Re:Zero -The Aesthetic Appeal-
2016 has seen a good number of entertaining anime. Shows like ReLIFE, Food Wars The Second Plate, Kiznaiver, Planetarian, Erased, My Hero Academia, Hey! My Name is Sakumoto, And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online, Flying Witch, High School Fleet, Heavy Object, and a number of other anime that I'm not going to name right now. The point is, a lot of really entertaining anime have come out this year. Among those anime is Re:Zero Starting Life in Another World.
Re:Zero is an anime that exploded in popularity almost overnight, and I'm not saying this just because it's my favorite anime of 2016. I remember when I finished watching the first episode, which had been split into two parts, and then going onto facebook the next day and finding a facebook page already created. That in itself wouldn't have been shocking. However, this page already had over 30,000 likes. Since then, that page has expanded and now has around 160,000 likes. There are also two more pages that I follow, one of which has 155,000 likes and the other with around 60,000.
If that wasn't enough, then there's also the fact that this anime has received more votes on Crunchyroll per episode within the first few days than any other series. This anime has been so hyped that I'm pretty sure it's already beaten numerous other popular series in terms of how many fans it's gained within a short time frame.
That's why I'm going to be doing a multi-video series explaining what I believe makes Re:Zero so popular, as well as what I feel makes it such a great anime. Due to my computers inability to produce videos longer than 15 minutes, I plan to focus each video on a specific aspect of the series. There will probably be 4, 5, maybe even as many as 6 videos depending on how many aspects of this anime I decide to talk about.
The first aspect of the series that I want to talk about is the aesthetic appeal. Re:Zero is an anime that boasts some beautiful artwork and what I like to call animated cinematography. Throughout the series we're given numerous large, sweeping shots of cityscapes, landscapes, and various gorgeous locations all rendered in breathtaking detail. I was particularly impressed with the sunset shots, which seemed to be a favorite of this anime. There are many of them.
What I enjoyed about these shots wasn't just how pretty they were, but how they showed us the size of this world. The world of Re:Zero is massive. I remember watching the first episode when Subaru is first sent to this Lugnica. We're given a kind of close up of Natsuki Subaru, and then it pulls back before shifting into a wide view of the capital city of Lugnica. Just looking at how wide and sprawling that cityscape is as it mixes with the viridian of the forest, and then you have that interesting view of the castle in the far distance was incredible. It was scenes like this that made me really think about how utterly massive this world must be.
Another visual appeal of the series was how diverse Lugnica's people are. Throughout the series we're given more than just humans. There's lizardmen, dog people, cat people, and they're not just humans with cat ears. A fare few of them look legitimately like anthropomorphic animals. I even remember seeing one person who looked like an otter in priest robes and an alligator. Even the characters that you only see passing Subaru throughout various scenes gives the series a sense of their being a lot more to this world than the small story about Subaru and his misadventures.
And speaking of Subaru, can I just say that I really like his character design. First, he's got these sort of narrowed eyes and slicked back hair, which are generally associated with thugs in Japan. It actually doesn't necessarily fit the “otaku stereotype” and has often made me wonder if his looks might be part of the reason he became a NEET. I feel like there's a backstory behind his appearance and how people back in his world associated with them.
And, of course, we can't forget the tracksuit. The tracksuit is actually an Otaku stereotype in Japan. I don't know how true it is since I've never been to Japan, but I've read on several blogs that a lot people who fall under the Otaku/NEET/Hikkikomori stereotype wear tracksuits because it's easy to change into and out of, and these types of people generally never leave their house except to buy food. This is actually the reason I like seeing Subaru in the tracksuit. Thanks to how unique this anime is among other isekai anime, seeing this stereotype taken and used in a way that disregards most of what we expect from this genre makes his outfit stand out.
That being said, if we're talking about main characters, then there's no way I can forget the heroine. From the moment Emilia was introduced, I was in love with her character design. Her unique appearance practically screams main heroine in all caps. First, she's the only character with silver hair. Her eyes are purple, but the pupils are green, which is an interesting artistic touch and makes me wonder if this has something to do with her status as a half elf.
Speaking of half elf, Emilia really falls into that archetype with her short, pointed ears. They immediately stood out when I first noticed them, and there's a nice bit of asymmetry going with the added white rose that's asfixed to the right side of her hair, and the butterfly hair clip that's attached to her bangs on the other side. The flower is a lot more prominent, especially because the purple ribbon offsets the white rose, which is compliments her hair.
Following her face, Emilia's introduction has her wearing a white dress with purple accents and some gold thrown in for color. I don't think I need to mention this, but the outfit really flatters her. From the very first glance, the outfit is designed to make her stand out. Furthermore, this isn't the only outfit that we see her in. Because this anime is about Subaru. Emilia isn't always seen since she's usually busy learning how to become a ruler. To make up for her lack of screen time, the director has her change clothes numerous times as a way to make her stand out more. I know some people who will debate this point, but I think it does a good job of that. I can always notice Emilia the moment she's entered a scene, and my eyes tend to track her even when she's not necessarily the subject of the scene.
To top it off, Emilia is almost always seen with Puck, the cute mascot character who is actually likable. Puck is one of those characters who's cuteness as been maximized. He's like that adorable kitty you want to take home with you. In some ways, I might even call him a show stealer. What makes his aesthetic even more appealing is how he can transform into a huge ass monster that's anything but cute.
There are numerous other characters who've been given a design that enhances the visual appeal and makes the anime shine. Rem and Ram are two such characters. They're maids and twin sisters. Now, maids are sort of a staple in Japanese culture. Maids often appear in anime and manga because they symbolize what many Japanese consider to be appealing in women: attractive, subservient, and cute.
Rem and Ram are the characters who I feel were designed to encapsulate the “moe” character archetype.
Unlike most anime, which have threadbare maid designs that are meant to be more sexually appealing, and are often worn on the character with the largest amount of cleavage, the designs on Rem and Ram are a bit more modest. They strike a decent balance between being sexy and being functional. I also like how they're contrasting Red and Blue hair and eyes make them stand out from each other.
I feel like there was no expense spared when producing this anime. I don't even want to think about what kind of budget this series had. Not only was the diverse world and myriad of characters gorgeous to look at from every angle, but the animation feels incredibly fluid from the first frame to the last. While I did notice a few fudge ups with some visual effects, overall, I feel like this anime had some of the best animation I've ever seen.
I think this sort of fluid animation can be seen best in the fight with Elsa. The magical effects actually looked real. When Emilia and Puck were shooting ice spikes at Elsa like fireworks at a festival, they looked like actual spears of ice being hurtled towards a target, and when they struck something, they actually created a freezing effect along the ground. Incidentally, this freezing effect was used to trap Elsa's foot.
My favorite part of this battle was actually when Rienhard appeared. I really loved how they made Elsa jump around and run along the walls. The way the animators blurred and stretched her body to make it look like she was moving at super human speeds was an interesting visual choice, and when we were given a first-person perspective of her crawling along the walls like a spider monkey, it was creepy as fuck.
Outside of the visuals, another key factor that I feel increased the aesthetic appeal of this anime was the music and how the directors used it. I'm not going to talk about the opening and ending themes yet, since I'll probably do those in a separate video. Instead, I'm going to talk about how this anime used music during its scenes to enhance the emotions that the director wanted you to feel.
This anime is filled to the brim with a number of interesting instrumental songs. Going back to the episode where Subaru fights Elsa, the episode starts off with an almost off-time tune that enhances the increases the tension between Emilia, Subaru, Rom, and Felt when they're having a stand off. As the stand off continues, more instruments join the music to thicken that feeling of the scene reaching a potentially fatal conclusion. However, the tension soon fades when Subaru spots the flower on Emilia's clothing, which was given to her by the girl they had rescued together in a previous timeline. The music fades at just the right time. A mere instant after the music dies, Subaru spots Elsa getting ready to attack Emilia.
The best example of how this anime used music was during the more psychologically damaging moments. I feel like the greatest example is in episode 18. Subaru wakes up after barely surviving against the White Wale. The music that's playing is an electric piano, and the tune has a melancholy feel, which contrasts with Ram's casual demeanor. However, this only serves to enhance Subaru's emotional distress, which you can see in his face. At one point, the instruments shift to what I believe is a violin orchestra, though don't quote me on that. At this point, Subaru tells Ram that Rem is dead and wallows in his own helplessness. At that moment, Ram asks Subaru, “Who is Rem.” The abrupt ceasing of music that happens here is almost jarring, and it really gives you this feeling where you can't help but wonder what's going on. This is especially true because the music starts a few seconds after this question, but the tone is different, darker, and it accompanies Subaru's increasingly desperate voice.
Natsuki Subaru -The Hero You Never Asked For-
Natsuki Subaru is the titular character of RE:Zero Starting Life in Another World, and he's one of those character who's very existence has sparked much debate within the anime community. Some people love him, claiming that he's realistic, while others hate him, perhaps for that very same reason.
I don't think there's any denying that Natsuki Subaru is a great character. The fact that he sparks so much debate among fans proves that. But what makes him work as a character that gets so much attention? Why does he, out of all the tracksuit wearing Otaku who've been sent to another world, receive such high praise and loathing in equal amounts?
Taking a look at the very start of the series, we immediately get a feel for what kind of person Subaru is. We watch him as he lazily, slothfully, reads a manga at a convenience store. We watch as his empty eyes flicker across the page and he mumbles to himself. Taking a look at him here, in his natural element, I feel like we have a clear view of Natsuki Subaru and what kind of person he is. What stood out the most to me during this sequence was how empty he seems. It's not the same emptiness as most light novel protagonists, who are no more than blank slates that are used as self-insert characters. He feels more like a soul who simply has nothing going for him, which is the general outlook that most Japanese people have of Otakus.
When Subaru is suddenly transported to another world, he instantly recognizes what happened. Rather than panic, as would be the natural response of most people, Subaru seems excited. This is shown in his cringe worthy dialogue and over the top actions. He's not freaked out in the least. In fact, he seems to think of this as his chance to shine as “the main protagonist.”
I've heard a lot of debate on the subject of Subaru's reaction, or lack there of, as some people have described it. Some people feel like Subaru's reaction was unrealistic because he didn't panic enough. However, I actually think Subaru's reaction is exactly what we should expect from someone like him. While it's not shown, from his general appearance, demeanor, and attitude, it's easy to see that Subaru is the kind of person who stayed at home watching anime and playing video games all day, only going out when he needed to buy something.
In many ways, Subaru is the by-product of the media that he's consumed. What's more, there are numerous isekai anime out there, which I feel lends credence to Subaru's reaction to his new predicament. He's consumed so much of this media where regular Otaku's are sent to another world that not only does he realize what's happened, but he's become disillusioned enough to believe that being sent to another world somehow makes him special, that he's become one of the chosen few, and that he was sent here for a reason, and that this reason is because he's going to be the hero of this world. What makes his actions more believable is how Otaku view themselves.
Everyone wants to be special. However, I feel like Otakus take this to another level. This is why so many anime that pander to Otakus feature tropes like overpowered main characters and harems. They're designed to empower and glorify Otaku culture.
What makes Subaru different is that his existence doesn't glorify Otaku culture. Everything this guy does throughout the series is cringe worthy. Near the beginning, he spouts atrocious and arrogant lines that made me want to slam my face into a wall, because a facepalm wouldn't be enough to deal with the cringiness. In some ways, in many ways, Natsuki Subaru is the exact opposite of a traditional light novel protagonist. Instead of glorifying Otaku culture, he does the opposite by showing all of the worst traits that are often associated with Otaku. It's sort of like staring into a mirror and only seeing the things about yourself that you hate the most.
Despite how cringe-inducing Subaru is, he does have some outstanding qualities, such as his desire and determination to help Emilia during the first arc. Even though his lines still made me facepalm, I really admired his determination and willingness to help, even though it was obvious that he was still afraid of Elsa. The fact that, in the end, he not only succeeded but also saved Emilia's life when Elsa tried to kill her with a surprise attack, has a much greater impact because it's something that I honestly didn't think he could do, unlike most light novel protagonists who only struggle when the plot demands it.
During the next arc, we see more of Subaru and his ridiculously meta dialogue and poorly veiled anime references. By this point, I actually felt like his dialogue was kind of charming. I thought his attempts at wooing Emilia, who doesn't even seem to realize that Subaru is completely crushing on her, were cute. It helps that he and Puck got along great. Puck's added cuteness does an amazing job of softening Subaru's thuggish appearance and terrible lines.
I almost feel like this arc served as a method of buffing Subaru's character up while also slowly breaking him down. In the beginning, Subaru works really hard to be useful and spends a lot of time with Emilia, even convincing her to go on a date with him. Then he dies. He goes to sleep and wakes up the next morning in the bed that he first woke up in, a bed that he hadn't slept in since the beginning of the arc, and the scars on his hands, which he gained from cutting himself while learning to cook, are all gone.
Subaru's emotional paradigm slowly shifts from light hearted to darker. At first he tries to do everything over again, going under the assumption that he can figure out what killed him if he retraces his steps. This doesn't actually help, though. On the fifth day, the day where he was killed last time, Subaru decides to stay up all night and ends up suffering instead of just dying in his sleep. First, he's hit by some kind of strange nausea, which we later learn was caused by a curse. Then, when he leaves his room to seek help, he is brutally attacked and murdered by someone, though he never saw who.
After this, Subaru decides to confront his attacker. This is the point where Subaru breaks. When he's killed and his life resets from his previous “save point”, Subaru decides that he doesn't want to be near anyone. He withdraws into himself and doesn't bother with all of the actions he took previously. He shuts himself away, convincing Beatrice to protect him. As a result of his actions, Rem is killed in his place, which makes Subaru realize that the person who cursed him wasn't Rem or Ram. Of course, at this stage, none of that matters because Subaru already irreversibly screwed up this time line.
Subaru undergoes another shift during this episode. At the end, he kills himself to reset time by willingly leaping off a cliff. I'm not sure if this is stupidity or what, but since he has his Return by Death ability, I can't argue with the results. Subaru returns back to his previous save point and decides that the first thing he needs to do is win the trust of his new companions. We then watch a desperate Subaru as he struggles to earn Rem and Ram's trust. I can practically feel his desperation during this time. The way he ramped up his cringe-y Otakuness in a vain effort to endear himself to them was so well-done. It contrasted with the “thought speaking” that we hear the longer this went on. It wasn't until Emilia, who was already pretty worried when she sees how he's acting, allows him to release all of his pent up frustration and sorrow.
This is the turning point in the arc, because the next few episodes are basically Subaru overcoming all of the obstacles that were presented to him. Thanks to Emilia, he earned Rem's trust, which enables him to find out what had cursed him. Then he earns Rem's affection by saving her in the last arc of this season.
All's well that ends well, right?
In most anime, this would be the point where Subaru becomes the hero that everyone wishes they could be. Instead, Subaru takes a different turn, a more realistic turn. He becomes arrogant. It's no surprise. After facing off against such hardships, overcoming such hurdles, any normal person would become drunk off their own sense of self-importance. In some ways, this arrogance is deserved. However, Subaru shows us the worst and ugliest side of humanity's arrogance during the next arc, and it's here where I feel Re:Zero differentiates itself from other anime of the isekai genre.
This arc introduces a new problem to the anime. We've already learned from Roswaal that Emilia is one of several candidates who are next in line for the throne. Subaru travels with Emilia under the pretense of thanking the people who helped him when he first arrived in Lugnica and having his magic gate, which he damaged during his fight with the Mabeast, healed.
We can see at the beginning how Subaru's arrogance has gotten the better of him when Julius kisses Emilia on the hand and he responds with jealousy. However, it's not until Subaru muscles his way into the meeting where all of the king candidates are that we can see how low he's fallen. This fact is further emphasized when he accepts Julius challenge and gets his ass handed to him, and now comes the clincher. After being beaten by Julius, he is confronted by Emilia. Before this, he had actually made several promises to Emilia: He would not do anything reckless and he would wait at the inn with Rem. When Emilia asks Subaru why he decided to fight Julius, his answer is that he did it all for her, because she saved him and he's repaying her.
The problem here is that Emilia doesn't remember saving him. The timeline in which Emilia rescued Subaru is already gone. The only one who remembers what happened is Subaru. Frustrated, drowning in self-importance and arrogance, Subaru goes off on Emilia, claiming that he's done so much for her, that she should be more grateful, that she should be indebted to him. Emilia agrees that she owes him a lot and decides to end things here.
What we see after this is Subaru going through a downward spiral of denial and despair. Each episode becomes more and more hopeless as the tragedies that he faces escalates. Halfway through this arc, Subaru's mind even breaks and he becomes a vegetable. And just when you thought Subaru could not get any lower, he surprises you by showing us just how scumy he can be. I feel like this arc is showing us how low humans can become when they're back is against the wall. All of Subaru's faults are thrown into his face by the king candidates who he tries to make help him. It isn't until episode 17, when Subaru confronts Emilia after miraculously making it to the Roswaal estate, that he realizes just how little he can do, and it's not until episode 18, when he is killed by Pack after killing Emilia, that he realizes how little everyone else expects out of him.
After being killed by Pack, Subaru is forced to confront all of the things that he ignored: his weakness, his inability to do anything, the fact that no one expected anything from him, and his own self-loating. I feel like this episode represents both the lowest and highest points of Subaru's evolution here. After having failed numerous times to become the main hero that he feels his owed to him in this world, he tries to convince Rem to run away with him. What makes this point so low is because Subaru doesn't love Rem. He loves Emilia. However, he's trying to convince Rem, a girl he doesn't love, to runaway with him as a consolation prize. Rem realizes this, of course, which is why she convinces him not to run away, but I'll get to that when I talk about Rem in another video.
I've mentioned this before, but in a lot of ways, Subaru is the kind of otaku/nerd that many of us don't want to be. Having watched many light novel anime in my time, I wasn't used to seeing a character like Subaru, who isn't the glorified otaku protagonist that's special from episode 1. And as much as I loved seeing Subaru when he actually succeeds when everyone expected him to fail, I loved seeing him when he realized that he was nothing even more. In some ways, I feel like Subaru is less of a protagonist and more like an non playable character from a video game who suddenly became the main protagonist. He oftentimes finds himself in over his head, but he pushes through and succeeds even while he's annoying the crap out of everyone around him with his genre-savvy awareness and self-importance. It's these massive flaws mixed in with the few good traits that shine through that make Subaru one of the best and worst characters that I've ever seen. He is, in many ways, the hero that you never asked for.
Emilia -Silver-haired Half-elf Heroines-
Emilia is the main heroine and love interest of Natsuki Subaru, and I don't think anyone can deny her visual appeal. From her silver hair and purple eyes, to her outstanding dress, Emilia stands out among heroines in terms of how aesthetically pleasing she is. But beneath the surface of her pretty face and pointy ears lies the real reason she's the main heroine of Re:Zero.
True to her role as the main heroine, Emilia embodies many of the traits that a lot of people find appealing. She's kind to everyone she meets, she goes out of her way to help people even when doing so wouldn't benefit her, and she has a forgiving attitude that makes her extremely likable. She's also socially awkward, has trouble expressing her feelings, and is incredibly naive, which makes her really cute. I feel like her very concept was made to epitomize the traits that people consider to be “main heroine” traits. In some ways, I actually feel like Emilia is more of a main character than Subaru, despite how this anime is about Subaru.
I'd like you all to imagine what this world would be like if Subaru never showed up. If no otaku from another world suddenly appeared in Lugnica, what do you think this anime would be about? Chances are it would be about Emilia. The reason is because of the lofty goals, position, and expectations that have been placed on her within the series. We learn from Roswaal in episode 5 that Emilia is one of several candidates for the throne of Lugnica. During the time when Subaru is learning how to be a good servant, we're given occasional glimpses of what Emilia is doing. The times when we see her sitting behind a desk, writing on something or reading something, are placed in here to reveal that she's learning how to become a proper ruler. If Subaru had never entered the picture, I'm positive that this story would have been about Emilia as she tries to ascend the throne.
But while this is certainly a lofty goal worthy of a main character, it's not everything that makes Emilia who she is, or what makes her shine despite getting so little screen time. Throughout the series we're given tiny glimpse of her personality. Whenever she's with Subaru and he's acting goofy, Emilia shows us a socially awkward side of her that, at first glance, seems like nothing more than a cute quirk. It isn't until much later that we learn that her inability to sometimes comprehend others or take their words at face value is because of a much darker reason.
One of the scenes I would like to highlight for you all is just before Subaru dies for the first time after coming to Roswaal's mansion. Subaru is telling Emilia about all the fun things he's been doing, and how he went into the village that day and had to deal with all the kids and a dog biting him. He asks Emilia if she wants to go with him, but Emilia turns her head. She states that “it's not that she doesn't want to go with him, but that she might cause trouble.”
This sort of scene continues throughout this arc. It doesn't seem like much at first. However, we were previously given a hint as to why she's so reticent to travel into the village with Subaru. It's at the end of part 2 episode 1 and the beginning of episode 2. In part 1 of the first episode, Emilia tells Subaru that her name is Satella, so naturally, Subaru calls her that when he catches up to her at the end of part 2. However, the time line from before has vanished, and so Emilia never gave him that name. He's shocked when she gets angry, but then she tells him not to call her by the name of the “jealous witch”. We learn later on that the “witch” is referring to a woman named Satella, who is one of the most feared and hated people in Lugnica's history. In episode 4, when Emilia confronts Subaru, Felt, and Rom, Felt is startled when she learns that Emilia is a half-elf. Her words in that episode point to another fact: Emilia looks exactly like Satella.
If there's one thing that's popular among shounen anime, it's that we love to see our heroes as the “underdog”. There's nothing greater than watching someone who is supposed to be weaker suddenly triumph. There's a reason anime like Naruto, and more recently, My Hero Academy, are so popular. Oddly enough, Emilia embodies this shounen trait more than Subaru does. For her entire life, she's had to live with the hatred that comes from being not only a half elf, but someone who resembles the most hated person in history. When looking at her during the meeting where they introduce the king candidates, we can see that she's the underdog. No one wants her to win. In fact, I'm pretty sure that many of these people would be happier if she dropped dead.
This is what makes her such an appealing main heroine. While Emilia is never given a whole lot of screen time, the bit of screen time that she's given is irreplaceable and does an excellent job of slowly revealing more about her and the hardships she has to face.
I think it's because she's had to constantly deal with the hatred of others that she comes to appreciate Subaru, and it is also what ultimately helped drive a wedge between them. During the last scene of episode 13, when Subaru tries to justify how he broke his promise to her, Emilia tells him that she thought he was going to be different, that he would treat her the same way he treats everyone else. I could almost feel Emilia's heart shattering with those words. When someone has been scorned their whole life, the only thing they want is to be treated the same as everyone else, especially if the circumstances for that scorn are beyond their control. However, it's this moment that reveals something else about Emilia's character.
Throughout this entire moment, I feel like everything Emilia did was for Subaru's sake instead of her own. Subaru kept pushing himself because of her, kept getting injured because of her. In the end, she decided that it would be better if she cut ties with him. If they were no longer associated with each other, then maybe Subaru would stop hurting himself for her sake. Of course, it's not as if Emilia is perfect. I'm sure that a part of her reason for pushing Subaru away was for her own sake. It's not easy seeing someone push themselves so hard for you when you can't understand why. At the same time, I feel like Emilia's kindness is almost at the level of a martyr, which partly caused by the fact that Emilia doesn't believe she deserves to be happy.
These two facts, the fact that Emilia is more concerned about Subaru than herself, and the fact that she doesn't believe she deserves happiness, are expanded upon later on. When Subaru returns to the Roswaal estate and tries to convince Emilia to leave with him, she doesn't understand and therefore won't go with him. Subaru then goes off on a rant. When he finishes, rather than getting upset, Emilia asks “Why are you crying, as if you're in such pain?” This tells me that she realizes Subaru is suffering, even if she doesn't understand why. Rather than just assuming that he was yelling at her, she recognizes that the person he was yelling at was, in reality, himself. That he was telling himself that nothing he did would make a difference. What makes this moment so impactful is how, even though Emilia is stressed from being a kind candidate, she still shows concern for Subaru.
One of the few things I didn't like about this series was how little screen time Emilia received. I would've liked to see more of what she was doing while Subaru was being traumatized and suffering. That said, the few glimpses we're given are enough for me to confirm that she's also been suffering in her own way. During the time where Subaru is gone, Emilia spends her days alone in the mansion or trying to convince the villagers that it's not safe and they should come up to her mansion where they will be protected. The villages scorn and refusal to listen, combined with the fact that Subaru is no longer there to keep her company, leaves Emilia depressed. For those of you who've watched the closing theme song of the second half, you'll see what I'm talking about. During the closing theme, we're shown a cartoonish version of what Emilia's life was like after cutting ties with Subaru. Later on, we're also given flashbacks that show the villagers turning her away when she tries to rescue them.
Of course, there is also the fact that everytime Subaru came to the mansion during episodes 14, 15, and 16, Emilia has been killed by a cult that wants her dead. Even if we didn't see her death, it's easy to realize that she likely suffered a great deal before dying.
The final point I'd like to make in this segment is how Emilia is a badass. We don't see this very often because she only fights twice, once against Elsa and once more when the Witch's Cult attacks, but she's actually pretty freaking strong. Sure, she's got Pack on her side, but Puck actually didn't do much outside of the beginning fights with Elsa, and he only gave Emilia a little bit of aid when she fought against one of Betelguease's fingers.
Whether you like Emilia or not, I don't think there are many people who will deny that she has all the makings of a main character.
Rem -The Maid Every Man Wants-
One of the greatest surprises in Re:Zero, for me at least, was the sudden popularity with Rem. Granted, it's not hard to understand why she became so popular, but when she was first introduced, Rem didn't have much of a presence. In fact, Ram had a lot more screen time than Rem did. It wasn't even until episode 7, where we learn that Rem was the mysterious person who killed Subaru in a previous episode, that she really rises to prominence.
To see why Rem is so popular, I believe the first thing we need to look at is just what Rem is. She's a maid. This might not seem like a good reason, but maids have become an exceedingly popular aspect of otaku culture, not just in Japan, but in the US as well. Maid cafes started to really explode in Japan during the early 2000s, and since then, the appeal of maids has gotten to the point where there are now several maid cafes in the United States.
What makes maids such a huge hit among fans depends on who it is. For women, I believe it's the cute outfit. Let's face it, the frills and fluff on a maid uniform is pretty darn adorable. There's a reason maid's symbolize Japan's love for moe. For the man, it's because maid's represent the ideal woman. They're supportive, they're loyal, and they're subservient. A maid basically lives for her master or mistress, and after Subaru saves her life in episode 11, Rem becomes what many men consider to be the ideal maid.
Another thing that must be considered is how much we learned about Rem during the last half of the second arc. Rem has a tragic backstory that appeals to people. It pulls at their heart strings and makes you want to root for her. I think the fact that she was originally seen as the lesser of the two sisters made her feel a bit more flawed. She wasn't this perfect maid right from the start, she didn't have this impeccable talent. She cultivated it after her village was burned down and her sister lost her horn.
In some ways, Rem becoming such a perfect maid was done in repentance for what happened to her sister. She believes it's her fault that Ram lost her horn and therefore her powers. To make up for this, she has strive to become as perfect as possible. I don't know if I could call this a form of self-punishment, but I can say that she's definitely beating herself up over this.
Of course, this actually brings up another point of appeal for Rem. She's a demon, and what's better than a cute demon maid who kicks ass? Rem not only has the maid appeal that everyone loves for one reason or another, but she's also really strong. Just watching as she demolished those mabeasts during episodes 10 and 11 was incredible. Seriously. What's not to like about a maid who can toss around a spiked ball and chain like it was a chew toy?
Beyond her general appeal, I feel what really made her so loved was how much screen time she got. Going through the anime after Subaru rescues her, it's easy to see that Rem is in almost every scene that Subaru is in. You always see her. Even when she's not the focal point of that particular scene, she's there in the background, as though her role was the silently support Subaru. This point about her supporting Subaru is also made clear during the many scenes in which Rem expresses her belief that Subaru is special. During the time when Subaru's mind had broken after seeing the villagers near the Roswaal manner slaughtered, Crusch asked Rem why she would give her life for a man like Subaru, and Rem's answer was “Because he is special.”
And that's probably the greatest appeal to Rem. At a time where Subaru was sinking into despair, Rem was the one holding him up. People like it when they have others support them. It's a part of human nature. Therefore, it's only natural that people would flock to Rem, who's willing to support Subaru regardless of the personal cost to herself. Her devotion towards Subaru is second to none. She literally gives her life for him several times throughout this series.
The most stunning example of Rem's devotion is shown during the same seen that probably caused a number of viewers to drop the series. It's during the time when Subaru tries to convince Rem to run away with him. Rem looks really happy that he would ask her this, but at the same time, she at the same time, I feel like she knows that Subaru wouldn't be happy because he's abandoning what made him seem so strong to her in the first place. Ultimately, it was her support that made him choose to stick around. Of course, it was Subaru's statement about loving Emilia that had many US Rem fans up in arms, but I'm not going to get into that.
It shouldn't come as a surprise. Rem's devotion has made her number 1 in the hearts of many—even if she still isn't number 1 in Subaru's heart.