Subaru’s death at the end of last week’s episode felt like a warning. The pacing of this season of Re:Zero so far has been different to what fans may have come to expect thanks to its heavy focus on exposition and episode 29’s self-contained return to our world to meet Subaru’s parents. Other than that, everyone was still stuck in the sanctuary as they were at the end of last season, with the only difference being that Subaru, Emilia and co. had joined them. You felt like Re:Zero episode 31 would be something different after last week’s death.
With Subaru’s Return From Death activating to take him back to the end of his first trial following a murder at the hands of Elsa, the latest problem he has to face is a complex one. The barrier is stopping everyone other than him and Ram from returning to the mansion. Yet they need to leave to return to the mansion to stop Elsa‘s attack. We need to understand why they’re attacking, who sent them and how to stop it, or at the very least save everyone.
Not an easy task, is it?
You can feel the stakes have raised from the opening moments of this week’s episode. Subaru rushes to Emilia’s side just as he did before, but the framing and tone of the entire scene have changed now that he’s back. He just witnessed and experienced death, again, and still has to suffer alone. Even if his meeting with his parents not only helped him grow but helped him realize how much he’d grown already, these moments of growth don’t happen overnight
Even though he was supposed to have learned from his recent adventures, it’s rather welcome to see him stumble and fall into the same mistakes. He once again rushes in as Emilia’s protector without considering her feelings, he acts rashly without considering the willingness of others to join his path without an explanation. We’ve seen these mistakes before, but he’s still approaching things from a new direction, which emphasizes how he’s being driven by fear above all else.
Ram is the one who jolts him back to reality and he considers the approach far more from then. Witnessing his growth this way is more grounded in reality and welcome for such a flawed character. This has other advantages too. It allows Re:Zero episode 31 to progress under the knowledge of the upcoming attack without being bound to it. Beyond being the one to snap Subaru into attention, we see the pair become closer as Ram trusts that Subaru has reasons to act the way he is, even if he won’t say it.
In return, Subaru opens up about the forgotten memories, and it results in a finale to the episode enhanced by their renewed closeness. What could have been a return to Subaru’s battle against the returning villain from the first season where he did everything he could to shut others out from harm has seen them forced to join the fight. He needs to stop shutting people out, and he reaches out for the aid of Ram and Frederica, who’s beast-like transformation is a welcome surprise.
Creating tension at the start of the episode with Return From Death, Ram’s involvement and the fight itself, all builds towards a powerful climax that plays to audience understanding of the show’s mechanics. Episode 31 of Re:Zero sees Subaru focused on the mechanical fix, but what if that’s a bad thing?
While we know Subaru can go back in time… what if he miscalculated? What if he goes through this new path to save everyone, becomes closer to Ram and learns to trust the new maids, before then not only failing to resolve things this time but not being able to go back in time far enough to save the people he loves? The end of this episode teases that possibility, capping off an intriguing return to the action of the story that I want to see develop further.
Re: Zero -Starting Life in Another World- is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.