What’s it mean to be in the Caw of Fame? The name is a take-off on Hall of Fame, and since crows make the sound “caw…”
Well, I think it’s funny. Or at least mildly amusing.
For a series to earn this “honor,” it has to meet two criteria: the last episode has to have debuted at least a year ago, and I have to like the series. A lot. As in re-watching it over and over.
Please join me in welcoming Re:CREATORS to the Caw of Fame!
Before I talk about this show, I want to confess something to you. I’m not sure I can pull off this post. This show speaks to me so profoundly that I’m not sure I have the vocabulary to explain why. I don’t know if we have enough shared experiences to leverage so I can communicate how I feel about this show. Not without examining half of my life’s major events, sharing them with you, and analyzing them on top of that — and none of us wants that!
Another show might come along to claim the title later, but as of this moment, as of this writing, this is my favorite show.
Nothing else even comes close.
Not even close to Re:CREATORS.
Those words aren’t really getting across what I want to say. Let’s try this: If I had the skill, this is the show I would have written. If I had the ability, these are the characters I would have brought into the world. If I had the vision, this is the story I would have created.
And, it might seem strange to say, but I think the show’s encouraging me to do those things.
To be honest, despite having read stories from all the dawn of human history until now, I can’t even conceive of a show that would be better than this. So please do hang out with me as I try to justify such a hyperbolic statement!
And be aware: There will be spoilers.
Re:CREATORS: What’s It About?
Re:CREATORS is about the terror of creating. It’s about the the chickens coming home to roost. It’s about responsibility. But that really doesn’t tell you much, does it?
Let me try a different tact.
Re:CREATORS is about what it means to create something in this world. You have to have certain personality traits to be a success in any creative field, especially writing (and I say that only because it’s the field I’m most experienced with), because otherwise, the industry and fans will crush you.
Not everyone can withstand the pressures that their creations unleash. Capture from the Amazon Prime stream.
In fact, the story starts at the end of one creator’s life. In the opening scenes, we see Setsuna Shimazaki walking down the stairs to a train platform. She looks stricken. We don’t know why; we have no context for what’s about to happen. A police officer at the other end of the platform seemed to sense something was amiss, but when she seemed to stop behind the yellow line, he turned back to his duties.
Just as she stepped into the path of the oncoming train.
When we meet the point of view character (POV), Souta Mizushino, we only know that he seemed despondent. He comes home from school and tries to draw something in a fictional version of Adobe Illustrator. But inspiration eludes him. He finally gives up and tries to watch an episode of Elemental Symphony of Vogelchevalier. As Princess Selesia Upitiria pilots her giant mech Vogelchevalier, a new enemy appears — and Souta’s tablet freezes. He smacks it, the universal first step in troubleshooting, and the world seems to pixelate.
His world, that is.
Suddenly, he’s standing on the surface of a calm lake. Vogelchevalier towers behind him. A new character, one he’s never seen before (as far as he can remember at that time), stands before him.
Souta didn’t know what to make the giant mech flying just overhead. Or the lake on which he stood. Amazon Prime stream.
Selesia is a character in an anime. For a few moments, Souta visited her world, and then, just in time to save the both of them from the other character, they’re back in Souta’s room.
The story is about what happens when characters in fictional universes come into our world — the world of the creators (as in the creators of those fictional universes). Some characters, like Selesia, led lives of bravery and import where they improved the lives of those around them. Others, like Alicetelia February, strove to be brave and true, but lived in worlds that brutalized everything they held dear.
You can imagine how different characters would react differently to the prospect of meeting their creators.
And the other character Souta just met? She had the biggest axe of all to grind. Only, she’s not angry with her creator. Her goal is the complete destruction of the world of all the creators. In other words, she wants to force the collision of all fictional worlds with our world. The result she intends is universal destruction.
And guess what? She had a good reason for it.
Characters and Plot
Souta, as I mentioned, is the POV character. He’s an aspiring artist, and we learn that there was a perfect explanation for why he was introduced at the same time we saw Setsuna, who, in a fit of despair, threw herself in front of a train. Setsuna enjoyed a brief period of success with her art, but she attracted the vicious attention of internet trolls, who harassed her mercilessly. She turned to Souta for support. Crippled by his own insecurities, he wouldn’t take her calls.
So he felt — and likely was — complicit in her death.
Souta blamed himself for Setsuna’s suicide. Trouble was, he was probably right. Capture from the Amazon Prime stream.
That’s heavy stuff, but the series doesn’t sugar coat it. It’s the foundation of the story, and it’s the foundation of Souta’s redemption arc. What he finally does to redeem himself is really, really something.
We meet a variety of creations and their creators through the story. Some of the creations are kinda happy to meet their creators. Others either kill them outright or feel inclined to torture them. Think about it: If you lived in a world of horrors and found out that it was all part of some writer/artist’s imagination, and the results was used to satisfy his or her readers, how would you feel?
More specifically, how would you feel if you were not only morally aware, but capable of profound violence? You’d want to subject that creator to said violence, wouldn’t you? Heck, the Trilemma by itself inflames my conscience, given my degree in theology. I shudder to think what I would do if I found out our misfortunes were played for laughs in some divine comedy.
And if I happened to be equipped with significant strategic weaponry.
Boom, I would say. Repeatedly.
I want to direct our attention to two other creations and their creators. There are more, of course, but I don’t want to make you sit through a book length manuscript. And since this is Re:CREATORs we’re talking about, a book length manuscript is about the right length.
For an introduction.
This is our first clear glimpse of Altair. Notice her square irises. Capture from the Amazon Prime stream.
I mentioned that Setsuna had been heckled because of some early successes. One of her creations turns out to be the main antagonist — Altair. Altair’s goal was to make the world pay for harassing her creator into suicide. She had no empathy, no remorse, no feelings of compassion whatsoever for a world in which someone as gentle and sensitive and kind as Setsuna was so badly treated. Altair is the ultimate advocate for those who are bullied. The only downside is that her antidote to bullying is the utter destruction of the world that allows bullies to exist.
Clearly, even those who sympathize with her would be conflicted about supporting her — if they understood exactly what she was trying to do! Unfortunately, she kept that part secret as long as she could.
The next creation we meet is Meteora Ousterreich, who is in some ways a second POV character. She’s actually the character who gives the series its title, though we don’t learn that until the ridiculously meta final episode. She was a serious, book-ish young woman who happened to have a dry, sarcastic sense of humor that I found hilarious. She saves Selesia from her first conflict against Altair, and the two team up with Souta. Her calm assessment of situations saved our heroes more than once.
I should note that my high opinion of her has nothing to do with the fact that I bought her Good Smile figurine.
Meteora introduced herself by lobbing several missiles at Altair. Real missiles. We find out later she actually “borrowed” them from the government. Capture from the Amazon Prime stream.
Alicetelia February started as a prototypical tank; by the time she confronted Souta over another character’s death, her agony practically had me in tears. She was a powerful knight from a world that was a lot like Game of Thrones — if Game of Thrones was like the children’s game Candy Land. Her world was dark. Despite that, she is the epitome of chivalry. She tolerated no evil. She had no patience for weakness. But in her heart of hearts, she was in despair. No matter what she did in her world, she could not vanquish her foes. The result was that she had to watch her people die again, and again, and again.
Her creator was Gai Takarada. When Alicetelia learned that she was a creation whose agony was entertainment for inhabitants of the world of gods (us), she was understandably angry. It was a testament to Alicetelia’s dedication to her code of ethics that she did not slay Gai on sight. The scenes of them coming to terms with one another were fantastic. He was a quiet man; he just wanted to write. The idea that the scenarios he created were actually real to his characters, and that one of those characters had come home to roost, crushed his confidence. The guilt almost destroyed him.
I mentioned Selesia before. I don’t think she gets nearly the attention she deserves. She’s independent. She’s intelligent. She’s dedicated, and she is stupidly beautiful. She understands that she’s in a new world very, very quickly. She even learns to drive a Mini Cooper in record time!
Irrelevant confession time: The character I’m currently playing in Fallout 4 is named Selesia. I couldn’t get the player model to have red hair over orange like the real character has, but at least it reminds me of Re:CREATORS when I play.
Her creator becomes an important figure in the counter attack against Altair. His name is Takashi Matsubara. I’d like to think I’d be more like Souta, who is the the main character. But nah. I’m more like Takashi, except I don’t smoke (beer is a different matter). He, unlike Gai, was overjoyed to meet Selesia. The two of them had a bit of a rocky start, but by the end, he was almost like a father to her. That made her fate even more difficult to bear…
I think Matsubara can be forgiven for his almost comical reaction to meeting Selesia. He thought she was an actress or cosplayer, after all. Capture from the Amazon Prime stream.
One of the creations, Mamika Kirameki, was a magical girl from a kid’s show. She was everything you’d expect: effervescent, idealistic, and hopelessly naive. In the world she came from, she would attack her villains with weapons like the Magical Splash Flare, and after the fight, they’d make up and be friends. When she hammers Selesia with that attack, Mamika is horrified by the results: Selesia is barely able to stand. She’s bleeding from dozens of wounds; blood covers her chin as she tries to talk. And when Mamika protests that this isn’t how it should be, Selesia gives her a lesson in real courage.
What was really cool about the scene, though, is Mamika’s reaction. To her, the effects of her weapon were incomprehensible. Her world was so sugar-coated that violence had no consequence. Seeing how she had just brutalized Selesia shook her to her very soul. If Alicetelia had not have rescued her, her story might have ended right there.
I have to say that that the relationship that develops between Mamika and Alicetelia was endearing to the point of rekindling some of my faith in humanity. Right up to the point where it didn’t.
Mamika’s theme song (I won’t have space, but I wish I could talk about the soundtrack!) was Here I Am. A couple of lines go:
Isn’t it drama-ma-matical?
You know it’s not tra-ra-ragical
I didn’t know it at the time, but by the end of episode 8, I felt like telling her, “Oh honey, that’s exactly what it is: Tra-ra-ragical.”
The last character I’ll introduce is the most powerful in the series. In fact, she’s frighteningly powerful. Of all of the creations who followed Altair, this character is the one I’d least want to face. I honestly think there’s no way I could prevail. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’d end up like her creator.
Dead. By her hand.
You know, I really feel sorry for the book store owner. Talk about the wrong place at the wrong time… Capture from the Amazon stream.
I’m talking about Magane Chikujouin. Dressed as a school girl, she is utterly without remorse. She lives to enjoy herself. She’s whip-smart. Her power? If someone tells a lie about a lie, she can alter the fabric of reality. The fabric of freaking reality! Saying she’s Over Powered (OP) doesn’t cover it. There’s not another character in this story, including Altair herself, who would stand a chance against her. Yet, she’s probably my favorite character in a cast packed with characters I just adore. I think it’s because her attitude is exactly what I’d expect from someone with her power. She’s also the fulcrum on which the plot pivots, and it has everything to do with her relationship with Souta.
Poor guy. Talking about being in over your head…
What I Liked About It
I can’t tell you everything I liked about Re:CREATORS. To even make the attempt, I’d have to invite you over, pop some popcorn, crack open some beers (or other beverage if you prefer non-alcoholic drinks), and watch every episode with you. I’d have to pause it a dozen times each episode with all sorts of excited insights.
We’d have to arrange for lodging at a local affordable yet quality hotel. Since my budget can’t afford that, let me instead pick three scenes that epitomize the series for me.
The first such scene was very, very early in the first episode. As we watch a series of shots that visually introduce us to characters like Selesia, Alicetelia, and others on billboards or manga (though we don’t yet know who they are), Souta is sharing his thoughts.
We didn’t know it at the time, but some of the characters in the promotional materials Souta photographed were creations we would meet later. Souta didn’t know it at the time, either. Capture from the Amazon Prime stream.
“After all, I think she was the main character,” he said of Setsuna. “That is, if ‘the main character’ is what you call the person at the center of events. That’s what I mean. I’m just the narrator. So that’s why I’m going to tell the story. You might not believe me, but I want to tell everything without hiding anything. If there’s one thing I can say now it’s that I’m sure there was a miracle and that there was a story that surpassed all stories.”
That immediately got my attention. Remember how I’ve talked about having a degree in theology? Well, the phrase “greatest story ever told” usually evokes the Christian savior, Jesus the Christ. So I’m sitting there, having earned a degree in Roman Catholic theology, with concentrations in Moral Systematic Theology, Christology, and Eschatology, and an anime is making a claim that it’s on par with the Gospels?
I figured this show was about to crash and burn, or completely blow me away.
And now here I sit, having been blown utterly away.
It only got better from there. The episode next hit us with the series hook. Souta tried to draw something, but his despair over something still choked him. Remember how I mentioned earlier that Souta tried to watch Selesia’s series, but his tablet froze? As it partially recovered, it actually showed a series of quotes in a variety of languages. The quotes included:
- What do you expect?
- You cannot escape from here.
- Don’t hide from the truth.
- Change before you have to.
- Without the rush but without the break.
Very cool and meta stuff. As I’m pondering them, I realized that Souta is now somewhere else. It soon becomes clear it’s the world from the anime he had been trying to watch. Before I could think, “That’s weird…” the plot was dragging me in even deeper.
The shots of Souta arriving in Selesia’s world were perfectly executed. We experienced Souta’s shock at finding himself no longer in his room, but standing on a lake as Selesia’s giant mech roared overhead. We immediately got an idea of Altair’s massive power when she discorporated the mech with practically no effort. At this point, I was thinking we have a serious villain, and what struck me hardest was that she had a plan. She had a perspective. She didn’t say much about it, but every action, every word screamed mission. I was already dying to know what she was going to do!
Selesia’s quick thinking saved Souta’s life. Capture from the Amazon Prime stream.
We’re not even half way through the first episode, and I had already decided I was going to watch this series.
The next scene I want to share was in episode 6. We just met Magane and saw how gleefully murderous she was with the bookstore owner (she unleashed a Cthulhu-mythos beast on him). She’s still carrying the book she stole from that bookstore when she came upon Alicetelia and Mamika. They were on patrol, looking for other creations that Altair had pulled into our world. Mamika was hoping to find someone “nice” like Alicetelia; Alicetelia was more world-wise and apprehensive.
Guess who wasn’t even phased that she’d just met a “knight on a white horse and a magical girl?” Remember I mentioned Magane’s raw intelligence? It was on full display in this scene. She already knew she was in another world, but when Mamika told her they were “in the world of the gods who created us,” you could just see Magane’s imagination explode with possibilities. All while Mamika described the situation, Alicetelia watched Magane carefully. Seeing Magane’s expression and hearing her tone, Alicetelia made her decision — just as she would have in her world. She decided that Magane was evil and couldn’t be trusted.
I almost felt sorry for Alicetelia, who at this point in the story was one of the antagonists. On the field of intellectual combat, Magane ran circles around the physically powerful knight. As soon as Magane turned the conversation to the morality of killing, the endgame was in sight. Magane tricked Alicetelia into telling a falsehood about a falsehood (Alicetelia wouldn’t willingly lie) by confusing her with clever word play.
“For example, your spear,” Magane said. “You might get stabbed by that, instead of me.”
“I shall not die at the hands of one who spouts nonsense!” Alicetelia said.
Seriously, I’d rather face off against Altair herself, even armed with just a butter knife, than engage in a battle of wit with Magane. Capture from the Amazon stream.
That was the moment Magane was waiting for. Her sound of animal delight was amazing. I’m betting that Maaya Sakamoto, the voice actor, had a blast performing this character! Alicetelia almost unconsciously reacted to the feral sound and charged. Only the arrival of Selesia and Meteora saved the knight’s life.
Everything about the scene worked. The camera angles, the animation, the voice acting, the music, and the depth of the characters kept me breathlessly glued to the screen. Above everything else, though, the characters were what captured my imagination.
Character was at the heart of the third scene I want to share with you. It’s in episode 10. Altair had recently killed Mamika, and Magane told Alicetelia that Meteora was the culprit. Worse, Magane disclosed to Souta that Mamika went to see Altair because she believed in Souta’s idealism — in other words, it was Souta’s fault. So the poor guy has the deaths of two young women on his conscience. Alicetelia has cornered Meteora on a roof-top parking lot. Souta has called their government contact for reinforcements, but his conscience was eating at him. The creations on his side warned him to stay away, because they know he’s worth about zero in a fight. But he couldn’t just stand by and do nothing as Alicetelia cut Meteora down.
So he placed himself between them.
This high school kid, a failing artist, a kid shaking so badly he can barely move, physically puts himself between the main battle tank named Alicetelia and the mage Meteora.
Souta summoned his failing courage and told Alicetelia that he had read her stories, but she’s unmoved. She asked if he was entertained; she asked if he laughed as her people died. She was shocked when he denied it. He spoke of his hope that she’d be in time to save the villages. He earnestly told her that even though he wasn’t in that world, he mourned for its people. He, and many other readers, cheered her on and supported her in her battles, for a very simple reason. She put her life on the line to save the people she loved. She was an inspiration to her fans.
But Souta wasn’t the only one who had sustained psychological damage. Alicetelia heard his words. They broke through her top-level defenses. But all of her defeats weighed on her. Not only that, she had learned that everything she had believed in — even her world itself — had been lies. Even if Souta’s words were true, there was nothing real for her to hold onto.
As she described this to Souta, tears welled in her eyes. And then she spoke of the final insult. “I tried to save Mamika. But in the end… I couldn’t prevent her death.”
Seeing Alicetelia fight to maintain her integrity, even in a situation where all frames of reference were denied her, was heart-rending. Capture from the Amazon Prime stream.
Her precious friend, the only “real” treasure she had (in that the friendship happened in our “real” world), was gone. As a final statement that she was going to live as a knight even if being a knight wasn’t real, she told him to step aside. Her eyes were steel.
He wouldn’t move. “The Alicetelia I knew would do the same thing! So that’s why I’m doing this, too!”
Meteora tried to reason with her, and when that didn’t work, Souta told Alicetelia that this was all one of Magane’s lies.
“Silence,” she screamed, her voice cracking. “Silence,” she repeated, quietly. “Please.” Souta’s words had sunk more deeply than he thought. She knew he was right; she recognized his honesty. But this was course of action was all that was left to her.
I’m going to stop there. The rest of the scene was riveting, but watching the plot’s premise and Souta’s words have such a powerful and realistic impact on Alicetelia made it almost too real for me. I could feel her agony. I experienced her sense of isolation and loss. I empathized with her sense of honor still trying to find expression in a place where she couldn’t even trust the world’s existence.
And all the while, I was aware that I was feeling for Alicetelia exactly what Souta was feeling for her. The sense of alignment put me so firmly in his point of view that even rewatching the scene, I felt like I was Souta.
That’s what it means to watch Re:CREATORS.
Souta was shocked into silence by Alicetelia’s pain. He was a ridiculously effective point of view character. Capture from the Amazon Prime stream.
That’s the whole point of fiction, isn’t it? To so firmly draw you into a world that it becomes real, even if for a brief moment? Ordinarily, I have to wait years between times I can experience something like that. Made in Abyss episode 10 did it to me. To a slightly lesser extent, a scene in episode 4 of Arpeggio of Blue Steel did it, too. But this series did it almost every week.
I haven’t touched on 5% of what I loved about this show. The soundtrack, which you can buy from Amazon (I’m an affiliate), is fantastic. The battle scenes are on point. The relationship that develops between Souta and Magane is on one hand terrifying and on the other mesmerizing. The creator’s and their allies’ response to Altair was meta in a way I found delightful. At one point, two of the character’s voice actors appeared in the episode, as themselves! So while they were voicing creations, they were also voicing themselves.
You don’t find that level of cool every day!
If I had to pick one thing beyond the characters that keeps me coming back to this series, it’s how respectfully it treats the creative process. The writers and artists are depicted as heroes, and sure, that’s really cool and all. But they’re also treated as fully realized humans. They have strengths and weaknesses. They have dreams and insecurities. And they all struggle to bring their art into reality. That is such a hopeful vision of the world that I can’t help but feel encouraged.
Thanks for staying with me until now! I hope you enjoyed watching Re:CREATORS as much as I did. If you’re so inclined, please do share what you liked about it in the comments!