Before its release, ReLIFE had been referred to as “17 Again: the Anime”. While watching the series, it became easy to also find similarities to anime like ERASED and Detective Conan, as bizarre as that sounds. ReLIFE is the classic story about going back to a previous point in time to change something. However, this series is not about changing past events, but about changing yourself and influencing younger generations to be true to themselves and take chances.
ReLIFE was not only the first anime to air from the summer season, but Crunchyroll also released all episodes in one go, Netflix-style. These two facts alone caught the attention of many seasonal anime viewers who were looking forward to watching something new, enhanced by the experience of binge-watching something along with many other otakus.
I personally had my doubts when I read the synopsis of the series considering the anime only had 13 episodes to tell the whole story. However, the way the series was executed made it work. ReLIFE is more of a concept than a story. The ReLIFE project is nothing but an excuse to make the story possible and create some mild drama among the characters. The idea of there being some sort of rehabilitation for NEETs almost sounds like a joke. While it could be understood that this is some kind of government program to increase employment and the country’s productivity, there also seems to be some underlying message about having to fix asocial people, which really bothered me. Kaizaki is not even a NEET as he works in a convenience store and Hishiro, who is later hinted to be part of the program as well, doesn’t have any problem with being productive (she’s actually one of the best of the class). She just happens to be (arguably?) autistic, being completely asocial and having trouble with following social cues, including smiling.
While I initially rolled my eyes at all these facts being brushed aside, it soon became clear that the story was not about that. Arata Kaizaki is not sent back in time to fix a past event, nor is he trying to fight this organization. And while the organization’s methods are more than questionable (it seems to be engineered to make participants suffer in one way or another), Kaizaki proceeds with the experiment and is open to changing his life and the lives of others.
Because of that, ReLIFE puts the emphasis on its characters, both the ones who know about the project and those who don’t, but still have issues. As it happens, Aizaki is not the only one who’s troubled. Hishiro has trouble socializing, which could end up turning her into a NEET in the eyes of the organization. Kariu has inferiority complex and a tendency to compare herself to others. And Oga is very innocent and dull when it comes to romance. In that regard, it was a very good idea to have Kaizaki improve himself through helping his friends by using his experience as a young adult. And while some storylines like the volleyball drama seemed to drag on for a bit too long, the way the characters’ emotions are represented is still pretty well-done. In fact, there was more realism and explanation in the characters’ feeling than about the ReLIFE project and the drug. It’s not necessarily a good hing. In fact, I’d say it’s a very good decision. Attempting to tell a realistic story about a complex scientific experiment in under 13 episodes would have been very risky.
The series also has features pretty good comedy, and the shift to chibi facial expressions is never jarring, nor does it break the tone of the scenes. There is also a big amount of romance, including one that is insanely cute and actually resolved, which is quite rare to see in anime for some reason.
It’s a shame that the production was subpar. Even if the character designs were pretty good (everyone looked so attractive!), both the visuals and background music felt very cheap. The direction by Tomochi Kosaka was inconsistent and even confusing at times.
ReLIFE‘s idea was not very original and it had some iffy social commentary, but it was still entertaining if only for the way it did the whole “enjoying your youth” theme. It’s a series about starting over again with a different attitude. Even if there is no such thing as a pill to go back to your teen years, ReLIFE encourages viewers to stand up for what they believe in and live a life with no regrets.