「ReLIFE 完結編」 (ReLIFE: Kanketsu-hen)
“ReLIFE: Final Arc”
When the original thirteen episodes of ReLIFE aired, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Its very premise risks breaking immersion from the beginning. It’s not that a pill that makes people look 10 years younger is that unreasonable, it’s all the ancillary details—that there would be enough money for this, that there would be enough perceived value in rehabilitating people like this, and above all else, all that memory wiping stuff. It’s a lot the original arc in Sword Art Online in this; it wasn’t that people getting trapped inside a VRMMO was so unreasonable, it just strained credibility that someone wouldn’t figure out a way to get them out. Compare that to Log Horizon, KonoSuba, or even Death March, which only require one hand-wavey “it was magic” explanation, and SAO’s premise is a much heavier lift. Ditto to this series and something like YoriMoi, which only requires one difference (Shirase I was sold to civilians for civilian expeditions), and it’s easy to come along with that premise. ReLIFE requires a lot more suspension of disbelief up front.
Which is why I was so surprised, and so pleased, by how much I enjoyed the original series. I’m the kind of binge watcher who will finish a series over the course of a couple weeks, but I devoured the first thirteen episodes in a matter of days. There are so many reasons for that, but most of them come down to the relationships between the characters. Kaizaki wasn’t the interesting one so much as all the other characters who he ended up helping, and in the process of helping them, he grew and helped himself. And those characters were so very relatable, and their crises were dramatic without slipping into melodrama (much—though I love me some melodrama, so I didn’t mind when that happened either). And then there was just the humor, which was delightful, and the visuals, which were simple while conveying the comedy and characters adeptly. It was a fusion of good writing and excellent execution, so even if the premise required significant buy in, once you got on board with it, it was thoroughly worth it.
To be clear: I’m not criticizing the premise. I’m just explaining the difficulties it faced early on, and the wonk inherent in the premise. both original creator Yayoi Sou and the entire anime crew rose to the occasion splendidly. And the premise also led to an unexpected benefit: a unique twist on the will-they-or-won’t-they story.
That’s what the final four episodes, under the name ReLIFE Kanketsu-hen, were about. It was Kaizaki x Hishiro all the way, with the unique impediment of both of them being destined to forget each other once their ReLife’s are over. (Side note: I hadn’t put two and two together until it was spelled out how they would forget each other too! I guess I thought ReLife participants wouldn’t forget other ReLife participants or something. That really raised the stakes haha) This last arc reminded me of Ano Natsu de Matteru in a big way, because the central question I kept asking myself over these last episodes was this: Is this a romance, or is it a tragedy?
Because it could have gone either way. If it was a romance, Kaizaki and Hishiro would stay together in the end. If it was a tragedy, they would forget each other and go about their lives. The latter seemed to be the obvious path since everything was pointing toward them getting their memories erased—there was no indication that the memory wipes were a lie, for instance, or that Yoake or Onoya would break the rules—but because Yayoi-sensei and the anime team had done such a good job of getting us invested in these characters, I wanted for there to be a way out. Everything we’d seen so far would argue that this was a romance, even more so than with Ano Natsu de Matteru, which had leaned into the drama far more, and was making serious hay with the drama itself, whereas this was thriving more on the comedy and character bits. But we didn’t know until we knew. Which makes us doubt. Which makes us worry. That’s the secret sauce of these will-they-or-won’t-they stories. We don’t know, and because romance stories are like catnip to a certain kind of human (guilty as charged), we worry. We want to know!!
And they played it up. I wasn’t sure whether Kaizaki and Hishiro would end up dating before the end of their ReLIFEs, so when it happened, I was both pleased and deeply worried. This was a tragedy marker. Then the last episode had the biggest gut punch, with the words written on Hishiro’s hand. Oof. That was the biggest one. The ReLife program really is cruel, isn’t it? It encourages people to make friends with the certainty that they’ll lose them at a set time; yes, most friendships eventually end, but it’s hard to lose someone when you’re not ready. Add on how the test subjects are basically emotional vampires (stealing memories from high schoolers & leaving but ghosts in their place—though they do feel terrible about it), and you realize how sneaky cruel this program is.
We pretty much knew where this was going to go once the major drama points happened with still half of the final episode to go. The real question was how? And I love how it came about. Kaizaki deciding to work for the ReLife Laboratory was kinda hackneyed, but the revelation at the end that Onoya pushed Hishiro to work there too was great! Onoya for MVP, she’s the crucial piece that gave them this happy ending. Then the entire final scene was all just about whether they were going to remember or not. They could have gotten together not having remembered, right? Even if they hadn’t worked at the same place, Yoake or Onoya could have contrived to have them meet so they could fall in love all over again. I’m sooooo glad they remembered, though. I figured they would after the cell phone strap, but I’m so glad regardless. It just makes it sweeter. And that hug at the end, d’aaawww!
(To be honest, my only critique of the final episode is that they spent so much time justifying how Kaizaki and Hishiro could meet again and remember each other, that it became clear that they would in some way too early, nor did we get to really bask in the “They’re together!” rabu-rabu fun. Compare that to the Ano Natsu de Matteru final episode for an alternative on the first part.)
So it turns out that this was a romance after all. The series was good throughout, and Kanketsu-hen was appropriately tense up until the last moments. I also thought it was an especially good moment when it was revealed that Kaizaki’s first support target was none other than Ooga’s older brother, which really called back to his time at the school nicely. At the end of the day, I only have two more things to say: I heartily recommend this series, and d’aaaaawwww! I’m glad they’re happy. That makes me happy too 🙂
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