By Walter P / May 9th, 2017
Note: The following article will contain spoilers for Re:ZERO – Starting Life In Another World.
For this Building Character my fellow believers in love, we shall be taking a look at Re:ZERO‘s self-proclaimed knight. Similar to KonoSuba’s Kazuma, Subaru is a shut in who ends up in another world. When he is thrust into this new setting Subaru quickly thinks that that he must have some sort of special power now and that he has a chance to be a hero. However, it soon becomes apparent that things are not going as he would have hoped. Wandering around the city eventually leads to an attempted robbery and a fight that does not go in Subaru’s favor. Luckily, he is saved by a silver haired half-elf. The infatuated Subaru then accompanies her to pay back her kindness. After bonding over the course of the day, the search ends with Subaru being mortally wounded and the girl that he promised to help dead next to him. In his last moments as he bleeds out his last thoughts are that he will save her, though seemingly it is too late.
However, this is where we see that there actually is something about Subaru that is special. He has a unique ability which he names “Return by Death”. With it Subaru can return to a set point in the past. Unfortunately, there is a drawback. He has to die. Once he restarts he’ll be the only one who retains any memory of what had happened.
Like his fellow track suit wearing shut-in, Subaru welcomed the idea of living in a different world at the start. In Subaru’s case he did not have someone explain the situation. This did not hinder his enthusiasm as he charges into the unknown. Subaru is a pretty energetic and cheerful type of guy who overdoes it at times. Along with his loyalty to Emilia he also doesn’t mind helping others. This ranges from little things such as playing with the kids from the village near the Roswaal mansion, to more serious situations such as even dying so he can have another chance to make things right.
Though he has a number of admirable traits, Subaru is very much an imperfect individual. For one, he actually isn’t very good at much or possesses any real talent. He isn’t physically that strong or that good of a fighter. Though he does start to learn magic, he is disappointed when learning the type of magic affinity he has is for what he would call “debuffs”. Of which he doesn’t have good control which leads to him becoming exhausted after a single use. To add to that he also overestimates what he is capable of and will push himself farther than he should.
While this new world has a number of dangers, Subaru on a few occasions causes more trouble for himself. At times Subaru rushes in without thinking. Doing so leads to him entering a situation where he is unprepared to help anyone, let alone himself. Other times he lets his emotions take control such as when his argument with Julius leads to a fight that ends with him badly beaten. There was no real reason to fight, other than Subaru being prideful and once again overestimating what he is capable of at the time. On other occasions you can see in a way that there maybe a part of him that doesn’t acknowledge that he could be the one who is wrong.
Subaru’s decision to ignore Emilia’s command not to follow her and the incident with Julius leads to his dismissal. When he hears this, an uglier side of Subaru emerges. He begins arguing and starts telling Emilia that a number of horrible events were avoided because of him.
“Things worked out because of me.”
“All of it was because I was there!”
“All this time haven’t I made everything work out all right?!”
While the fact is that awful things didn’t happen because of Subaru, the the way in which he says this makes it sound like it he was solely responsible for it. Not only that he seems to be frustrated that Emilia hadn’t mentioned that she is indebted to him:
“I risked my life! All because you were important to me!”
“You should have a greater debt to me than you could ever repay!”
Oddly, some of what Subaru says after his dismissal has some similarities to that of another character. This one being the Sin Bishop of Sloth, Betelguese Romanee Conti (DESU!). After attempting to take over Subaru’s body, Betelguese is rejected after a meeting a certain witch. This leads to him questioning why he wasn’t chosen in a way that is reminiscent of when Subaru was dismissed.
Here’s another one of the things Subaru had said in response to Emilia’s dismissal:
“Everything I’ve done has been to repay you.”
While this is what Betelguese utters after being rejected by a certain shadowy figure:
“Why, Why, Why? After Everything I’ve done for you!”
Here’s another line that Betelguese speaks after his rejection:
“I haven’t forgotten a single moment of the things you did for me! Even if you’ve forgotten”
Considering that the fact that Subaru is the only one who remembers the events of a previous life, this wouldn’t be something out of place for Subaru to have said in his argument with Emilia. Emilia even mentions that she doesn’t remember doing anything for Subaru as she questions him about why he helps her. If anything you could say that under certain circumstances Subaru could possibly end up just as deranged as Betelguese.
At times the effects of each restart wear on Subaru. Though he knows that if he dies he has another chance to go back and make things right, he tries his best to avoid this option. After all a number of his deaths are excruciating and bloody. Subaru may feel an incredible amount of pain with some of his deaths however, with Return by Death his body will be back to normal.
While his body will have the damage undone, it’s Subaru’s mind that suffers the most. When things go wrong there are times when those he feels close to seemingly forsake him. It’s jarring to think about how a slight change in action could lead to someone’s death or even for another to want to kill him. The most devastating thing though is the failure of having the people most close to him die. The situation is similar to what happens to a certain mad scientist from Steins;Gate. There are a few points where Subaru faces the combination of being unable to protect those close to him and not knowing what to do. With the worst being the repeated failure of trying to deal with the Witch’s Cult. It is here that Subaru feels that the situation is hopeless.
At this point is where we see Subaru at his worst. Everything he attempts just ends in failure. Requests he makes for help are denied, Rem dies each time, along with Emilia, whose last death was indirectly caused by Subaru from attempting to speak about Return by Death. He basically gives up and ask Rem to run away with him. While the despair that Subaru feels at this time is understandable, this is one of his absolutely lowest points. While he faces something extremely difficult ahead of him, he has an ability that gives him the chance to make a change. He instead contemplates abandoning everything. He is willing to leave Emilia, Ram, and the villagers in the vicinity of the Roswaal mansion to certain death so he doesn’t have to face another failure. Subaru himself should know the futility of trying to escape what must be faced. In his last life Puck had told him that if Emilia dies he will set out to destroy the world. In the end everything would just repeat once again. Thankfully, Rem is able to dissuade Subaru from such an idea and with that restart is able to get the help needed to face the Witch’s Cult.
Subaru is a character with flaws. He is a normal person and so he makes mistakes. However, they can be ones that can end up having horrible consequences which range from experiencing excruciating pain, to seeing those important to him dying. He suffers from it and it gets to him. We see all sides of him from his lowest and his most disgraceful moments, to when he is finally triumphant and able to save what is important to him. There are times when he seems defeated, but with the help of others he can find the strength to restart once again.
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