Re:Zero Musings – The Problem with Main Heroines and Shipping Subaru X Rem
Note: This post contains massive spoilers for Re:Zero especially for episode 18.
Please don’t read this post until you reach that part.
Stepping away from all the “shitty LN” jokes, Re:Zero’s actually pretty decent. However, it does has it’s own fair share of problems, and one thing that irks me the most now is episode 18.
Episode 18 is pretty much one huge confession scene. And normally I would praise a harem LN show like this to actually establish a canon pair, but going with Emilia here doesn’t make much sense. I know the story has been building up Emilia as Subaru’s main love interest so far, but after Rem’s arc, the latter looks like the more natural contender for Subaru’s love interest. The story just has such a perfect context for this relationship, but unfortunately, the story, and Subaru chose Emilia — in which, the only reason I could give is simply because Emilia is the main heroine, and main heroines always win.
But first, let’s compare other LN shows with established couples:
- Sword Art Online – Kirito X Asuna
- Shakugan no Shana – Yuji X Shana
- Toradora – Ryuuji X Taiga
- Zero no Tsukaima – Saito X Louise
Those are the only ones I can think of so far, as aforementioned, shows with established couples are already few and far in between. But let’s look at this short list — so all these are canonically established couples in their respective series and yes, if you notice it, ALL of them are main heroines. It doesn’t help that main heroines are usually the ones to get the most focus.
And in Re:Zero, the main problem with it is that you have a “third wheel” character-Rem, in this case, who has just as much, or even more focus than the main heroine. I guess long story short, Subaru X Emilia just doesn’t make sense. The story really tried it’s best to stir towards this direction, but in the end Subaru X Rem is the one that sounds like a more logical approach.
I mean, come on, you have Rem making one of the most heartfelt anime confessions I have seen in recent years. The confession is so good it can melt any men’s hearts even if they didn’t have any romantic interests in her before, the confession is so good it can melt fucking steel bars. In fact, you know you are doing something right when you can make a confession scene lasts an entire episode without it feeling stretched out.
One thing I like about the confession so much is that it literally brings up the past 17 episodes of context into the scene, and we are given some character motivations for both characters. Subaru feels like he has been tossed aside by everyone, telling him they don’t need him and he can’t save anyone — yes, even including Emilia. It’s also here that Subaru vent out all his feelings, his insecurities — he was a NEET in his own world but he feels like he can start his life anew in this new world, but nothing has changed, he’s still petty, pathetic and powerless, and has to rely on other people for help to even accomplish anything.
Now I know I’m not alone when I say this, but Subaru is loud and annoying, in fact, the show is pretty much filled with 80% of him yelling and crying. But at the very least, one thing that I can appreciate about his characterization is that he is self-aware, he is self-aware of the flaws that made up of so many other LN harem characters, and the narrative is serious and dramatic in tackling this characterization. No contradictory bullshit — Subaru is truly insecure about his dull life. Maybe because of that, he is obsessed with the idea of chivalry despite being weak, and being sent to another world gives him the perfect excuse to try exercise it. He may or may not genuinely wants to save anyone, but he definitely wants to save people to satisfy his own obsession with chivalry.
But sometimes, it’s fine not to overthink people’s motives. If you actually managed to save anyone, then that’s a job well done regardless of motives, and that’s certainly what Rem thinks so — all this goes back to Rem’s own lengthy story arc but nonetheless this is another thing I like about this, many harem shows focus on a heroine’s arc, only to forget about her in future arcs. Re:Zero however, continue this story about Rem even after her arc concluded. This is consistent relationship development in display, and is the main reason why I feel the story going with Emilia as the established main couple just doesn’t make sense.
In the end, Subaru managed to genuinely save someone. He may look clumsy, silly and idiotic in all his struggling attempts, but he can confidently say that he genuinely save someone — he saved Rem. And really, that’s truly the main theme behind all the time-looping chaos that is Re:Zero – hero complex.
Because of that, this relationship makes perfect sense. Subaru in his quest to quench his empty heart, in his quest to satisfy his “white knight complex”, so to speak, has found the perfect partner that is Rem who appreciates his overly-valiant efforts so much she even developed feelings for him — she literally sees him as a hero. Rem sees Subaru as someone who finally freed her burdens and helped her start anew in her life. In a way, despite Subaru being close to no help in a real battle, it’s as if Rem, quite literally a demon-in-disguise, is the one who’s the damsel-in-distress here.
That’s what I like about this ship — Subaru X Rem is a relationship driven through need, they need each other. Subaru is at his wit’s end, and he feels like every single person in the world has rejected him, but Rem needs him. Subaru hates himself, but Rem loves him. Subaru feels empty and to which Rem says he can always starts his life anew, starting his life again from zero — Re:Zero.
And damn it, it makes so much sense, the dialogue, the context, the story, their developments, their relationship progressions — it seems like everything has been building up just for this ship to set sail. But the thing is…
Ahh Subaru, why is your taste so shit. It feels like the story is choosing Emilia just to ascertain that she is the main heroine, despite the fact that Subaru X Rem made much better sense. Subaru X Rem has a strong context to solidify their relationship, whereas I feel Subaru X Emilia doesn’t seem as convincing. I haven’t watch past episode 18 at the time of this post yet but I’m sure the anime is going to desperately try to convince me that Subaru X Emilia is good, but it’s too late, I’m now a firm believer of Subaru X Rem, and the fact that the story strays away from that direction only makes my conviction stronger.
Stepping away from Re:Zero discussions briefly, I really dislike the idea that it’s either the main heroines who win in harem shows, or the show ended without establishing any main couples. Do you know any harem shows where the main character actually ended up with a non-main heroine?
Also, this is important so I feel I should repeat it again before I end this post — Subaru has shit taste.