Subaru Natsuki was a very divisive character when Re:Zero aired. Some called him a perfect Gary Stu while others criticized him for being such an idiot. When I watched Re: Zero, I came to realize what a fantastic character he truly was. He is an extremely flawed person. This is what allows his character arc to be so amazing. Re:Zero is about a false hero coming to terms with his own powerlessness and aiming to become a better person.
So in this post, I will be going over Subaru’s flaws as a person and showing how he overcomes them over the course of the anime.
WARNING! I will be spoiling all of Re:Zero.
IDOLIZATION OF EMILIA
Subaru as a character is often misunderstood. He isn’t a complete dumbass, but he is a very flawed person. His flaws come from how he views the world. His background as a NEET contributed to his limited worldview that lead to his idolization of Emilia as his trophy, and he instantly falls in love with her.
When he gets sent to the other world, he is nearly killed until he gets saved by the beautiful Emilia. It was love at first sight. Being saved imprinted the image in his mind that Emilia was the perfect woman, and that repaying her could win her over. This idolization of her makes her more like a trophy than an actual person, leading the many issues Subaru faces throughout the anime.
SUBARU’S HARD WORK
Subaru’s initial idea for winning Emilia over is through hard work. He helps Emilia get her insignia back and after doing that, he decides to become a servant in her mansion. The idea is that through working hard and proving himself, hew would be able to win her over. He even asked for a date with Emilia, which kept getting interrupted by his deaths.
After multiple time resets, he begins to become more desperate. Emilia notices his stress and tries to help him relax, which only furthered his idolization of her as a kind, caring, and ideal waifu. He ends up saving Rem and the whole village from the mabeasts. This obviously seems like a good thing, but it ended up fueling his entitlement to Emilia.
His obsession with helping Emilia becomes so bad, he ends up showing up to the royal election meeting and completely making a fool of Emilia and himself. He makes it worse after he fights Julius. Emilia later asks why Subaru works so hard. Subaru says it’s for her. Emilia doesn’t agree with that so Subaru tries to explain, but is physically incapable of explaining return by death.
Emilia has no way of knowing about all the times Subaru died. This is when Subaru snaps. He claims he has done so much for her that she owes him. This is where his entitlement starts to appear. He believes through all of his hard work, he deserves Emilia.
His entitlement can be linked back to his background as a NEET. When you see the world through games and anime, it could warp your sense of reality. To Subaru the world works like this. Do the task, win the girl. He is fueled by the toxicity of waifu culture. Emilia is the ideal waifu. Coming in as the ideal hero of the story and fulfilling certain tasks for her should win him his waifu.
But Emilia is a person, and nobody is entitled to a person. Emilia tells Subaru “The version of me that lives within you must be amazing”. This implies the image of the perfect waifu Subaru sees her as isn’t truly who she is. Subaru doesn’t truly understand her as a person. He just sees her as the image of the ideal waifu in his head.
His entitlement causes him to become more obsessive. Hearing about the witch’s cult, he becomes desperate to save Emilia. After dying multiple times and watching Rem get mutilated, this enrages him further. He becomes even more desperate and asks Crusch for help to eliminate the witch’s cult.
His failed negotiation with Crusch made his issue very apparent. When asked why he is so desperate, he says it’s for Emilia. Then Crusch brings up the fact he hasn’t mentioned saving Emilia at all, just destroying the witch’s cult. This shows Subaru’s desire to destroy the witch’s cult is just another level for the hero to beat to win his trophy waifu. He wants another chance to prove himself by saving Emilia. He isn’t doing it for her sake, he is doing it for himself.
SUBARU ACKNOWLEDGES HIS FLAWS
After failing many times, Subaru just wants to give up. He pours his heart out to Rem. He acknowledges how weak he is. He realizes he isn’t the great hero he pretended to be and acknowledges how petty his heroics truly were. He realizes how selfish and entitled he has been.
From Rem’s perspective, Subaru is actually a pretty great person. Her perception is influenced from her absence in certain scenes, her unawareness of her actions in other time loops, and the fact that Subaru saved her, but she does point out that he has some good qualities.
If he can accept the Subaru that Rem sees, he can work to improve on the Subaru he sees in himself. This fuels his determination to save Emilia for her sake, and to earn her trust and love.
WHY SUBARU CHOSE EMILIA
One of the most infamous scenes in Re:Zero is when Rem confesses to Subaru and he says he loves Emilia. This angered many fans but without a doubt was the right choice. Since the very start, Subaru idolized Emilia. Yes, it was love at first sight and was completely irrational, but that irrational love is a part of who Subaru is. That isn’t something Subaru can just change. What he can change is what he does about it, trying to earn her love as opposed to feeling entitled to it.
FROM IDOL TO PERSON
From here, with the help of Rem, Subaru comes up with a plan to take out the White Whale, and in exchange, receive help to eliminate the withc’s cult. At this point, he is thinking more of Emilia’s safety than his heroism or entitlement to Emilia. When he does save Emilia, he confesses his love. He says she doesn’t have to answer right away and also acknowledges ht doesn’t truly understand Emilia, but vows to change that.
She says she hoped Subaru would be the one person who wouldn’t give her special treatment. Subaru explains that this is impossible as he can’t envision Emilia as someone who isn’t special. But instead of the special treatment being scorn and distrust, it’s adoration and admiration.
Throughout his journey, he largely ignored Emilia as a person. Emilia is burdened by her resemblance to the witch and envy. Despite this, she resolves to create a kingdom of equality, free from discrimination. Emilia is a character we never really got to know in deptht throughout the show, outside of the limited information we could gather. But Subaru’s commitment to Emilia as a person, not a trophy, opens up the floodgates to potentially learning much more about Emilia.
Subaru is such an interesting character because it isn’t often an author decides to make the protagonist so unabashedly flawed. Character development arcs tend to revolve around a character being weak in an area and becoming stronger. But Subaru’s isn’t about that. It’s about realizing one’s own flaws and working to become a better person, not necessarily a stronger one. He starts with a very toxic mindset that treats fictional tropes as reality and lashes out when he sees reality doesn’t work that way, and reality certainly doesn’t cater to him, no matter how much of a hero he tries to make himself out to be.
The self-awareness of genre tropes allows the writer to completely take advantage to tell a story about personal growth, which truly makes Re:Zero feel like such a unique anime. It’s Subaru’s fantastic character development which made Re:Zero one of my favorite anime. And because of that, I can’t wait for the second season to see how these characters grow and interact in the future.