At 27 years old, Arata Kaizaki is not where he thought he would be. He should have a great job and a great life, but instead he’s dangerously close to being a shut-in and working part-time. It’s not like Arata is a typical shut-in, though. He finished college and even got a job almost immediately. Something caused him to leave after three months, and that has followed him ever since in his interviews. After another failed interview and a night out drinking with his friends, his parents call to let him know they’ll no longer be sending him money. Drunk and newly penniless is how Ryou Yoake finds Arata. This smiling man tells Arata he’s been selected to join ReLIFE–an experiment where down on their luck adults are given a pill that lets them look like teenagers again so they can relive their youth and hopefully reclaim whatever it is they’ve lost. With the promise of living wages for one year while he attends high school and the possibility of a job afterwards, Arata signs on the dotted line and pops his ReLIFE pill.
So, I initially wasn’t going to watch ReLIFE. I’ve been kinda burned on seemingly good plots in Japanese media turning into extremely squicky stories more times than I care to remember. The set-up here made me think this was gonna be melodramatic or convoluted or go in an unpleasant direction. I was thankfully incorrect (so far). Don’t get me wrong, there is some drama in this show…in fact, there’s some quite heavy drama in this show. This first season of ReLIFE, though, is most definitely a comedy, and I don’t think I’ve watched an out-and-out comedy for this “Summer of Anime” until now.
ReLIFE had me busting out laughing numerous times throughout its 13 episodes. A good bit of the comedy comes from Arata often forgetting or not caring that he looks like a 17-year-old now. He still smokes and his fridge is stocked with beer. Also, he tends to treat his fellow students as a caring older brother would, and it’s just so funny when they get weirded out by it. Another great recurring joke is Chizuru Hoshiro’s (main love interest) inability to smile. There be murder in those eyes. The other characters provide some pretty great jokes as well, but they’re the main two that had me cracking up.
In mentioning the other characters, I want to bring up something that confused me. Rena Kariu is the competitive redhead of the show who is obviously in love with her old friend Kazuomi Oga. Unfortunately, she comes in second grades-wise to Hoshiro and second in athletics to her best friend and captain of the volleyball team Honoka Tamarai. Throw in all that, and the fact that she’s extremely stubborn about every-f*cking-thing, and you’ve got someone who could definitely get on your nerves (and she kinda got on mine once or twice, too). I brought her up specifically because a good bit of the anime is focused on her character development, and I don’t know why. There are three arcs devoted to her resolving issues with each of the people I mentioned in this paragraph. Arata plays an important part in all three, but they’re definitely not his stories. In helping out with Rena’s problems, he does get development of his own, and so do the others, but it was odd that this particular character got so much time focused on her.
As much as I loved laughing at all the jokes, smiling at the sweet moments as characters slowly fell in love, and uttering, “Damn,” whenever the deep stuff came, there’s something that struck me about ReLIFE that entered my head and never left once it got there. I might be getting a little too personal here, but I think one of the reasons I tend to watch a lot of high school anime–specifically romcoms (yes, I really, really love romcoms)–is because my high school life was pretty unfulfilling. Sure, there’s a glut of anime set in high school, but that doesn’t mean that’s all there is to watch. I watch series like this because it’s very escapist. This one especially thanks to having a protagonist close to my own age and in similar situations (except I don’t have a magical pill…for some reason). He gets another chance at his youth, and that’s really what a lot of these high school anime are for fans of that genre. They’re living as teenagers again through these characters and getting as invested in their lives as they feel they should have in their own. I know this sounds depressing, and I guess it kinda is, but I’m not meaning it to sound that way. I’m trying to give props to ReLIFE for getting fairly meta with its plot. I don’t know where it wants to go with this, or if it was even intended that way, but it really got me interested.
Its odd focus on a singular side character, the fact that it doesn’t end, and certain twists that are seen coming from a mile away take a bit away from its score. With comedy reminiscent of Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun (if you haven’t watched it, go forth and do so) and feels-y moments worthy enough to tug a heartstring or two, though, ReLIFE gets an 8.5 or 9. All 13 episodes dropped in one day, so this is a great start to the summer season.