ReLIFE – Review – Fruitful Second Chances

The world of adults are terrifying. As a grown-up, you have so many things to deal with: societal pressures to conform to, seemingly insurmountable living expenses, and most horrifying of them all, the complex and evil human nature. You no longer can call people out for things you think is wrong, nor can you be free and do whatever you like. In other words, you have to grow up. To survive the world of adults, you must become an adult yourself. But, must you really change? Can’t you just be yourself? Is it really a good thing to be an adult?

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How’s that for something to think about when you go to work today?


ReLIFE is an anime adapted from the ongoing webcomic of the same name and all 13 episodes were aired on Japanese national TV on the 1st of July. It is directed by Tomo Kosaka, who has been a episode director on Axis Power Hetalia, and is produced by TMS Entertainment, which incidentally also producing Orange which premieres this season. It has been quite widely anticipated by Western fans on the Internet, and after finishing the show, I now know why. (Please don’t read it up on Wikipedia, there are a lot of spoilers there.)

Summary:

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ReLIFE revolves around a jobless 27 year old man named Kazaki Arata, who is struggling to make ends meet after quitting his job just after 3 months. Due to him quitting his job after such a short period of time, society do not think highly of him and thus, he is unable to acquire a job easily, so is forced to take up part-time jobs to make ends meet.

However, his job predicament soon ends when he is greeted by a mysterious man, Yoake Ryou who claims to be from the ReLIFE experimentation program. This experiment is aimed to reestablish NEETs (Not in Education, Employment and Training) and shut-ins into society, and to reinvigorate people who has lost faith in society. Yoake offers Kazaki with a second chance at life: a pill that will make him look younger by ten years and a contract to attend highschool for one year as a student. In return, his living expenses will be reimbursed in full by the program and depending on how things go, he may even be offered a job after that one year period.

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Down on his luck and failing to find a job, he hesitantly accepts the offer and attends the third year of highschool as a normal 17 year old student. Along the way, he makes new friends, relive his highschool life and maybe, even find out what went wrong in his life.

Plot:

Have you ever had the feeling that something is terribly wrong with the society? First of all, how is it that our one and only life becomes secondary to earning money? Why is it that our happiness, our life becomes dependent on numbers in your bank account? In the corporate world, hardworking individuals can become tools to be used to achieve a certain goal, and when that goal is achieved, people get brushed aside like they don’t matter.

In the face of society, we need to wear a mask to hide our feelings from others, because somehow, our happiness has become dependent on society’s perception of us. What’s wrong with that, though? Everyone does that, so why shouldn’t we do that too?

This show explores the root of this sort of crowd mentalism which dates back to the later years of our school life. It doesn’t depict adulthood as a utopian, happy world, but a dark and grim reality. In the show, as Kazaki relives his school days, with the experience he gained from adulthood, he draws various parallels to his own adult life and provides the viewers with some commentaries about larger-than-life topics like bullying, faith and even suicide.

However, the show isn’t just all serious, because all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. (Pardon the Shining reference)

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This show has a lot of lighter moments especially in the beginning of the show, and approaching the end of the show, it becomes heartwarming as we watch these youthful highschoolers live their lives to their fullest, thanks to the constant, subtle meddling of Kazaki.

So is the plot any good? It is, in fact, it’s great. I really enjoy the exploration of much mature and hardhitting themes in these shows, as well as the comedy in the show. The innocent nature of the plot contrasts with the darker, more gritty themes, and the result is thought-provoking and at the same time, heart-warming.

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But if there’s one thing I could complain about this show, it’s that the writing of the show tends to meander from time to time and the transition from one perspective to another isn’t as smooth as it could be. For example, when we are watching the show from the eyes of Kazaki, the show may switch pace abruptly and the viewers need to switch perspective to that of a highschooler or risk not getting the full picture. I was watching the fourth episode and to the end, I noticed I was missing out and I had to rewind to 8 minutes earlier to rewatch things.

Settings:

The hyper-realistic themes of ReLIFE would normally requires some hyper-realistic settings, right? Actually, that’s not quite the case, in fact, the writers of the show have made it very clear that this show is a fantasy. They do not intend to talk about nor explore how the pill from the ReLIFE lab can change the anatomy of the body to make it look younger. That’s because there is no such thing and is an excuse to bring the main protagonist into the world of highschool.

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The fantasical setting may tick some people off, because “it’s not real”, but then again, hey, this is TV we’re talking about, right? When is it supposed to real, aside from National Geographic and the History Channel? The show doesn’t try to sell you the idea of a magic pill, but rather focuses on the themes of friendship, adulthood and growing up. So, in a way, it’s effective enough to give the show a sense of urgency, but not ridiculous enough to throw you off the show altogether, in which case I think is good thing.

Characters:

For this show to work, first and foremost, the characters must work, and they work, to some extent. Kazaki, the main protagonist, is a highly relatable person. He is an ordinary person who is hardworking, sociable and generally a good person, but due to a traumatic experience, he loses confidence in himself and loses faith in the world. He constantly questions himself and tries to look for the “correct” answer, even though he very well knows there is no certain correct answer. He is the character that anyone who has experience adulthood can cast him or herself into. He is by no means dumb or insociable, but he is unwilling to open himself to others, though as the story progresses, he begins to open up his emotions to people surrounding him.

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The next most interesting character would be Hishiro Chizuru, a honour student who tops her grade academically but lacks social skills. Her chemistry with the main protagonist is likable and as the show progresses, she begins to change due to her interactions with the main protagonist. The duo easily carry the show, and their chemistry is also the best in the show.

Despite these two good characters, the rest of the characters lack depth. The most obvious would be Rena Kariu, as she is just plain stubborn and at times, downright annoying. She is extremely competitive, stubborn but actually just plain confused deep down inside. However, her stubbornness is unreasonable most of the time, and no clue is offered as to why she acts in such a way. She is also given the most screentime compared to most of the supporting cast but honestly, I just couldn’t relate such a character.

Though, the rest of the characters may not be good, intriguing characters, but they do serve to move the story forward so, it’s okay to have them around.

Graphics & Soundtrack:

This is easily one of the most departments that I have a problem with. For such a character driven show, it is paramount that the characters themselves be well-animated. However, the details given to the show’s characters are limited especially the facial expressions. They have little variations and the character animation is kind of stiff. Aside from that though, the visuals themselves are bearable and are quite good in fact, especially the backdrops.

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Music is not one of the show’s strong points. The soundtracks have little to no variations, resulting in somewhat cheap sounding soundtracks, they are very limited. Most of the tracks use keyboards and strings, and one or two tracks have drums in them, but that’s it. They aren’t simple enough to be considered simplistic, but definitely don’t have the complexity of other, more musically-capable shows. I do enjoy the opening theme “Button” by Penguin Research quite a bit though.

Conclusion:

A show that has a gripping plot, intriguing settings and hard-hitting themes, only to be bogged down by meandering focus, mediocre visuals and less than stellar supporting cast, ReLIFE is the show everyone is and should be talking about. It perfectly illustrate how well anime, as a medium, can tell great stories. However, I would have preferred it if ReLIFE is made into a real life drama. It would have made more sense given its larger-than-life themes and people would take it much more seriously.

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Even though I say this anime is not the best thing ever, it is, at its core, a great story about adulthood, change and the societal worries we all face in our daily lives.

After meticulously calculating the points awarded for story, settings, character development, graphics & soundtracks, and of course, my personal enjoyment, I shall award ReLIFE with a rating of:

8.32 (Near Great)


After watching a compelling show like that, even I am forced to reconsider myself, am I living my life to the fullest? To be honest, I don’t know, though although it would be meddlesome, I would ask that you watch it too. It’s not like you’ll cry or anything, but it will make you think. Hard.

Have you watched this show? What do you think about it? Comment below and I will see you in the next review. Ciao~

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