It was always going to be difficult for episode 30 of Re:Zero to surpass the quality of last week’s episode. What that episode was able to achieve in terms of characterization for Subaru that emphasized not just how much he had changed on his journey but how he was striving to improve himself, all while helping us to understand what his life was like before coming to this new world, was superb. It was perhaps one of the best episodes of the series so far, and certainly the best episode of this most recent season.
Things took a suspiciously darker tone for the episode’s cliffhanger that suggested a lot was in store this week as well. After a positive meeting with Subaru’s parents, it would be easy to forget that the reason we met them in the first place was for a trial to unleash the Sanctuary barrier that was required for their escape. Stakes had been high, and who was controlling the strings, making it all possible? Echidna.
Her appearance at Subaru’s school left a tantalizing cliffhanger for this week’s episode to explore. We know it was thanks to her actions that Subaru could even take part in the trial in the first place, sure, but why was she here in the school? It wasn’t just to wear the school uniform, as cute as she looks in it.
Unfortunately, her involvement here goes almost no deeper than visuals. After trying to bring Subaru down by noting the world was fake and fabricated from his memories with 2 more trials still to go, her work is essentially done. While it’s nice to see Subaru’s newfound inner strength shown by not rising to anger but by congratulating Echidna, the scene feels hollow. Emilia, meanwhile, has struggled far more with confronting her past, as Subaru soon discovers, and she has to abandon her attempts.
No closer to freeing the Sanctuary, in comes Ryuzu Bilma, the mysterious pink-haired girl Subaru saw as he came to the sanctuary in episode 27. With their introduction, cracks come in the so-called universal hope of freeing the Sanctuary, with nothing as simple as it once seemed. Some don’t want to be free, with the loud voices of Garfiel and Ryuzu pushing for freedom simply shouting loudest in the debate with their success at capturing hostages. With this knowledge, freeing the barrier could still cause problems if it creates enemies they’ll later need to confront. And don’t forget, the true goals of people like Garfiel who want their freedom are still shrouded in mystery.
It’s an interesting thought that could have some equally interesting consequences down the line, but it again has little impact on the episode as a whole, and this is a trend throughout this week’s episode. After multiple strong expository episodes to kick off the season and a powerful flashback episode that stands as one of the best moments of the series so far, Re:Zero episode 30 is far weaker by comparison.
Much of the episode feels plodding and directionless compared to the hyper-focused pacing we’ve been accustomed to. Compared to the rest of this season so far and, indeed, the entire show since it began in 2016, this episode was lost in the weeds and bogged down, with only the occasional important or interesting line saving it from being classed as filler.
In saying that, the ending of this episode just about makes up for everything below-par about this episode, creating an interesting dynamic for events going forwards. On the whole, I can’t say Re:Zero episode 30 is all that strong compared to what came before, but after everything that’s happened so far, a misstep that recovers to leave fans hanging with a strong ending is fine by me.
Re: Zero -Starting Life in Another World- is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.