Sometimes the beauty of anime surpasses any limits I imagined possible. But one thing is certain: I will never cease to be amazed when those limits are broken anew. Re:Creators is one hell of a great anime. It is one of those shows where everything works together perfectly to make an unforgettable creation. As I write through this review, I’ll […]
Sometimes the beauty of anime surpasses any limits I imagined possible. But one thing is certain: I will never cease to be amazed when those limits are broken anew.
Re:Creators is one hell of a great anime. It is one of those shows where everything works together perfectly to make an unforgettable creation. As I write through this review, I’ll quibble about a lot of the individual parts. The characters are amazing but definitely have some obvious holes in them. The story is a little confusing and certainly has its share of convenient plot points. The artwork is magnificent but I could point to a lot of shows with better artwork. But taken all together it’s nearly perfect. I can’t say why that is—why sometimes the result is greater than the sum of the parts—but I know that this can happen, and it is magnificent when it does. That’s some powerful creating.
This is a top 20 show all time. It’s inspiring, powerful, beautiful. It does what only anime can do—display humanity in an oddly non-human way—as well as any anime I’ve ever seen. Yet this is also one of those shows that I wouldn’t actually want to see a second season of. It’s beautiful as it is. If a second season got made I’d watch it. Nay, I’d do more than watch it: I’d base my life around watching it every weekday each new episode aired, regardless of the fact that I think it’s perfect as it is. I love this show. It is an unforgettable and immensely powerful experience.
“Words are alive, supporting us, Connecting with the souls.”
I’ve only ever seen a handful of anime casts that collectively are better than this group. They are truly one in a million.
There are two big reasons behind this. One is the sheer creativity that shines like a thousand suns through these beautiful characters. The second is the unbelievable work by this all-star cast of seiyuus. This was one amazing display of characters.
The creativity behind each character astounded me. I’ll get to this more in the Story section below, but how many anime do you know that combine characters from multiple genres of anime into one show? To even be able to do this and make it believable to audiences—another item I’ll give more attention to in the Story section—is a feat by itself. But to create amazing characters individually on top of that is beyond magnificent. Watching these characters gave me chills. How they were presented, how they were brought to life, even how they were managed within the story was fantastic in the extreme.
One thing I noticed quickly about each “creation” character was that each of them felt like they might have had certain characteristics drawn from real anime characters. “Real” as in from actual anime, games, or LNs or manga that you and I might consume. Some limited research on my part led me to believe there might be some truth to this. I found this interesting. While it might be a little bit of a letdown—i.e., the quality of these individual characters might actually be attributed to the inherent quality of some character whose traits they inherited—I actually really liked this. In fact, I almost wished at times that the writers had picked actual characters from real shows, creating the greatest anime mashup of all time. As I detail each individual character below and mention the real anime characters they might be inspired by, imagine if those actual characters themselves were in this show. I would have lost my mind. That would be so insane! But I don’t mind at all how the writers managed this as it is. They essentially created original characters who are supposed to be drawn from separate stories and connected them through our story here. It worked really well.
Selesia Upitiria is the first of the “creations” we are introduced to. She really is the prototype for the kinds of characters these “creations” are. Recognizable as a heroine character type, lacking just a tiny bit in complete development, but still beautiful and memorable. And she definitely brings a few real anime characters to mind. Looking around the internet, you see people throwing names like Akame (Akame ga Kill!) and Asuna (SAO) out there. I can definitely see some of that. But I couldn’t help but see Lucy from Fairy Tail and certainly Rebecca from Edens Zero in her. While the character type doesn’t fit either of those two of course, the connection is much simpler: her VA, Mikako Komatsu, plays Rebecca in Edens Zero, who of course is another iteration (in the best sense) of Lucy from Fairy Tail. I heard Rebecca every time Selesia talked. Which is funny, because Komatsu has played other characters who I’d know better than Rebecca, notably Lupisregina from Overlord, Seishirou Tsugumi from Nisekoi, and my beloved Cinnabar from Land of the Lustrous. Me seeing Rebecca in Selesia probably has a lot to do with how much I love Edens Zero and Fairy Tail, two extremely powerful anime in their own right.
When I say “lacking a tiny bit in complete development,” I mean just that. Selesia is never one hundred percent developed as a character. But no one really is in this show. This is the inherent problem in a series of limited episodes and this many characters. I think this show handles its large number of characters extremely well, but it is an inherent trait of shows with this many characters that most characters will miss some development.
But I don’t have a problem with that at all here. There’s too much good in each of these characters, and certainly in characters like Selesia, for me to worry too much about that. I wouldn’t change anything about the number of characters in this show, and therefore I accept any resulting lack of development that comes with that.
The one character aspect I had the most problem with was how much screen time Meteora received. She essentially becomes the person who explains everything to the audience, thus receiving a massive amount of screen and dialogue time. On one hand, I really do get it. Number one, we need somebody in this role. Sure they could have let this fall to a random character here and there throughout the show as needed, but Meteora is supposed to be the brains behind all goings-ons in this show anyway, so it makes sense for her to provide details to the audience. Number two, who doesn’t want to hear as much of Inori Minase as possible? Minase-san, of immense repute for characters like Rem (Re:Zero), Itsuki Nakano (The Quintessential Quintuplets), and Hestia (DanMachi), is perhaps the biggest name in this cast, and that’s saying a lot here. I don’t love this sort of monotone voice she employs for Meteora, but that’s simply a personal preference. The core voice is godly: clear, precise, every word distinct like the note of some great work of music. She can talk in whatever tone she wants, she will always be one of the greatest anime voices out there. So I can forgive the immense screen time for Meteora at that rate.
Hard side track on that thought for a second: supposedly Sayaka Ohara does some part of Meteora’s dialogue at some point. Ohara-san gives life to my dearest Erza Scarlet (Fairy Tail), so anything she touches I immediately become interested in. But I don’t know where this occurred in the series, for how long, or how much it even happened. Any help on that is appreciated.
Several of the characters vie for primacy as the main “creation” character, but all for different reasons. The problem I have with Meteora’s massive screen time is that’s the only reason she becomes one of these competitors for that title. Her character itself is perhaps the most undeveloped and the most convenient from a story standpoint. She basically can be anything she needs to be for this story to work. I’m never a big fan of that. Meteora doesn’t have much backstory either. Her world that she came from isn’t particularly relevant to her character unlike some of the other creations’ worlds. We don’t even meet her creator from this world in the series. It’s strange how little she’s developed all while getting so much screen time. It’s only a small blight on a very useful and otherwise good character, but it was more than a little noticeable.
When I say several of the characters vie for primacy as the main “creation” character, I mean certain of these characters feel like they’re on the point of being the “main” character even though they’re clearly supporting characters. Other than Selesia, Meteora, and Altair, who arguably are in “main” character roles, Alicetaira, the knight, and Mamika, the magical girl, definitely are very prominent in this regard. More on them later. Because, in the end, no one holds a candle to the character—my favorite character in this series—who very nearly consumes this series all by herself.
Did you see Maaya Sakamoto nearly take over this show?
Maaya Sakamoto, the voice of the great vampire Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade, voices the overwhelming Magane Chikujouin in Re:Creators. And it’s extremely relevant that she had that experience in the Monogatari series. Anybody that knows she played that role in Monogatari immediately drew comparisons between Magane and the characters of that series in general. Magane’s power comes entirely from her words. And if there’s one thing you associate with Monogatari, it’s the power of its dialogue and the performances of the VAs with that dialogue. Sakamoto puts on a magnificent display in this show. I was absorbed listening to her every time Magane spoke in this show.
Sakamoto is the only VA with Monogatari experience in this show, and it really shows. All the VAs do a really, really good job in this series. For Sakamoto to clearly shine above all of them, almost beyond compare, is amazing. She overwhelms every other actor in this show. Given this cast, that’s a monumental achievement. It’s exhilarating to hear her give voice to Magane.
Magane Chikujouin-san is elevated to astronomical heights by Sakamoto’s performance, but I already liked this character when I saw her in the opening sequence before we ever met her. Her serpentine eyes, shark teeth, jeering expression, and narrow form are a magnificent design. Then she arrived and was a total badass. She didn’t give a hoot what anyone else thought or wanted. She knew who she was and was going to plot her own course through this situation. And not through overpowered skills or extreme defensive stats or anything typical like that: through her own words.
I will honestly admit I had very little idea what Chikujouin was ever saying. Most of the time she was talking I was trying to figure out how her skill worked. And she talked so much! A lot of her dialogue is in one-on-one conversations with Souta, the male protagonist of this series. He mostly just stands and listens to her, and when he does talk back he digs himself deeper into her traps. I usually didn’t know what exactly she was talking about or what she was trying to attain, but I do know it was magnificent to listen to. Whether what she was saying made sense or not, it was complex and confusing, the way a dishonest character trying to entrap people with her words might speak. And it was rattled off without hesitation. Like, you don’t know how someone could speak like that unless they had a script, yet you couldn’t imagine how someone could come up with that kind of a script. It was crazy, amazing.
I love that her power is words. That ties in so perfectly with what’s happening in this series. This anime is all about words and drawings bringing characters and worlds to life. It makes amazing sense for one of the characters to use words as her superpower. And it’s not something just anybody would think of. The people behind this anime thought this up, and put a perfect VA with her for it. This whole character has a fantastic design from top to bottom.
And she definitely tries to take over this show. One of the things this show does very well with its characters is keeping them in their roles, not allowing any one of them to overly disrupt the show. I’ll talk about this with Kanoya, the mech pilot, more below, but Magane is probably the second best example of this. She was going to overwhelm this show. Everything was going to be about her. She did anything she wanted. She always got what she wanted. Speaking of real characters that inspired these characters, think of Izaya Orihara from Durarara!! and how he manipulates people with words. Magane is very, very similar, but the biggest difference is that nothing ever goes wrong for Magane unlike with Izaya. Once she starts talking, everything is about her. I would plead with characters to not engage her in conversation, because once they did it was over for them. And through all this, Magane dominated this anime. And she would have continued to—except she disappeared.
I mean she disappeared for several episodes, and even when she returned she only minimally factored into the events at the end of the series. Normally I’d complain about something like this. Why take one of your best characters and just remove her from the action? That seems like a terrible idea. But I like this here because it demonstrates that the writers had control of their characters and their story. Believe it or not, those things can take on a life of their own and get out of hand. This is a fascinating phenomenon in fiction literature, but more often than not it’s a big negative when it happens. Authors “lose control” of their stories or characters and they get out of role or the story changes in unfixable ways. Here the authors saw what was happening. So removing Chikujouin from the picture for a little while was a big deal. If they hadn’t done this she would have overwhelmed this series when she was only supposed to be a supporting character. Interestingly, another careful bit of writing was the simple fact that Chikujouin never talked with Altair. Talk about disrupting the story! That would have been a crazy situation indeed if those two went at it. It makes sense that they shouldn’t converse, lest Chikujouin become the lead antagonist, because all she ever needed to attain her objective was the conversation.
Chikujouin accounts for a lot of the darker parts of this story. Her shameless ruthlessness exacerbates most of the bad situations already unfolding in this world she finds herself in, and she herself is directly responsible for at least two human deaths, a shop clerk upon whom she simply decides to test her skills in this world, and her creator from this world, who she kills in his own home. On the same note however, Chikujouin eventually more or less joins the fight against Altair, atoning for her faults in some degree at least. I again thought this was a little too convenient for the story. Her explanation was that she did it for “fun,” but given her dishonesty that’s just as possibly untrue.
The darker parts of this story usually involve Chikujouin somewhere along the way, but don’t always. The saddest parts of this story involve Mamika, Alicetaria, Blitz the gunman, and Souta and his saga with Setsuna Shimazaki, the girl who created Altair. More on that later.
I loved that Mamika, the magical girl character, was the most powerful of the creations for a while. That was a very creative touch. Here she was, cutesy behavior, high-strung emotions, frilly outfits, and ganbare attitudes, next to a badass knight, a sword-wielding heroine, a young boy in a really big mech, and whatever that sword-art thing Altair was doing, and yet Mamika can blast most of them off the planet. She regularly is the x-factor in battles in which she partakes. It’s funny because she doesn’t understand her own power when she arrives on Earth. Right away when she cuts a few shots loose, she’s shown reacting with surprise at the powerful explosions and the damage coming from her weaponry. At one point she remarks in horror “There wasn’t any blood in my world!” as she looks at a wounded Selesia (if I remember correctly). I loved this. It was fascinating. This was the first time when the genre mixing really got my attention.
And then—spoiler—she was killed. Talk about unexpected. Not only was the magical girl character arguably the strongest of the creations, she was tragically killed. I was shocked. Tragic deaths like this don’t by themselves simply make a character greater, as I regularly say, but for this to happen to the magical girl character was an interesting character touch. She’s the most unsuspecting, the most naive, so it might make sense that she might more easily be killed than the others, but it was still unexpected and nicely done by the writers. On the story side of things, I thought it was very interesting that it was Altair who killed her; Altair, the darkest of the characters in the series, nearly the complete opposite of Mamika.
The second darkest character in the series though is certainly Alicetaria, the knight in shining armor astride her mighty steed. This anime was made before SAO: Alicization or I might have thought Alicetaria was based on Alice from that series, at least in small part. Now that I think about it, the SAO light novel probably had already debuted her by 2017, so maybe she was inspired by that character. You always have Saber from the Fate/ series too, which people already claim was the basis for Alice. Anyway.
Alicetaria initially represented the best story point in this series, a major pain point between the creations and their creators: she was created to live in a world of misery, battle, and death. More on that in the Story section below. But from a character perspective, I love how Alicetaria embodied this element. It wasn’t quite like Altair who was peeved about her creator, nor like Blitz the gunman who wanted revenge for his daughter’s death. Alice was mad as hell that she, in her view, was created simply to do battle, live in a world of pain, and watch her friends and compatriots die.
And there wasn’t a scene that she was in that I didn’t feel that pain. Youko Hikasa, who has made a name for herself outside of Rias Gremory (High School DxD) with these powerful voices of strong female characters, did a tremendous job not only sounding like the stiff and immovable knight, but also letting a tremendous amount of rage overflow into her voice. There was no doubt in your mind as a viewer that Alicetaria was murderously angry about the truths she had discovered here. While she’s nowhere near as prominent of a character as Selesia or Meteora or Chikujouin even, her distinctness in this series is easily felt. I loved her character. She tore at our hearts in a way we might not have expected from a show like this, and brought this major story point regarding the creations and their creators starkly into focus.
Blitz was a similar character—almost too similar if you just look at him and Alicetaria on the surface. Both he and Alicetaria are angry at their creators for the fates they inflicted upon them. But the subtle difference between can be seen. While Alicetaria’s anger is about compatriots and her world, Blitz’s is entirely personal and familial. In his story, his daughter went berserk somehow and sometime, and he was forced to kill her to stop her. This is kind of a recognizable plot element, where one individual must kill a family member or someone else close to them because something irreversible happened to that other person. This familiar plot element has brought Blitz to hate his creator, as his daughter had to suffer for it, and he had to lose her, and by his own hand at that.
I thought it was, again, a little too convenient how his creator, Shunma Suruga (who I loved by the way), resolved this situation to Blitz’s satisfaction. But that aside (story element). I was nonetheless pleased by his character development in this regard. His creator was able to be the kind of “god” he couldn’t imagine her being. I thought that was a very strong character moment in the show, for a character who had been a little overshadowed up to that point.
I mentioned earlier that the writers did a great job not letting characters take over the show. While Chikujouin and Alicetaria certainly had that potential on a certain level, Kanoya Rui, the mech pilot, definitely could have had an inordinate impact on this show if the authors hadn’t been careful with him. For one thing, his VA was Sora Amamiya (Aqua, KonoSuba; Akame, Akame ga Kill!; Chizuru, Rent-a-Girlfriend), who simply by speaking has the potential to overwhelm any scene or anime. But more than that—he pilots a mech.
Mecha! I’ll get to the genre mixing element of this show in the Story section, I promise, but this was one of the best examples of these different genres impacting this show. Kanoya is the typical undersized teenage boy in a huge machine. Think NGE, Gurren Laggan, Darling in the Franxx, the sprawling Gundam series, Code Geass, Captain Earth—basically any mecha anime series ever made has a character like Kanoya. I loved this. But even beyond all of that, beyond any of that, is the simple fact that this mech was a game changer. It was “50 meters tall” as Kanoya himself said at one point (for those who use standard instead of metric, this is over 150 feet). And if you know anything about mecha, you know the power inherent in these objects. Buildings, kaiju, spaceships the size of aircraft carriers, mountains, moons and planets even, none of them stand a chance against the typical anime mech. Kanoya no more than showed up in this world than he inadvertently destroyed his creator’s dwelling.
Once again the writers forced him to not take an active role in events. On one hand—bummer! This mech was the answer to everything! How could Altair hope to stand up to that thing! In fact she knew she couldn’t—she did everything she could to get Charon, Selesia’s fellow character and also a mech user, on her side to counter the Gigas Machina, Kanoya’s mech. So the writers pushed the mech to the sidelines as much as possible, and once again I don’t mind it here. The story isn’t supposed to be about Kanoya ultimately. But also, the writers did another clever trick to help ensure the mech didn’t overwhelm the action. Whenever you see the mech it’s extremely dark outside, and its dark color renders it almost imperceptible, if such a monster could be imperceptible. While more of an artwork aspect, this has a direct impact on keeping this character from overwhelming the story.
There are a handful of other creations that mixed into the action along the way as well. Yuuya Mirokuji was actually another antagonist character from his story before he was roped into our world. I kind of liked his character and how he changed to a good guy, because we see so much of bad guys becoming good guys in anime (as in most of Luffy’s pirate band). So that anime staple got a nod in this show, which I thought was clever. His buddy, the actual protagonist from that story, comes over eventually too, which I didn’t really understand but okay. I definitely loved the chuckle moment when Hikayu Hoshikawa arrived in our world and her creator subsequently was brought into the mix of characters. She was a dating sim protagonist, and her creator was a pervy ugly bastard with those beaver teeth we see in dumb characters in anime. He turned out to be a good guy, but the interaction between those two was funny on a lot of levels, and they contributed positively to the show in the end despite being slightly out of place.
The final creation is, of course, Altair, the gunpuku hime, as she was titled until everyone knew her real name. A character born from another kind of media popular in Japan, online fan fiction, Altair is a massive problem as an antagonist. The core of the story is that these characters’ abilities and lives even can be changed by their creators, given certain circumstances which included the opinions of their fans and the audiences of their anime or games or written stories in general. Altair’s character is constantly subject to these changes, as fan fiction is ever evolving amidst the sometimes thousands of fan contributors online. This poses a massive problem to those she’s fighting, and makes for a very interesting experience for us as the audience.
This is a fantastic character element! At first I thought Altair’s evolving due to fan contributions was too convenient, like some other things I thought were too convenient in this story, but the more I thought about this more I liked it. For one thing, it gives a much deserved nod to the kinds of original characters that random online creators imagine and birth to the internet, where they are often beloved by fans even if those characters never take part in a major production of any kind. It would have been nearly a crime if this series had overlooked including a character like this. But also, the nature of this character and her evolution because she’s a fan fiction character totally makes sense, and therefore it totally makes sense that she’s not only completely adaptable and overwhelmingly powerful but is also quickly aware of the situation around her. A lot of people are contributing to her character, so she has a lot of input. She would quickly become aware of any information that becomes even marginally public. She was all over the protagonists’ scheme at the end of the show, and in light of her character type this totally made sense despite simply feeling convenient.
Her major character point is her creation and her brooding anger over the events surrounding her creator. Most of the creations are either mostly respectful and cooperative with their creators or outright hate them because of this-that-or-the-other. Altair is neither. Altair is aware of the mistreatment and unhappiness of her creator and is out to wreak vengeance on the world that treated her so. I thought this was magnificent. It’s powerful, it’s expected in an antagonist, yet it’s unique in this series. It imbues Altair with a lot of power as a character, both in her own raging heart and in the hearts of audiences who sympathize with her creator’s plight and thus understand Altair’s rage. This was beautiful writing on a lot of levels, and made Altair into a very high quality antagonist.
Altair’s creator is a girl named Setsuna Shimazaki. She was a friend to the friendless Souta, the enabler male protagonist in this series, who in turn was a friend to the friendless Setsuna at the time. Again, this is a very typical anime trope, but it was perfectly used in this series. Setsuna and Souta grew closer as friends, but as Souta’s friendship had encouraged Setsuna to pursue her content creation online, she increasingly became very popular for her work, and she began to become distant from Souta, who resented her popularity therefore. Like a lot of people who become popular online, Setsuna found herself facing the haters, and a particular incident, misunderstood by fans and haters alike, prompted a lot of additional animosity to be directed at her. At the end of her rope one day, almost literally, Setsuna contacted Souta again, having not communicated with him for some time, essentially pleading for his advice. Souta, still angry at her distance and jealous of her popularity and success, more or less snaps back at her pleading text messages, and doesn’t extend a helping hand to her. Setsuna takes her own life not long thereafter, and Souta blames himself for her death.
Hence Altair’s anger towards our world. Setsuna had gotten caught up in a plagiarism misunderstanding in the vicious online world, and this had driven her to depression when she messaged Souta. When she received no help from her one true friend, she ended her existence. It wasn’t clear to me when Altair learned about her creator and this world, but it was clear that Altair held these events strongly against the world and Souta, who she was also aware of, as seen in the first episode.
I thought this set of storylines surrounding Setsuna and Souta was well done. Souta falls into the background a little as the enabler male protag, but the writers did a good job involving him in the story through this plot line. His pain regarding this past is behind a lot of the events in the show, including Altair’s plots, Chikujouin’s entrapping conversations with him, Selesia’s relationship with him, Meteora’s sympathy and understanding of him and, by extension, of humanity through him. Several of the creators themselves are influenced by his sad story, causing them to view the current situation slightly differently and perhaps even a bit more seriously. So Setsuna and Souta play a key role in the story, and are effective as characters for that reason.
Cool anime moment of the decade belongs to this anime including Sora Amamiya and Mikako Komatsu playing themselves, just as anime characters, who show up at the event at the end of this show, as though they really were the VAs for their two creation characters in the show. They were only there briefly, but it was one of those exciting moments where you grab the people watching around you and you hoot and holler in excitement. It was a fun moment.
The creators are somewhat in the background. They’re a mostly ordinary group of individuals, but I like how the writers developed them through their interactions with each other and their creations. It would be predictable to any anime fan that content creators like this would not only be ordinary people but also that they wouldn’t easily mix and mingle with each other. Such people are often “in their own worlds,” and aren’t super social in the first place—not always, but such is the understood stereotype. These guys and girls are all just a little uncomfortable with this situation on a lot of levels, and the writers of this anime did a good job incorporating that into the creator characters.
Two things about these creators. One, the quality of their designs means the writers of this show are very self-aware. They know they’re ordinary guys and girls, and they input that into the characters in this show that are supposed to be like them. Two, one of the things I loved the most about this series was the sheer joy of imagining what it would be like to meet a live version of a character you had personally created. I think of the handful of characters I’ve created in scribbled writings over the years and even there I feel a rush at the thought that one of them could show up. What would I learn? What would I feel? What would they learn and feel? It’s an amazing thought. And in this show we get to see a fun example of what that might look like. It’s a very fun viewer experience in that context, and adds something to these characters who are so pivotal but so ordinary and in the background otherwise.
In some sense, all of the characters are kind of “ordinary.” If you think about it, the creators are just normal artist people, if that makes sense, but even their creations are just “ordinary” characters. Yes they’re great characters in this series, and they doubtless have the love and humanity of their creators impressed upon them, but if you stop and think about it, are any of them Eren Jaeger? Lain Iwakura? Light Yagami? Zero Two? Lelouch Lamperouge? Senjougahara Hitagi? Monkey D. Luffy? Revy Lee? The answer to that is of course no, they’re not. They’re just good quality but ordinary characters.
But, together, all of these boys and girls become extraordinary.
That’s the major takeaway I have from these characters. Individually, intentionally, they’re somewhat ordinary, but collectively, and also intentionally I believe, they are extraordinary. Not only as a group: each individual becomes extraordinary on some level. Sure Selesia and Alicetaria are heroes in their stories, but are they supposed to be anything like the heroes they become here in our own world? Certainly not. Sure Altair was a complicated and somewhat dark character in her fanfics, but was she ever going to actually destroy a world? What about our world? And actually have a really good chance of succeeding? Was she ever going to meet the one she wanted vengeance for? No, certainly not. Indeed, each character returns to his or her own world in the end enriched by those experiences here. And that is what we, the anime fans watching this series, got to witness. There was a realness in this fantasy, a power in these non-humans, individually, that was brought about by this fantastic gathering of ordinary people from different universes.
Real quick: I mentioned a lot of the VAs in this show, but I couldn’t touch on all of them. I absolutely encourage you to go and look at the filmography for each of the VAs in this show. The sheer amount of big productions and popular shows that these seiyuus have partaken in and the number of famous characters they’ve played is astounding. This is one hell of a cast.
I have to say, I haven’t seen many anime with such character experiences as this. Monogatari is still the standard for character casts because of how great each of those individual characters are. This is different because these individuals are made great, in part, by them simply being in the same anime together. That’s pretty unique. Uniqueness will always get my attention in anime, but when writers take something unique and make it extraordinary through their creative skill, that starts to really tick my meter. When writers take something unique and make it extraordinary with only, arguably, ordinary constituent parts, then I start flying of the couch in excitement. Such was the display put on by the characters in Re:Creators.
“I still don’t know how to escape from this beautiful trap… …brave invisible world.”
The artwork is dramatic, powerful, a little ordinary at times, and very beautiful.
The genre-mixing situation probably has a slight net negative impact on the artwork. While all anime artwork shares a lot of similarities, a fantasy adventure shounen anime will look a lot different than a gunslinging seinen anime. A mecha series will look remarkably different from a dating sim. This was obviously going to be a bit of an issue for this show.
The artists dealt with it in one of the two ways I could foresee. The first way would be to be very careful that every character has a design that fits the genre he or she came from. The second way would be to normalize everything under a unified style with slight differences acknowledging each character’s different genre. The producers of this show chose the second route, and I was not unhappy with the result.
The style that emerged was fairly darkly lit and slightly desaturated. All the characters share a common dimness of color. At the same time, individual characters retained minor characteristics that would have belonged to their genres. The adventure genre characters like Selesia, Meteora, and Alicetaria to an extent, had complicated outfits with lots of colors on them, even if those colors were slightly desaturated. The characters from heavier genres, such as Chikujouin, Yuuya, and Blitz have darker clothing, and it was much simpler in design.
I thought each character could have appeared more distinct in regards to their genre, but I also recognize the problem with this. Imagine Selesia and Mamika beaming brightly every time we see them, colors dazzling our eyes like Sailor Moon or Sword Art Online would. Then next to them you have Blitz and Yuuya, dark of brow and attire like characters from Black Lagoon or Durarara!! On top of that you have this massive, gleaming mech and its lithe bodied, big-eyed pilot. This would have been noticeable and probably a negative.
But I also think there’s just enough of those individual, genre-based characteristics in each character to make it satisfactory without going overboard. Kanoya clearly looks like a mecha character. Blitz really looks like a brooding and powerful gunman. Meteora really looks like she’d be more comfortable casting spells to support a team of arrow shooting, sword wielding guildmates. Selesia looks like she was just snapped into another reality fresh from a sword fight. Chikujouin really looks like a rebellious, delinquent student with murder on her mind. You really can tell visually that all these people are from different genres, yet they all look similar enough for it to not be a distraction. I think it’s well done.
But ignoring those elements entirely, this artwork is really nice for this show. It’s not going to overwhelm you like Violet Evergarden or Demon Slayer or Monogatari, in the various ways those and others like them can overwhelm our visual senses, but it’s perfect for this show. The darkness of the artwork is perfect. The situation is fairly dire in this show, even if everyone keeps a good attitude throughout. Also I think the dimness emphasizes the “ordinariness” of the world these fantastical characters find themselves in. That’s effective as well.
The biggest thing that jumped out at me about this dimness, however, was the lighting and the shadowing. This played a major role in several aspects of this show. Cinematography, for lack of an equivalent anime word, was very well done in this show, and a lot of that depended heavily on lighting and shadowing. Many of the powerful images of Altair exhibiting her power are wonderfully drawn and are enhanced further by the excellent use of shadowing on her face and body. Selesia has some noteworthy frames where her face is nicely accented with both light and shadow. You’ll recall I mentioned that the mech was nicely managed in its scenes, and a big part of that was how it was kept in darkness most of the time. This was the most powerful visual part of this anime.
The faces were somewhat ordinary, but very pretty. Like many things in this show, no character was going to wow you visually. There were no Revy Lees, no Zero Twos, no Violet Evergardens, no Levi Ackermans, no Erza Scarlets, no Spike Spiegels. No one was going to steal your heart visually. But they were unmistakably themselves. I’ll always be able to recognize Selesia whenever I see her in the future. I’ll know Altair instantly. Chikujouin also, unforgettable. This is a remarkable effect, brought on partially by the impact of the show itself, but nonetheless present in visual character designs that one might not overly remark otherwise.
I didn’t notice Altair’s square pupils until someone pointed it out to me. I don’t know if this feature is weird or magnificent. Unusual it is.
The animation was okay. I thought it could have been better, but I also give it some leeway here. The reason is again because of the genre mixing. You’ve got Alicetaria swinging a knight’s lance at Yuuya with his katana, and Selesia striking with her sword at Mamika, who wields a stereotypical wand-like instrument customary to magical girls. Altair slings swords at people like some wild character from the Fate/ series, and sometimes even a mech has to dodge them. Weapon designs, I’m guessing, are usually meant to fit the action of their particular story, and often are specific to genres because of that. Suddenly here we find ourselves pitting unfamiliar opponents against each other: this is unfamiliar territory for anime artists. So I expect the action sequences to have a lot of that blurry action that I don’t particularly prefer, but which is understandable in this case.
The artwork is arguably the least important part of this work, but it isn’t neglected. I think a lot of thought and care was put into its design. We must remember that this is an anime original: there was no original source to draw from. The artists are drawing original characters who are based on genre-specific designs and trying to make it all work together. I think they do a very good job at this. While I won’t emote effusively about the artwork in this show, particularly when compared to other aspects, it’s still very good, and I enjoyed this show visually for all these aforementioned elements. It added perfectly to the show, the way artwork of this kind should.
“Time has come to listen to the crying of their puppet souls.”
Out of all the greatness of this anime, the story is the brightest star in the sky. While the main story itself isn’t anything great, the many elements in play within that simple storyline are fantastic.
The main storyline is fairly straightforward. Characters from various anime/game and manga/LN media start showing up in the real world—the world of their creators. One of them has turned to the dark side, more or less, and seeks to destroy our world. The other creations either side with her or take up arms against her. Various humans, mostly creators themselves, also get involved along the way. Between them all, they resolve the situation to everyone’s satisfaction and everyone is better off in the end.
I say it’s simple, but it’s also creative. Not just anyone could think this up. It seems like something we should have thought of before—almost like it’s so obvious we couldn’t see it! It makes perfect sense to make a story where “story” characters show up in our world. Other media have tried stories like that before, but anime hasn’t made many such attempts, and none that I know. Re:Creators, and the creators behind it, pulled the trigger on this storyline, and it’s very effective.
But even the creativity of the story is not the most praiseworthy part to me. Not by a long shot. Within that story are so many individual elements, either attached to characters or groups of characters or underlying plot threads, that are extraordinarily beautiful. I’ll spend the rest of this section exploring a few of those elements.
My favorite, and the biggest and most important underlying theme in this show, is the fact that creations get to meet their creators. This is magnificent. Think about it just in an anime sense. What if Hiro Mashima got to meet Natsu Dragneel or Lucy Heartfilia or Erza Scarlet? What if Naoko Takeuchi met Usagi Tsukino? Or, on the other hand, what if Reki Kawahara got to meet Kirito and Asuna? Or Hajime Isayama met Eren Jaeger?
Just imagine! A thousand thoughts probably come to mind and a flood of feelings to go with them. Joy, amazement, fascination, fear, pain, love. How would those characters react to the truth? How beautiful would those moments be when the characters and their creators come to terms, whether that be immediately or after time and trial had passed?
Eventually you probably come to this thought: those reactions would probably all look a lot like the ones we see in Re:Creators.
Again, it might be so obvious we could miss it. Is it creativity by the writers or simply observing the obvious that the writers of Re:Creators showed us such a myriad of reactions from creators and creations alike to the sudden confrontations between them? It’s very well done whether it took a lot of thought or not. Few to none of us thought of it until we saw this show. It’s both imaginative and predictable at the same time, which is a strange and strangely good combination here in this anime.
The creations’ reactions to meeting their creators can be grouped in two simple ways: positive or negative. The positive ones are simple but sweet. Imagine Yuyuko Takemiya, the author of Toradora!, meeting Taiga and Ryuji. They’d probably be pretty happy with each other. But imagine if Kentaro Miura, the author of Berserk, met Guts. Well Guts would kill him, and none of us would want to be anywhere nearby when it happened. And we’d halfway sympathize with him doing so. Such is the case in Re:Creators. Each character reacts differently to the truth they’re suddenly faced with, but that reaction only tends in one of two directions.
I loved this. I loved watching how these people reacted to each other individually, but on another level I loved this duality itself. The creators were already overwhelmed when their characters showed up in their lives, but if that didn’t turn their lives upside down enough, some of them had to confront the reality that the worlds they’d placed their characters into were horrifying, and that these creations weren’t too happy with the person who created that world. On one hand, this is kind of mildly funny. You can imagine a Natsu Dragneel reacting happily (or in disinterested confusion) at one moment, but then some memory of all those times he’d gotten beat up would strike him and he’d set the room ablaze, and hopefully not his creator along with it. But on the other hand, this thought is extremely sobering and very, very sad.
The power to create is a magnificent thing. If I was an author, and I’d written a story like Alicetaria’s, and then she’d shown up before me and I’d realized all she’d gone through, I’m not sure I could stand it. It would break my heart. Not just because it had happened, but also because there was nothing I could do to change that past, that reality. What if I were the writer of Akame ga Kill! and Akame showed up one day, and I had to face her knowing what I’d done to her world. That would well near kill me, if she didn’t first. I don’t think I’d try to stop her if she did.
This is an astoundingly powerful part of this story, and it’s presented beautifully. Alicetaria has her ethic hardwired into her, and she turns that on her own creator initially, imprisoning him and raging at him for what he’d done to her world. He in turn cried both in fear and in realization. It hurt him to the core, and you could tell it even in the limited screen time he received. Blitz rages more calmly than Alicetaria, but with no less intensity. He doesn’t lash out in anger: he calmly plans to kill his creator when he meets her. No waffling on what to do, no extraneous thoughts on how to react. He knows where to find her, and she knows where he will look for her, and he is there on schedule to kill her. And she sits and waits for his decision. In both situations, Alicetaria and Blitz are satisfied in the end, but the process of them and their creators facing this reality, confronting it, and deciding how to deal with it is a beautiful exposition.
Magane Chikujouin approaches the matter differently. She is perhaps the only creation that doesn’t react in the positive or negative direction. One could say her reaction is negative, but she doesn’t seem to resent her creator. On the contrary, she likely is very happy with her station and situation, both currently and in the past. Yet she takes the most heinous of actions against her creator, killing him in his own home. Her reason is, as the government liaison lady explains, simply so that the creator can’t change her story or character. So Magane approached the matter pragmatically, without emotion. I found this amazing as a character element, and monstrous in the extreme. What a horrifying thing to destroy the one who created you, and simply for practical reasons at that. But this is also the only example in this story of a character wanting complete autonomy from his or her creator. Many of them want this on some level, but it doesn’t play any direct role in the show. Magane doesn’t want her plans disrupted, doesn’t want her life in anyone’s control but hers. While this is very understandable on a certain level, resorting to killing one’s creator over it is horrifying. It’s a very devilish thing to do.
I could go on and on about this aspect. The theme of creations meeting their creators is at the heart of this show, and it’s displayed in many different ways, all of them interesting to think about and fascinating to watch. This is the number one reason I rate this story as highly as I do. It’s a fantastic exposition. It could have easily been messed up. I can imagine writers handling this subject in a trite manner. Yet it was not so here. It was handled predictably and wonderfully, as peculiar as that sounds. In other words, it was wonderful to see exactly what we’d envision happening in such a situation as this actually happen before our eyes. There was an odd power in this that was magnificent.
My second favorite element of this story was the genre mixing. This was handled very well in many ways as I noted above. More than anything, I simply appreciate the difficulty of creating a story with such a mix of genres playing into it. What if Madoka from Puella Magi Madoka Magica suddenly finds herself in our world with Saber from Fate/Zero and Simon from Gurren Lagann, and they find themselves facing off against Irene Belserion from Fairy Tail with Revy from Black Lagoon and Zoro from One Piece working under her. Can you imagine how difficult that would be to write? I needn’t even detail it here. You can simply imagine how monumental a task that would be.
Yet not only do these writers take on such a task, they make it work perfectly. You might say, “Well they don’t have to deal with established characters like that, which obviously would make the writing difficult.” That’s true, but they do have to deal with those specific character types. They don’t have to recreate—an interesting word here—existing characters, they have to create totally new ones that are like those characters types. That’s hard enough by itself. Could you write a Zoro character type? Much less a Madoka or Revy, who are complicated, intricate characters. And if you could, great: you’re in elite company with the writers of this show, who managed to do it and make it great.
While I loved those two elements in this story to most, one of the most fun elements was the idea of “acceptance” that appeared in this show. One of the biggest factors in this story is the creators’ ability to alter their characters, even while they’re in this world, with new abilities or strengths or storylines, etc., to help them in their fight against Altair. This again was one of those obvious things that follows easily from the main premise of this show: can’t creators of characters alter them even though they enter our world? Chikujouin sensed this possibility right away, and took action accordingly. But it took the other characters a relatively long time to think of this possibility. Once they thought of it, they began to experiment with it. And the one thing the creators found was that they couldn’t simply rewrite their characters any way they wanted and suddenly that character would become that way. They had to have “acceptance” from their fans.
This was an amazing touch by the writers, on several levels. Primarily, this is great because this is one of those things we as anime fans think about all the time but don’t always realize it. In my reviews I regularly use words like “convenient,” “believable,” or even “relatable.” All of these words refer to this same underlying concept that this show calls, in English translation, “acceptance.” The reason Selesia’s creator can’t turn her into a world-saving, Altair-killing monster is because audiences wouldn’t “accept” that. It would be too convenient. It’s not believable.
Hawk, anime is full of unbelievable stuff: what are you babbling about? What I mean is believable in context. While it isn’t believable to turn Selesia into a Death-Star-level weapon designed specifically to track Altair’s inner essence and laser beam her out of existence the moment she comes in sight, it is believable for her to evolve into a stronger warrior, with a new suit of armor and upgraded weapon, after going through and overcoming some trial. It doesn’t matter that the new weapon is equally as “impossible” as the previous one: it matters that it’s believable in the context of the show. We’ve seen that storyline hundreds of times in hero-centered anime.
So the writers play with this concept a little in this story, and I loved it. It showed self-awareness by the writers. Another thing you’ll see regularly in my reviews are my lamentations of authors losing control of their stories or forgetting to actually focus on making their story entertaining or relatable, etc. Yet here we see the writers of this anime not only do a great job with all those interrelated elements in their own characters and story, but they incorporate the very concept itself into the story. They signal to audiences, “We know our responsibility as writers is not to ourselves, but to you in the audience.” They signal that they’re not writing stories just because they dreamed them up one night, but because they love their fans and their own stories enough to ensure their art is of the highest quality in every aspect. Whether that be relatability, believability, intricacy, imagination, creativity, uniqueness, or any other positive attribute we ascribe to great works of art, these writers were aware that these things needed to be present for their work to be “accepted.” I love it.
On top of all of that—on top of all of that!—this “acceptance” plot device played a practical role in the story. It prevented “convenience.” Once I saw where this story was going, one of the biggest things I worried about was how the writers were going to manage this ability of the creators to simply alter their creations to fit the situation. I actually thought of this possibility before it appeared in the show, and certainly before Magane showed up and prevented her creator from changing her. I thought “That’s really convenient,” to be able to change the characters to the point that they could win their battles easily. My next thought was that there was no way the writers would go this route. It was too obvious, and it would have been ridiculous. No one in their right mind would write like that. Then my very next thought, I remember it well, was this: “Then how are they going to prevent this?”
They prevented it with this idea of audience “acceptance.” The writers extracted themselves from a dangerous plot situation, one that could cause their story to get out of control, with this very clever device. They couldn’t turn Selesia into Superman and Scarlet Witch’s offspring because audiences wouldn’t accept it. So the writers couldn’t write just anything they wanted. They had to stay within the believable confines of the story. Even Altair’s evolutions are gradual, resulting from the “acceptance” of the vast majority of those contributing to her fanfics one way or another. This idea of “acceptance” puts a level of restraint on a story that could have evolved into crayzland very quickly.
I only found two things to quibble about in this story, and they are only quibbles, but nonetheless. The first is that while the story was well handled through character development and the “acceptance” plot device, the resulting situation at the end as the creations battled Altair felt more than a little contrived. “Acceptance” was all fine and good, but how did all that play into this “cage” thing that prevented the creations’ violent battle from affecting the world around them? That idea was an interesting one in several ways, but it seemed a tad too convenient. It was handled fine otherwise, with Altair foreseeing what was happening and taking the bait anyway to turn her own advantage, much like when one recognizes a particular opening from an opponent in a chess game but follows the path anyway instead of disrupting it immediately. Still I felt that was a little too easy for the authors, coupled with the “live stream” event that enabled them to maximize audience acceptance in a moment of need. I swallowed it because of all the other great stuff in this anime, but that whole situation bugged me more than a little.
The only other quibble I had was how easily the creators accepted the situation as it was explained to them. You’d think most people would insist that this was some sort of joke or con for a long time. Yet most of the creators pretty much accept what’s happening after a brief moment of confusion where they think their character standing before them is simply a really good cosplay. I presume the writers of this story deal with that by assuming the creators cannot deny what they see when it comes to the skills of these characters and such—the one guy did have a 200 foot mech in his backyard after all—but it seemed like something the writers could have delved into more. Perhaps it’s better that they didn’t. It could have become a distraction, or at least not contributed anything to the story, and could have dragged the show out too much. It just was something I thought the creators swallowed too easily, and it made me wonder why the writers didn’t address it more.
Those are the only two negatives I can come up with however. Everything else is sheer positives. Not to mention the number of powerful moments in this show. Characters and their designs are one thing. They enable characters to have the potential for powerful moments that can move audiences. But the story has to actually provide the opportunity and framework for those moments: the story has to create those moments. And we had a lot of them here. Alicetaria’s confrontation with Meteora and Souta, which forced Souta to ultimately be forthcoming about the situation with Altair and Setsuna, was one of the best moments. Chikujouin’s various conversations with Souta were all great too. Altair killing Mamika of course was a big one.
But my favorite was probably the shortest of these noteworthy powerful moments. Very near the beginning we see a short set of frames of a cute girl placing a pair of glasses on her face. We revisit that scene later on, where it’s revealed that this is a moment shared between Setsuna and Souta, one where the emotional, human connection between them is inextricably established. You realize that moment is relevant the moment you see it in the beginning even though you don’t know what’s happening yet, But once I did realize what was happening later on, so many things went off in my mind. First I realized the power of that moment. It was one of those startling, sweet moments you might share with someone where you both simultaneously realize your relationship suddenly exceeds friendship. Second, I knew instantly that this wasn’t going to end well. I had guessed that already based on everything we’d been shown about this situation, but at that moment somehow, beyond words, I know that this wasn’t going to be good. It was going to hurt. It had already begun.
Of the many great moments in this show, that one will probably stick with me the longest. Memorability is another of those aspects that falls under that idea of “acceptance” mentioned above. Powerful moments create powerful memories. Great stories create powerful moments. While this story might not be the most amazing, complicated, gut-wrenching, emotional, fascinating story every written, it’s full of elements that can be described in any or all of those terms and more like them. Like many things in this anime, each of these parts, when combined, make an amazing whole the likes of which we see so preciously infrequently anywhere in art. This is truly a rare gem in the world of anime.
“Take us to the end, Feel this raw emotion.”
The ability to create is uniquely human. It’s so unique that it can be cited as one of the defining traits of humanity. This anime dares to deal with that subject in a manner where the depths of that subject appear oddly apparent when we get done examining it. Some might say this show is a warning almost: that creating something can often have unforeseen and dangerous consequences. I don’t argue with that. Certainly that is part of this show. But I do not see it that way. I see this show as one of the greatest displays in the history of anime of what it means to be human.
This is fantasy. We, anybody who writes creatively and creates stories of fiction, are not creating worlds with our words and the public acceptance of those resulting works, not in a physical sense like we see in this show. But this anime shows us how oh so amazingly close we are to that ability! That’s amazing. We have all the relevant abilities to imagine a new and different world, a world full of goings forth and comings in, a world full of beauty, life, trouble, death, of love and hate, of overwhelming joy and crushing sadness, of nostalgia and grief, with characters that laugh, cry, smile, eat, sleep, live. The only thing we’re missing is the actual ability to physically bring such a thing into being. What if we had that ability too?
That’s a crazy exploration of what it means to be human right there. This show managed to touch on it, and effectively at that. I was and continue to be enthralled. I’ve never seen anything like this show. Anything that compares with it does so simply because it’s great in its own way. I doubt I’ll ever see a show that’s great in the way this show is great ever again.
The music is amazing. I was usually too absorbed in the events of the show itself to notice the music within it too much (though I’ve heard people really like this part of the music), but I can tell you for certain that the OPs for this show were perfect. It’s rare when I love an OP so much that I’m sad when it gets replaced. It’s even rarer that I end up liking the replacement better than the one I loved first. Yet that happened here.
I definitely thought the second half OP was more powerful than the first half’s, despite how immensely powerful that OP was. I saw Altair grab that pixelated heart and crush it, and I was sold. I won’t write the name of the band that did both the OPs for the sake of my language sanity (you’ll see when you look it up), but they did both the first and second half opening songs, and they are amazing. All the quotes preceding the sections above are from those two songs. I love how they’re a mix of English and Japanese like a lot of popular OPs are these days. You do see this a lot, but not everyone does it as effectively as these two songs do. Their lyrics are very relevant to the show.
There are only a handful of anime I’ve ever watched where the OPs or EDs add to or enhance the quality of a show. Usually they’re just kind of—wait Hawk, a second paragraph on the music? That’s a first. Technically this paragraph is about the music and the sequence as a whole, but whatever. Anyway—usually OPs and EDs are either just kind of there or they’re nice and fit the show well. The latter kind I enjoy, but it’s not the same as when I feel like the power of a show or character is greatly enhanced by an opening or ending sequence. Some of the Attack on Titan OPs and EDs fall into this category. The ED for Black Lagoon is epic, powerful, astounding, heart-pounding, unforgettable. Most of us probably—unfortunately or not—remember the effect of the original High School DxD ED. The OPs for Re:Creators got me pumped up for this show like nothing else. I was engrossed the moment the first note played and didn’t break my attention until the show ended.
Why? Because not only do they fit the show perfect in tenor, appearance, and lyrics, but they showcase the characters magnificently. And yet, is it really all just about the characters?
“Get started recreating the world!”
While seeing these powerful short sequences of these magnificent “creation” characters presented in dramatic, beautiful drawings, if you look at the lyrics, most of them are directed at the creators. I don’t want to dig for meaning in these songs beyond what’s presented through the lyrics, but if nothing else it’s pretty clear these songs are addressing the creators. All while the visuals depict the creations. It gets me excited even thinking about it!
This show is just exciting to watch. From the music to the story to the appropriate pacing (often messed up in 22-24 episodes anime) to the characters themselves and even then artwork in certain places, this show is a magnificent, exciting experience from beginning to end. There’s a beauty in the ordinary encountering the extraordinary, and particularly when the creator is the “ordinary” and the created is the “extraordinary” in this case. That’s one of those things that makes anime great. The apparent contradiction between humanness and non-humanness, ordinary and extraordinary, is something that anime deals with like no other art form does. This is definitely one of those shows that can re-ignite one’s love for anime. Imagine that: re- is in the title.
I never cried during this show. There were really sad moments, but I never really cried over them. I cried when this show ended. The first half OP played again as the credits began to roll, and I cried as if it all had been bottled up the whole time. I know why. It’s because something so beautiful had come to an end. Not because I wanted to see it again, or see more of it, but simply because it was over, and the finish was perfect and perfectly beautiful. I smiled as Meteora entered “Re:Creators” as the title for her book, the song kicked on and the credits began, and….
And so I will never wish for a second season of this show. Some things are perfect the way they are. This show should be remembered exactly as it is. All the emotion that we experienced and poured out either during or at the end should be remembered as it happened. Memory is another trait unique to humanity, much like creativity. It goes without saying that the creativity behind this anime, the anime called Re:Creators, makes it forever memorable. We may be able to envision perfection as humans, but rarely do we get close to creating it. This show comes closer than perhaps any anime ever will. I can think of no greater compliment than that.