OP: 「Button」 by PENGUIN RESEARCH
I don’t know if ReLIFE represents the future of anime distribution, but we could do a lot worse that having it represent the future of anime creatively. It’s a square peg of a series in almost every way, but somehow it seems to have found a bit of an audience both in Japan and the West. A live-action movie has been greenlit, and the manga has seen a modest bump in sales (which one assumes was the major reason why the anime exists in the first place). It’s always nice to see smart and emotionally challenging anime, but it’s even better to see them get a little bit of attention.
Summer 2016 was a pretty a strong season, albeit one with some oddball scheduling and distribution quirks. I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of the way ReLIFE was ReLEASED, but in the end I suppose what really matters is whether the experiment was successful from a commercial standpoint. I don’t know the answer to that question because I’m not exactly sure how a show distributed like this one would define success, but I hope the production committee is pleased if that means we’d get more anime as thoughtful and well-crafted as ReLIFE.
There are a number of things that are exceptional about this series, in fact. The music for starters – the BGM is exceptional (especially the jazzy piano eps, like the finale) and the decision to use pop songs that Arata and Chizuru (cough) might have been listening to when they were teenagers as EDs was a brilliant one. The cast is exceptional (Ono Kensho is developing into a fine and versatile seiyuu), and the series dealt with some really complicated and difficult themes in a refreshingly restrained and insightful way. ReLIFE is definitely not a mass-produced model.
As finales go, ReLIFE gave us exactly the sort you’d expect based on its track record. I don’t know how faithful this was to the manga – I suspect the content generally was, though I’m less sure about the sequencing of it – but this was an ending that felt like an ending while still acknowledging that the story is ongoing. That’s never an easy thing to do with an unfinished source material, but ReLIFE is an exceptionally professional production – the storytelling is sure-footed and confident and there’s never been any sense of drift or indecision in the writing and direction. One way or another, you knew Kosaka and Yokote would deliver the goods.
The bombshell of the finale was perhaps not such a bombshell – at least not in terms of the surprise factor. I’d more or less sussed out what was going on with Hishiro (maybe to some extent helped along by incessant hinting from commenters, one of the reasons I’m not nuts for the Netflix-style full-series release) , but it’s nice to see it officially acknowledged on-screen. Surprise or not, Hishiro being test subject 001 certainly has a bombshell effect on the story. I still have some questions the anime didn’t answer (not least why a seemingly terrible fit like Hishiro was chosen in the first place) but this revelation both explains much and opens the door to many possibilities in the future.
As is often the case with ReLIFE, it’s in the quieter moments that you tend to find the most meaningful exchanges. I was very struck by Chizuru’s comments expressing puzzlement over why Kariu would confess to Ooga, knowing they might be separated. This notion – whether it’s worth risking pain in order to experience something meaningful in the moment – is one of the fundamental questions of human existence. The reveal that Chizuru is a ReLIFE test subject obviously casts it in a more immediate light, but even if she were a normal high school student it would be the most understandable and human of all questions (and one totally in-character for her).
When you consider that every romantic relationship but one – if you’re lucky – will end in separation, that every pet you invite into your life will likely leave you too soon, is it any wonder we ask ourselves if it mightn’t be better to close ourselves off and protect ourselves from pain? Yet every time we do so we make our lives in the present less rich. Chizuru is a perfect test case for this of course, as socially awkward as she is, and she and Arata fit together emotionally as neatly as can be. If indeed the plan was to bring the two of them together, Yoake and Onoya deserve at least some credit.
If I’m to find fault with the decisions that Kosaka-sensei and Yokote-sensei made with this adaptation, perhaps a little too much time was spent on satellite characters and their stories. Kariu is an interesting girl and she and Ooga have excellent on-screen chemistry, but her trials dominated the narrative too much in the second half of the series. The first half of the finale is devoted mostly to this couple, and it’s pretty emblematic of the second half of ReLIFE – relatively conventional and predictable teen drama executed extremely well. I’m glad we got to see the two of them fumble through this confession and first date (I loved that Ooga just blurted it out) but I’m also glad they cleared the way to focus on Arata and Chizuru in the B-part.
The biggest reason their story works as well as it does is the same reason ReLIFE as a whole does, namely that the characters are both very believable and very likeable. Chizuru may not be an actual kid, but in many ways she may as well be – which is why, I think, she plays the role more convincingly than Arata. Set off against the backdrop of the timeless fireworks festival (an event whose popularity in Japan is not at all exaggerated by manga and anime), we see Arata torn between his better judgment and his heart. It’s clear now why Onoya ans Yoake were so willing to push the two of them together, but of course neither of them knows the truth about the other – which makes their conflicted feelings about becoming a couple that much more fascinating.
With the truth about Chizuru out (to us), the possibility that she and Arata might be more than a fleeting memory to each other is very real. Even if you buy the conceit of ReLIFE, the part about the students forgetting the test subjects was always the most far-fetched and hard to rationalize. But I guess it’s best to take it as poetry and poetic license, because a firework – exploding gloriously and just as quickly disappearing – is exactly what most high school love affairs are. Funnily enough, I’m not sure the decision Arata and Chizuru are facing would be all that different if they knew the truth about each other.
What I love as much as anything about ReLIFE is how, in the end, Arata ended up being so completely different than what he appeared to be when we met him. Our view of him was colored by his view of himself – a loser, a NEET, a failure. But he’s none of those things – he’s smart (high school testing aside), compassionate, idealistic and keenly sensitive to the pain of others. His final decision on the night of the hanabitaikai is classically Arata – he sets aside his own feelings and encourages Chizuru to achieve happiness and open herself up to others. If indeed she does so, whether in Arata’s presence or not, he can take much of the credit – and Chizuru is keenly aware of it (and tells him so). Arata’s participation in ReLIFE may very well have had more impact on Chizuru’s life than on his own, and I think he’d be perfectly fine with that.
As is so often the case with these kinds of (effectively) seinen adaptations, we’re left with a lot of unfinished business. At least with ReLIFE those of us who want to follow the story in manga form (and don’t read Japanese very well) have the option to do so. When excellent series like this end I’m always of a mind to be grateful for what we have rather than regretful for what we don’t, because it’s a small miracle that a few such series are actually adapted into anime in the first place. Thank goodness for shows like ReLIFE that shed some light on the human condition with compassion and insight, because they make the world a better place for those of us that watch them.
I really liked to this anime. In regards to how it was delivered, I really enjoyed it. In my opinion, binge watching is the best way to watch anime. Waiting a week for each ep kills the emotional ride.
Watching anime week by week gives you better chance to talk about each episode and its scenes with your friends, and wondering together what will happen next.
I agree. Releasing all of the episodes at once really kills the social aspect of it. But I can understand if people don’t really care about that. Unfortunately you can’t really have both.
I think the same dynamic exists in American TV – the Netflix/Amazon model vs. the HBO model. I like the idea that everyone has to wait for the next episode of GoT and can discuss it, theorize… I think the social aspect has helped that show develop its huge fandom. But then, doing it the other way doesn’t seem to have hurt stuff like Stranger Things or Narcos any.
Nah, waiting a week for an episode strengthens the emotional aspect of a show because you get to socialize it with others, ponder about it, and give time for the anime to grow on you.
This is an anime truly meant for grown-ups. It’s a really nice reflection on adult life and the various tribulations we may face. I loved all its implications and lessons even if some of them were meant for when I was younger.
I really enjoyed watching this show. As some have mentioned, this is geared, or at least it would be best understood by an older audience. A lot of the themes in this are life lessons that we don’t understand until we are older. I would like to see more anime similar to this one. I also liked the fact that they released it entirely at the onset of the season, I didn’t get to watch until each episode was unlocked by Crunchyroll, but I liked the fact that it was all there. I guess I’m used to an episode a week. Lol.
Looking forward to a new season and I might pick up the manga.
The anime covered the 1st 108 chapters of the source webmanga. The webmanga has about 150-160+ chapters out, so not enough content for a S2 just yet. Perhaps once 200+ chapters are out then there’ll be a continuation.
The live action movie of ReLife will have an original ending.
First day, first week : 13 episodes in 1 day?! Is this the real life?
Second day : I’ve finally finished it. That was good!
The next week : Hey, where’s my second season?
Should’ve called yourself One Binge Man for this comment.
that joke was so lame I laughed loudly xD
Definitely more interesting than what it seemed. I definitely want to watch a season 2 of this.
I’ve got volume 1 of the manga, (I think it’s only in Japanese for now) and basically each episode adapts half a volume really. And what was adapted is adapted exactly according to how it was originally presented in the manga.
Without a doubt, a stellarly produced anime. I simply can’t jive with a lot of the more ‘culturally-infused’ aspects of the story but I generally really liked it. Reminds me that I should probably get back to reading volume 1, I barely even scratched the surface of it lol
I agree that this was very well translated from the manga into anime, having followed the manga for a long time now. I was very excited for the anime and overall I greatly enjoyed it. There were some little things that were left out here and there but nothing big was really changed until we get to episode 13.
Show Spoiler ▼
I really just watched the series for the relation between Kairu and Ooga, that’s what my interest was. I liked the reLife agent guy (sorry I tend to forget their names) until An came and took out that interesting mystery factor from him.
A good show, but not one for another rewatch from me. Maybe if I was really bored. Also, it added another anime to the unfinished business anime list -_-”..
I want the pill and return to younger days once more D:
series that in want a second season most of the past season
addressing important life questions, yet entertaining
It was definitely a great series. I really hope there will be a second season and if there is, as far as I read the original web manga version it would be much more focused on the two protagonists, Arata and Hishiron, and the relationship of the two.
While I love the manga and anime, I can’t say the same about the way RC decided to cover it, without giving it a chance for introductory post at the beginning of the season, at a time when people were deciding which series they should try out. So we only got an ending post, which (quite reasonably) contains spoilers.
I hope the next time such a series is released this way, RC does it justice with an introductory post.
I personally like the all out at one time release. It’s a big plus for netflix shows. You don’t have to binge it but it gives you freedom to watch whenever. It’s the choice that I like soo much. Granted it would make your guys work here at RC a bit challenging.
This anime conveys how youth can really shape one’s journey to self-discovery as it continues onward
[times when you have to admit your age]
& how wisdom that comes with maturity can help the younger generation see solutions to problems already experienced to share a sense of common ground (not a generation gap).
[it’s worth listening to people who know empathy and show compassion]
School life (as a youth) and work life (as an adult) = there is no greater joy nor suffering than the other. Life is still reality. Even though this is fictional, it gives you insight.
I’m disappointed. You didn’t capture Hishiro’s best “smile”.
Was surprised to see the way it was released, but yeah, it kinda negated all possible anticipations and discussions when you can quickly binge the entire series.
It was a good series to watch, though in my opinion, not the best series for such a distribution method. A usual weekly episode would have placed this higher on the watchlist for more people.
I’m getting as dense as Chizuru. I didn’t catch that she was subject 001 until they slapped me in the face with it. I guess my assumption was that since they implied that the term or ReLife was only for one year and she had been there as a junior that it was someone else. This also explains why Yoake was there as a junior also. Sheesh, I was too absorbed in what was in front of me to figure things out. It’s also obvious why the initial attempt failed with Chizuru because she was too closed off. Kaizaki’s problem wasn’t as deep seated as hers.
I’m really glad that I watched this. I hadn’t planned to because it just seemed like another high school comedy but it certainly wasn’t the run of the mill of the genre. The setting may have been a high school but this was something that only an adult would really understand. Really going to miss this.
For me, it’s one of a few shows that actually force me to sit and watch its entirty in one go.
It’s very easy to be enjoyed and the characters and their interactions are so much fun.
I have a tiny complaint on the volleyball club arc but overall, it’s really good.
Simply one of the most enjoyable anime of summer 2016.
Don’t bite me, but I’m going to critique on the full-series release in one go. Don’t take me wrong, I enjoyed this show very much, but the way of delivery was not for me.
I am someone that watches nearly everything on a weekly basis. However, I watched this show in 2 or 3 days at the start of summer season. I couldn’t really stop because it was so good, and longed for more a week after I finished it. However, while reading this blog post, in the third week or so of fall season, I can’t help but having forgot most of the story. While reading I sort of remembered the red line throughout the story, but the details and the emotions are very hazy. Having had no time to ponder upon the developments like with a weekly series, ReLIFE has been ‘pushed out’ of my memory. And that is a damn shame, because I think this series could’ve been one better fixated in my memory, and gladly so, if it was ReLEASED (sorry for stealing your word play Enzo) weekly.
Now to finish this post, I am sure there are people who prefer binge watching, but in my opinion series are better presented on weekly basis. For longer watching experiences there are movies.