I couldn’t ask for a better way to start Summer 2016. With no list whatsoever of what to cover this season, I’m left to decide which show to pick up only after watching the first episode. And it’s not that I’m being choosy here, it’s just that I really didn’t have the time and motivation to peruse Summer’s line up. With no real prior knowledge of what to expect, it does help lessen the expectations which, I think, often results to dissatisfaction if it didn’t live up to the hype. With that said, I’m thoroughly surprised that ReLife released all of 13 episodes in just one day. Yes. Pretty ballsy, right? However, the real surprise is on how the show turned out to be. ReLife was great and satisfying. It may look like a generic rom-com on the surface, but it tackles the NEET culture and teenage melodrama in a natural and unique manner. I honestly would’ve covered ReLife if it stuck to the weekly episodic releases but not that it matters now.
Spoilers ahead! If you haven’t finished the show yet, do it. Now. Okay? Okay.
ReLife didn’t have the best pilot episode as it took its time to set the stage for our Arata Kaizuki who suddenly finds himself participating in an experiment called ReLife. ReLife is specifically targeted to those in the NEET category with the hopes of assisting them with overcoming said phase in their life. How? Take this pill which changes your appearance back to your 17-year old self, then we’ll throw you in to high-school for a year of rehabilitation! Ahh, just what every jobless dude in his 30’s need to self-insert himself into (no offense).
Don’t get the wrong idea though. ReLife is something more than a generic rom-com harem-building, or Okada-esque drama that’s starting to be prevalent in every season. It presents social maladjustment in a rather clever way by distributing the properties of what makes a NEET a NEET into flawed supporting characters. This way, the show doesn’t entirely need to focus on Arata’s internal struggles, it also allows for a colorful cast of characters to shine through on their own. All Arata had to do to is to give them a small push, or even a poorly delivered cheesy aphorism will do. After all, isn’t that how we were able to overcome these situations ourselves? Someone who’s willing to listen, someone who’s willing to lend a shoulder is, most of the time, what we really need in times of hardships. Honestly, ReLife hits harder at home if you’ve ‘been there, done that’. Yep, I was a NEET for a year and I’m helluva proud of it. This, I think, is what made ReLife‘s message easily apparent to me — or even to others.
ReLife‘s fluidity comes from how the author placed the characters in front of a conflict. The show didn’t really need an overly forced drama to progress the plot or a character’s development. What we had, instead, are simple trifle between friends which you may have also experienced during your adolescent years. Be it either out of jealousy, misunderstanding, or a confession, ReLife played each resolutions rather simply: just be self-aware, and know how to listen. Hoshiron and Rena buried the hatchet just by listening to each other’s side of the story; Kazu came to understand his feelings for Rena because of Arata’s goading– it’s that simple. No complex explanations involved or anything. Of course, each loose ends came to meet because of Arata’s intervention. Even he gets something out of these indirectly, and that is practically how his character grows. It takes an awful lot of courage to sincerely apologize to a friend, however, it’s even harder to give yourself the willingness to listen and understand. I never gave my previous boss an ear, because I was too stubborn to do so. If I did, maybe that would’ve saved me the trouble of quitting that job? The fact that I will never know the difference it made is what regrets me the most. As such, seeing these kids overcome these hurdles with bravado and innocence is truly something I applaud and admire.
ReLife, for the show that it is, is very self-aware of its strengths. Ample time is given to each characters in well-paced episodes. The character interactions and reactions ranges from sagely serious, to downright comedic relief which allows us to easily digest one’s personality and get to know them better. How they used these interactions resulted in a likeable casts you’ll find yourself laughing with in no time. Take Kazu and Rena’s confession scene for instance. It all felt so natural because we already know that their ship will sail thanks to the countless teasing of Arata and An-chan. Why bother inserting a dramatic BGM, or setting up a conflict when we can just have the two confess to each other straight up? No frills and flowers, just fireworks. These kids are old and mature enough to understand each other. It didn’t feel like something out of a hopeless romantic’s diary, it felt real and natural. A different kind of “cheesy” from shows like Kimi ni Todoke and Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun. It does fit the whole theme of ReLife‘s Just Do It attitude.
Last but not the least, I really love what they did to the EDs. The EDs are deliberate shout outs to Japanese 90’s-2000’s pop-rock hit songs. From household names such as L’Arc-en-Ciel and Porno Graffiti, to T.M. Revolution‘s don’t-listen-to-this-while-driving eurobeat, you’ll find yourself thrown back to the days wherein having a Walkman is what it means to be cool. Man, those NSync and Westlife days were pure gold. This also doubles as a means to flesh out Arata’s character even more. It gives us an idea of the genre of various music he’s inclined to during his younger years, and also offers that flexibility of a wide array of classic songs to pick from. You have to hand it to shows that does these nifty stuff to great effect. Remember Shirobako‘s second ED with characters being drawn from key animation to finished product? That’s another example of a show that knows what it can do.
A quick trip to MAL will show you that ReLife is the first show being directed by Satoru Kosaka! Yet another surprise. Props to this guy and to TMS Entertainment for bringing us a great way to start Summer 2016. I… still don’t know why you had to release all of the episodes at once though (if someone does, let me know). Anyways, I guess that’s it for now! This post marks the start of my Summer 2016 coverage, and I do hope you’ll get to enjoy the shows this season, too! See yah!
Oh, just a bonus, here are some stitches from the EDs.