Instead of a Sunday summary this week, let’s review a summer anime that ended real early.
ReLIFE is a Summer 2016 anime that Crunchyroll gave the Netflix treatment the moment the first episode aired on broadcast TV due to it being released on some foreign app prior to its TV broadcast. It’s also not very good. But I suppose if you’re going to make available the entirety of an anime from the very start of this miserable season, it should be the one that’s incredibly safe and inoffensive, shouldn’t it? Because whilst ReLIFE succeeds at nothing, it manages to inoffensively incorporate everything that fans find pleasant about this medium. Are the people who like this show the same ones who say that Sound Euphonium is unambitious and entirely devoid of meaning? That would be fucking hypocritical of them if you ask me.
The series is centered on a twenty-seven year old man named Arata Kaizaki who is working part-time to make ends meet after an incident with his first company caused him to quit after only three months. One night after drinking some sorrows away, he is offered the chance to take part in an experiment by a mysterious man who will guarantee him a job if he goes through with it, so Arata accepts and soon finds himself in high school again with a body that’s ten years younger and an inability to pass even the simplest of high school exams because somehow it’s supposed to be funny that a grad student can’t solve math problems. He soon befriends a bunch of classmates from the mysteriously quiet Chizuru Hishiro to the academically-gifted but incredibly unfit Kazuomi Oga, and the show is basically these characters going through various awkward issues whilst Arata is also there. Yeah, don’t expect the dude and his issues to take center stage all that much in this series. I think Vaan from Final Fantasy XII had more plot importance than him.
Although ReLIFE starts intriguing with the possibilities of what it’d be like to live high school again, if you took that premise away, it’s nothing but a boilerplate high school anime with lame jokes and toothless drama. Arata is barely involved with a lot of his classmates’ issues, and when he is, it’s usually to give a generic speech that the show tries to tie into his real age, but fails because anyone around the age of sixteen would know the advice he dishes out. And I’m not kidding when I say the jokes are lame. It’s nothing but crappy reaction faces that try to make light of situations that shouldn’t be taken lightly to begin with (edit: at least not with “anime” jokes), especially when dealing with issues as heavy as suicide. There’s even a moment early on in the series when drama occurs because Chizuru looks like the Devil whenever she tries to smile. I don’t know who the fuck thought good drama can occur when the catalyst is something that can’t be taken seriously, but he is more wrong than a Rwanda massacre denier.
Whenever the show does focus on the actual ReLIFE experiment, it can be a little intriguing. But most of what we know about it is told through the eyes of supervisors like Ryo, and he mostly angsts about the first person he put through the experiment and how he failed with him. Thing is, it’s kind of hard to sympathize with Ryo when they don’t make clear how he failed besides saying the person never changed throughout their high school life, and it’s especially hard when you don’t tell me anything about Ryo’s personal life, so I’m not sure why I’m supposed to care about his failure. It also doesn’t help that when they finally reveal who the first subject actually is, they never do anything with it other than make you go “I guess that makes sense”. Plus, it doesn’t seem like the first subject’s failure to pass the experiment is all that bad, although that might be because of all the crappy jokes they make at the person’s ineptitude.
But that and the suicide issue I mentioned earlier are honestly the best drama the show can offer. Because oh my god, the issues the characters have to face in this show are unimaginatively lame. Anyone who’s read my reviews of Shirobako and Kiznaiver will know that I don’t like drama where the characters learn things that anyone over the age of sixteen would already know. The last two years of teenage life I’ll give a pass because some people are late bloomers, but despite the fact that these characters are in their final year of high school, they’re learning things that I’d expect a seven-year old to struggle with. I mean jealousy at someone’s superior sports and academics despite the fact that you’re good at both as well? An inability to make friends because you act like a robot? Is that really the best drama you could come up with for these characters to face? High school crushes that are mutual on both ends? In a world where those Persona games exist, that doesn’t fucking fly!
Why am I watching characters go through struggles if they don’t learn anything profound by the end? You don’t have to be original. You just have to make them go through conflicts that hit hard and don’t hold back when it comes to the important stuff. And you have to make sure that the stuff is actually important, because those are the kind of experiences that people over the age of sixteen deserve to go through. People discovering empathy or learning that the job market is rough is like discovering that “blue” is a color or an apple is a fruit. Would you really want to watch someone go through a lot of trouble because he didn’t know that “blue” belongs in the same category as “red”? Even Barney isn’t that insulting to its audiences’ intelligence.
Overall, whilst ReLife isn’t without its charms, its lack of teeth mars it too much for it be more than a mediocre show, and when it does gain teeth, it finds a way to break them with a baseball bat made out of unfunny. The characters are all tolerable for the most part, but they’re never developed beyond being a simple stereotype. The “adult turning into a kid” premise is incredibly underused and lacks tension since it’s revealed that Arata can turn into an adult again just by swallowing another pill. And the animation is incredibly plain, although given that TMS is handling four shows this season, perhaps asking for more is a bit much. It even has the gall to just end with a “life goes on” ending, and given how over 100 chapters were covered in something that’s currently in the 130s, chapter-wise, I don’t expect to see a sequel anytime soon. Also, these chapters must be shorter than Atom Ant if this adaptation really covered that much, because I refuse to believe any manga can be this padded. And I’ve read Kimi no Iru Machi, man.
- There are still people who believe Kyoukai no Kanata was a shot at greatness. Next you’ll be telling me that Rolling Girls was a risk-taking adventure series.
- How is it possible for Arata to fail that many tests that many times? That’s not being bad at studying. That’s a serious problem.
- Not that being all serious is a good thing either, but make sure your humor is actually good before you put it in your drama. Like Cheers or something.