Deserving Rem

I was a little late to the Re:ZERO game, avoiding the series until after the white whale arc ended, so I wasn’t able to participate in all the hubbub regarding Rem’s confession and Subaru’s mystifying response to her. But even without watching, I quickly became familiar with that scene that brought so many emotional reactions (and lots of funny memes).

For those that don’t remember, said scene happens during the white whale arc. Subaru, in constant despair as he sees the choices he makes leading to death of loved ones, reaches the point of self-loathing, screaming about how he hates himself multiple times while talking to Rem in episode 18. By this point, Rem has perhaps already achieved “best waifu” status already through her earnestness, painful backstory, and willingness to sacrifice for Subaru’s sake, but cements it when she gives one of the most beautiful confessions of love in all anime, one that isn’t just about her feelings, but which also helps Subaru see his self worth (episode 18 is basically one episode-long confession and it is absolutely worth watching and rewatching). But Subaru’s response is surprising and even upsetting.

Of all the crazy things that happened in Re:ZERO, Subaru’s response (“I love Emilia”) was perhaps the craziest. It took just those three words to cement Rem as best girl, make Subaru public enemy number one, and associate Emilia-tan with that negative side of the equation, too.

But give credit to Re:ZERO; despite the simple reaction (pro-Rem v. pro-Emilia) across the fandom, the characters and situations are complex, and I think that scene, besides being brilliant, was absolutely authentic to Rem and Subaru. The latter does a rotten thing, but as he himself says over and over, he is rotten and selfish. Subaru makes a lot of good choices in the series, but does so, seemingly, despite himself, as he also frequently falls back into self-loathing and selfishness. To totally ignore Rem’s heart and tell her what must be the most painful thing of all is entirely kin to his character. The grace with which Rem handles that confession is within hers.

Which all led me to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter which ship I liked better, Subaru x Rem or Subaru x Emilia, because ultimately, Suburu didn’t deserve Rem. If they don’t end up together, then great! Rem can find someone much, much better.

To totally ignore Rem’s heart and tell her what must be the most painful thing of all is entirely in his character. The grace with which Rem handles that confession is within hers.

But then again, I’m not sure that’s exactly the mentality I want to have. You see, I want to see people have grace with Subaru—Rem, Emilia, and the fandom especially—because I’m uncomfortably familiar with him—Subaru is a little too much like me. I’m also selfish, inconsistent, petty, prone to strange outbursts (I blame this on my natural awkwardness), and, worst of all, do inconceivable things sometimes that bring hurt to loved ones. And because of all my flaws, I need those in my life who will say, “I understand completely and I love you anyway.”

So maybe Rem isn’t the girl Subaru deserves. Maybe none of us deserve her! But she’s the girl (and the grace) we need—and maybe ultimately that’s more important than who ships whom.

featured illustration by 白丝少年(´・ω・`) | reprinted w/permission


17 thoughts on “Deserving Rem

  1. I wish I was more familiar with Re: ZERO, so I wouldn’t be talking as much out of my rear end as I’m about to. That said….my immediate thought on that is kinda…What else was the guy going to say? Disregard his own real feelings and say “Sure, I love you too?” Try to say he needs time? Anything he says here is going to dig him into a deeper hole.

    I mean if it was me and I was him I would’ve let a girl down with more dignity and grace than he apparently has on a literally everyday basis (everything I’ve heard about the main character suggests he’s a selfish dingus, and that’s part of the point of the show), but who he loves isn’t the problem.

    Because, well…you can’t control who you love, and it’s rare that you can decide to be in love with someone. I don’t think that, independent of my deep feelings for all of them, I would’ve picked the three people I’ve been in love with as the people I’d want to be in love with. And I definitely wouldn’t have decided to make my life (and redemption) much harder by becoming besottedly and utterly obsessed with what’s optimistically a specific demon or spirit or something and what’s pessimistically the entire concept of the Devil.

    Because love doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t care about who the “best girl” is (and if I were a fictional character, it’s unambiguously the selfless teacher that wants to work with high-risk kids). It doesn’t even much care about financial or personal risk to life and limb. It comes in like a lion and leaves like a burning fire, taking out a part of you you can never get back with it and leaving it with someone else.

    So whoever this kid is, I’m behind him telling the girl who loves him his true feelings, if not necessarily the way in which he did it. No matter how glorious and beautiful she is, she doesn’t “deserve” his feelings, and he doesn’t deserve the intensity or loyalty of hers.

    1. I think you really helped unveil the complexity of relationships here that can’t be captured in a simple “she did this so he should be with her.” I think that most Rem fans understand this in the deep recesses of their mind somewhere; it’s the way that Subaru responded, as you pointed out, that’s what drove people batty, not that he doesn’t love her. I imagine the Internet would have loved it if Subaru had instead considered Rem’s feelings and thanked her for her unending sacrifice and support before letting her down, rather than be lifted by her support and immediately and blindly tell Rem that he “loves Emilia.” Of course, that which really transpired was more fun. -_-

      I also liked your last line about how while Subaru doesn’t deserve Rem, neither does she deserve him, in a sense. We don’t technically owe anything to another person, and so it’s not proper or smart to “chase” after someone by doing things for them in hopes of swaying them toward you, in convincing them that they should be with you as some form of payment. What our meme-crazy culture missed with Rem is that she’s satisfied with Subaru’s response because her outpouring of love was selfless. Her goal wasn’t to get Subaru to say, “I love you, too, Rem,” but to get him to realize his value and continue forward. Subaru did do that, and that brought Rem satisfaction and a smile. So simply down, Rem did what she did 100% for Subaru; we can’t do that ourselves, as imperfect people, but at the very least, we can approach relationships authentically, loving others for who they are and in hopes that they’ll love us back, but without that desire to manipulate love out of people, which helps to remove the whole “deserve” aspect of love in the first place.

  2. I wrote a blog on Subaru’s confession. His willingness in the face of consistent failure to despair in his own strength left him open to receiving grace from Rem in the form of unquestioning assistance to follow his lead. She pulls him up out of the gutter. It’s a powerful moment. It maybe hard to take for some fans but Subaru’s proclamation to love Emilia makes sense even if it hurts.

    1. I think that’s the intention here, the idea that Rem saves Subaru so that he can continue to 1) dig deep and be that loving, sacrificing person that he is and 2) continue to pursue Emilia.

      I would love to read your piece, if you’ll link it!

      1. Well it’s a working progress. I’m not sure I’m finished. It’s still been a bit before I finish it. I think it’s deeper than one man’s pride. I mean he needs to lean on someone else but the whole point of the anime’s use of Return on Death is to burden the main character with little option. He’s the only one aware of impending doom and isn’t allowed to talk about his repeating experiences. So the character is burdened with the knowledge of the future but he didn’t take life by the horns, he settled for a life of lacking in purpose which was naive and indifferent to the hardships of the world. He never had to prepare because he had it easy. The heartache of all his “wasteful habits” …. Anyways… like I said I’m still sorting it out.

  3. Fully in agreement with TWWK here. This post leads me to that kind of introspection. Relationships are complicated, and love more so. Nothing that’s happened to me so far happened because love was orderly and made sense and everybody loved the people it made sense to love. That’s not how it is. And it doesn’t seem to be solely because we’re imperfect, but because we cannot resonate with every person we meet.

    That said, this girl seems warm and fuzzy, and I hope she finds a better man. :]

  4. You never know, maybe in the second season ( if there is one) his devotion to Emilias goals never wavers but discovers Rems constant companionship leads to him recognizes his adoration for Emilia isn’t love. I kinda hope that’s true.

  5. Well, I also didn´t see Subaru being selfish in this particular ocasion.

    In part, because the confession of Rem wasn´t only a love confession, it was also a vote of confidence in him as a man and as a hero, where she had foresaw what he would say. See, her answer to he saying he loves Emilia is “I know”, and he knew she knew, and that her point was to selflessly give him the grace of a new start, to tell him that he was worthy of being loved when he found himself disgusting. It´s wonderful how she fights for him against him, and I hope to marry a woman who thinks something like of this about me.

    And yet, things are so complicated… I have had to said what Subaru said to some close friends myself, very dear to me, who may be as brave as Rem in their own ways, and wish things could be different. The thing is that in this particular story and for now at least, you may call Emilia, the cursed girl who looks like a witch and made a hikikomori him want so save her and get involved with the world, his vocation. He knows that, and Rem knows that. To run away with her at this point would be to betray his mission and himself. He told her to run away with him like a castaway clinging to a lifeline. And she did not take the opportunity, but chose to truly help him instead.

    So I don´t think Rem needs to realize that Subaru doesn´t deserve her and move on: she is aware of his faults, she has seen him at his lowest, when he was running away. She became a sign of hope for him with her Christlike love and helped him live his mission, and there is probably no higher reward someone can hope for on this world.

    1. Hmm…I still stand by my thoughts, but I see where you’re coming from. And certainly, I agree with your ultimate assessment about Rem, and one that’s true for all of us who have embraced grace: love, even without a just or tangible reward, is enough.

  6. In “Honey and Clover” (spoilers ahead), which I´m watching these days and which is more and more amazing every episode, there is a somewhat similar situation, and brilliantly portrayed. I wonder how it will turn up in the end.

  7. This is what you call. The delusion of Rem fans. Holy sh*t did somebody just say that Rem has “Christlike love” HAHAHAAH. Ya I FORGOT that OBSESSION IS CHRISTLIKE LOVE. HERO WORSHIPPING IS AMAZING AND NEED A GIRL WHO WORSHIPS YOUR FEET AS WELL. LOOOOOOL.

    1. I don’t think there’s anything to be that rude about…

      Rem definitely has obsessive tendencies, and by no means is perfect, but to discount her speech in episode 18 as “not love” but obsession is, in my opinion an understatement. If you aren’t a Christian, then you can discount the “Christlike” part of it, but I still think its meant to be a huge positive for her character and not her just being obsessive… I mean, she literally rejected Subaru herself, didn’t she?

      As an Emilia fan myself, I disagree with the part about “deserving,” cause Rem isn’t a perfect angel and still suffers from her own inner sin, but just because Rem is a little overrated as a “perfect waifu” I don’t think you should flip the coin on its head and call her and all her fans terrible.

      As the article says, this isn’t about the shipping or who is best waifu, but is particularly about Episode 18 and taking out the Christian-like aspects of it. As this is a Christian site, its not strange that they do that, and I understand if you disagree with a lot of this article if you aren’t one.

  8. Just a little addition about the “deserving part” I said under in my reply to a comment. When I say this I don’t mean that Subaru does deserve Rem or Rem deserves to be Subaru. I mean that to say that love isn’t something that can really be deserved or used as a reward as there is no baseline for “love exchange” except for being… well… perfect. (and neither Rem nor Subaru nor Emilia is perfect)

    After all, God doesn’t love us because we deserve it, but just simply because He loves us, and I think our actions and love for others. You could say that one could deserve love, but no one is able to reach that benchmark except for

    Except for this main nitpick, I agree with the article (even if the title is about this “deserving” part.)

    (also its unrelated but I’d like to note that Subaru himself, in the novels, notes that it was cruel to reject Rem so bluntly, but says it was his way of saying that he no longer gives up. Call it Classic Stupid Barusu for not being able to put it any better if you must.)

      1. (Sorry again let me just redo that second paragraph because I left out another thing)

        After all, God doesn’t love us because we deserve it, but just simply because He loves us, and I think our actions and love for others should reflect that. You could say that one could deserve love, but no one is able to reach that benchmark except for God.

    1. because of OCD, and because I can’t edit these comments, I’d like to clarify some more.

      This isn’t to say that humans aren’t worth anything. All humans should treat humans with respect, care, and love because they are worth a lot. We are worthy of love, but we don’t/can’t deserve love if that makes any sense.

      I suppose the difference being we intrinsically worthy of love because of our intrinsic value, but we aren’t entitled to any specific person’s love, especially romantic love, because of our actions.

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