ReLIFE – Review
ReLIFE was awarded as a Runner-Up for Best of Summer 2016 in our Anime Awards.
Original Release Date: July 1st, 2016
Synopsis: Arata Kaizaki is twenty-seven years old and without a steady job. He managed to land a job shortly after graduating but quit in just three months. He works a part time job with no chance for promotion and his parents are on the verge of pulling their financial support. Just as Kaizaki hits rock bottom, he meets a stranger named Ryo Yoake. Yoake invites Kaizaki to become a test subject in a new social rehabilitation program for NEETs like himself called ReLIFE. Utilizing a new drug that makes one look younger than they actually are, Ryo offers Arata a chance to return to his high school life and start over again. If he can survive that year, and improve himself, there’s a job waiting for him. But can Kaizaki really get back into the high school swing of things?
Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: When I first heard of this show, I was worried it would turn out to be a show all about NEET wish fulfillment or making fun of and reinforcing NEET stereotypes, topics that I think are handled badly in most media. Fortunately, it turned out to be the complete opposite and rather than focusing solely on the NEET angle, it explored the regrets and hardships one can face throughout all stages of life. That one does not simply have it easier or better by sheer virtue of their skills, talents, age or even effort in some cases.
Tom: ReLIFE’s dramatic core and comedic tone work well together, providing a light atmosphere that can periodically dive into more difficult issues. Initially it may seem like a stupid, slice of life comedy with no real meaning or core, but ReLIFE has quite a few surprise twists that keep the entire affair feeling poignant, real, dark and relatable. This show has depth, and a message, one that shouldn’t be so easily ignored by its looks and atmosphere.
Linny: As we delve into the more sombre notes within, ReLIFE starts to feel like something that is going to resonate strongly with older audiences or those of us who have some major regrets in life. ReLIFE isn’t about getting a complete do-over of your past but more about growing as a person and realizing the changes you need to make are from within and not necessarily in your past. It manages to spread this message without ever becoming preachy but rather remains relatable and entertaining. Though it has an older protagonist and there is an exploration of his past and present, the show also does a great job of showing the angst and issues of his teen class mates. The show avoids making their issues seem like teen drama and instead makes them relatable to younger viewers of their age, and understandable to older audiences.
Tom: ReLIFE potentially speaks to an older audience, or at least a more mature mindset. It particularly becomes relatable for anyone who’s holding onto a few regrets or has discovered the increasingly difficult and disappointing nature of post high school life. ReLIFE wants you to think about what these defining moments are in one’s early life and how they have an impact on you as you age and grow up. It’s subtle, but if you stop and think about it, ReLIFE is pointing out some pretty key concepts in teenage social development.
Linny: Despite advertising the protagonist Arata as a NEET, he isn’t exactly the stereotypical NEET that pops into people’s minds . While he isn’t employed fulltime, it’s clear that his lack of employment is because of getting rejected as he is shown to be actively applying for jobs. Since a lot of anime and manga seem to have made the word NEET synonymous with someone who doesn’t want to get sucked into the grind of office work, I think this show is either trying to change the presumption that goes with that label, or it is ignoring that presumption and going with the literal meaning of the term. Even literally, Arata does have some employment, albeit part-time so I still take some issue with the NEET label. Also, I would like to make it clear that I am arguing about the label not because of negativity towards the term NEET but because I like to get technical with labels and terms ever so often. Regardless of his label, true or not, Arata turns out to be a likable guy who strives to do the right thing at the end of the day but doesn’t always get it right.
Tom: Kaizaki is an awesome, multi-layered lead. While the show might seem simplistic early on, and that Kaizaki’s only issue is that he’s given up in life, there’s far more to it. It’s a multi-layered, deep and complex issue the series explores from quite a few angles. Couple all of that with his likable and multi-faceted personality and I feel you have one of the more well-rounded protagonists of recent. The show isn’t all just Kaizaki however. As we get deeper into ReLIFE it becomes more and more of an ensemble cast. Kariu, the fiery red head who passionately seeks rivals in her academics and romance from Oga. Oga, the study machine yet completely inept at understanding girls. The show is full of characters to be explored and through each of them Kaizaki develops more and more, steadily growing and coping with the dark issues that stunted his growth into adulthood. There’s a lot of variety to be had here and while the show dedicates a couple episodes to each event/problem the class has to deal with, it never lingers too long, moving onto new issues and new events often.
Linny: Hoshio Chizuru is a great source of humour if you enjoy awkward comedy or jokes that arise from how inept one is at socializing and reading social context clues. She has some great physical comedy gags and also provides a character that might be relatable to those who feel like social outcasts and introverts who struggle to reach out and connect with people.
Tom: While she is funny, Hoshio Chizuru is perhaps the most one note character of the cast. Her problems center in on one specific issue, her inability to relate to other people. It does however generally work given her character arc and as Linny said, provides some solid humor. In fact the only characters I felt were practically superfluous were Honoka’s, the ace sports girl, buddy duo that follows her around. They play a very minor role in the series, and currently their entire being is to act as catalysts for a later confrontation between Honoka and Kariu.
Linny: On the opposite end of the spectrum, Kariu Rena was a frustrating character because of how she kept letting her personal issues and pride get in the way of reconciling with friends or even creating the issues herself in the first place. Because of how the show keeps harping on her numerous missteps and refusal to make amends, it started reinforcing that this was all just a made up tale and even annoyed me. In real life, I highly doubt anyone would be willing to give Rena the number of chances that her friends give her even after she snubs them or treats them terribly. Or maybe I am just a pessimist.
Tom: In an unusual twist, Crunchyroll decided to copy Netflix’s release set up and instead of airing ReLIFE week to week it dumped all thirteen episodes in one go on the 1st of July. This is in part due to ReLIFE airing on a Japanese streaming service in much the same manner and appears to be a growing trend for releases in the future. I don’t think all shows will work well with this bulk release format, but here ReLIFE benefits from it, thanks to the few twists and turns that make you beg for answers as the show tiptoes around its darker territory. Another fun aspect to the series is what they’ve done with the Ending credits. Instead of a signature track to take us out every episode they’ve set up an assortment of older songs that Kaizaki might’ve listened to when he was a teenager. It’s a fun little element, although it doesn’t ultimately add too much to the series.
Linny: Despite mainly being a drama and slice of life, there’s also a tiny little mystery introduced into the series that is likely to intrigue the viewer. Unfortunately, even though we get an answer to the mystery, it’s a quick and rushed reveal which might leave many a viewer unhappy given that it’s dangled over our heads for almost the entire run of the series. It would have been nice if we had gotten some more exposition on it though I guess you could dismiss it as not pivotal to the main story.
Tom: ReLIFE is based off an ongoing manga and actually adapts a significant portion of it. It seems unlikely we’ll be seeing a follow up any time soon and that’s unfortunate as ReLIFE has a final twist that screams for a continuation as soon as possible. It also sucks because jumping to the manga just doesn’t seem like a viable option for now. Crunchyroll seems to have stopped Simulpublishing it, as the Manga on their website falls behind the anime’s later episodes. Either way, however, ReLIFE is a stellar thirteen episode series and is perfect viewing for older audiences looking for more meaning and depth within their slice of life.
Linny: A lot of the appeal of ReLIFE lies in how much you connect or empathize with the characters. It’s a slice of life about regrets, redemption and personal growth that seems particular well suited for older audiences or those with a mature mindset. While it has a lot of silly facial expressions and quick reaction gags, it remains a touching story that is sure to leave you with a satisfied smile at the end.
ReLIFE is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.com.