'First Published on Manga. Tokyo'
Did you know that there are almost 200 anime programs on air every year in Japan lately? The number has doubled compared to 20 years ago when only 100 programs were aired.
Japanese anime has become a successful world-class entertainment in recent years, however I have a feeling that most anime works are made for mass consumption for better or worse. As for last year, numerous anime were produced. One anime series which stood out among them and became hot topic was Re:Zero – Starting Life in Another World (Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isakai Seikatsu) and I’m going to investigate it in this article. I will explore the reason why the anime was so talked about in Japan, and its meanings behind the story which appeals to young people today.
— 『Re：ゼロから始める異世界生活』公式 (@Rezero_official) August 28, 2016
The Outline of Re: Zero – Starting Life in Another World
Re: Zero – Starting Life in Another World is an anime based on a light novel series of the same title written by Tappei Nagatsuki. The story revolves around Subaru Natsuki, an otherwise powerless boy with the ability of ‘Return by Death’, which can bring him back from his own death by leaping through time. It depicts him fighting against his destiny in another world. The anime was aired between April and September in 2016 and attracted fans by its cinematic expression and roller coaster storyline.
The original light novel series are also popular having sold over 3 million copies altogether. It was originally published on the user-generated novel publishing website, ‘Shosetuskani Narou’ (Let’s become a novelist) or ‘Narou’ in short, and its physical copies were subsequently published by Media Factory
The Reception in Japan and The Reasons
At the beginning of its airing, there are variety of reactions from viewers. Despite its cute character design, the death scenes are quite gross. Such stark contrast is reminiscent of Puella Magi Madoka Magica and made a big impact on viewers. It managed to captivate viewers with its unpredictable storyline and intricate depictions of various death, which made viewers feel as if the subject matter of the story was death itself.
The story effectively applies the ‘Return by Death’ situation. It carefully depicts his feelings when resuming interpersonal relationships and rebuilding what was there before, as well as the endless fear towards one’s own recurring death. As a result, viewers felt as though they’d been experiencing his cruel and hostile life and became sympathetic to him.
The credit roll of episode 15 was most talked about. During a cinematic credit roll but without any sound, Subaru is gradually dying while embracing the body of the heroine. It’s an unprecedented credit roll in Japanese anime history. The fans in Japan was surprised at its dark and depressing ending but, in the meantime, realized its real quality by the unexpected finish. Re: Zero – Starting Life in Another World was highly praised for its settings, directions, and plot, and attracted much discussions about the anime in Japan.
— 『Re：ゼロから始める異世界生活』公式 (@Rezero_official) July 9, 2016
The Reasons for the Popularity of the ‘Transported to Another World’ Concept
Re:Zero − Starting Life in Another World can be classified as one of ‘Transported to Another World’ stories, which include KonoSuba. They usually revolve around a protagonist who is not good at what he or she does in real life. The story depicts how the protagonist, who is unintentionally summoned to another world, plays an active role in there. The concept has created one of the most popular genres of Japanese anime in recent years. I’m going to examine the reason why viewers in Japan are enchanted by the concept so much.
Here are the reasons in my point of view.
Repulsion against unfair reality which can’t be solved by one’s efforts.
Yearning to start over one’s life with special abilities.
Desire to escape somewhere that one can spend a great life without effort.
I think the ‘Transported to Another World’ concept is popular because it allows viewers who aren’t satisfied with their real lives to simulate their ideal lives, which fulfils their yearnings and desire.
I’m going to investigate reasons why the young people in Japan have such yearning and desire.
The Yearning and Desire which are Suggested in the Popularity with ‘Transported to Another World’ Stories.
Today, we can get various information via social media and video hosting service, which includes watching talented people on the Internet. ‘YouTubers’ who make a living by posting their videos are an examples of this and a recent survey shows that ‘YouTuber’ is among the top jobs Japanese children want when they grow up.
Knowing about these talented people results in comparing their life-style and income with themselves. For instance, while watching one of top YouTuber’s videos, young people might think, ‘They are so lucky to earn a lot of money by just introducing some products. It’s impossible for me to live like that however heard I try in my current position.’
Introverted people might get irritated at people who are popular with the opposite sex, even though they want to be like them deep down. Furthermore, we often hear people moaning like, ‘I made a mistake in my life. I wish I had started over again’ or ‘Even though I work my hardest, I only earn such little money. I wish I could live easier life.’ They have things in common. They want to effortlessly start over with perfect looks and brains instead of trying hard to make their lives better. However, they know that it’s impossible in real life. I think people who have such desire and frustration find the ‘Transported to Another World’ stories fulfilling and enjoyable, as they can remove their frustrations by projecting themselves onto protagonists in such stories.
— 『Re：ゼロから始める異世界生活』公式 (@Rezero_official) December 5, 2016
On a Final Note
Apart from Re: Zero – Starting Life in Another World, there are many anime with the ‘Transported to Another World’ concept. The concept seems to be wearing off recently, so that such stories need unique themes and uncommon settings in order to attract anime fans in Japan. Perhaps, a new challenge for the future of Japanese anime is to find a fresh concept for creating stories.