|Good characters, good drama, nice comedic timing, and fitting visuals||Premise may be tough for some to get behind, not a 1:1 adaptation|
ReLIFE was one of the shows I was most anticipating for this Summer Season. Having read the ongoing manga and enjoying every bit of it, I had high hopes for the anime. Of course adaptations can fall short in various ways, but I would say that ReLIFE is one of the good adaptations out there. It isn’t a perfect 1:1 adaptation, but it gets the important things right and tells a good story through the 13 episodes. The most unusual aspect of this anime was in the delivery. With the series coming out all at once, it allowed people to marathon through it. Whether that was for the best or not I don’t know, but it did certainly make for an interesting experience watching. You could just continue going through the whole story and for me it was tough to only watch a few episodes per day. It is a well-made anime and it tells a good story that is worth checking out.
The setting for this show is a pretty simple one, though it does require a bit of buying in at the beginning. It’s very much modern day Japan. The difference comes in with the main character (Arata Kaizaki) and why he is in high school. A 27-year old man who isn’t entirely a shut-in, but he can’t find more than part-time jobs. For reasons the show goes into he left his first job and has struggled to get hired by anyone else from that point onward. The trick and reason for getting him into high school is a corporation that is running an experiment. They’ve somehow managed to create drugs that can visually change the appearance of a person back to their high school selves and back again to their adult self. Their health, physical condition, and intelligence doesn’t change. It is simply a visual thing.
The experiment is basically to try and find people like Arata and basically rehabilitate them. Going back to high school in an attempt to help the person get over whatever trauma has held them back from functioning in society or restart the drive that they had while a student. Arata is the second experimental subject of this branch of the company who apparently is doing this in other regions.
The difficult thing is accepting the premise. That a company can invent this drug and has both the ability and authority to put grown adults back into high school. It is a stretch, but the show does handle the story with a lot of seriousness (along with doses of comedy) that I think allows you to accept this. It does require a leap of faith, but if you can get through the first episodes then you’ll be good for the rest of the ride.
The story covers Arata as he deals with this one chance at reliving his high school days. Seeing if he can get over his traumas and find the good parts of himself that got damaged along the way. The show has a lot of comedy and I do find myself laughing quite a bit. But, when the show gets serious….it gets serious. Arata has gone through things I’m not sure how I would handle. The rest of the cast are dealing with issues as well. High school does have drama and it is drama that is serious for the characters. I can understand the problems some of these people have faced and how they ended up dealing with those problems.
The show is as much about the issues the rest of the cast is facing. The bonds and connections Arata makes with these characters is nice to see. Although the setup does have a hint of tragedy there. It’s made clear up front that not only will Arata go to high school, but after the year is over….no one he interacted with at the school will remember him. It’s a constant reminder that he’ll basically become a phantom in the memories of these people who will become his friends.
Both the characters that are really adults and the students all get a chance to tackle their own kinds of problems. And they are serious problems for all the characters. Finding it hard to interact with people is a serious issue for some. Dealing with the loss of a friend, injuries, rivals, bullying, it all matters. This show gives a good look at how the world can have a lot of brightness and hope, but that there is some darkness in there.
It doesn’t shy away from the fact that there are bad companies and jobs out there. It doesn’t shy away that people can make bad choices and nearly ruin everything for themselves. Sure, it does give some hopeful looks at certain things, but it does have some serious issues to take on. The reason Arata isn’t working anymore when the show starts is for a good reason. He isn’t working part-time jobs for kicks or because he is lazy. The best part of the story for me is that it does show that issues exist both for working adults and for students.
Arata is a pretty good main character. The guy has a tough past that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but at his core is a good guy. He’s the kind of person who instinctually wants to help people. If he sees a problem then he wants to get involved and help solve it. But, he’s also someone who fears getting that involved. That hesitation that goes against his inherent nature is part of the reason he’s in the ReLIFE experiment. He’s also kind of an idiot. While I think most people would struggle a bit when going back to high school after a decade….he really struggles to catch back up.
This is the kind of guy who can’t help caring about people. He gets flustered when he’s teased and doesn’t mind teasing others when he has an advantage. Makes friends pretty easily with his personality, but doesn’t exactly start out intending to make friends through this experiment. A pretty fun character, but when a situation demands he get more serious, he will do just that. An awkward situation being one of the class, but knowing he’s 10 years older than these people. Sometimes struggling not to lecture them. Although sometimes a bit of lecturing is a good thing.
I’d say the second most important character in the mix for this show is Chizuru Hishiro. She serves as the main female character and certainly one unusual person. Someone who is certainly brilliant and very capable of getting the work done that is assigned to her. However, she has horrific social skills. She isn’t good at remembering names of people who don’t interest her and struggles to find an interest in people in general. She recognizes her weaknesses, but has a tough time actually getting past them. Not a bad person in the slightest, but very blunt and doesn’t have a friend when the series starts off.
Some of the best moments in the show come from Hishiro. Her personality and awkwardness often drives some drama. But, it isn’t just the negative things that make her a central figure. Her willingness to grow and desire for friendship pushes Hishiro into helping resolve issues. Her connection with Arata and the conflict he feels about it also makes for some entertaining moments.
Ryo Yoake is another important figure, though often can be a background person. He is basically Arata’s handler. A member of the support staff at ReLIFE that observes the experiment as a student at the school and is basically just someone Arata has to deal with. He can often feel like a troll and sadist who doesn’t mind messing with Arata just to get some laughs for himself. But, he does have more to him than just that. There is a seriousness under the surface and troubles that he carries. The story doesn’t directly take on his troubles, but you get an understanding of where he is coming from.
Rena Kariu is a student at this school and a central figure in a lot of the drama. She is a helpful person, but is also extremely competitive. She seeks to go up against her top rivals in academics and sports. Kariu doesn’t settle for just being second best and does everything she can do improve her own scores and abilities in order to compete. There is a lot of tough moments with Kariu because she can have a temper as well. Being so intensely competitive can create problems and we see some of them here. Kariu makes a fair number of mistakes and does some of the most growing throughout the show.
Her best friend Honoka Tamarai is often connected to Rena’s character arc and does have some key moments herself. Being the volleyball team’s captain she basically serves as Kariu’s athletic rival and also her friend. It makes for some interesting moments with them seeing how these two balance those things.
The best friend role for Arata is filled by Kazuomi Oga. He is also an actual student at the school and basically the smartest guy in the class. Oga is a good person and certainly helps out the academically challenged Arata whenever he can. He’s also incredibly dense when it comes to feelings and romance. It is actually impressive how someone can be that smart and also just miss everything going on around him. Still, he’s very much involved at times with drama around Kariu and Arata wouldn’t survive at that school without Oga there to help him out. He does get an arc himself near the end of the series which was nice to see.
As a whole I’d say the cast is pretty good. Arata is the star of the show for most of the series. He helps people grow and deal with their own problems, as well as start tackling his own. His interactions with the cast, especially Hishiro, are fun to watch. Honestly, I just enjoyed seeing these people deal with their problems and grow. There is some romance in the show. It’s not the major focus of the whole series, but it is part of life and the series covers that. Some of the romances get further than others, but that is to be expected in a 13 episode series that isn’t focusing on romance. I like the cast and think they are a good reason to watch.
Overall, I’d say the show looks good. The standard designs for the characters are solid and the backgrounds leave me with no complaints. The best thing I can say is that this series gets the “chibi” looks that the comedy sometimes has going for it and the hilarious facial expressions. The visuals are a key component to the comedy in this show and the people behind this understood that. The backgrounds will look more stylized, the expressions will be hilarious, it’s just a different look than when the show is being serious. I give the show a lot of credit for balancing the two sides out. The show looks good when it is supposed to look normal and it looks good when it is supposed to be more comedic.
The show has one of the better OPs this season, at least in my opinion. The song is both upbeat, but also capturing the kind of subtle tragedy that exists for Arata’s situation. You get to see all the brightness of his friendships and those around him which gets you hyped, but you also realize…it will eventually end for him. The show also has one of the more unusual tactics I’ve seen in having a different ending song each episode. The visuals are mostly the same for the ED just with a few swapped images that represent the theme of that specific episode. Some of the songs were better than others, but it was an interesting move.
I can’t complain about the voice cast. I think they were pretty well on point. When you go into an adaptation it can be an adjustment period to actually hear voices for these characters, but I don’t have a complaint. Everyone felt like they should.
As a whole I’d say ReLIFE was a good adaptation that told the story it had to tell. There was some cut material and lines here and there. They adapted a lot of the manga to this point, but I don’t think it felt rushed. Rather they changed things to allow the scenes to flow a bit quicker and I’m ok with that. Nothing I felt was crucial was left out and it did allow them to get this far with only a single season. Of course that means we aren’t likely to see a sequel until the manga is over since they really caught up nicely here. Although after getting 13 episodes all at once….maybe a bit of waiting won’t hurt anything.
ReLIFE is a show I think people should give a shot. It has some good laughs, but also feels really settled. The almost fantastic initial premise soon gives way to a show that has some serious topics it wants to tackle and takes a look at some of the less pretty sides to employment that anime doesn’t always look at. We get a mature main character while still going to the high school setting that is pretty popular. These are also all third year students so it’s not like we’re dealing with teenagers just coming into high school. They are basically young adults that are preparing to either get into the working world or college, about to leap out of the world they’ve known.
This is a show that does a good job tackling some serious issues, but also letting you laugh at times to deflate the tension. Good characters going through their journeys until we reach the last episode. I sure hope this show gets a second season down the road, the story deserves it. All I suggest is that people don’t let the premise throw them off and give it a few episodes. Might be glad you did.
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