Ach ja, I had the brilliant idea of watching Re:Creators in one go, with just a single break inbetween, and while it was enjoyable, I was left with a story I am unable to connect to in the end. So, here is the question: What even is Re:Creators about?
The answer seems to be obvious. It is about the nature of creating stories and the relation between the author, the characters and partially the audience that consumes the stories. And while I wouldn’t disagree with this idea, I think the way Re:Creators goes about its way in exploring said ideas is not effective in impacting its viewer on more than a superficial level.
Re:Creators has a lot of high-concept ideas, from characters of (in universe) popular anime, manga and novels being transported into “our” world and them confronting their creator, to the characters being affected by public consciousness and the whole destruction of the world thing. All this makes for an interesting story, bit does it eventually get dragged down by its inherent meta-ness and inability to make a point that does also apply to our real world and not just the space in which the Re:Creators anime exists in.
The story is surprisingly nuanced in the way it approaches the whole “creation meets their creator”, with several different reaction of the characters:
Selesias (The Asuna clone in the middle) first impression was a literal “Why are we still here? Just to suffer?” that eventually grew towards respect to her author, once she realizes why he is writing the story to begin with. Alicetaria (Knight on the left) started similar with resentment towards the person that created hell in her world, but changed her mind once she saw the impression of herself by one of the readers and acknowledged the sincerity with which her story is written. Yuuya (The cool looking guy) looks at the authors actions as fate, which he won’t fight against and just lives with the consequences of the events, Meteora (Mage) just played her game, since her creator is dead and thought is was fun, Blitz (Older guy) and his author have this hate/respect going on, Mamika (Magical Girl) and Kanoya (Mecha Pilot) apparently don’t mind and Magane (Menacing looking girl on the right) literally just doesn’t care and has fun in the real world.
While it is interesting in its own right and definitely made me think, how some of my own characters would feel about me making them suffer through the things they do (I should put suffer in all caps, to be honest), it is not like it actually matters for anyone outside of the story of Re:Creators. They are stories, not reality. My characters will not come to life and if they do, we won’t really be talking about them, like they are “just” characters in a story. As both a writer and a reader, I am aware that it is fiction and does not have to apply to real life ethics. Again, it is fun to think about, but considering how much Re:Creators ravels itself in the topic of “creation”, it fails to create any kind of real message to take away from it.
There was the initial idea of the characters changing their story, as for them the creators are basically gods with whom it is easy to end the problems of their worlds, which are real for the characters, but again, this is normally not a thing anyone has to deal with, as it essentially means ending the story. Not that this idea means anything, as the characters eventually decide against changing their story and it turns out to be impossible anyways. It is the idea of a story inside a story, not a story or reality, meaning I don’t really get a lot out of this idea.
This might actually be my main gripe with the anime. It rarely presents ideas that are applicable outside of Re:Creators itself. At the start of the second act, it introduces the concept of “acceptance”, the idea that the fiction can only become real, if the reader accepts the fiction. This eventually lead to the plot line of not only connecting all the characters via spin-offs, but also making them stronger. I mean, yeah, being able to convince the reader and not destroying their immersion will make or brake a story, but the anime completely overlooks the way how such a feat is achieved. All the authors eventually just create this story and it works, but the viewer of Re:Creators is none the wiser as to how, or even why.
Re:Creators eventually becomes so preoccupied solving its own story with all the ideas it brought to the table, that it doesn’t linger on the ideas itself. Why do we create stories? How do we deal with failure, or a lack of acceptance. At the end of the day, we saved the world by a complicated set of rules, not talked about “creating”. The thing is, the anime basically had it right there with its main character. Souta had this truly fantastical and heartfelt moment, where he talked about his envy and feelings of frustration towards one of his artist friends, about this “ugly satisfaction” of her being bullied online, and the regret following her suicide. This was some heavy stuff and very easy to relate to. Pouring your heart and soul into something, only to receive these brutal reactions of hate, being left alone because your only friend was not there for you anymore due to his jealousy.
This whole idea of confronting this situation was essentially dropped and only brought back to end the series. It fell completely flat for me. Re:Creators didn’t make a point, it solved its own convoluted puzzle. On the other hand, I do have no need for Re:Creators to make a point. While I think it has some interesting ideas about creation and creators, it also plays itself mostly very straight. The problem in that is, that I was just not able to connect with it. Re:Creators, in the end, is also just a creation. A creation clearly made by people that care a lot about creating. It is a love letter to any author and artist by the sheer power of its meta-ness alone. I am sure there is a perfect middle ground as to how much anime you would have seen, to get the maximum enjoyment out of it, but I have clearly surpassed that threshold, as well as maybe created on too many things myself, or thought about the idea of creation too much.
It may be unfair to discuss Re:Creators by not just its own merits, but in a larger context of the creative process and its influences on the reader, but Re:Creators is a story about stories. Ignore this aspect and what you are left with is just an empty hull that calls to its own existence and something about the idea of an empty book screaming to be read is kind of ironic to me. It is possible to see Re:Creators as just a well-produced spin on the isekai genre, I will so talk about it later, but for me, this is not how I engaged with the series at the end. It could have been the approach itself, or just some minor elements and details, but at the end of the day, Re:Creators was unable to present the idea of creation to me in any manner I could connect with.
But beyond what Re:Creators is even about, let’s just talk a bit about what it is about, because not every anime is able to bring me back and back again after every episode, so that I binge it in record time. Last time something like this happened was with Fate/stay night and god knows where this led me to.
Re:Creators belongs in this group of big well-produced original action spectacles with the likes of Code Geass, Guilty Crown, Aldnoah.Zero and Kabaneri. And like a good chunk of these, Re:Creators has slowly escaped the mind of the community. As already said, the actual story is, at least for me, quite interesting and it looks and sounds amazing too, with Layers and Brave The Ocean
being certified Sawano Bangers™. It is a no brainer as to see how it can be popular.
I also appreciate this obvious respect for the female characters in how they are portrayed through the camera where “some” anime would use it for… I feel fanservice is the wrong word here… more like, they were able to pull a panty shot, but went out of their way to not do so, but keep the direction the same through clever blocking, effects, etc. In the opening, Selesia walks over the camera, it pointing upwards under her skirt and instead of awkward, it looks cool and serious in motion.
Then there are the several “fictional” characters, most being very obvious references to real characters. While all are, by design, walking tropes, they are fun to watch and their interaction with each other, as well as the real world, is great. Seeing the magical girl use her power and being in absolute shock about the fact that she just destroyed several building and caused her opponent to bleed was… very potent after having just recently finished another season of Precure myself.
Yuuya, rocking that JoJo villain vibe, is actually pretty cool and gets along with the protagonist of child friendly Evangelion. Obviously not the biggest fan of Selesia and Meteora, but all is forgiven by Alicetaria and Mamika being friends. Like, of course the princess from this dark fantasy tale is friends with the magical girl that gave her curry from her own merchandise. All is good in this world. Even the military and government were not stupid.
Honestly, my problems with the story story of Re:Creators comes down to the occasional moment of just not being able to care and the sheer amount of exposition dumps needed, to even get what is going on. The first half was very enjoyable and filled with all these interesting ideas, only for the second half to being fixated on the build-up of the big final fight and not sticking its landing. One can argue about one too many characters towards the end, but I will defend the obvious one to my death.
This about wraps up my thoughts on Re:Creators. It may sound conceited of me to say this, but I am a creator myself and was a bit disappointed, that the anime took a more action oriented course at the end and not one with a higher focus on its creation aspect. At the end, it was a good anime that I unfortunately couldn’t connect to as much as I wanted.
Re:Creators is available on Amazon via Amazon Prime.