Saturday, July 9, 2016

ReLIFE Complete Series Anime Review

It's like Welcome To The NHK and Erased had a baby.

What They Say:
Arata Kaizaki quit the job he landed after graduation after only three months. His life didn't go well after that. Now, his parents are threatening to stop sending money and want him to come back to the country. He has no friends or even a girlfriend to share his troubles he hits rock bottom, a strange man named Ryo Yoake appears. Yoake invites Kaizaki to join a societal rehabilitation program for NEETs called ReLife. This program uses a mysterious drug to make him look younger and sends him back to high school for a year.

The Review:
Content: (Please note that the content portion of the review may contain spoilers)
If you had the chance to go back in time, would you? Of course, you would; we all would. Nearly every person I've ever asked that question to (Which is actually a surprising amount of people because I'm weird) has answered the same way. We're all filled with regret and we're all struggling to truly find our place in the world. For Arata Kaizaki, nothing seems to be working out the way it should. After graduating college, he learned that the real world is a lot...darker and misleading than it appears at times.

Animated by TMS Entertainment (Also known as the dudes who do all the Detective Conan stuff), ReLIFE is the adaptation of a full-color manga series of the same name written and drawn by Sou Yayoi (Creator of Yowamushi Resound). One of the interesting things about ReLIFE is that all 13 episodes of the show were released in one go, similar to how most original Netflix series have been being pumped out in the last few years. Does this say anything about the future of the anime industry? Probably not. But I feel like more and more shows are going to begin being released like this in the coming years. For ReLIFE, specifically, I feel like the full-series release is just one of the many reasons it's already being so well received by critics.

ReLIFE is a very binge-friendly show. In fact, I finished the whole thing in just two sittings (It would have been one but work and stuff). And not only is it very binge-friendly, it's very consistent. Each episode follows a similar formula and, in a weird way, it still feels like a manga. The artwork is simplistic, yet alluring. The characters are unique, but not complex. Everything is so easy to understand that in just the first episode, you can already feel the bonds forming. There's something nostalgic about ReLIFE. Maybe, one of the reasons so many people are falling in love with it not even a week after its creation is that it tailors to a part of us that wishes we could live in their world. Once high school is over, life starts...declining. Nothing will ever be the same. Obviously, you don't need an anime or a manga to teach you that, but seeing that particular idea enacted through a likable protagonist when we literally know where he's already ended up is disheartening and powerful.

Fans of the slice-of-life genre are going to love this show as it contains each and every element required to craft ideal real-life scenarios. The characters are multidimensional and filled with unique pasts and inner struggles. The comedy is surprisingly hilarious and doesn't let up...well, ever. The romances actually go places. The people actually change. Hell, there's even a colossal plethora of haunting flashbacks and moments of heart-clenching drama that will make you want to scream at your television. Everything is there. Being able to witness all of that in one go is truly a treat from TMS. Mix that with thought-provoking, psychological themes and BOOM, you have something special.

As ReLIFe progresses, Arata begins [expectedly] becoming attached to his new friends. Even though he's having trouble assimilating with a bunch of teenagers (Which is bound to happen considering he's ten years older than them), he still manages to connect and provide sound advice for all of them, learning things about himself on the way. As he continues to help out all of his new friends with their issues and typical teen drama, he's stalked by the lingering idea that when this experiment is over, he'll be forgotten. He'll have to start his adult life all over again. He'll have to fight away the demons keeping him from moving on in life and just power through. But, perhaps the harder part of all of that will be letting go of the people he just met? The most immensely frustrating thing about this series is that you actually feel Arata's desire to tell everyone about who he really is. But, if he does that, the experiment ends right then and there. It's a double-edged sword. No matter what he does, there's no way for him to maintain the relationships he's formed and be himself. It's painful.

But the underlying point of the ReLIFE experiment is to change Arata. That is the one thing he clings on to. When it comes down to it, he knows that his life will never go anywhere if he continues to jump between part-time jobs and fear commitment. I'm not sure if it's intentional or not, but all throughout the series, there's the creeping dread of Arata's ReLIFE time running out. It feels like he can go back to being 27 years-old at any moment, and that makes each and everything that happens to him and his friends hit ten times harder. It's like watching memories as they're being formed, knowing that things like this will never happen to him again. It reminds us of our own memories from back in high school and how...well, things aren't like that anymore. And the unfortunate truth is that they never will be. ReLIFE parallels real life.

There is one thing I don't get, though. What the hell is up with the background music?

Anyway, I'm almost 100% positive that this series will be getting a second season. Critical reception combined with a semi-cliffhanger ending leaves exponential room for growth, not to mention the manga is still publishing. There's just so much left to learn about everyone. If this was it, I might actually be heartbroken.

In Summary:
ReLIFE blends excellent writing with tinges of hard-hitting nostalgia, all wrapped neatly together in a clean, beautiful package. With so many topics to relate to and so many chances to connect with the unique, endearing characters, it's not hard to say that forming bonds with a series of this caliber is just as easy as bingeing all thirteen episodes. Even though character development and themes are easily the focal points of the series, everything about it still comes across as nothing short of fantastic. ReLIFE deserves every ounce of positive critical reception it is getting. I am no exception to that. Watch it.

Grade: A

Streamed By: Crunchyroll

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