Fireworks are kind of lonely aren’t they?
What’s the Story?
If you were offered the chance to go back and do high school again, even if for only a year, would you do it? When Arata Kaizaki is offered the choice by a mysterious stranger down a dark alley he agrees to it (because only good things can happen down a dark alley), though to be fair there isn’t really a better option for him. He’s 27, recently quit his job and can’t find another, his parents are threatening to cut off the money they’ve been sending and he has no real friends or anyone special in his life. Yeah, school can be hell to go through, but I think I’d jump at it too if those were my circumstances.
I really love this anime, it’s like a warm bowl of soup on a bitterly cold day it just fills me with warmth to watch it. Pretty much every episode has had me grinning from ear to ear whether it’s because of the heart-warming story, the smart comedy or the loveable characters, there is always something to enjoy in this series. The premise itself isn’t that original, I mean the story of an adult getting a teenagers body and going back to school has been done a thousand times with varying results, but this series is probably my favourite use of the concept.
Firstly the series tackles some of the problems with suddenly going back to school. Arata has to deal with the fact that he fails every test because, let’s be honest, who can remember half of what they were taught in school, not to mention that the curriculum will have changed and advanced since attending school. There’s the little things like forgetting his pencil case (an indispensable item in any schoolbag) or freaking out over the fact mobile phones aren’t confiscated on sight anymore. Typing this out is kind of depressing because I’m only a year younger than Arata and I’d have all the same reactions as him if this happened to me (though at least I wouldn’t have to give up smoking like him). They’re some smart observations and pretty funny to watch play out.
The rest of the comedy comes from the character interactions, which are probably the best part of the show. The characters aren’t revolutionary or excessively complex and a lot of the time they’re just dealing with your typical teenage angst and drama, but there’s something endearing about all of them. You can’t help but smile watching this collection of loners and misfits stumble through school life, gradually building bonds and developing as young adults with lots of teasing along the way.
The animation really suits this show, it’s fairly simple and not that flashy, like the series itself really. The colours are bright and the character models are uncomplicated, but the animation is just so expressive whether it be a couple embarrassed to admit their feelings for one another or a young man mourning a tragic loss, you get what these characters are feeling. Also the timing with some of the comedy is spot on and really helps sell the laughs.
Now, I mentioned mourning a tragic loss in that previous paragraph. Now you’d probably be forgiven from reading this review so far and clips of the anime itself that this series is all sweetness and light, a fluffy slice of life to make the sun shine on a cloudy day, but this anime does go dark on occasion. This still has elements of a teenager drama, so you know what that means, angst! A lot of the angst does centre around Rena who is a one girl angst machine, she’s how I picture a lot of tsunderes being in real life completely unable to properly process her feelings and ends up saying rash things that just leads to more angst. She’s not the only problem teen though. We’ve got kids dealing with loneliness and a complete lack of social skills, sports stars who feel ostracised because they’ve just got too much natural talent and no one wants to play them. Heck, even the support guy who’s there to watch over Arata has some inner turmoil considering that Arata isn’t the first Relife test subject and his predecessor didn’t exactly pass with flying colours.
Arata himself probably has the biggest burden to bear though. I’m not going to spoil it, but the reason why he quit his job is the darkest thing this show does, forget quitting I’d be in therapy if I went through what Arata experienced. He’s carrying around a lot of guilt which has robbed him of all of his confidence, he can fake living a normal life, but you can tell his heart isn’t in it. It’s what makes this show so heart-warming, you can’t help but cheer Arata on as he comes into himself, making friends and putting the past behind himself. Yet there’s always that tinge of sadness when you remember that once the experiment is over and Arata gets his 27-year-old body back then everyone in the class will forget about him, well maybe not everyone, but I won’t spoil that. You want Arata to be happy and come out of this with his confidence back and able to move forward. That’s what makes this show work, the comedy and the characters are great, but it’s the shows heart that makes this a winner. Now give me a season 2!
ReLIFE is more than just the cute little slice of life it appears to be at first glance, some clever comedy, endearing characters and a heart-warming story about a man finding his way again make this a great show and one that I wholeheartedly recommend. Also, kudos on never making it creepy that a 27 year old is hanging around high schoolers, now that takes talent.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.