People often ask themselves “What if I could have a chance to start over?’ but the reality is that’s impossible… unless you’re a Japanese anime. While this story isn’t about starting over, it does peer into the life of a man who had hit rock bottom and rather than allowing him to start over, he’s given a chance to have an epiphany on how to change his life. It’s time to take a look at a show that began and finished airing all in the same day! It’s time to look at ReLIFE.
Arata Kaizaki is a man who quit his job after three months for personal reasons. Since then, he has lost the will to work at a normal suit and tie job. He eventually makes ends meet by working part-time at a convenience store, but when his parents cut off his allowance money (and rightfully so since he IS 27, afterall), Arata felt that there was no way out. That is until Yoake from ReLIFE shows up and offers him living expenses in exchange for being a test subject for a pill that makes you look ten years younger. Just the mere fact that his living expenses would be covered for an entire year with the possibility of a job afterward was enough to cause Arata to sign on the dotted line. Arata takes the pill and as part of the contract, he must spend one year in high school with the condition that he cannot tell anybody about ReLIFE otherwise the contract is void, the deal is off, and his memories of what happened will be erased.
The premise above seems a bit out there, but this is actually a slice of life show through and through with a slight sci-fi twist to it. ReLIFE is more about a life experience and how one can take a bad situation and learn from it in order to better themselves. Through the friends that Arata makes in high school, he begins to embark on a journey of self-reflection. The show isn’t just about Arata either as ReLIFE does a great job going into the backstories and histories of the supporting characters. Each one of them has their own unique story to tell and it makes the audience care about them. I often complain that shows need 25 episodes in order to cover all of their bases and while some story elements were kind of either glossed over or skipped entirely in the end, I felt that TMS Entertainment did a very good job getting in everyone’s stories with only 13 episodes. The pacing felt great and I think that in order to fill in the gaps, they could have done one extra episode and that would have been enough, but I still feel satisfied with what I got….
…until we got to one point in the story, namely the final episode, where one of the show’s big reveals was a HUGE letdown. I’ll be a bit brief here as to avoid spoilers, but one of the plot points is that Arata is Test Subject #002. That, in and of itself, makes you wonder just who among the cast is or was Test Subject #001. The show practically throws it in your face the ENTIRE way from beginning to end and makes it painfully obvious, but it also makes you want to believe that you’re being swerved with that information. It makes you analyze each and every character and even try to come up with some out-of-the-box theories, but then when the reveal happens and you see that the obvious choice was #001 all along, it makes you feel rather dumb for thinking it could have been anyone else. It was a HUGE moot point that you couldn’t help but feel let down by because it not only came off as flat, but it also took away what could have been a major shock moment in the series.
With that one moment aside, ReLIFE takes you on a very emotional journey. Not one with sadness or tears, but one allows you to feel connected to the characters. You laugh with them, you sympathize with them, you root for them and you get to experience everything with them. The characters were well fleshed out and had some great development, so let’s take a look at them, shall we?
I liked Arata as a main character a lot. There are a lot of people who can relate to Arata’s situation which caused him to sign up for the ReLIFE program. The fun part about Arata is watching him grow and watching him realize that the things he does can be applied to himself. He goes from someone seeking what to do next to someone handing out advice and trying to help people make better choices in life all while realizing he can apply his own words to himself. You really get to see Arata grow as a character and it was an absolute joy to do so. With shows like these, you would expect the drama dial to get turned in the direction of someone discovering Arata’s secret. They actually teased that, but it actually stays hidden throughout the whole show which is a rarity in and of itself with these types of animes. I applaud the story writers for going that route because it allowed Arata’s character to breathe and not get painted into a corner with limited options for escape. They chose to focus on the lives of the individual characters rather than the overall sci-fi facet and it worked amazingly well in Arata’s case.
She is the class representative for girls and was the one with the highest scores the previous year. She is also Kairu Rena’s rival when it comes to test scores. Hishiro was, hands down, my favorite character in this show. At first it was a tossup between her and Kairu, but the more I watched, Hishiro won by a mile. Hishiro moved a lot as a child and every time she made friends, she would have to leave them behind. This caused her to seal off her emotions and not get attached to people, but when she meets Arata, something inside of her changes and she felt the need to try and better herself, but the problem is that she’s been so quiet and emotionless for so long, she had forgotten how to act around others. Her attempts to smile looked creepy as hell, she was always straight-forward and direct with her dialogue, but she never meant to be harsh or cruel. You really felt for the character because she recognized that the world things badly of her and she wanted to change the way people perceived her.
Her growth starts the instant you meet her so there is no slow build up to it. The writers decided to begin developing her and then give us the reasons why along the way which worked out great for the show’s pacing and the limited number of episodes that they had to work with. Hishiro had to work hard for them, but she did end up making friends throughout the series and you wanted to root for her every step of the way. Knowing that she had no intention of being cruel and seeing the characters react to her, it made you want to believe that she could find a way to overcome that awkwardness and set the record straight. She was definitely an amazing character and all around best girl for this show.
She is a member of the school’s volleyball club and is very cold to those who try to get near her. It is revealed that she always strives to be number one in everything that she does, but she can never achieve it whether it’s becoming class representative or captain of the volleyball team. She feels that no matter how hard she works, she is never recognized for anything that she does. This causes her to be very jaded and feels that she can’t get close to anyone because it would just get in her way of striving for perfection.
It is through her hard work and dedication that you feel for Kairu. She starts to realize that other people shouldn’t serve as her own measuring stick and when she finally realizes that, she slowly begins to open up and accept those who are around her. Most of the time, these characters are rather annoying, but ReLIFE portrays Kairu in such a way where you sympathize with her, but at the same time you want her to change.
She is a transfer student who came to class three and is a pretty big dunce. Arata forgot everything he learned in high school and constantly flunks his exams. He felt that there couldn’t possibly be anyone worse than him, but Onoya actually scored lower than Arata! These two will run into each other often when doing their makeup exams and, eventually, Onoya starts hanging around Arata and Oga regularly. There is a bit more depth to this character, but it would venture in heavy spoiler territory. I will say that Onoya ends up becoming a background character that seems like she would be more fun if the spotlight could have been kept on her more, but once her big plot point is revealed, she does find a way to stay relative.
Oga is the class representative for male students. Once he sees Arata pitiful test scores, he offers to help tutor him. Onoya jumps in on the opportunity and a little study circle is formed. Through this study circle, Oga and Arata end up becoming good friends and while Oga’s character was rather flat in the beginning, towards the end he begins to realize his feelings for one of his classmates and turns to Arata for advice. It is through Arata’s advice that Oga musters up the courage to take the plunge into relationship territory.
Oga’s character is the very definition of a support character, but yet he is listed as a main character, which I felt was a bit odd. At one point in the show, Arata ends up giving him advice on what do to when approaching his love interest and the same advice Arata gives him comes back to Arata himself which furthers Arata’s character development. Oga was there every step of the way offering Arata support and helping him build his character as well; however, unlike most support characters, Oga seemed rewarded with a relationship in the end for all of his hard work. Rarely do you see support characters help a main character grow and then end up with an end point to their own development. The fact that this show did that for Oga was a nice touch.
Yoake is the representative from ReLIFE that gives Arata his opportunity. Yoake plays the role of the observer, but instead of just having him in the background, the show actually gave him a backstory as well. He got too personal with his first test subject and was told to back off and put his emotions aside. Then, ironically, when his first test subject had no change for an entire year, he was blamed for his lack of involvement. It was a damned if you do and damned if you don’t scenario and it caused Yoake a lot of hesitation when dealing with Arata. The story then pushes Yoake in certain areas to try and add his own emotions and influences into Arata’s campaign, but he seems very reserved in doing so until one day he finally breaks and goes a tiny bit above and beyond his normal duties to help push Arata in the right direction. Doing this makes Yoake feel human more than just a puppet observer. Add in the fact that Yoake has a light and playful attitude and it rounds out this character as something that is very balanced!
She is the star player and captain of the volleyball team and Kairu’s rival in sports. Her backstory was probably the blandest of them all, but that’s only because we’ve seen it so many times before. She was good at every sport she played and it got to the point where all of her other teammates just expected those kind of results from her and because as such, she was left out a lot. She should have been popular, but instead, she was quite isolated growing up. This is why she wanted to be Kairu’s friend, but she would soon see the past repeat itself with Kairu as well. Seeing the two of them overcome their differences, though, took some effort on both of the characters’ parts and it led to a feel good moment for the show.
There were also a couple of other minor characters such as Kokoro Amatsu, their homeroom teacher and head coach of the volleyball team, Akira Inuki who is Tamari’s childhood friend and a man who is just a WEE bit overprotective (Read: WEE bit as WAY) of her, and Nobunaga Asaji who is Akira’s friend. All of them had minor roles and parts in the show, but whenever they were on screen, they made their screen time count which is something rarely seen out of barely used background characters. Another good job by TMS Entertainment!
Art, Animation, and Sound
The artwork, namely the character designs, weren’t anything to write home about. They are all high school students so the typical high school uniform look applied here, but each character was drawn and colored in a way where you can easily tell them apart. As with a lot of Japanese animes, some extra special attention was given to their eyes as each character had different gradients and highlights which really made them pop and stand out. In fact, their eyes were one of the best artistic features about the show!
The animation wasn’t anything spectacular either, but it also wasn’t bad. I felt that it was just standard fare when it came to the animation, but like always, the backgrounds looked nice!
The soundtrack was not really all that engaging and served as decent background music at best. One thing that this show did nicely was it had a different song at the end of every single episode and some of the artists attached to this were pretty big names such as Chemistry who did the fourth opening for Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, T.M. Revolution who did a lot of work in the Gundam series as well as forming the band Abingdon Boys School and doing openings for D.Gray-man and Darker Than BLACK. L’Arc~en~Ciel even lent a track to episode 3’s ending. Then, the end of Episode 12 featured the song “Natsumatsuri” by Whiteberry. I call attention to this ending because a Hatsune Miku remix of this song was used as the ending to Episode 6 of Watamote from a couple of years ago.
It was a pretty big surprise to see all 13 episodes of ReLIFE released on the same day. With the summer anime season just getting started, I felt the need to marathon this show now before I become drowned in all of the other shows that are coming out over the next couple of days. Typically, you would see this with Amazon or Netflix, but it seems that Crunchyroll is starting to get into this as well and we may see more shows in the future get released like this which is fine by me!
The story was not what I was expecting it to be from the synopsis that I read a few months ago. It took me by surprise at how it kept everything within the realm of slice of life and it really offered up some amazing character development. My only qualm is that the show doesn’t really go in the direction of giving you cliffhanger endings at the end of each episode so it doesn’t try to hook you and make you want to see the next one by the ending alone. The overall story and the characters are what make you want to see the next episode and when a show can rely on that alone instead of a shocking ending, you know that you have a winner on your hands.
While one of the big reveals was a total letdown, everything else that got revealed was pretty satisfying. All in all ReLIFE told a great story and I recommend this show to anyone who just wants to take 5 hours out of their life and just see a good show.
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Good story with great characters, ReLIFE is a slice of life show with a sci-fi twist that will hook and absorb you into its story.