ReLIFE First Impressions
“Whether you enjoy it or play it safe, I think it’s best you experience your ReLIFE however you want.”
Do you guys remember when Summer and Winter were the weaker anime seasons? It might be early to call it, but the Summer 2016 anime season is looking to be one of the strongest lineups we’ve seen in a while, and, with ReLIFE, I think it is safe to say that it is off to a notably strong start. Admittedly, I’m not suggesting that this title is going to be a groundbreaking must-see work of the season, but it does boast strong characterization, a decent sense of humor, and a creative twist on what many consider to be a particularly stale genre. Given all these qualities, I think we have the potential for a particularly good slice-of-life series, and a memorable entry into the subgenre of high school dramas.
ReLIFE centers around Kaizaki Arata, an individual who at age 27 has found that his life has been derailed. He got himself a job right out of college only to leave it after three months, and hasn’t been fully employed since. He still goes to interviews, but has had little luck with them, and even goes so far as to lie to his friends and pretend to be employed when they ask him out for drinks. Despite his setbacks, Arata comes off as a likable protagonist. There is a sense that he is trying to bring his life together, but he never comes off as whiny or excessively self pitying. However, things get shaken up for him when one evening after drinks he is approached by a young man claiming to be Yoake Ryo of the ReLIFE Laboratory. He offers Arata an opportunity to take part in a trial program that is intended to provide individuals a second opportunity to ingratiate themselves into society. As part of the trial Arata will be taking pills that reduce his age by about 10 years, and he will be required to complete the senior year of high school. Much of the rest of the first episode involves Arata bumbling his way through the first day of class which, while it may sound mundane, is particularly humorous. He has good comedic reactions, and the characters that fill out the class around him promise to be memorable.
If ReLIFE surprised me in one notable way, it might be in the fact that the show is complete. You can actually watch all 13 episodes on Crunchyroll assuming you have either a premium membership or are able to use their free trial (for the sake of disclosure, we have a link with which you can sign up for a free 2 week trial of their premium membership here). Apparently, while the show is still getting a serialized broadcast, TMS Entertainment decided to take the Netflix approach and release all of the episodes online simultaneously. As far as production is concerned, the show looks quite nice with decent lighting and distinctive character designs. It isn’t going to be the most visually gripping show of the year, but it doesn’t need to be, and, given what the show is aiming for, I’m willing to say that I’m more than a little impressed with the visuals. The vocal cast also does a great job in this first episode, though we mainly hear from Arata, Ryo, and the class teacher, Amatsu Kokoro. That being said, the rest of the vocal cast does a good job of making good impressions despite having limited dialogue to work with. All in all, ReLIFE is a strong and polished start to this anime season that succeeds in both cleverly subverting and playing to the strengths of its genre.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- Ryo is tasked with observing Arata’s actions as part of the class, and thus is also posing as a student. Minor though it may be, my favorite moment in the entire episode is when the teacher finds cigarettes in Arata’s bag, and, upon realizing his mistake, Arata insists that he only brought them “out of habit.” Ryo can barely contain his laughter.
- I have to applaud the fact that no one in this show seems to romanticize high school. Arata certainly underestimates the difficulty that he will have when it comes to fitting in, but at no point does he suggest that it will be some idyllic experience. Despite the premise, there is an almost mundane approach to the nature of high school that is actually rather refreshing.
- In case it wasn’t clear from the title, this review and its accompanying score only reflect my views on the first episode.
- So, we’ve got ReLIFE, Rewrite, and ReZero this season. I guess that one unoriginal thing about this show would be its name.
Honestly, I found myself laughing or chuckling a number of times throughout this first episode. If the show was playing this premise straight I might have deducted half a star since the narrative itself isn't much more than decent, but, due in no small part to its clever use of humor, I think it is a charming and fun work that knows its central idea is fantastical but never pushes it to the point of being farcical. I definitely look forward to watching more of it.