Re:Creators, a series that some claim to be a masterpiece, while others just think it’s “meh.” It’s honestly both, but it ultimately depends on what you’re looking for.
(Very mild spoilers)
Written by Rei Hiroe (Black Lagoon), Re:Creators is an original anime that promised to break all boundaries. The reason why is its premise: one day, fictional characters start coming to our world, and no one knows why. Our main character Souta, who has a passion for drawing anime characters, takes them to meet their creators (or “Gods”).
After that, it’s a battle among them, and against a particular one of them who wants to destroy the planet. While the second bit might not sound very original in anime terms, the best part of the series is that everything is told from a meta perspective. It’s a “what if” story where aspects like character design, the strength of canon, fanfiction, or power scales, are the most relevant ones.
The main problem with Re:Creators comes from the fact that it’s just that: a concept. The world feels lifeless, and the characters are more archetypes than actual fleshed out characters that one can relate to. And that goes for the “fictional” characters; the human ones, including Souta, are actually all quite bland. There’s also the fact that it doesn’t quite feel like a story.
No matter what a story is about (becoming King of the Pirates, defeating all the Titans…), they all have themes (friendship, justice, bravery…), and a core message. Something that the author wants to communicate, and something that the viewer can learn about or be motivated by. In the case of Re:Creators, there’s neither. As a result, it just stays a popcorn show.
Let’s now talk about the main thing in Re:Creators: the cast. The cast is large, and it has both good and bad in it. On the one hand, the character designs for the “fictional” characters are brilliant (see gif below). Hiroe is excellent at designs, so it was to be expected. His characters stood out among other characters from both the Spring and Summer season, and some of them could even be contenders for Best Design of the Year (if Crunchyroll decides to add that category).
The best thing about them, though, is seeing all these vastly different characters from vastly different universes interact with each other. You get to see all these vastly different characters react to Earth and humanity, and you also get to see their powers and abilities adapt to our world. For instance, one special highlight is seeing Mamika being horrified at the bloody consequences of her childish magical powers.
In a way, it’s got the same appeal as the video game Super Smash Bros, as it makes for some cool battles and power combinations. Unfortunately, those battles and encounters are overused during the first half of the season without barely any plot progression. As a result, it comes off as the writers just killing time until the final decisive battle comes.
The battles are not composed of just mindless action either. Perhaps the best thing about Re:Creators is how it knows how to play with its meta elements to create interesting plot points. For instance, a (human) writer can write a new draft or sketch a new drawing to give their character a new armor or even a power-up. If that new addition is shared online and accepted by the fan community, it will become canon, and therefore, a reality.
All these tricks also allow for some unexpected plot twists that, contrary to what one might think, actually make sense within the narrative. Finally, although expected from a short original anime with a large cast and battles, Re:Creators is not afraid of killing off characters. The stakes are high, which is something we all can appreciate when it comes to action and super power anime.
Re:Creators also has a really solid animation that shines especially during the fight scenes. As per the soundtrack, what can one say about the great Hiroyuki Sawano at this point? It’s a very diverse OST, containing everything from more emotional slow tracks to full-on vocal upbeat tunes for the action scenes (Layers is a gem!). In fact, the audiovisual aspects were one of the strongest points of the series. It’s the type of anime that wouldn’t have been as exciting with average art style and animation.
Going back to the whole “no message” point, it’s not entirely true. Re:Creators might not have a clear message, but it is about something: it’s a homage to creators. It’s about the power of creation and storytelling. It’s a way of seeing creators as “Gods,” higher beings that are capable of creating wonderful things through the power of imagination.
Perhaps it might be a series that will be more enjoyed by writers and artists (and yes, that includes fan artists and fanfic writers, as those are actually relevant to the story!). If you squint, you might even see it as a story of how fanon and canon interact, and how the perception of the characters by the fandom can change.
So what’s the final verdict? It depends on what you expect to get out of this series. As an experiment, or a “concept,” Re:Creators is one of the most appealing series of the year. While sometimes slow and abusing exposition, Re:Creators manages to be a solid entertainment that fulfills what it promises.
But if you expect to watch an actual meaningful story with characters that you can truly care about, perhaps try looking somewhere else.