Imagine a food that does not make you an impression, any food that does not interest you and that does not seem like that worth eating, nevertheless trying it though out of pure curiosity. Imagine that food giving you the taste of something that is not necessarily great or special, but something that you never expected, something that is fine for what it is. That was how ReLife worked for me, and it was surprising, because it is one of these series that you must savor and then judge. What I got was nothing short of a really satisfying watch, especially in terms of enjoyment and connection with the common, flawed, human beings that it manages to present. I expected this season to be sub-par compared to the last one, and this series, that did not interest me to the least, managed to show me some kind of light, which might make me strive to changing my opinion.
ReLife revolves around your 27-year-old half-NEET man named Kaizaki Arata, who had quit his job in a company only after 3 months after entering, being fed up with his work environment and how cold-hearted and unaware of their surroundings his co-workers were. Following his resignation, he fell into a slump, not being able to fit into society as one of its active members, only working in part-time jobs, and receiving money from his parents to only slightly cover his life expenses. Having a difficult time, hiding the fact that he did not have a stable work environment from his friends, and receiving a phone call from his family saying that they will not send any money from then on, Arata was lucky enough to encounter a mysterious person named Yoake Ryou in the street in front of his house in a calm yet messed-up, for him, night, the latter declaring that he works for an experiment, ReLife, which gives the subjects a chance to re-live a part of their highschool lives leaving their mentality untouched and just looking like highschool students, change themselves, develop, and not regret the choices they make in the process. Arata, at first, does not know what to do, but after a while decides to undergo the experiment, taking the pill in order for him to look younger, like a highschool pupil does, and starts going to highschool in a daily manner, changing not only himself, but his close people as well.
A draw-back in the story department is that the plot development itself is based on a plot convenience, that being the pill and the experiment in general. I usually am not a fan of plot conveniences, as they are used as detritments to the value of the whole plot. What was successful, however, was the execution of the series. Despite featuring characters that you can see every day, they are handled in a slow-paced, caring way that can drag sometimes, that contains malodrama in heavy situations, but however serves as sheer connection between the audience and the characters. ReLife being a slow, arc-based show for most of its running, it takes advantage of its slow pacing as well as the rather big cast of characters and manages to develop it thoroughly. That might as well turn some people off, as focus on the main character is lowered consequently, but ReLife manages to somehow equal quality and quantity, develop even the most side of characters, something that I never expected from coming from such a series, and make them relatable.
On another hand, ReLife is a show that is based on drama, but also contains some amount of comedy, mostly coming from the interactions between the characters, it being sparse yet working out quite fine. There is also an amount of chibi faces included, which is by no means good, as it ruins the mood, but most of the times the transitions between drama and the comedy work out fine, if not well enough. As a matter of fact, the characters themselves helped quite much in the plot development, and both the drama and comedy being hits, as despite them being quite common and their reasoning quite cheesy (school setting, teens, you know), they are different from each other, and as a whole cast it works out quite well. Coming into terms with and realizing their goals and, most importantly, their own-self with well-handled execution, the conclusion is obvious. The ending was not conclusive in a literal manner, but was in a sentimental one, because I felt that all things that needed to be dealt with did. As a whole, although the story was being something that never made me go "wow", it worked out fine for what it was, and that is what is important.
Character-wise, as described earlier, ReLife works out well enough for me to consider it something that is way better than just average. What is likable in it are not the personalities of their characters, not nearly as much as how they execute them and develop them. Their interactions involving comedy being funny, but these including drama being a bit dragged and melodramatic, is not something that is of huge importance. What is important in ReLife is how each character is handled and fleshed-out individually, something that other series do not manage to do, putting the minor complaints into shame really. Explanations will be given below, as I am gonna view each character as a different individual and then draw conclusions on them as a whole, successful cast.
Kaizaki Arata is a very sociable, caring and understanding person, that is until his confidence is stepped on, after several happenings including his senior in work and his other co-workers, quitting his job and trying a different approach in life, including trying to find a new job through applications and, after failing on that, just working part-time in convenience stores. As an obvious consequence, he realizes that he has not grown up enough, that his social skills were rendered useless and that life is not going to treat him any kinder that he thought it would. After him being given the chance to relive one high school year through the experiments, he develops as a person, comes into terms with himself, does not get further involved into other people's situations, and winds up becoming a person that still has his doubts, but is way more mature than he already was. Kaizaki having such a personality is subject to self-insert, creating a character that is so relatable that you will find yourself caring about him all the way through. Except of that, he also is quite the funny dude, and the comparisons between adult life and highschool life he makes in his mind, such as the fact that the former are mostly ridden by logic and the latter by emotion is nothing short of realistic.
Hishiro Chizuru is that kind of girl, who never was particularly close with people, that being due to her transferring schools very frequently in her early years. In the process of growing up till the story takes place, she gradually lost her interest in other people, started not caring about her surroundings, that being partially because of her inability to be close to other people. She always showed doubts about her understanding of things and her hurting people, although she is a great student, and started wanting to change that and obtain social skills and friends, especially after meeting up with Arata. She slowly yet decisively starts showing interest on other people and becomes an all around better person, along with leaving her already good aspects unscathed. After several happenings, it is clear to the viewers and almost all the main characters, excluding one until a certain episode, that she is trying hard to improve.
Kariu Rena's personality is not to my liking, because she is that example of the stubborn girl who is jealous of people because she can not reach them despite trying hard. She sometimes reminds me of a cookie cutter character and is definitely one that is not plausible. She admittedly is a good character though, because she shows many kinds of development as well. She does not get rid of her inferiority complex, but somehow tones it down and starts understanding her close friends, them being Chizuru and Honoka, more. She is full of ill-fated desires, and a very jealous person, but after some events, including her fight with Honoka and her discussion with Chizuru, she starts being more relatable. That can also be supported with the fact that they spend quite some time on her character and that they did not want her to be left as just a character that had a complex.
Tamarai Honoka is the exact opposite of Rena, a person that screams unreachable when it comes to sports and one that is afraid of getting close to people because she does not want to be denied by them. Both Honoka and Chizuru serve as plot devices to Rena's development, but they themselves are developed, and that is another positive thing for the series. They used a big arc for just these 3 characters, which indicates that airing time was used effectively and decisively, making them fleshed out in a proportional manner. As mentioned earlier, their engagements might feel a bit cheesy and melodramatic, but that is not of much importance, as the journey and the conclusion, as a whole, are satisfying.
Yoake Ryou and Onoya An are people who work for the ReLife experiment project, and a whole episode is spent on their flashback, including their relationship with Subject 001, and their interest into Subject 002, that being Arata himself. Worries and implications about their work are depicted in a solid manner. There are other side characters as well, but getting into them is not worth it, because their involvement into the series do not mean many things. Overall, if you take these characters, which are nothing short of common and cliche, and combine them, you create a cast that is good enough for a coming-of-age anime series that ReLife is, that of course supported with respective execution.
The production values of ReLife remind me of my expectations pre starting watching it. Nothing special and something that does not interest me. The character designs were generic and reminded me of quite many slice of life series that I had watched, including Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, the animation was inconsistent sometimes yet worked out, and the backgrounds were quite good. I really have not much to say about the art and animation sections, just that the chibi faces were as annoying as ever. The soundtrack was repetitive, only consisting of few piano songs, and most of the times did not fit the concept of the story. The opening theme was quite good on the other hand, and had lyrics that reminded me of what the characters were going through. The ending songs were many, not as much memorable as someone would think they would be, but a nice change to the "one ending per one cour" archetype. Overall, I think that both the animation and the sound departments could have been better, and that they would grab another point of two had they been a bit more memorable.
The best part about ReLife would undeniably be the enjoyment part. I enjoyed the struggles, the development of each and every character, the interactions, the relationships, the starting and ending episodes, and despite some episodes being weaker than others, I considerably enjoyed the middle episodes as well. It being a surprising watch, ReLife managed to drag me into the story, and make me involved in the difference between the adult and the adolescence world.
ReLife really was a big surprise for me, and I am gonna remember it for quite a long while. It was cliche, it was generic, but it was fine for what it was. It never tried to be more, and it never tried to be less than what it is. And that is what matters. It is a series that does not take itself overly seriously or overly lightly, and managed to create a plausible enough conclusion. It is a coming-of-age tale for people that just want to relax, enjoy, relate with, and have fun with. Ignoring the shortcomings would be something that would make the series even more likable, and for such an experience like ReLife, it would be worth it.