large blue eyes, a small nose, and a small mouth, and she is drawn consistently and animated very well. There were no cutting corners during the animation.
- She has a twin sister which lets artists have their fun.
Frankly, Rem feels like a character who might have been created in a boardroom, something that was the result of extensive focus testing, something that would be the resulting of asking a dozen or so super fans on what the “best girl” would end up being. Rem is pretty much the crystallization of the “waifu” character. The ultimate result of everything made until now, the crown jewel. There is a reason that she’s sold so much merchandise, so much that one super fan spent over 26.000 dollars (US) on merchandise.
Yet she Rem, this ultimate perfect waifu merchandise seller, is in a story built on tearing down the idea of the Isekai male lead. When you place Rem in that context, it is almost like the author and showrunners were trying to make a point.
And they were.
There was much fury, (and there still is) over the fact that Subaru chooses Emilia over Rem, especially after Rem falls deeply in love with him. That the legendary eighteenth episode is also remembered as Rem’s big confession and Subaru’s rejection of her.
In a sense, I can understand fan anger. After everything that Subaru has gone through, why doesn’t he take his ball and go home? He’s got Rem who is deeply in love with him, and she’s a bombshell in all regards. Any person would grab her and not let go, why in the world would Subaru reject her? Rem? The ultimate result of the anime waifu?
Because that is the entire point of what the story of ReZero is about.
Subaru’s rejection of Rem’s love is not just a man turning down a woman interested in him. It is the absolute rejection of everything that Subaru was up until that point. Running away with Rem means that Subaru would have decided that the path to redemption is not worth it, that he would be better of settling for what is in front of him instead of trying to be better. While this life with Rem would be (and is if you read the bonus ‘what if’ chapter) happy and peaceful, but it would also be hollow, because it wouldn’t be a love that is earned, and Subaru would not be a better person, in the end, just a man who cut his losses and “settled”. If he returns Rem’s love and it is not something he has come to terms with himself, then Subaru is pretty much returning to the NEET lifestyle that Rem, the literal walking personification of the waifu, represents.
Instead, by choosing Emilia, Subaru decides that the path forward is one of hard work and self-reflection. It is a path that will require a hard look at one’s self and trying to become a better person. Choosing Emilia means that Subaru will not settle for a fictional waifu girlfriend, but instead the real love and trust that can potentially come from understanding someone, even if in the end it fails. Choosing Emilia means that Subaru cannot continue in the state that he is in and by rejecting Rem’s love, Subaru finally casts off the old horrible life he had living before. Rejecting Rem means rejecting everything bad Otaku culture represents.
Rem is a popular character and will continue to be so, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she is the reason we will get a second season of ReZero, but I think that Rem should be seen more than what marketing has made her be and that there is logic to the almost “too perfect” feeling that she has. Rem may move merch, but she also helps move Subaru to become a better person, and sometimes that means you can’t be with the thing you think you should be with.
That’s what I thought at least…