(Warning: Spoilers for Re: Zero season 1.
Note: This article only discusses season 1.)
By Subaru, I mean that turd of a main character from Re: Zero (Starting Life in Another World from Scratch). Natsuki Subaru is immensely, absurdly arrogant. He’s an entitled bastard. He’s selfish. He doesn’t respect the people around him or their boundaries. Even if he apologizes, he doesn’t get what he actually did wrong. Subaru is utterly insufferable. And yet, is it possible to respect him as a character just a little?
Before launching into some reasons for maybe cutting Subaru a little slack, let’s make sure it’s well established for everyone that Subaru is an absolute turd. Upon arriving in a fantasy isekai, he assumes he was summoned by a beautiful woman and will be OP with magic. Subaru thinks that he can protect this fictional woman, that she will be in love with him, and that she’ll show him all the ropes of living in this world. Even if those assumptions had been anywhere close to correct (they aren’t), it drives me crazy that he thinks this way. He continues to think he’s some kind of savior despite only ever causing trouble for everyone.
In the next arc, at Roswaald’s mansion, Subaru does literally everything wrong. He isn’t respectful to Rem, Ram, or Betti. He basically makes himself right at home living in the mansion without any thought for anyone else. Asking to work in the mansion sounds good at first, except that he’s actually asking to be taught how to work, since he can’t do anything, and needs constant supervision. Also, he never considers that he is likely percieved as a spy and a threat to Emilia in this time of great political tension. Honestly, it’s perfectly justifiable that Rem and/or Ram killed him in at least two instances.
In the shorter ma-beast arc, Subaru handles things alright, besides being too reckless. Then of course, there is the mini-arc of the return to the capital city in episodes 12 and 13. Again, Subaru does everything wrong. Like leaving the lodgings when ordered not to. Or claiming to be Emilia’s knight despite being weak and talentless. Or getting into a fight with a real knight because of his worthless pride, and embarrassing himself and Emilia by getting beaten to a pulp. Another example of Subaru’s shittiness can be seen when he expects Emilia to understand his shitty, stupid actions, and ends up yelling at her about how he thinks he’s done so much for her. Ha. Shithead. I’m glad his ass got dumped.
That’s only the first half of Subaru’s many mistakes and failures. There’s a whole other 13 episodes of him being a fucking idiot. But I think I’ve made it clear that this boy is reprobate, or at the very least, that I consider him so. The purpose of this post, though, is to show why the little shit deserves some sympathy. So let’s get into that material, starting now.
1. Subaru is a Little Shit, But He’s Traumatized
Subaru lived a peaceful, uneventful life in Japan until he was suddenly transported to a world of dark fantasy violence, where he literally suffers and dies multiple times. Here are just a few traumatic experiences. He was murdered by having his stomach cut open by a serial killer in episodes 1 and 2, and almost died from the thing again in ep 3. Subaru was attacked, tortured, and killed by Rem wielding a heavy ball and chain in ep 7. He returns to Roswaald’s village to find every last person slaughtered, including the village children, in ep 15. The witch’s curse leads him to inadvertently kill Emilia in ep 17. And then there’s Belteguese.
I think you get the idea. Subaru has been through shit. He’s seen a lot of shit. Are you tired of the word shit yet? xD Anyway, Could you handle everything Subaru went through and still maintain your sanity and the desire to save other people? I couldn’t do it. Any one of Subaru’s experiences might lead a person to PTSD (or dissociation, amnesia, or psychosis). But Subaru keeps trying to live and help his friends despite so much unspeakable suffering. Many have observed that Subaru comes across as unusually dumb. Well, people can act pretty dumb if, like Subaru, they operate under constant stress and the very real, impending fear of death and pain.
2. Subaru is a Little Shit, But Weren’t We All at That Age?
The kid is 17. Perhaps part of the reason why we hate Subaru’s stinking guts is that he’s a personification of the stupidity of our youth, of which very few of us are ever proud. Please note that I’m not saying 17- and 18-year-olds in general are as bad as Subaru. Not even I was as bad as him. Many young people of that age range are incredibly mature. Meanwhile, some people in their 30s and beyond just never grow up.
Still, at some point in your life– and it doesn’t have to be age 17– wasn’t there a time you where you were awfully stupid, inconsiderate or ignorant due to your age? For most of us, there was such a time, whether it was age 13, or 15, or whenever. Heck, my worst age was 20, when I acted like a selfish, sneaky bitch all the time. Some of us are such sweethearts in our early teens and then monsters toward the end of them, lol.
You may recall that Subaru keeps pursuing Emilia when Rem loves him and is the one who understands him much better. That’s a major reason people get fed up with Subaru. But think back. Wasn’t there a time in your troubled teens or maybe college years when you turned away from the objectively better opportunity to pursue what you fancied instead? Or maybe, like me, there was a time when you left the “best girl” behind because you didn’t realize how amazing she could be, hung up instead on the one who suited your childhood fantasies.
That was only one of a plethora of examples where Subaru’s shitty decisions can be explained by the short-sightedness of youth. On top of being practically a kid from my perspective, Subaru was a NEET and it’s suggested he was under-socialized. If you have poor social skills, or your skills are out of practice, that makes you even more likely to screw up in your dealings with other people. I know firsthand, haha!
3. Subaru is a Little Shit, But He’s an Unusual Main Character
There are a shit-ton of isekai anime, light novels, and manga. For a minute, think only about the anime side of it, and for that matter, only the more mainstream anime series. Sword Art Online came out in 2012. In summer 2014, SOA II aired. Konosuba‘s first season came out in winter 2016. Then Re:Zero started in spring 2016. For the majority of mainstream anime watchers, the latter show was the second or third isekai anime they watched, and it was vastly different from the ones before. The tone of the series is much darker than the others. And Subaru is nothing like Kirito or Kazuma. In anime in general, there aren’t very many main characters like Subaru.
Many main characters in anime are overpowered, but Subaru is weak. Some weak main characters surpass their limits and become strong because the plot calls for it, but Subaru’s skills and abilities for fights rarely improve. He doesn’t ever truly learn his lessons, imo, and his attitude stays that of an overconfident, inconsiderate, and uncommonly stupid teenage boy. Some weak characters never commit to trying, like Yukiteru from Mirai Nikki. However, Subaru keeps trying and always expends maximum effort in doing so. About the only positive character traits he has are loving his friends and always giving his 100% in everything he tries. He’s too stupid to grasp the fact that being so gung-ho all the time isn’t enough to solve a problem.
If you can’t tell, I have trouble relating to or empathizing with Subaru, but that probably just means I’m unaware of the faults and mistakes we share. But other thoughtul anime viewers and reviewers have said that Subaru is relatable and painfully human. They find this refreshing and different, though still a bit annoying. I agree. Subaru is a unique character. He’s not talented, strong, or smart. He isn’t generally considerate or sweet, but he’s usually cheerful. He’s a poor learner. But Subaru is also not a wimp, nor is he by any means lacking in courage.
All that to say, feel free to hate Subaru if you want. However, if you want to open your mind and test your tolerance, I think you’ll find that there are reasons for most of Subaru’s incredibly shitty behavior. You might develop some sympathy for him. That’s it for today’s random rant. Yonde kurete arigatou gozaimasu! (“Thank you for reading!”)