I’m still not quite sure what to make of Rewrite to be honest. I find myself in broad disagreement with what seems like everybody else watching it, because I saw the premiere as the opening salvo in a flat-out self-parody of Key by Tanaka Romeo. I couldn’t find many (any?) other viewers willing to endorse that view, though, so either I’m projecting big-time or Tanaka is being too subtle about his intentions.
After the second episode, I’m not prepared to say definitively which side is right about this. I didn’t find it as funny as the double-length first episode, though there were definitely moments (like the way Koutarou chose to send the loaded sundae to Yoshino in the cafeteria). But in general, Tanaka seemed to me to be playing it a little straighter here. It was still irreverent, but not as overtly absurdist as the premiere. And these characters are so obviously Visual Arts tropes that if Tanaka does intend for this material to be taken at face value, it bespeaks a certain lack of ingenuity – self-reference instead of self-parody.
There is a third option of course, and that’s the truth being somewhere in-between those two polar extremes, which I suspect is most likely the case. It’s interesting that their adaptations should have happened concurrently, because Rewrite and Planetarian certainly represent the two sides of the Key stylistic coin. Planetarian is easily their most restrained work, and Rewrite – however it’s intended – is unquestionably manic and irreverent. What I think may be happening here, in the end, is that Tanaka (especially in the anime version, which is forced to deal with Key’s most difficult work to adapt) is experimenting with the Visual Arts template – testing its limits, seeing how far the envelope can be pushed. And the fact is, I think that’s a pretty interesting process to watch play out.
In the final analysis I guess it doesn’t matter how one interprets the writers intentions nearly as much as how much they’re enjoying the result. So far it’s a passing grade for me, because I like the silliness and the unvarnished embrace of the mysticism that’s mostly undertone in Key’s other works. And I like that we have a male lead who suits that premise, because Koutarou is easily the most snarky and free-spirited of all the Key protagonists I’ve seen. I won’t swear that Rewrite will have staying power though, because the humor has to keep working for the show as a whole to work, and that’s no given. Tanaka is walking some fine lines here, taking chances, but that’s what makes him such an interesting writer. Whether those chances will pay off remains to be seen.