Every new season we anime fans are treated with countless slice of life shows; shows which do nothing more than make us watch other people living their life. These type of shows tend to attract a certain audience and also are hit or miss. Thankfully ReLIFE is a 13 episode hit.
The story follows Arata Kaizaki, an unemployable 27 year old single man living off his parents money. After leaving his job three months after his graduation, Kaizaki's life never got any better and spiralled downwards. After going to another interview he was turned down, to make matters worse his mother calls him and tells him that she is cutting off his money. Beaten down and having already given up on the world, Kaizaki finds himself face to face with a mysterious man, Ryo Yoake, who asks him to be part of a yearlong experiment with Yoake's company paying for Kaizaki's living expenses and a guaranteed job at the end of it. And all Kaizaki has to do is swallow a pill. Oh and redo the last year of high school while he looks like a 17 year old.
The first few episodes really drive home that Kaizaki is out of his element, looking around his classmates he keeps reminding himself and the viewers that he in fact ten years older than all of them, and hell, his homeroom teacher is only 25!
These first couple of episodes really brings home the comedy aspect of the show; it's slightly off-the-wall, it's incredibly awkward as Kaizaki has to pretend to be a normal 17 year old student. His interactions with the other characters are joyous to watch and eventually he starts becoming quite comfortable with his new one year life. While the premise of the show isn't anything new, the way ReLIFE handles it gives a breath of fresh air.
As the episodes go on Kaizaki becomes closer and closer to Chizuru Hishiro, a stoic and friendless girl and through his influence she starts opening up and becomes part of his little circle of friends. However I did find that after a while Hishiro became somewhat of a side character, especially in the latter half of the show where it was more focused on another girl in the show, Rena Kairu, but I'll get into that later.
As a story it does little to change up the typical romcom/drama format that we've seen countless times but that never stopped it being enjoyable for me. Admittedly I'm a sucker for those type of shows but alas. The show does start falling into the typical romcom format after the first few episodes but I found that it didn't bother me all that much, it's what happens in the last year of school and as viewers we are more akin to Kaizaki and his opinion of his surroundings as a fully grown adult.
While I'm no expert in this department, I did really enjoy the look of this anime. It's not the greatest designed show in the world but it does what it needed to. The backgrounds are typical high school setting and don't do anything to change that up, not that I was expecting anything groundbreaking.
There are a few moments when the characters become quite chibi-like or their facial expressions become less designed and over-the-top, which I found really fit the scenes in which they were used. As you can probably expect, this happened more in the comedy moments the anime had to offer.
The background music was fairly decent, as was the OP theme and the different EDs for every episode. Nothing really stood out for me and I didn't rush to download the songs but that doesn't mean they were bad.
The voice acting was really good though, each voice actor played the character very well. As in a romcom, there will be a variety of quick comedic timing that require a certain charm to bring the humour while there are also heartwrencing moments that need something to make the audience feel some emotion and I feel like everyone did that very well for their characters. Speaking of which...
ReLIFE is a heavily character driven show, as such the characters will make or break it. The main character, Kaizaki, is incredibly enjoyable to watch and seeing how a 27 year old man copes with now being 17 is really entertaining. I found Kaizaki was my favourite character at the end of the show, something which shocked me as I normally find main characters to be some of my least favourite.
Hishiro is arguably the second main character and reminds me very much of Sawako from Kimi ni Todoke. For anyone that never watched/read that, Sawako is a shy/anti-social girl who doesn't have any friends, is always alone and when she smiles it looks like she's cursing you. Eventually Sawako gets two girl friends that are very close to her and she becomes incredibly close to the main male character. Hishiro is very much like Sawako - who admittedly wasn't an incredibly unique character, despite how much I adore her. As such I found myself really liking Hishiro, it's just a shame I liked her for another character and not herself.
Yoake, while not the main supporting character, is still a big character as without him the show couldn't exist. As part of Yoake's job he has to keep a distance from Kaizaki and observe him. As such he spends the majority of the beginning as a background character. It works though, it really really works and he's my second favourite character in the show. There is a flashback episode about him around halfway through the show which further explains this mysterious man but I always felt like there was more to him and I can't wait to find out more about him when I start reading the manga.
I'd consider Kariu the third main character, and pretty much is the main focus of the latter half of the show. I'd say there around 5 story arcs in the show, 3 of which have Kariu as a big focus, 2 of which are the final two arcs of the show. She gets quite a lot of character development; starting off as someone who always wants to win and becoming... well what she ends up becoming, I'm not going to spoil it.
The other characters come and go as they please and don't really add anything to the overall story. While Kariu and Honoka become the two girl friends that Hishiro has and they both have an arc about them, I never felt Honoka's presence was needed all that much. She also has two childhood friends; Nobunaga and Akira, who seemed really interesting to me but get little to no backstory and are there just for the sake of it. It would've been nice for these three to have been more relevant outside of the Kariu/Honoka arc but that's just not how this show goes.
An and Ohga are really good characters but fell flat overall as they weren't really expanded upon. An has one moment a few episodes in and Ohga has some in the last arc of the story but apart from that they just seemed to be there for the sake of it. While I liked Ohga's connection to Kariu I felt like it was added to further expand on her character rather than his character.
Overall ReLIFE pleasantly surprised me with its beginning. Kaizaki trying to cope in this semi-new enviroment and freaking out about some of the new rules - mobile phones being confiscated for a month back in his day yet are perfectly fine now - were really great, though it did lead me to one question.
Who exactly is this show aimed at?
On one hand it seems to be focused more towards the mid-20's audience; we're in Kaizaki's perspective 99% of the time and therefore his thoughts would match the thoughts the audience have about school. On the other hand though it seems like it targets the 17 year olds with how the show quickly progresses to a typical romcom/drama show. As such it makes it very difficult to recommend.
If you're a fan of romcoms then you will most likely enjoy this. The same can be said about drama too, however if you're a pure comedy fan and don't like the drama/romance aspect then you may want to steer clear of this. While the first few episodes will draw you in as it shifts genres you may feel thrown off, though there is the possibility that you'll become slightly attached to some of the characters and want to see more of them and their progression.
If you're a fan of the genre though then you should not give this one a miss. It may not be the best romcom of all time but it's an enjoyable ride all the same. You won't be disappointed.