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ReLIFE (Anime Review)


A Pleasant Pill To Swallow

ReLife is a Slice-of-Life comedy anime, following the story of Kaizaki Arata: 27 years old, single, unemployed after quitting his first postgraduate job and is now unable to get interview success anywhere else, leaving him in a depressed slump. At this point, he meets Ryo Yoake, a mysterious cheerful chap who offers him a second chance opportunity known as the ReLife program: an experiment involving taking a magic-like pill that makes you look 10 years younger and sending you back to high school for a year. Have you ever felt like your life hasn’t turned out the way you wanted? Anyone who spent their late teens to early twenties in university or post-education training will tell you 100% of the time that the real world is always different than you’d expect and your plans probably end up the same. Combining its aesthetics, humour and character development, ReLife gives you the opportunity to take a look of what was and what could be of your own life alongside the journey of its protagonist, mixed with an unexpected level of depth that will still leave you with a smile on your face.

Those eyes, man...
 
Firstly, as everyone will be thinking this from the get-go, the animation looks gorgeous. Not because of the settings or backgrounds but because of the specific look to each of its characters. The high school students, youthful Kaizaki included, may come off as having the generic Super-Fun-Time-Kawaii-Japan appeal at first but that’s a charm of its premise. The 27 year old, fully-suited adult Kaizaki for example, is drawn as quite serious and sharp like other adult characters. His transition to his 17 year old look strikes you not because of looking obviously younger, but because he looks full of optimism. Young Kaizaki and the other younger characters have that joyful glimmer of hope in their eye, that shining colouring to each complexion. These jolly visuals mix incredibly well with the music to boot. The opening theme Button by the band Penguin Research (Most adorable song and band names ever) is upbeat and yet wonderfully mellow. The ending theme of each episode is a different decent track by a different artist. As soon as the opening song starts playing and those glossy, happy characters come onscreen, you can’t help but instantly feel better about yourself no matter what sort of day you’ve had.

A wonderfully colourful cast of characters

Where ReLife really hits its stride is the combination of hitting points home in a serious tone but also sandwiching it between layers of relevant humour. A lot of the funny with ReLife stems from the actual fact of a 27 year old man readjusting to high school life: trying to not be formal speaking to 17 year olds, actually trying to master algebra (as if anyone ever could) and as any man struggles with, attempting to hide how much beer you actually drink from teenagers. However, humour also simmers over the individual stories and backgrounds of each character: from being oblivious to attraction from girls, a socially awkward student creepily learning to smile or Ryo occasionally being a smiley yet manipulative sociopath. This is how ReLife uses it’s comedy to hit the nails of aspects of how school life on the head. The know-it-all who can’t seem to take a joke; the socially inept genius whose doing their best to come out of their shell, the joyful idiot whose blissfully ignorant to his surroundings, the sweet airhead with long-time friends that would murder for her: we’ve all had at least several if not all of these sort of friends in school, college or university at some point. ReLife makes you look through the eyes of Kaizaki, as possibly an older person as he is and you can’t help but smile being sucked back nostalgically into this sort of world as he is.

The embodiment of our 17 year old selves...

As we can relate going from living through teenage years all the way to adulthood, ReLife’s characters also have their darker moments along their journey. Kaizaki for example, has a troubled past which you learn more of as the series goes on, leading to the reason he’s unemployed in the first place. These troubled years have affected him in such a way which, when you notice them, gives you a bit of a “woah…” moment. You may go from silently judging him in episode 1 to fully relating and empathising with him later on. You may not relate to him because of going through his EXACT situation (I certainly hope you haven’t); but because in this day and age, it wouldn’t be normal if an mid-twenty-something DIDN’T have baggage: something they can’t shake from their thoughts that holds them back or just really drag you down during those moments alone, all accompanied with a smile and a friendly attitude to make those around him not worry. When being in the adult world for at least a couple of years, it can’t be helped to look back into our times at school with nostalgia goggles: a simpler life seeing your friends every day where your biggest worry is one of the end-of-year exams, if not any relationship drama in your social group which as ReLife also depicts accurately, is a luxury you lose when everyone trades their school text books for bills and working full time. What’s beautiful about ReLife is seeing Kaizaki slowly developing from being bleak about the world due to coldness of corporate work culture to being refuelled with that cheery spark in his personality. It’s an example of how keeping good friends will make you able to get back up again once you’ve fallen. Kaizaki even develops further by using his experience of the real world to help others develop themselves. There are so many heart-warming scenes like this.

Kaizaki even gives life advice with his adult years of experience.

If anything would be dragging the series down at all, it would be a mini story arc which takes place between several of the female characters, covering at least a few episodes. It more or less involves a mixture of jealousy and confusion leading to social exclusions and some very unfortunate misunderstandings. Don’t get me wrong, parts of this side story depicted accidental social mishaps turning into more unnecessary drama, muchlike today, pretty dead on. Although, the problem is that it was dragged out a bit too much. Kaizaki took a bit of a back seat during this time, which was a bit of a shame as I was enjoying his own interactions with the students a lot more. On the other hand, taking a step back and seeing what happens before deciding if to take action is part of Kaizaki’s story itself and does all come full circle, affecting to main story’s destination. It just would have been nice if the schoolgirl friendship drama was leaned out by 1 or 2 episodes to give more time to Kaizaki or other characters.

When the drama you're watching between your mates gets heated....

Verdict

A unique premise and a carefully crafted mixture of drama and comedy make ReLife a heart-felt experience, making you more than likely make you want to go back to those Year 11 English Literature lessons and lunch time meet-ups in the school court yard. With each episode, you’ll be invested more each time into these adorable characters as you learn and empathise with them but it’s more of the protagonist, Kaizaki Arata himself, that you’ll be cheering on. This character and his story is almost a representation of how we’ve all felt during those low moments and his journey upwards is a well-needed lesson that if you’re ever feeling down on yourself, you’re not alone. Pacing issues with side-story arcs aside, this series is a memorable delight that will leave you grinning and chuckling every time.

Rating: 9/10


ReLife is streaming on Crunchyroll now. Give it a go!

 
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