Foreshadowing Can NOT Function As Substance — A Rewrite Post

You’d think that’d be obvious years ago, and yet people are still giving visual novel anime like this and light novel stuff like Re:Zero a free pass because it “looks” like something is going to happen.

You know, judging by a few pre-reactions I saw prior to watching this show, I was really expecting to hate it. Or at the very least, I thought it was going to be the same disaster as Grisaia’s premiere in that they only reveal the twist at the last minute and the rest would contain shitty fanservice antics. When I realized too late that the premiere was an hour long, I expected something as agonizingly annoying as Re:Zero‘s first episode (and the rest of the show for that matter). But surprisingly, I didn’t hate Rewrite’s premiere. It was just kinda boring. Which is an improvement over stuff like Plastic Memories, which was completely boring from the very start, but still…

For a show that devoted twice the normal anime episode length for its premiere, it sure didn’t devote any of that time to creating an engaging hook. In fact, it just used the opportunity to dump a whole lot of concepts on us, and I’m not sure why I’m supposed to care about them. Girl intros are sort of an inevitability with these sorts of anime, but giant CG crab monsters? Fairies? A mysterious white-haired girl? Sure these elements will probably come into play later, but where’s the actual “now” to tide me over in the meantime? Saying that there are fantasy elements in your school series isn’t enough to keep me entertained, especially when you haven’t even established any of the characters that are supposed to be driving this show, let alone an actual direction to take them.

The lead dude is a “joker character” named Kotarou. I guess he’s Key’s attempt to make a protagonist out of the Sunohara-character type, but other than that, the show hasn’t told me a goddamn thing about him. We know he lives in a house, makes fun of girls, and that he died in a previous life, Higurashi-style…oh yeah, I forgot to mention. He died in a previous life, Higurashi-style. And no one in their right mind would think this is a spoiler because this first episode hammered that fact in no less than three times throughout its fifty-minute run. Killed by the white-haired girl who seems to be the Hanyuu of this story by the looks of it as well. I guess maybe the show is trying to sell the mystery of what happened as the hook, but I need a reason to care about the mystery. Preferably, you’d do that by making me care about the character who’s at the center of the mystery – which the show fails at due to the fact that all we see of Kotarou during the time we’re stuck with him is stuff that any generic protagonist would do in his situation. This should be incredibly obvious to some people, but putting someone who’s not very interesting in a dangerous/unique situation doesn’t automatically make him more interesting. You have to give me something I can’t read on the character tab of the official website.

For what it’s worth, none of the girls are terrible (yet) but we don’t learn anything about them either apart from some basic character traits like one is super strong and another is a sleepy-head. Other than Chihaya (the orange-haired girl) seeming to know the witch-girl, whose name has yet to be made clear, I don’t understand why you had to devote so much time to introducing these characters if they aren’t going to affect the plot yet. The fucking fairies – who are pretty annoying by the way – have more plot importance than any of them at this point, and all they did was help Kotarou out of a different dimension he wandered into. There was no reason to devote three minutes to that eye-patch girl because she never shows up after basically saying “I exist” for said time. Three minutes that could have been spent on making our protagonist more interesting, I should add.

The ironic thing is that for all the show’s lack of plot so far, it’s pretty easy to determine what the story is going to be about. You’d need to have rocks for brains to not realize that environmentalism is going to be a major – if not THE major – theme given the amount of times “trees” and “afforestation” are brought into the show’s dialogue and imagery. And the title of this episode is called “The World or Myself?”, an allusion to a question Kotarou discovers that basically asks which one he’d rather change. So Rewrite is also going to delve into that “one vs many” mentality, huh? Unfortunately, knowing something is going to happen doesn’t excuse the fact that the setup is lacking urgency, like pretty much every visual novel anime I’ve seen in the last decade or so ever. Not to mention, there’s no guarantee that the show is going to deliver when it gets to the meat and potatoes anyways. Even fucking Steins;Gate fell in quality with those last two episodes, although I wouldn’t go so far as to say it completely fell apart with that “true arc” or anything like that.

Excusing those “Key girl” introductions because complaining about those at this point is like trying to tackle a flaming meteor with a football helmet, what exactly does the crab monster have to do with any of those themes I brought up? What does Kotarou living in an alternate time loop add to the story? Where are the stakes that make me want to see this mystery unfold? That makes me want to know who the white-haired girl is? I kept trying to think of an answer for these questions whilst typing up these posts and the only answers I have are stuff that would only appeal to an anime nerd. And as my experience with Re:Zero should make perfectly clear, I don’t like things that only appeal to anime nerds, especially when it’s not important to the plot. If you’re looking for an anime nerd’s perspective on anime, you’re reading the wrong blog, guys.

Personally, the only mystery I have regarding this show at this point is how long it’s going to take for Rewrite’s story to start. With thirteen episodes and a freaking big visual novel, it’s got to start pretty soon unless there’s a sequel coming up (wouldn’t surprise me if they did that “true arc” nonsense as its own separate show at any rate). I’ve heard troubling rumors it’s going to go the omnibus route with its girls like Grisaia did, and we all know I’m not a fan of that format. Still, bar something completely exploitative, it’s better than sitting through a load of setup. And knowing my luck with these sorts of shows, said setup is going to be even more tedious from here on out.

I don’t have a good way to conclude this post, so here’s an image of that CG crab I kept bringing up.

Minor Quips

8 responses to “Foreshadowing Can NOT Function As Substance — A Rewrite Post

  1. What’s up with that title. Prolepsis is a fundamental feature of how narratives are read and enjoyed. You can’t even tell a story without anachrony of some sort. Whether or not it worked in Rewrite is a different story; in general, though, of course foreshadowing can function as substance.

      • There’s more ‘substance’ to the reader in the anachronies of a story than in what we actually get ‘told’ to us, though. All our engagement is about how we link things together, forward and back, as we witness the syntax of events.

        So while foreshadowing can’t be the only substance (else we’ll have no interest in actually engaging with it as foreshadowing), it is pretty much the most important substance a narrative, especially at this stage, has to offer.

      • I think we’ve got another case of differing semantics here. I’m of the opinion that foreshadowing is an important “element” of substance (jury’s out on “most” important). An element is not the same thing as the real McCoy. It’s something the McCoy uses to give flavor because no one wants to watch substance if it’s dry, least of all in something as visual as anime.

      • To use terms of narratology, it’s not part of the ‘narrating’, and nor is it part of the ‘story’ that’s narrated. It’s part of the reception of the narrative which is what forms as ‘the narrative’ in the reader’s mind.

  2. Seems to me this is just a problem with very long-running material (like LN series often are). A lot of foreshadowing because they take a lot to get to the actual meat of the story (if they ever do), but it’s another problem entirely that often the anime shows don’t even get to cover that.
    Said this, usually the foreshadowing concerns the bigger, overarching plot arc. But there are also smaller, self-contained narratives in it. Re:Zero does this too, it has arcs (whether you enjoy them or not is another matter) even though the general plot seems to be focused on the king’s election and the whole business with the Jealous Witch and that’s not going to be resolved any soon.

    • Re:Zero’s smaller arcs have too much foreshadowing as well though. They really only start when Subaru dies (on-screen) and everything before that is just establishing character quirks or putting up with his behavior for 3-4 episodes. Been rewatching Kaiba lately and whilst it takes over half the show to get to the main plot, there’s a lot more to chew on during Warp’s journey as a girl than establishing his own character and whatnot.

      Also, I wouldn’t say the king’s election is part of the general plot since it barely involves our lead. Hell, it barely involves Emilia since she doesn’t seem to gain or lose much from it.

    • Seems to me this is just a problem with very long-running material

      I’d say there’s a difference between your typical LN series and stuff like Shokugeki no Soma, but I don’t have room to clarify that here. It wouldn’t explain the large amount of “only foreshadowing for large stretches of time” in VN adaptations/writing like Rewrite or Plastic Memories at any rate. Yeah they’re long game-wise, but they generally tend to wrap themselves up in 1 or 2 cours, so what’s their excuse for not making good use of their time (besides the fact that translating from interactive medium to non-interactive medium is rough, I mean)?

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