One of my favorite currently airing anime (it began last season, and finishes this season) is Re:Zero. Despite my concern that the show would turn into a fanservice-filled, plot-light story of the idiot hero getting the beautiful girlfriend, I gave the show a shot, and boy am I glad I did. While the show has the odd comment or moment that ups the fanservice, it’s actually proven to be a pretty deep show. This is mostly due to the character progression that can be seen in the show’s main character, Subaru Natsuki. Not only does he “reset” upon dying (suddenly waking up uninjured at the last “check point”), but his entire mindset does as well.
First, a little bit of background on the show (paraphrased from MyAnimeList’s description, and not giving spoilers beyond the first five minutes of episode 2): One day, Subaru Natsuki, a normal high school kid and gamer finds himself transported into a game-like world. Every gamer’s dream, right? He thinks so, too, until he finds himself confronted by thugs and without a weapon or any powers as a means to defend himself. He then quickly realizes his dream-come-true may in fact be a nightmare ending in his death. Enter the “mysterious beauty” who not only scares off the thugs, but allows Subaru to tag along with her, under the condition he helps her find a thief he unknowingly bumped into earlier. Working together, they manage to track down her stolen item… only to be brutally murdered.
When Subaru wakes right back up in the alley he first went to upon arriving in the world, he’s very confused (as anyone would be when they expected to be dead and find they are not). This confusion only increases as the events he just experienced begin to happen a second time. Unintentionally testing his theories by being murdered again, he learns that whenever he dies, he “resets”. His whole mindset begins to shift upon this realization…
(WARNING: Minor spoilers up to the end of episode 7 – I’ll keep it as vague as possible, but it will still touch on a few plot points)
When Subaru first enters the world of Lugunica, his entire mindset is incredibly self-centred and egotistical. He assumes that he must be some important, significant person who was summoned there to be a valiant hero. His introverted self sees this as his time to shine. When he meets “Satella” (a fake name Subara is given to call her) after she saves him, his mind continues further down a rabbit hole of selfish wants. After all, the hero gets the girl and lives happily ever after, right? Well, not in this alternate reality, as quickly proven by his death and reset. When Subaru realizes that every time he dies he resets, his first thought is, of course, “how do I not get killed again?” Experiencing a horrible death once is bad enough, but over and over? That would get to your head pretty quickly. Subaru changes his approach to the situation, eventually saving Satella and also surviving past the point he kept dying at.
When he realizes he not only survived, but also saved Satella, Subaru is naturally thrilled. However, struck with the reality he is a stranger in a foreign world with no money and very little knowledge of where he is, Subaru uses the favor gained by saving Satella to work where she lives. He’s put under the care of twin maids and left to learn the ropes of cooking, cleaning, and other chores. Just as he begins to feel he’s found his place, however, he finds himself waking up on the first day at the mansion all over. He’s been reset. His second and third attempts to live there both result in another reset. By his fourth attempt, he alters his choices enough that he lives… but at the cost of another person. Subaru is suddenly faced with a decision: keep on living, now that he has finally survived, or “reset” despite the possibility of permanent death this time all to try and save not only himself but the other life.
If you were in Subaru’s shoes, what would you do? Many of us would say “Well, I’d like to think I’d go back and save the other person, too.” However, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’d find ourselves heavily inclined to just keep on living. After all, why risk your life for someone else, right? By nature, we as humans are selfish. Whether we do it consciously or unconsciously, for most of the day, our world typically revolves around, well, us. That doesn’t usually cause a problem. After all, no one’s going to fault you because you wanted toast for breakfast, when your friend wanted cereal – you can have your toast, they can have their cereal, and no harm’s done. That natural instinct to put “number one” first can become a problem, though. When was the last time you nearly got into a car accident trying to pull onto the highway, because your on-ramp was ending but no one in the right lane would let you in? Or maybe you skipped out on a family get together because YOU didn’t like the day-plan? Perhaps it was just as simple as a “little white lie” telling someone you had to go, because while you didn’t actually have to, YOU didn’t want to talk to them.
At the end of episode 7, we see Subaru struggling extensively with this choice. Let the other person die and continue living for certain, or risk everything to have a shot at saving them? After a long struggle, he chooses to throw himself off the cliff (literally) for the sake of the other person. This all despite the fact no one will ever know about his sacrifice (as only he remembers the “resets”). Why does he do it? I think it’s because the “reset” at the end of episode 7 is not only just a reset of events, but a reset of Subaru Natsuki himself. He is no longer using his abilities just to find a way that he can survive past his last death. His mindset is no longer “I must be some special hero summoned here!”. His focus has shifted off himself and on to how he can save those around him.
How often do you honestly put everyone else first? How often is your focus less about your day, your goals, and your dreams, and more about the people around you? Unless you strive to make a conscious effort to do this daily, the answer is probably “not often”. This isn’t laying blame – I’m just as guilty as everyone else. It’s so easy to slip into the easy, natural, human mentality of “looking out for number one” that we often don’t even realize we’re doing it. So if we all do it, it must not be a problem, right? Wrong. Here’s the catch: if you watched a friend die, then “reset” to yesterday, last week, last month, last year… would you live that time differently? You’d probably put a little more effort into making that person happy and spending time with them, right?
We don’t have the advantage of knowing what will happen tomorrow. If you’re a Christian, you do believe one thing about the future: it ends in an eternity. Where we believe that eternity is spent depends on a person’s acceptance or rejection of Jesus Christ, and overall, God. How much time do you honestly devote to bringing those around you into a new or a deeper relationship with Christ? If you’re not a Christian, you still believe certain things about the future. For example, something as simple as the fact the sun will rise tomorrow. Regardless of faith, however, we all want those we care about to have a good, happy future. How much time do we spend actively trying to ensure that? Probably not a lot. Why not? You’re living your own life. Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing wrong with that. Looking after yourself is also important; but, you can’t just look after yourself. As beautifully stated by John Donne, “no man is an island.” Each of us relies on another person in some way and are, in others ways, relied on by those around us. We have to make a conscious effort to ensure our time is not spent entirely on selfish wants, but is also devoted to blessing the lives of those around us.
We don’t get “resets”. We don’t get a second take at things we mess up on. We get 60 seconds a minute for 60 minutes an hour for 24 hours a day. How we use that time is often for ourselves. Sometimes that’s necessary – looking after your own responsibilities and needs is important. Just remember that the bigger picture is important, too. You may never get recognition for it, and you may never see any real difference or change, but your choice to take a small chunk of that “me time” and use it for someone else can make a big difference. It’s never easy to begin with – after all, we want all our time to be me time. If you really want to, though, then just remember this: every day is a “reset”. Every day is a new day. Every day, make the choice to start it not with a me mindset, but a them mindset. The more you “reset” with that mindset, the easier it becomes, and the more natural it feels. Keep it up and before you know it, you may very well have undergone a reset just like Subaru.