Saturday, September 16, 2017

ReLIFE (2016)

ReLIFE is a slice of life anime that has 13 episodes so far based on the web comic of the same name.  The anime stars Arata Kaizaki, who is a 27 year old NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training).  After quitting his first job of 3 months, he finds himself struggling to find another full time job.  Instead, he is currently working part-time at a convenience store in order to make ends meet, while still being crushed by the social pressure from his friends and family, leading him to pretend he still has a "real" job when he meets with them.

Arata's life turns around when he is offered a one year contract to participate in an experiment as a tester for ReLIFE.  This experiment makes his exterior appearance become younger by around 10 years, and thus being able to attend third year high school as a 17 year old again.  This apparently allows him to fix his life.  Basically, it's like the Japanese equivalent of 17 Again but with a deeper story.  However, after one year, everyone he has interacted with will forget about him.  That, and he also has a "Support" who effectively stalks him to check on his progress, and writes reports for a purpose that's hidden from everyone including the viewers.

Apart from the dubious decision to take a mysterious pill, ReLIFE establishes itself as an addicting watch from the very first episode.  Characters that are introduced immediately become endearing and the struggles that Ara faces when attending high school again are hilarious and so very true.  ReLIFE first focuses upon the differences that Arata notices in high school life now, compared to his own experience from ten years ago.  From forgetting all the knowledge in his day one tests (who remembers the tricks and rules of trigonometry, when they haven't been using them at all since high school?), to rules where mobile phones are now allowed.

As a result, Arata quickly finds himself leaving a bad impression to everyone on the first day of school, such as his teacher finding a packet of cigarettes in his bag.  It's nothing wrong for Arata, except for the fact he is supposed to be 17 years old.  This is made funnier when his teacher is in fact two years younger than his real age.  We're reminded that Arata's transformation is exterior only during physical examination where he sucks at all the activities because he hasn't been exercising regularly.  He gets cramps and loses his balance, pretty ironic since it's after he laughs at his friend for doing poorly.

As expected, Arata befriends various fellow students.  Each has something unusual about them, something flawed, or there is an issue troubling them.  From Hishiro, who is socially awkward, to Kariu, who is very competitive.  Misunderstandings due to poor communication happen often, usually to comedic effect.  Later episodes then focus on Arata's effects on those around him and how he ends up helping to resolve their problems.  He does find it ironic and amusing about the problems that the "youth" face, seemingly not as important to him now that he is an adult, but means the world when you were at that age.

Arata's outgoing nature coupled with hindsight and regrets as an adult, means that he is an invaluable help to his friends.  The anime does a great job at conveying these problems and how they are resolved.  As other people's problems are being solved, we see parallels when compared with the ones that Arata faced in his past.  Going through this journey with his friends helps him overcome his own mental scars.  ReLIFE has a perfect blend of slice of life coupled with comedy.  A lot of the dialogue is gold and it never lets up.  The anime is not afraid to suggest some more... "legal" things that Arata could do (but he doesn't).

With the excellent animation and clean aesthetics, including a good soundtrack (with a different ending song for each episode), ReLIFE is the full package.  As you near towards the final episodes, you feel the same doubt that Arata is feeling.  He faces a tough decision on whether to hold back because why would you become attached and create strong friendships when you know that soon, they will forget about you?  Why only cause inevitable pain to yourself?  This dilemma leaves a large impact in the finale.

The last episode also leaves the viewer with a bombshell twist and suffice to say, it will affect ARata deeply.  Considering that everyone will forget about him after the experiment period ends, he is struggling to try and keep his distance in some of his relationships.  The last episode is not the end of the story, and thankfully, there will be more episodes to conclude it.  Overall, ReLIFE is a fantastic anime that has so much humor in it which works, that it is a joy to watch from start to finish.  The path that Arata takes and the bonds he creates with his fellow classmates are resonating.  ReLIFE is highly recommended.


For other animation reviews, have a look at this page.

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