Second Impressions – Rewrite

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.









  1. s

    i kept saying to myself while watching this ep that the ghost is going to regret constantly crawling up into koutarou’s sheets while he’s sleeping. Yeeeeeaaa she regretted it the second time alright; the way she silently retreated from underneath his sheets after he broke wind gave me a good laugh. She was like “Welp….i didnt not expect that. Time to get the fuck out of dodge”

  2. I kinda agree with what you’re saying about the show while thinking about the common route. I think that most VN readers that disagree with you do so while thinking about the 5 heroine routes (which aren’t getting adapted). They do all get really serious…(VN spoilers deleted)

  3. P

    As a VN reader, I hope you end up sticking with this series one way or another. Love reading your commentary on it every week and I believe the payoff will be there in the end depending on where they take the adaptation.

  4. I started reading the VN shortly after the first episode of this aired last week, and I’ve found that there’s a very stark difference between it and the show. The early parts of the story that are so dependent on charm and humor work so much better when the pacing allows them some room to breathe, and the text-heavy format allows for more descriptive humor. The anime felt kind of embarrassing in comparison, with so much focus on pandery boob jokes and so much of the connecting material ripped out.

    In the First Impressions review, you were spot-on with your comment about the tropes not being intended to be taken at face value…or, at least, I can say that for sure about the original. I guess that remains to be seen in the anime, though personally I’ve found the first two episodes so flawed that I don’t expect it to really recover at this point. (And I’ve been watching along with a non-VN-reader who’s been disliking it even more, so it’s not adaptation bias, I swear!)

    The VN definitely goes a lot further beyond the initial archetypes it sets up, so much so that it feels very much like an intentional confounding of the expectations it set. Even before the story gets remotely serious, it gets some great mileage out of inverting certain trope-based expectations for humor’s sake. I suppose the anime still has time to do that, but with how fast it’s needing to blaze through its material, I don’t know if there’s really time to make it work without seeming incredibly arbitrary.

    If you’re a fan of Tanaka’s writing but aren’t sure what to make of the Rewrite anime, I highly recommend checking out the original sometime if you get a chance! I didn’t have much positive prior experience with VNs and really didn’t anticipate falling in love with this one, but it’s hugely exceeded my expectations in a lot of ways that the anime has so far failed to do.

  5. T

    Speaking as someone who read the Visual Novel, the very early material is most definitely deliberate self-parody. It’s all played up to be as stereotypically KEY as can be. It slowly gets more serious, though, and blossoms into a wonderful story.

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