Winter anime 2017 has begun to bring some new impressive titles. A lot of people were wowed by anime that came out in 2016 such as shows like Saki Kusuo no nan, Erased, Mob Psycho 100, Servamp, Bungou Stray Dogs etc. All these have brought new life into the anime community allowing debates and agreements on how well there have been created. People like to analyse stories and styles. Some succeeding expectations for instance the heavily stylized show Mob Psycho 100 with its loose animation and line work that gives it a certain roughness. It has a uniqueness to it which allows its animators to go wild due to not being restricted.
There are a few shows that are able to unite anime fans. In particular is an anime that I watched in December titled RE:ZERO ~starting life in another world~, with the studio White Fox taking the ropes. Bringing the light novel to life I was hugely impressed with this anime both as a fan and as someone who is in the creative industry.
The problems that a lot of anime shows have is whether or not they should venture out and experiment with their own cinematography and mood. It can take more time though so it’s usually best to play it safe, especially with low budgets and companies holding prospects of ideas tight. I was shocked when anime started to use intriguing shots to depict emotion, different tones, moods in lighting and moments in the story. The basis of the anime is that you have a character called Natsuki Subaru who is transported into this other world which he perceives it to be like a game. He will play back at home interacting with characters as if they are NPC’s (Non-Playable Characters) and assume he is the main character in this fantasy world. However, the catch with this is that he cannot die. When he is presumed to be killed he is taken back to the last checkpoint until he overcomes the obstacle.
The mood of this anime sways between comedic and light hearted to dark and emotional. When it reaches its peak in the middle of the series it starts to break down the main character to show the effects of always dying. Episode 15 is the icing on the cake. In the beginning of this episode we see Natsuki Subaru entering the mansion of his friend Emilia. There is foreboding on what has happened as we see characters murdered. Natsuki starts breaking down as he’s not able to do anything to stop it with it ultimately ending with him dying too.
Coming back Natsuki will normally not show any indication of this affecting his physique or mind, with only the odd flare of despair. However in this episode Natsuki’s mind snaps, showing his character with shocked pupils, lines indicating tiredness and stress. His actions are that of someone who is struggling to come to terms with the loss and torment. Notice in the image above you can see that Natsuki is torn instead of light-hearted. Even in places which are assumed safe there is a crawling sense of dread. As we press on with the anime Natsuki has shut down as he can’t bare to keep losing people like this. We continue on the episode when we are brought down again to moments of sadness and suffering.
Near the end Natsuki is captured by the cult with a color palette of muted blues and purples showing coldness. Natsuki is not showing any emotion other than acceptance as he cannot do anything in this situation. He is locked up witnessing his friend Rem being tortured to life. Camera cuts and angles put you on the edge of the seat. The scenes remind me of anime Berserk when the main character Guts screams in rage with a feeling of helplessness and despair.
As we get to the final minutes of the episode there is a feeling of hope as Natsuki and Rem come out of the cave, with the color palette being rich and warm with a flood of orange. This indicates safety and softness, even Natsuki’s face shows signs of being happy even through it all.
However this is coupled with the mood and colours fading towards bitter coldness. The only bright colour is a flare of red as a way to highlight Natsuki’s soul being crushed from death and decay by the cult of the witch. What I enjoy the most is when Puck, the spirit guarding of Emilia, arises and kills Natsuki as she is about to destroy the world. The shot setting is fantastic with Natsuki shrouded with a darker palette. Not being able to see much of his detail with the cold air surrounding him everything feels muted and drained. The castle in the background is flat and missing of colour. Puck is illuminated yellow with its silhouette big and bold, showing the height being a threat to Natsuki. Orchestral music yearns more emotion with sadness and sorrow, then becoming bolder as Puck cuts his head. The credits appear in deep red and black text allowing it to stand out against the whites and blues. We see Natsuki and Rems body freeze over in such a beautiful array. Lingering on the shot reminds me of old drama films especially in Japan when they would leave it on the final shot whilst credits scroll, allowing viewers to take in what just happened. Having this shot left on shows us just how cruel the world is and how Natsuki has no escape. Everything boils down to drowning in sadness and this is the art of the ending. It is able to hold the pain the audience is experiencing from the death of Natsuki. We have just witnessed a true horror of the mind.
Sources - screenshots from Crunchyroll.co.uk