This season's breakout anime is Re:Creators, a show that asks the question, "Should we have empathy for our anime heroes?" Then it asks, "Are we responsible for our fantasies?" and "Why do magical girls love cheeseburgers so much?"
Re:Creators is about an otaku high school boy named Sota. His thing is drawing. One day, when he's sketching out his light novel, he takes an inspiration break and cues up the anime Elemental Symphony of Vogelchevalier on his tablet. Suddenly, his tablet starts malfunctioning, and improbably, Sota is sucked into it. He lands in its Elemental Symphony's fantasy world, right between the protagonist, a lady warrior named Selesia, and her enemy. They're facing off in a giant mecha battle.
Moments later, the tablet malfunctions again. And it takes Selesia back with Sota into Sota's city, which she calls "the land of the gods." That's because, as she learns, it's where her world's — Eternal Symphony's — creators are. And she has some questions for them.
After time, more characters from video games and anime appear around Sota. Many have conflicting codes of ethics and worldviews based off their genre of anime or game. The saccharine magical girl doesn't think her actions should have consequences; but the hard-headed Selesia's world relies on justice and retribution. Together, though, the fictional heroes are hellbent on confronting their creators. Why would they dream up worlds where so many people get hurt?
Re:Creators seems like an exquisite otaku anime, on all levels. It manages to be a great, high-adrenaline action show that, at the same time, comments on the mundanity of otaku life. There's a lot of humour. The anime heroes and Sota hold congress in his bedroom around a pile of Pocky and shrimp chips. Selesia pilots a random man's car as if it were a battle mecha.
Also, the direction and animation are phenomenal. Ei Aoki, who directed Fate/Zero, transitions the anime smoothly between moments of day-to-day banality and city-decimating magical girl combat. It's evident how much care was given to each shot — even the shots where Sota is navigating an anime website or looking something up in a search engine. It adds a level of believability into a world in which, well, anime is real.
In its two episodes, only viewable on Amazon's Anime Strike, Re:Creators is dealing with some cool stuff, and dealing with it in new and exciting ways. Its premise pulls me in like same way Sword Art Online's did. Balancing otaku life and otaku fantasy is a hard act, and one that Sword Art Online fell quite short of. I have higher hopes for Re:Creators.