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Rei Taylor, A Great Isekai Heroine

What do you think of upon hearing the word Isekai? Overpowered, reincarnated into another world, self insert character comes to mind. An oversaturated genre for sure, but an enjoyable one. Rei Taylor is no different in one aspect, the usual overworked office worker who is reincarnated into another world as the protagonist. Except she’s not like the rest. She’s reincarnated into her favorite harem video game “Revolution”, and knows that world like the back of her hand. And the catch is that she’s not in love with one of the princes, but the game’s villainess Claire Francois. Unique enough premise yet?

Not your Typical Isekai MC

Going further on the flaws of Isekai protaonists, most nowadays are bland self inserts with cliché or little personalities. Not much of a surprise as they appeal to the power fantasies of readers. But when these protagonists stray from the norm, is when they truly shine.

Strong examples include Subaru from Re Zero, the flawed but oh so relatable character who goes through so much trauma and fails many times, but succeeds through his own grit and wits. Another example is Kazuma from Konosuba, with his humorous character and being a refreshing satirical take on the isekai genre. 

Now, where does Rei Taylor fit here? For one, she’s a female lesbian protagonist, which is a rarity on itself. To make matters more interesting, she has an in depth knowledge of the game world she reincarnated into, essentially reincarnating into the pre-existing main character of that world. She already fell in love with this game before her reincarnation, and more uniquely, fell in love with the game’s villainess, Claire Francois.

That isn’t to say she isn’t overpowered. As the MC of the “game”, she was gifted with wielding multiple magical elements of water and earth, with high aptitude for both. Additionally, having knowledge of future in game events essentially helps her prepare and tackle problems she has foresight of.

But here’s the catch; despite having future knowledge, that was all in the game. Now that Rei is actually living the game, that game is now her reality and the characters are real life people from her perspective. And real life, is never set in stone. This is what makes Rei’s journey so interesting, as her actions can have real consequences by falling off the set game path.

Rei’s Façade

When we are initially introduced to Rei, we see a person who is ecstatic upon realizing she was somehow transported to her favorite game world. Who wouldn’t be excited if they suddenly woke up to find themselves in their favorite game, and it was their new reality? (Well maybe not for me, I certainly wouldn’t want to be transported to the world of Dead by Daylight, and be chased by supernatural killers for all eternity…)

Rei soon discovers that her favorite villainess, Claire, is the first to address her, and in a not so nice manner as well. But of course, this is why Rei loved her as a character, as Claire to her was a wonderfully flawed character. Rei is just happy to be acknowledged and messed around with by her favorite character.

We root for Rei’s various shenanigans, as she always affirms her upfront love for Claire and jovially jokes around with her. But there are small cracks in her façade the reader starts to notice. It’s as if Rei is overcompensating with her humor and over the topness. Rei wishes for Claire’s happiness above all, and is happy to be by her side.

Rei plays a good game in building up a false self, in pretending to be a go lucky goofball. But she does that to protect herself from rejection, as she thinks deep down Claire will never reciprocate her love. Rei is just happy to be by her side.

We later learn why she holds up a front, as in her past life, getting close to her crush in high school backfired tremendously. She was outed and ostracized as a lesbian, instilling in her that she should hid her feelings and maintain the status quo as never be hurt again. This blinds her to any possibility that Claire could ever reciprocate her feelings. This remains a major flaw of Rei’s throughout the novels, as she always hides her true feelings. Multiple times, Rei tries to set up Claire with Prince Thane, and is even called out for it by other characters. Rei’s best friend Misha even asks Rei if she’s given up on Claire, and we are given a brief moment into Rei’s crack in her jovial façade.

Later, is when a true challenger, a childhood friend of Claire’s named Manaria, fights for Claire’s hand in love. We learn that Manaria is also a lesbian herself, and also suffered a similar ordeal like Rei, and wishes for Rei to fight for her love for Claire rather than be a coward. This shocks Rei into action, and start to be honest with herself. Rei still isn’t perfect, and doesn’t expect Claire to reciprocate, but decides to take a step forward in being honest with her desires.

Rei’s Development

Rei’s ultimate goal throughout the novels, is to save Claire’s terrible fate from being executed as an aristocratic noble at the height of the Commoners’ Revolution. We see the ingenuity and creativity of Rei, being able to use her prior knowledge of the game to prepare for forecoming events. But what she did not account for is that Revolution is no longer a locked in storyline, but a dynamic one since it is real life for her now. I would even liken it to say that Rei unlocked a new route (the Claire Route!).

Rei’s primary goal in saving Claire, is what I like most about her. It really makes her human, and not the usual protagonist. Rei does care about people, and she understands why the commoners desire to rise up against the corrupt aristocracy. But she won’t go out of her way to be a hero. She just wants to save her loved one.

But all plans don’t go perfectly, because as soon as Claire discovers Rei’s scheme to save her, Claire refuses with a twisted honorable reasoning that she,  a noble, should pay for her being ignorant of the masses’ plights.

Understandably, Rei unravels once more as all her work is undone. Her fatal flaw, in trying to handle everything by herself and locking her true feelings away, comes around once more. Once again, Manaria tells Rei to snap out of it and save Claire. Only this time, Rei decides to rely on others to prove Claire’s innocence.

Even all of this isn’t enough. And then one of the best moments in the novels occurs. Rei finally snaps and cries to Claire to let Rei be selfish for once and to live for Rei’s sake. She stops holding back and finally lets her bare, raw emotions be on display to Claire. And it works.

The Complicated Protagonist we love

Rei is a multifaceted character, who is far from perfect, but tries her best to overcome her shortcomings. She is genuinely a humorous person who tries to find the punchline in everything, but also uses this humor as a shield to protect herself from ridicule and rejection. Despite coming across as a goofball, she is much more of a logical thinking, rational person who contrives extremely complicated plans just to save one person from their demise.

It’s very interesting seeing the clash of traits at play, where she proclaims her love for Claire frequently, but at the same time hides her love for Claire. She would do anything for Claire, but that selflessness also masks Rei’s own desires in wanting Claire to love her back. It’s like that saying, hiding in plain sight is the best way to hide something.

Ultimately, Rei comes to grips with herself and her true feelings, that she wants to be with Claire. She doesn’t just want Claire to be happy, she wants to BE the one to make Claire happy. And when she realizes this, she tells Claire so, by proposing to her at the end of the novels. And that does bring a tear to my eye, seeing Rei come full circle and fully embracing her love for Claire.

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