Post-mortem for the first season of my “Re:Zero” retelling

All first thirty parts of this strange AI-fueled retelling cover the three first arcs of the original novels, which amount to the entire first season of the anime adaptation. Roll credits while “It’s All Been Done” by Barenaked Ladies plays in the background.


From now on I’ll go over each arc covered, highlighting the differences between the retelling and the original, and possibly the anime adaptation. Do not keep reading if you haven’t read the retelling or if you intend to read it in the future.

Arc 1: this first arc encompasses from the moment that Subaru gets transported to a fantasy world until he gets accepted into Roswaal’s camp. In the original novels, this arc establishes a few vital setups for the rest of the novel, but very few in comparison with the length of the arc. First, the protagonist is from Earth and knows nothing about the fantasy world he has been transported to, except that for some reason he can understand the spoken language. He meets Emilia, whose magical trinket has been stolen. In the original and the adaptation, the trinket is an insignia, but in the retelling I called it medallion. No reason beyond that I prefer the word medallion, and so does the AI, because when I was prompting it for suggestions during the rest of the retelling, GPT-3 keep trying to make the medallion a vital part of the narrative. It really doesn’t matter beyond the first arc. The arc goes further by establishing that Emilia and the protagonist can work together, and that she can trust him; very important for the half-elf given that most other people want to despise her because of her heritage. The most important setup is that Emilia, grateful because the protagonist helped her, accepts him as part of her camp. He either remains in or tries to come back to Roswaal’s camp for the rest of the story so far.

In my retelling, the very first entry (so part 1) develops this entire arc from start to finish. When I started writing this thing, I hadn’t expected to go as far as covering the entire first season, so my philosophy regarding how to use the AI’s input was different. I intended to prompt the AI continuously not for suggestions, but for it to guide the narrative. In the very first sentence that the AI produced for this retelling, the thugs beat the protagonist up and steal his cellphone. The cellphone is a huge deal in the original novels: he first attempts to use it as payment for Emilia’s insignia/medallion, although it ends up failing, and in the third arc the cellphone is the only vital thing that allows them to pinpoint the exact time and location of where the White Whale is going to appear, which allows them to hunt it down. That loss alone changes the narrative significantly.

In the retelling, the protagonist got beaten up so bad that the people taking care of him get him out of the capital. In the originals nothing like that happens: Emilia saves him from the thugs and they start looking for the medallion. Going further, they find the loot house belonging to Old Man Rom, only to realize he has been killed. The killer murders the protagonist as well as Emilia, and the protagonist learns that he can travel back in time whenever he dies. In my retelling he doesn’t die until the beginning of the third arc; by then in the original novels he had died like seven or eight times.

In my retelling, the protagonist ventures into an inn only to get tricked by Puck, and he wakes up to get interrogated by a very guarded, suspicious Emilia, although in the original she’s more easygoing. I kind of prefer my version although she wasn’t very developed at that point. It fits better with her lifelong issue of people hating her and taking advantage of her because of her heritage.

In the retelling for the most part I completely ignored the steps that the protagonists take to handle the theft in the original. The AI suggested asking around in the inn, because the thief was supposed to have visited it or something. I went along with it until the AI gave some answers, and then Emilia and the protagonist got moving. In the retelling I don’t explain how they find this loot house; one supposes they asked around. In the original the best moments of this arc happen after they locate the loot house and a few fights ensue. The protagonist dies a few times and we get introduced to a contract killer called Elsa Granhiert, who is completely absent from the retelling, although she’s prominent in the fourth arc. This video is part of a scene where the negotiations for the insignia/medallion fail in the anime adaptation because of this contract killer.

My retelling doesn’t do any justice to this arc. As I mentioned, instead of using the most prominent plot points of the arc and filling the stuff in between with AI suggestions, I let the AI handle most things. The AI had Felt, the thief, just giving up the medallion because she was annoyed, which made this resolution exceedingly easy. Having helped Emilia (who is very assertive and generally hostile in this part, in contrast with the original), she accepts to bring the protagonist home to Roswaal’s mansion. In the original the protagonist saves Emilia from getting murdered, which gives her a way bigger reason to bring the guy home. Although so much has changed regarding the original, as I mentioned this arc basically just provides three big setups: the protagonist is from another world, the protagonist helps Emilia, Emilia accepts him into her camp. Other setups might be important in later arcs (still not translated), but not currently.

Arc 2: this arc encompasses the early life at Roswaal’s mansion up until the point that the protagonist breaks his promise to stay “home” instead of fuck up the royal summons for Emilia, and the half-elf exiles him from her camp. In the retelling that happens in parts two to four in their entirety.

The most significant thing that happened for me in this part of the retelling is that I found the humorous tone that I wanted for the remainder. However, at this point I hadn’t quite settled on how to play certain characters, Emilia in particular. Her behavior at the final confrontation in part four isn’t consistent with her later anxious, shy persona (which is necessary for the events of the yet unwritten fourth arc). In the original there’s some of that going on; as soon as they are introduced, neither Ram nor Rem behave like they will for the rest of the story a few plot points later.

This arc has two halves, both in the original and the retelling. First they find out there’s a curse going around. After they solve that, the whole stuff with the royal summons happens. Very distinct halves. Regarding the curse, the original novels also introduce the element of Rem wanting (and succeeding) to murder the protagonist because she believes he’s a cultist. Through that subplot the narrative ends up planting a friendly, trust-based dynamic between the Oni servant and the protagonist, and we also discover that she can go berserk. Rem never goes berserk in the retelling, although I had tried to introduce it at a couple of points. Further setups are planted in the original regarding the relationship of the protagonist with the people of the village, and Petra in particular (Petra appears briefly in the last few entries of this retelling). The original novels use that trust for them to bolster Emilia’s confidence when the time to evacuate the village comes. I did nothing of the sort in the retelling; in fact, the protagonist is kind of a dick to the villagers. It doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.

At this point of the retelling I was also going along with the AI’s suggestions more than I would later on. As the protagonist, I was attempting to provoke the AI a bit so it would come up with interesting angles. Puck’s weird behavior in this arc is mainly the AI’s thing, which prompted the protagonist to be annoyed with him for the rest of the retelling (and that dynamic is one I have loved to write). I also was letting the AI come up with the backstory for plenty of stuff. Asking the AI to act as other characters and see what it comes up with is fascinating, and that whole part of Rem explaining her Oni nature is virtually all produced by the AI. In the original, Rem doesn’t have fangs nor needs to consume blood. That ended up setting up one of my favorite moments in this retelling, when Rem murders the protagonist through sucking him dry and crushing his throat during sex.

In this part of the retelling I let the AI produce some rather unexplained stuff, like that whole thing about tsunderes and tsundere-slaps. Tsundere is a term that mainly only those that read manga and/or watch anime know, and the AI used it unprompted. I have no idea how it recognized that this retelling had anything to do with an anime. It also produced, unprompted, that annoying village chief who believes himself to be a wizard. Myself playing as the protagonist, I was mostly focused on annoying people around so the AI would come up with interesting situations.

Beatrice is one of my favorite characters in the original novels and the anime adaptation, but I couldn’t use her that much in this retelling. However, she has a significant role in this part. The AI set a strange tone by having the hundreds of years old girl sucking the protagonist’s hand to cure it; I was so bewildered that I made it canon. The AI also came up with the stuff about her storing and taking care of corpses. No such thing happens in the original. I wove it with Beatrice’s adoration of her as of yet not introduced Mother. Beatrice is far more cooky on the retelling than in the original, although she’s very weird and sheltered to begin with.

Beyond the absence of anything involving Rem attacking the protagonist (which kind of fucks up the setups regarding how their relationship blossoms, to be honest), the biggest changes regarding the original and the adaptation is that dealing with the demonic infestation is much easier in the retelling. In the original there’s not only that demonic puppy, but a whole bunch of demonic dogs in the forests that the protagonist and both servants attempt to hunt down. In terms of setups for incoming arcs, the two necessary points are that there was a demonic infestation present (that plays out in the fourth arc), and that the protagonist and the servants sort of bonded. Ram grows dismissive of the protagonist for being useless, while Rem becomes protective and fond of him.

Regarding the second half of this arc, a prominent setup is how much the world hates Emilia, and the AI presented it almost immediately by having random people berating her as her and the protagonist go for ice cream (sort of a running joke that the AI started). That whole thing about having balls (which prompted nastier testicle-related stuff later on in their relationship dynamic) was something that the AI came up with. It doesn’t fit Emilia at all, I don’t think, but it was surprising and memorable enough, so I made it canon for the narrative.

I needed to present Priscilla Barielle, a very underused character in the original but that I thought had a lot of meat going for her. In the retelling she managed to beat up the thugs without issues almost immediately (the AI’s doing). In the original and the anime adaptation there is further back and forth not only between the protagonist and Priscilla, but also with Old Man Rom, the loot house owner from the first arc, who is looking for the thief. That whole subplot with the thief isn’t present in this retelling; in reality, Felt, the thief, is another royal candidate, and it’s found out in the first arc when the current Sword Saint (not introduced in the retelling) sees the thief holding the medallion. Felt is present during the royal summons, but completely absent from that sequence in the retelling. It hasn’t paid off as far as the first fourteen volumes go, so I don’t worry about it.

In this part of the retelling, the protagonist bonds a bit more with Rem, which I suppose is part of why they become romantically involved later on. Her sister, the pink-haired demon servant Ram, is mostly just guarded and introverted here, but not as dismissive as I played her in the third arc of this retelling. I prefer her having that sharp distinction, because there’s nobody else behaving in such a way in this story. The closest character is maybe Priscilla, but everything else about that noble is different, so they don’t intersect.

Regarding the royal summons, the original novels play Roswaal to be a very hostile lord, even though it’s part of his plan: he had assumed that the protagonist would sneak into the royal summons and then interrupt it, and Roswaal went as far as flinging a fireball at him, knowing that Emilia would stop it with her ice-based spells, which would show the people gathered there how much she cares or something (if she was that close to Satella as they believe her to be, she wouldn’t have cared). For most of the sort of philosophical conversations going on with Emilia and the council leader, as well as some of the other royal candidates’ introductions, I relied on the AI’s suggestions, and it had interesting things to say particularly regarding Emilia’s motives. In the original, Emilia’s motives are as simple and lame as something vague about wanting everybody in the kingdom to be treated equally.

I knew from the beginning that I wanted the protagonist to go nuts after interrupting the royal summons. In the original him embarrassing Emilia and losing her trust is one of the biggest setups of this arc, so I might as well push it as far as possible without breaking the AI or the narrative in general. The AI came up with interesting stuff for the leading council member to say, and also a bit for Julius, who ended up becoming good pals with the protagonist. The AI also decided to cut short the beating that the knight gave to the protagonist. There’s no setup needed there beyond that the protagonist is powerless and that he can’t support with actions his intentions to save or protect people.

I love the verbal fight between Emilia and the protagonist at the end of this arc in the retelling, although Emilia speaks out of character quite a lot. I was going more for a parody than a completely consistent narrative, which changed as I kept writing more and more entries. In reality Emilia would have never insulted the protagonist like she does here, and due to her past she’s so sheltered and anxiety-based that she would have imploded instead of lashing out; in fact, her gaining the ability to lash out instead of implode is a significant part of the fourth arc of this story for her character development. Whatever. I like rereading that conversation from time to time, because I find it quite funny. Funny trumps internally consistent in my book (at least in a ‘book’ I’m not going to publish).

Arc 3: this arc encompasses the moment that the protagonist finds himself exiled from Roswaal camp, up to when they defeat the Sloth branch of the Witch’s cult and Emilia accepts him back. In the retelling that’s from the fifth entry to the thirtieth in their entirety. In the original novels as well as the anime adaptation, this arc is the longest, but it’s far out of proportion in the retelling. By this point I was serious about making something coherent, a proper retelling, instead of just playing around.

I wanted to explore the dynamic of the protagonist finding himself as a guest in another camp, an opponent of Emilia no less. I found Crusch Karsten underused in the original, and I ended up loving her weird dynamic with the protagonist, how the guy’s focus on strange, uncomfortable fetishes molded his characterization. Some of the most serious parts of this retelling involved him dealing with this camp’s characters (I’m thinking for example of his suicide attempt through stabbing himself in the throat, and Crusch trying to stop him). Crusch also gives him the arc goal: to become a man that deserves respect. And it’s through gaining the respect of these strangers from a fantasy world that he gains the power to defeat the previously unbeatable Petelgeuse.

There were major changes in the characters regarding both the original and the adaptation. I wasn’t sure how to play Wilhelm until the AI decided it for me by beating the protagonist savagely during their first “training session”. It fits Wilhelm, who had earned the nickname of Sword Devil, and who is almost single-mindedly focused on killing the beast that slew his wife. He has a black and white mentality regarding success, which is a perfect counter to the protagonist’s at that point uncommitted attitude.

I chose to go as far as changing Ferris’ gender. In the original he’s an almost archetypal “trap boi”. He got introduced in the anime before the royal summons, and he felt so out of place in a camp that includes Wilhelm and Crusch (despite Crusch’s fondness for Ferris), that it took me out of the story. That added to the fact that the beginning of the whole royal summons thing in the anime adaptation (and the original novels) is one of the most boring moments of the story, made me think that “Re:Zero” had already produced as much brilliance as it ever would, and back in 2016-2017, when that aired, I stopped watching it, which was a mistake as it ended up becoming one of my favorite fictional stories. So yeah, in this retelling Ferris is a tough but caring stylish female who is mostly focused on protecting her camp from possible outside threats, and that despite her initial intentions ends up caring for the protagonist. Sometimes her name is translated as Felix for obvious reasons, but I prefer the aforementioned name. I ended up loving her character and that weird sibling dynamic between her and the protagonist, even though in the protagonist’s fucked up mind that familiar relationship also has sexual undertones. She’s, however, much more playful when she’s introduced in this retelling than later on, but I see it as her playing the role of an inoffensive, dumb girl for strategic reasons.

In this arc, the protagonist travels to the mansion and discovers that most everyone has been slaughtered. He experiences his first death (by this point in the original he had died many times) and finds out that he has the superpower to return to the past whenever he dies. He also grows an aversion to the clownish lord Roswaal, who remains absent for the rest of this arc, due to his inability to protect his subjects.

In general there’s much more stuff back at Crusch’s mansion than in the originals or the adaptations. I just liked that dynamic and wanted to explore more of it. The most prominent feelings of this part of the arc in both the original and the adaptation are the frustration and despair because the protagonist, due to his nature, seems completely incapable of convincing people to help him, and the terrible events are destroying his mind. I wanted to push for that as much as possible. We have plenty of instances of him trying to either convince the powerful people he knows, or venturing towards the mansion only to fail to save people with progressively worse damage to his own psyche, to the extent that those two entries of him getting voluntarily stuck in a long, long loop of two days happen. I loved writing that part.

I think the first true point of this retelling when I felt, ‘shit, I owe this thing I’m doing to give it as much weight as I can’ happened at the ninth entry, when the protagonist faces baroness Priscilla Barielle. Writing that negotiation ended up being so surprising and memorable for me (I reread it often), that even if this strange retelling wouldn’t find any audience, I wanted to do a proper job regardless. I ended up liking the dynamic with Priscilla to the extent that if the AI had suggested that she would agree to help the protagonist, I would have had her tagging along for the rest of this arc. The AI never agreed, though, which the original Priscilla also wouldn’t have done.

In general, one of the biggest conceptual changes is that while in the original Satella forbids the protagonist from revealing any detail about his power (she stops time and squeezes his heart if he does so, at one point she even kills someone else to punish the protagonist), and it causes tremendous problems for him, because it leads to misunderstandings of every kind, I consider that it falls into the bad category of conflict: the conflict that would get resolved if people could speak about it. Also, it doesn’t make sense that Satella would prevent the protagonist from revealing it. Why would she care? Although we still don’t fully know why Satella chose the protagonist, she clearly wants him to remain alive, but she doesn’t give a shit about the people in his life. So why prevent him from speaking about it? No clue. For the retelling the protagonist is fully able to explain it, but the extent of how much others will believe him will be a matter of characterization. Thus the protagonist has to learn how much to reveal or conceal. It’s more interesting that way as far as I’m concerned.

Once the White Whale kills Rem and the protagonist fails to save Emilia, to the extent that the half-elf believes that he belongs to the Witch’s Cult and had deceived her all along, the retelling goes through a sort of inflection point in which chaos theory has already affected so much stuff that many brutal changes are necessary. In the original around this time, the protagonist went catatonic as a way to protect his mind from the horrors he was experiencing. Then he gets captured by Petelgeuse and has to witness Rem being tortured to death in front of him. That makes him keep living only fueled by his wrath. Even though none of that was any longer possible for the protagonist in my retelling, he clearly needed to break psychologically in order to find his own way out of his hole, and therefore that self-imposed loop came to be. I love that insane sequence and I reread it fairly often. It allowed me to venture into the psychological depths of self-hate, self-destruction, masochism, etc., that the original narrative allowed, and that are subjects I’ve always been naturally inclined towards.

Thing is, from then on, when the protagonist finds the strength to get out of his hole, I relied on the original narrative as little as possible beyond the points I knew I had to hit: they come across the White Whale (but they can’t kill it here), they kill Petelgeuse first, but they hadn’t learned his ability to jump from body to body first, Ferris discovers a spy that triggers an explosion that signals the final assault of the Sloth branch of the cult on the village, and Petelgeuse ends up attempting to possess the protagonist. Everything else I played according to the setups that the retelling had ended up producing. I preferred Petelgeuse’s end in this retelling to the original version, the details of which I won’t get into. As terrible as that ancient ghost was, he was fueled by a one-sided obsession/love for the only person in this world he believed would want to love him back. In that sense I see him as a sort of tragic character. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve known a bit about obsessive love myself.

I’m not sure how I’m going to play from now on the relationship between the protagonist and Emilia. In the original, the half-elf is the protagonist’s romantic interest from the moment they meet each other, although Emilia doesn’t seem to be into him. The fourth arc deals with Emilia’s character development, because she needs to face head-on a huge problem that she isn’t built to handle. We’ll see how that goes in the retelling, as I’ll hopefully cover it as well.

Anyway, that’s as much as I can come up with to mention in this post-mortem of sorts. I might add some new stuff in the future.

Cast

Natsuki Subaru
Natsuki Subaru

Emilia
Emilia
Emilia

Rem
Rem

Ram
Ram

Puck
Puck

Beatrice
Beatrice
Beatrice

Roswaal
Lord Roswaal

Crusch
Crusch Karsten
Duchess Crusch Karsten

Ferris
Ferris

Wilhelm
Wilhelm

Julius
Julius

Priscilla Barielle
Priscilla Barielle
Priscilla Barielle

Aldebaran
Aldebaran

Anastasia Hoshin
Anastasia Hoshin

Mimi and Tivey Pearlbaton
Mimi and Tivey Pearlbaton

Ricardo Welkin
Ricardo Welkin

Petelgeuse Romanee-Conti
Petelgeuse Romanee-Conti

Satella
Satella (Witch of Envy)

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