Oh man, oh man. It's been quite some weeks since I was last this wowed by a Re:Zero episode. It's an affirmation to me that the low points of the series aren't necessarily that bad, it's just that the peaks are so phenomenal that they overshadow everything else.
I am immensely thankful to the animation team for pulling all the stops to make this episode a success. Considering all the production difficulties that this season has faced, it wouldn't have surprised me if the action was restrained. In fact, I was mentally preparing myself for it and keeping my expectations in check. But this episode had some great action animation regardless of circumstances. I was particularly impressed with Garfiel's sequences, which were portrayed with raw, desperate, and frenetic energy. The lighting effects reflecting the mansion's burning state also added an interesting dimension to the battle, with a constant back-and-forth between shadowy silhouettes and illuminated closeups.
As the icing on the cake, all that good action was in the service of some well-written story beats. It was impressive how effectively this episode developed and characterized Elsa in a few short scenes. We learn that she's a vampire, a devoted older sister to Maylie, and a broken woman who seeks warmth through spilling blood. All of this information contextualizes her previous behavior, like her reckless gusto for fighting, her ability to constantly come back to life after she's beaten, and her twisted personality. In the end, the way to defeat Elsa for good was to pit her against someone more stubborn than her. She gets a great sendoff here, crushed by Garfiel's sheer obstinacy.
Ram also gets a good showing in this episode, as she reveals the sheer extent of her feelings for Roswaal and even gets her own insert song. When she declares her love for Roswaal and he's unable to even fathom it, it's a neat parallel with Rem's big confession to Subaru and his reaction from season 1. (Same episode director, incidentally.) I also loved the irony of Roswaal declaring that Ram's motivation of love makes no sense when he's been single-mindedly obsessed with Echidna for decades. Until now, I've had the impression that Roswaal has been too much of a jerkass to ever become a proper ally to Emilia's camp, but I'm starting to think that Ram might just have what it takes to redeem him. It's official, folks: It's time to start appreciating Ram.
After all of these big emotional moments, I find myself almost overlooking Emilia's third trial, which is crazy because that contained one of my favorite parts of the episode. The trial itself wasn't a big deal, as it mostly consisted of voiceovers shouting out-of-context lines like an episode preview clip, but Emilia's later conversation with Minerva was both very revealing and intriguing. The relationship Emilia has with the other witches is wholly unlike what Subaru had with them, which is a really effective way of showing that there's way more to these characters than what initially meets the eye. Minerva even hints that Emilia's birth mother is someone related to the witches! That's bound to keep me up at night. But even more than that, I was struck by the unspoken significance in Minerva's familiarity with Emilia. It was as if Minerva was holding herself back from saying everything she felt, and that indicated to me that her feelings must be very strong indeed.
Before I end this week's review, I want to mention that the gag where Subaru tries to use his modern science knowledge to take down a mabeast only for it to have no effect was hilarious. If only he were in a different isekai anime – or even Dr. Stone – that would probably have worked. I'm also loving how Otto's oversupply of oil (which you may recall was the reason he was trying to strike up a trading deal with Roswaal in the first place) ended up playing a practical role in the story... by causing the mansion to catch on fire. This series never overlooks a single detail, does it?