Over the course of the first season of Re:Zero, Subaru struggled to find a place in the new world he suddenly found himself in. He was alone, as he knew no one in this new world. That loneliness would only deepen with his ability to return from the dead. What some may see as a gift is actually a curse, with him being the only one to seemingly retain their memories of previous worldlines, while also being unable to tell anyone about his ability or what he has experienced unless he wants himself or them to meet an unfortunate demise. However, despite all of this, he is still able to find some form of comfort in a single person. Rem was the only one who stood by Subaru despite his faults and the many things he would never be able to tell her. She helped teach him how to accept his faults and grow beyond them. She was the backbone he could rely on; the one person he could trust to be there for him no matter the trouble he faced. The one person that made him feel like he wasn’t alone, so you can imagine how Subaru would react if she was the one being forcefully ripped away from his side.
With Rem gone, Subaru no longer has anyone that he can truly trust or rely on. He cared for Rem so much that he couldn’t imagine a world without her, committing suicide in an attempt to bring her back, only to realize it was too late and that there was nothing he could do. His next thought was naturally to put her out of her misery, staring at a knife next to Rem’s comatose body, but that is not what she would have wanted. Subaru is Rem’s hero, and she would want him to save her so she could stand beside him once more.
Even with Emilia’s attempt to comfort him and Otto’s willingness to follow him, Subaru still feels alone, as if no one can understand his plight. Without Rem, Subaru had partially regressed to who he was before she saved him. He may have had friends and people that cared for his well-being, but the loneliness continued to creep upon him. The many obstacles in his path only made the feeling greater. However, there was one person who “understood” Subaru and knew what he was going through.
Echidna allowed Subaru to come to terms with the parents he left behind in his old world. She allowed him to reconnect with visages of them, and realize that they had always loved him. It may not have been intentional, but she gave Subaru the smallest amount of hope for a better tomorrow. Of course, that hope was soon crushed by Roswaal, Elsa and a few thousand white rabbits, but Echidna’s apparent kindness was never forgotten. When Echidna saves Subaru from his own insanity, both by summoning him to her and telling him that she knew about Return By Death and everything he had experienced before, it gave Subaru someone he could confide in once more. He viewed Echidna as someone he could trust, like Rem, but with the added bonus of truly understanding everything he had experienced since she had witnessed all of it.
Unfortunately, Subaru had to learn that not everyone that is nice to him cares for his wellbeing. As the Witch of Greed, Echidna desires the “finer things in life,” particularly power and immortality. As we see throughout the second season with Ryuzu, Roswaal and Beatrice’s backstories, every time Echidna showed love or appreciation, it was ultimately to further those two goals. Her relationship with Subaru is no different. She sees Subaru’s ability to Return By Death as a form of immortality, and the contract she attempts to make with Subaru could potentially allow her to return to the land of the living.
While it is not fully clear how she would achieve this in the main story, in the Greed IF story, we see what would have occurred had Subaru accepted Echidna’s offer. In this alternate universe, it seems Echidna is able to access the mortal world via a pendant Subaru carries with him. While not the same as her regaining the livelihood she once had, it does bring her one step closer to her goal.
The primary reason Subaru even thought about accepting Echidna’s proposal was because of his feeling of loneliness. Subaru feels alone because he feels no one could possibly understand nor love him because of how poorly he has always viewed himself compared to those around him. Whether it be his father or Emilia, Subaru’s life has always revolved around one person that he viewed as an untouchable being of perfection.
Subaru has always believed himself to be inferior to those around him, and because of this, he felt underserving of their appreciation or love. Rem’s words in episode 18, “From Zero,” did form a sense of strength within Subaru. However, with Rem’s comatose state in the the premier of the second season, “Each One’s Promise,” and his constant failures throughout the first half of the season, that strength has slowly diminished. Subaru once again believes that Rem’s love was wasted on him, and that if her love was misplaced, then no one else should love him either. This self-hatred, combined with his loneliness and desperation, is what leads him so often to Echidna’s doorstep. It takes all of the rest of the witches, including the Witch of Envy, the reason for Subaru’s Return by Death, to convince him that he is worthy of love, and that for him to love others, he must first love himself. Most of his deaths throughout Re:Zero, especially in the second season, were spent attempting to save the lives of those he cares for because he not only believes their lives to be more important than his own, but that his life is worthless compared to theirs’.
Subaru’s sense of self-hatred has always been present. In the first season, it was just buried under the belief that he had been given another chance to make-up for the mistakes he made in his past. Although, despite the immense effort he made to change his self-image in Lugnica, he continued to make the same mistakes. In episode 29, “Parent and Child,” we learn that Subaru attempted the same false persona when he entered high school. In his attempt to come off as someone he obviously is not, Subaru only further buried himself within that growing self-hatred.
It wasn’t until episode 36, “The Taste of Death,” that Subaru realizes how his self-hatred and sense of loneliness affects those around him. Emilia feels just as lonely as Subaru due to the multitude of hate she has received due to her appearance, and the many regrets she carries because of her past. With both Subaru and Puck gone, she is left to her own devices and quickly loses her composure without anyone to help her piece her mind back together. Unlike Subaru, Emilia is truly alone.
Once Subaru realizes this, along with the knowledge of Roswaal’s actions and intentions, he discovers that the people he cares about need him just as much as he needs them. This is why his conversation with Emilia in the second half of episode 30, “A Reason to Believe,” stands out so much. Besides the obvious and intentional parallels to Rem’s monologue from “From Zero,” Subaru’s monologue about every thing he appreciates about Emilia serves as both a culmination of all the growth Subaru has experienced since the beginning of the first season and a turning point for Emilia. Subaru is only able to help Emilia because he finally was able to love himself despite his flaws on his own without being constantly reminded by those around him.
Subaru had to accept his flaws, grow beyond them and, lastly, learn to love them as they will always be apart of who he is. Those that truly care about him will do so regardless of his many flaws. These realizations allow Subaru to help those around them and let them know that they are more than their worst perceptions of themselves. Whether it be Emilia, Garfiel or Beatrice, Subaru’s growth allows those around him to grow as well. While he will always struggle with those feelings of loneliness and self-hatred, he will never have to do it alone, and neither will his friends.