“Every athlete dreams of a second chance”
As we continue to look into ReLIFE in depth, I want to keep this quote as a reminder. It has to do directly with the main idea that this show wants to make. I originally heard this quote in a movie about football. If you never saw The Replacements, starring Keanu Reeves and Gene Hackman, you’re missing out, as it’s one of those Sunday afternoon movies that you watch simply cause it’s there. Not a massive hit, but memorable enough to be liked to this day.
It was Gene Hackman, in the role of the head coach who uttered these words, and I think it applies to more than just football….
I could probably write a full solid post about The Replacements, but that’s for another time…
ReLIFE’s story arcs are something to aspire to when it comes to proper story and character development. Most animes today only last 12, 13 episodes and most directors know it. In such a short span, it’s up to these creative teams to put up the best version of their product, and it’s such a sad thing to say most animes fail in this regard.
I’ve seen plenty of animes that start really strong, with good premises, strong characters, meaningful themes, and a good setting, only for these animes to fall apart in the later stages of the show’s run. Even if the anime manages to finish somewhat gracefully, to leave more questions than answers is an unforgivable sin when it comes to good storytelling. The argument could be made that it’s always good to leave the audience wanting more, but not when it leaves such glaring plot holes or unanswered questions.
ReLIFE has only 13 episodes to play with, and the studio takes full advantage of this, at no point do you feel you’re watching filler, or do you feel bored. There
There at least 3 story arcs that take place during our 13-episode run, and they all feel fully formed and well made, with subplots and small elements developing at the same time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a show mess up one story arc in 13 episodes, where as you’re watching it, you’re questioning as to why you’re watching in the first place, and when you’re done, you’re left with a sour taste in your mouth.
The Rivalry Arc
We see Arata arrive at school, for his first day, and things immediately go wrong for him. He underestimates how things have changed for students. He doesn’t bring a pencil and eraser (and he proceeds to freak out about that) and when he empties his bag, his cigarettes fall out. He hits on his teacher later on while he’s being reprimanded for smoking. Despite his first day, he quickly makes friends with those around him and begins to get involved in their lives. One of the goals of the ReLIFE program is exactly that, to help the subjects break out of their shells and interact with others.
We learn a little bit about how the class system works, with a male and female representative being selected from those who score the highest in the class. Before this year, it had been Kariu and Oga who had been the class reps, this year, it’s Oga and Hishiro who are the class reps, to the dismay of Kariu.
Hishiro is a natural at school, and studying, at the cost of her non-existent social life.
She wants to be the best, she respects Hishiro for her intelligence. She respects Tamari for her impressive volleyball skills. She wants to be respected and admired by them in return. She cares very much about what they think and wants to be seen that way by everyone. Despite her stubborn attitude, she doesn’t come off as hateful. You don’t dislike her cause you see how hard she works. She wants what we all want, and she takes no shortcuts.
The problem for her is, she can’t keep up.
Arata and the others see this, and he wonders whether he should intervene, but before he knows it, he’s caught up in it, as he catches Kariu trying to cause trouble for Hishiro by stealing her school bag. He lectures her and tells her that cheating and taking the easy way is not something she really wants, cause she’s quitting on who she really is. She counters by saying he’s not any older than she is (keep in mind, she’s not aware of how old Arata really is) and that he has no idea what she’s really going through
Later on, while talking, Hishiro asks Arata just exactly went down, and Arata breaks down, having given up on staying neutral and tells her just what is going on.
Hishiro stays late, and Arata finds himself in the middle as Hishiro confronts Kariu and tells her that all she wants is to be friends with her. Kariu is stunned by this turn of events, but tells her that she’s jealous of her position in the class, and that next time she will beat her out for the position. She agrees to be friends with Hishiro on the condition that Hishiro see her as a rival.
she loves it and she knows it…
A few things about this arc
- Arata feeling guilty that he’s an “old man” hanging out with kids never gets old
- Kariu is a tsundere and that ain’t bad
- Oga trying to help Arata and An is hilarious, especially cause they’re adults who can’t study
- Hishiro’s smile…
- Arata being older than his teacher is hilarious
- Hishiro wanting to change, to have friends, to make those connections, how can anyone dislike her?
- Arata trying to be neutral and totally failing at it…
The Volleyball Arc
With Hishiro, An, Oga and Arata in tow, we see how hard Kariu works to play as well as Tamari, and in straining herself to play at a higher level, she twists her ankle and is told she won’t be able to play in their final games.
She is furious at herself for this, and as Tamari tries to calm her down, she gets upset and the two have an argument.
She distances herself from her friends, from her teammates, and refuses to go to school, to train, to fix the chasm she has created with Tamari.
It’s at this point that Arata and Hishiro decide to intervene, with Hishiro telling Kariu that she does not want to lose Tamari as a friend.
It’s funny how the most anti-social of the bunch literally has to drag the proud and stubborn, so very stubborn Kariu to the game, so she can play. They patch things up and play the final game.
Would have been nice to see them win, but they don’t, and even though their days of playing volleyball in high school are over, they’re still pretty happy that they did play that final game together
the hug…one of the best scenes in the show…
The Fireworks Arc
The fireworks arc is the best of the bunch, brief and to the point, it’s basically Kariu and Oga’s road to confession and it actively proves that the ReLIFE program does work. All this time Arata has been struggling with the fact that he’s an older person who’s now deeply involved in the life of these kids, it’s only in this arc that he realizes they’re people, not just kids, and makes Oga realize that he likes Kariu in a very special way. It’s cute to see just how innocent Oga is at this moment since he’s never thought of Kariu in any other way
(Though I don’t blame him, she’s a straight up tsundere lol)
Arata’s logic, combined with the scene that’s presented to us later, and Oga snaps into reality.
The mere idea that Kariu could be with someone else is enough to make Oga react, and I thought that was great since most anime characters would be indecisive to act, and such a revelation would take “a while” to form, “a while” being next season. At the same time, the idea that Oga might choose a different high school than her scares Kariu enough into convincing her that confessing is the right way to go,
(Considering the fact that she’s had a crush on him for the longest time, this doesn’t suddenly make her act out of place)
It also has the unintended side effect of making Hishiro question her reality as most of the time she has been distant with her friends and has only come around recently. When she learns Kariu’s reasons for confessing to Oga, she questions things even further. This is also one of my favorite aspects of the series, in the fact that not everything is tied up in a pretty bow for you, there are plenty of plot points left unresolved.
At the actual fireworks festival, the groups conspicuously gives the two the time alone they need to make their respective confessions…
Although it’s only for the briefest of moments, we see Hishiro go with Ryo, and it’s this action that now causes Arata to feel jealous, if only for a second. He brushes them off, but we are reminded of what he said to Oga, and now we know, that Arata has feelings for Hishiro.
It’s a small moment, but done really, really well, and that’s pretty much ReLIFE as a whole.
Small moments, but done well.
Unbeknownst to them, the group has also schemed to give Arata and Hishiro their own little private time as well, and they watch the fireworks together.
It’s here where they talk about the fireworks and compare them to their lives and whether it’s worth getting close to someone.
Again, small moments, but done really well, and this is where we’re hit with the bombshell, and it’s a pleasant one.
We’ve suspected it for a good while, but it’s through a flashback that we finally learn who Subject 001 is. We’ve known that Arata is Subject 002 and that the first subject couldn’t make the necessary changes to deem their experience a success. It’s here now that we’re shown that Hishiro is Subject 001.
(I didn’t even mention that, cause I didn’t want to spoil it, but it is a big deal)
They’re both fully aware of the program’s limitations, and the one year limit, and what happens at the end of said year. The desire that they both have is undermined by this fact, and it’s one of the show’s most poignant scenes. If you’re like me, you’re probably screaming at the TV, and that’s a good reaction. We see their love blossom in this moment, and now you know it’s possible, it’s not weird, and it’s going to happen, but not yet.
Arata shines in this moment, as he knows he can’t fall in love with her, so he doesn’t succumb to his emotions. A lesser man would have, and it’s one of Arata’s most endearing aspects. It’s hard to describe what it makes you feel, as they’re both in the exact same situation, with Hishiro already in love with Arata, but also refusing to simply let it take place. They’re both afraid of what’s gonna happen at the end of the year, but they know the impact they’ve had on each other’s lives has been significant, and we know it too, with the added bonus that at some point, things will change.
I don’t know where the light novel goes from here, I’ve yet to read it, but the anime ends well, with life simply going on. They go to school the next day, and nothing seems different, and that’s good.
- The anime was all released at the same time, and more animes should do this, binging is great
- I was so into it, that I burned through the whole thing in one night, had to watch the series to make sure it really was good
- I really, really hope there’s a second season, but I’m not gonna hold my breath
- Hishiro’s character arc is amazing, and one of the highlights of the show, I might have to write a whole post just on that
- The next post will be about themes and my final lingering thoughts
- I got to write about the second episode of Attack on Titan, so expect that on some point
Till next time…