The weight of humanity has no limits.
This winter has been a hectic back and forth of thrilling mysteries, heart-racing action, and quiet walks down memory lane; albeit, after being slaughtered in various ways. Which drew me back to the two shows that have not only caught my attention, but completely captured it, whether it’s with a pacing that leaves you at the edge of your seat, or a plethora of lovable characters. Erased and RE:ZERO have both reignited the age-old question of “What if you could rewind time?”. A center for heated debate amongst my friends and I, the subject has led to discussions on possible uses, variations of the ability, and the other many nuances of time travel.
Oh, and a spoiler alert for those of you who haven’t caught up or watched RE:ZERO and Erased yet. Seriously, go watch them. They’re both very well directed [so far].
Both Erased and RE:ZERO play with this concept, mainly using the protagonists’ ability to save others. In Erased, this ability is normally activated under strict requisites: either to prevent someone’s untimely death, or when under intense duress (or when the situation requires it for the sake of plot). This forces our protagonist, Satoru to play the hero and stop various events from happening. From potential kidnappings, to even endangering his own body to save a truck driver, the responsibility put on Satoru is definitely an enormous one. At best: he’ll succeed, patting himself on the back and moving on, hopefully with no repercussions to his already busy lifestyle as a manga artist. At worst: injury, both physically and psychologically, or even death. Failing to stop an impending mortality leaves just as much of a scar, as saving a life. Satoru being the kind of guy he is would undoubtedly take these undiscovered deaths hard.
This responsibility is certainly a double-edged sword; one that Satoru has never asked for, yet what if he were to just ignore it? Completely unaffected, going about his day, following the unaware crowds to his own daily routine instead of bearing the burden of another person’s life. And it’s not that farfetched of a conclusion either. Let’s switch over to the protagonist of RE:ZERO, Subaru, a seemingly average everyman. After much experimenting, he discovers the he can rewind time, using it in an attempt to save various other characters from death. The catch?
The ability only works when he dies.
So it kind of works like a save point. Everything is reset to exactly the way it was at a specific point in time. Dying will activate the ability and send him back to before he died. Seems like a very convenient ability if you ask me, and it is! Throughout the episodes, he uses his new-found abilities in numerous attempts to save Satella from her inevitable death; attempts that usually end up with him getting stabbed or disemboweled in horrible ways. However, death isn’t a small thing, and the repercussions for dying can be a lot more dire than our hopeful protagonist realizes.
For one, who isn’t scared of death? Fear, pain, the reality is simple, whether you’re a brave knight or an ordinary citizen. The will and instinct to live is engrained into every living being, like it or hate it. Now imagine Subaru dying again and again, succumbing to death over and over again until eventually it doesn’t affect him anymore, numb to both pain and death. His sensitivity towards death, including his own is almost nonexistent as he goes about his life. Eventually, Subaru will have transformed into a another person altogether, indifferent to both mortality and fear, a concept that defines us as a living being. Not only will his personality be completely different, but the Subaru that we’ve come to know will be gone, the living embodiment of the common saying “dead on the inside”.
Think about it. If you knew even death would only set you back a few moments, would you change? I know I wouldn’t think twice about recklessly picking a fight with that thug harassing me if I had that power. It’s scary how quickly I could drop any ideas of a peaceful solution in favor of a more violent answer. Or how about venturing into the more illicit side of things? Money, drugs, murder, it’s all rather trivial when you can rewind time with just a quick death and reset.
With great power comes even greater risks: a responsibility that could not only hurt you physically, but mentally, and a responsibility that will challenge your own humanity. What about the memories you’ve made with the people around you, just for it to be reset in the next instant. If you had a similar ability, how would you use it? Would it change you? For better, or for worse? Personally, I feel like I’m a tad bit too incompetent to be handling such power in any beneficial way.
That, or I’d just go full Chuunibyou-mode and burn down the entire earth with my pseudo-immortality.