ReLIFE – 13 (Fin)

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Something’s definitely up with Hishiro as the final episode opens. You’d have to be Oga not to see it. All the LIME texts flying around about feelings and confessions, taking closeness for granted and fearing long separations.

Hishiro wonders, very logically, why one would put oneself through the “pointless” hassle of falling in love or confessing that love to someone you know you’ll be separated from.

Well, as the saying goes, better to have loved and lost, etc. And then there’s always a chance one’s assumption of being separated…turns out to be wrong, even if she doesn’t know that yet.

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Hishiro arrives to her first festival late and flustered; bold and resplendent in her deep red yukata (a color she asked Kaizaki if he liked in the preview for this ep). Due to the crush of people and unfortunate positioning, it’s Oga, not Kaizaki, who is by her side when she needs an arm for support, whil An clings annoyingly to Kaizaki.

Sure, knowing what we know in this moment, An’s the better bet, as she won’t lose her memory of him when his year is up. But things are about to get more complicated in that arena.

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But first things first: Kariu intends to tell Oga how she feels about him, and Oga intends to tell Kariu how he feels about her. Their friends do a masterful job quickly ditching them, putting them both on the spot, having no idea of the each others’ intentions.

Oga takes the initiative, simply blurting out “Hey Kariu. I, uh…love you,” surprising both me and Kariu. Way to go, sport! The words hit Kariu like a ton of bricks, and as her mind races about all the ideas she had to confess to him, she gets shoved by a passerby.

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Oga grabs her hand and draws her near, and that’s when Kariu confesses she’s loved him for years now, bowling him over with equal elation. He adds that he’s probably loved her for a similar period of time, but needed Kaizaki to help him spell it out. They then hold hands and watch the fireworks together, on cloud nine…just eight minutes in, and we get a big win, making me wonder what else is in store for us in the finale.

Tama notices Kaizaki and Hishiro aren’t around, but Yoake and An shrug it off, having set Kaizaki up to be along with Hishiro. She asks him pointedly about Yoake, but not as someone interested in Yoake. Rather, she voices her admiration for Kaizaki’s ability to so quickly amass good friends, inspiring her to try harder.

Kaizaki counters that she’s surrounded by friends too, and she’s “tried plenty hard”, but she still gives most of the credit to him, adding she’s really glad she met him…which really confuses Kaizaki!

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He goes over in his head what she meant, but settles as he’s settled all along; happy she feels that way, and grateful for his ReLIFE, brief as it is. Hishiro then points out how lovely the fireworks are, and Kaizaki adds that they’re a little sad too, since they’re so fleeting and then fade in the darkness.

As the fireworks flash and bang about, a flurry of thoughts and memories fly by, going in backwards chronological order. It’s a concentrated retrospective of everything Hishiro’s been through these past thirteen episodes, ending with her telling Kaizaki he’s in her seat…and then a cut to black.

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Yoake introduces himself to an older Hishiro Chizuru. That’s right, she was Subject #001, the one Yoake failed. Not that big of a surprise, I know—all the clues have been there all along—but still good to see it confirmed here and now, during those fireworks.

Hishiro’s whole problem all this time has been the same as Kaizaki’s: she’s afraid of having too much fun or being too happy or falling too much in love, lest it hurt that much more when they part ways. “You’re like the fireworks,” she says to Kaizaki, while the fireworks are too loud for him to hear. She doesn’t repeat herself.

The two return to the others, and after celebration of Kariu and Oga confessing to one another, find themselves alone together again. It’s here when Hishiro states that her position from the beginning of the episode has softened in light of Kariu and Oga coming together. Now she knows worrying about the future at the cost of happiness in the present is a waste.

There’s no dual confession here, no matter how close either Hishiro or Kaizaki come, they always stay on that precipice, because they both believe the other will definitely forget them. But since they’re both ReLIFE subjects, I doubt that will happen. It’s just a tremendous shame they don’t know that right here and now, you know? They’re both content with less than they should have, all due to a gross misconception.

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This is a tough pill to swallow (heehee), particularly becaue unlike Kariu and Oga, it’s a plot device, and not merely emotional obstacles, keeping these two apart. But I understand. Practically speaking, the manga isn’t over, and this show covered most of what’s already been published.

Basically, ReLIFE gave us something we wanted—Oga and Kariu together—but left everything else up in the air, as if to say “Don’t get greedy!” I wasn’t a fan of Kazaki saying again and again that he’d be forgotten when this show has proven optimistic enough for me to think there’s a realistic hope of him and Hishiro becoming an item.

I hope they do, in a future second season down the road, which I would watch the shit out of, no matter how much they dragged it out (after all, it took three seasons of Working!!! for the main couple to finally confess, and I watched every episode).

Until then, this was a very nicely done high school dramedy, and I especially appreciated being able to watch it at my own pace, instead of still being stuck on episode two!

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ReLIFE – 12

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It’s the end of the term and time for Summer Break – or in Kaizaki’s case, more lessons and make-up exams. There’s talk of the future. Oga mentions taking a look at universities other than the one Aoba High is affiliated with. Kariu gets restless.

Spring is classically when a young man’s fancy turns to love, but in Oga’s case, it’s Summer, and not without a considerable push from his de facto best mate Kaizaki, who has denied and is apparently content to continue to deny himself romance, since none of his high school friends will remember him at the end of the year.

At an impromptu adult celebration (i.e., with beer), Yoake and An mock his academic troubles, but also want the skinny on the Oga + Kariu impasse. Yoake also lauds his ReLIFE time as a “one year, limited edition of youth” he’s not taking full advantage of.

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Kaizaki simply groans at that, but the next day when he has Oga alone, he really presses him on who he likes. When he says “everyone”, he forces him to narrow it down based on certain criteria. Once those criteria enter Oga’s head, he visualizes who else but Kariu.

One hot Summer evening while Kaizaki and Oga are walking home proves to be the clincher as far as Oga realizing how he feels about Kariu. He spots her talking to a man in a suit who seems to be trying to get her into his car. Then she gets woozy and the man has to catch her.

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This is very confusing and not at all okay for Oga, who springs out to get to the bottom of it. Turns out, the man is Kaizaki’s kohai from last week (small world!) who saw that Kariu had heat stroke and didn’t want to leave her alone.

Oga offers to take her home, and because of Kariu’s state of mind, she lets her sincere, grateful side show, which Oga remarks at flippantly and gets punched for. “We’re always like this,” Oga says with a laugh. “It’s fun!”

He has no idea how much Kariu’s heart skipped upon hearing that, but on their silent walk home and late into the night, all Oga can think about is wanting to hold her hand.

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Officially in love with Kariu, like he always was without knowing it, Oga reports the revelation to Kaizaki, who is appropriately obnoxious, but also privately proud of both Oga and himself for giving him that little nudge (though Kaizaki’s kohai deserves a smidgen of credit too).

Yoake, An, and Hishiro join in the discussion of what the next steps should be, and when Oga mentions how much experience with girls Kaizaki’s had, Hishiro flashes her first forced smile in a while, clearly miffed by the implication (just as she was miffed her pleasant walk to school with Kaizaki was interrupted by An).

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Oga rises above all the chatter and bickering and makes the decision to invite Kariu to the Summer Fireworks Festival, in a text that bowls her over and has her wondering if he sent it in error (though he invites her by name, so that’s impossible).

She reaches out to the other girls, who also got invites, and realizes Oga invited everyone. She laments getting worked up for nothing, but agrees to go anyway. Inviting everyone is “just like Oga”, after all.

By the way, I really loved the energetic song that was played before, during, and after the credits: “Summer Festival” by Whiteberry, a super catchy, boisterous ode to life and youth featuring vocals that are just the right amount of off-key. Interestingly, it was released as a single in 2000, when Kaizaki (28 in 2016) was only 12. I figure it’s a song from his MD collection…

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ReLIFE – 11

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Well, I guess even ReLIFE can have an off-day.

Perhaps it’s unfair to watch this episode on the heels of a terrific episode of Orange—or indeed, the momentous previous episode of ReLIFE—but I just wasn’t feeling this one. Which is a shame, because for all its momentum-killing flashbacks, it marked a significant leap forward for Kaizaki by the end.

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This week Kaizaki asks Yoake for another pill to make him 28 again, so he can properly visit his senpai Saiki Michiru’s grave. She committed suicide after continued harassment from her peers, which only intensified when Kaizaki ignored her wish for him to “grow up” and not to involve himself.

I guess my main problem with this storyline—important as it is for how Kaizaki ended up with ReLIFE to begin with—is that I don’t buy that an office would be that awful. I’m not saying office jobs can’t be that awful, just that I didn’t feel that scenario was portrayed carefully, convincingly, or realistically enough here.

This show’s always better when working with shades of gray—everyone has selfish desires; that sort of thing—but Kaizaki’s former job seems like a ridiculously cartoonish hell; a “black company” not just full of sexist pricks, but borderline sociopaths.

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Then there’s the two kohais from his company, who Yoake and An arrange to bump into Kaizaki. It’s good there are people who feel as he does, even if they didn’t have the courage to quit as soon as he did, and their admiration of what he did certainly lessens his regret somewhat and convinces him quitting was the right thing to do.

That’s all fine and dandy, but I’m still not sure why Yoake chose the anniversary of Saiki’s death to do this. It means for four months he kept information from Kaizaki that could have helped him deal with his trauma. But why so long? Was he simply waiting until a time when he knew Kaizaki would ask for a re-aging pill?

Finally, Kaizaki says he wants the pill so he won’t run into trouble if someone he knows shows up at Saiki’s grave. But that begs the question: how has he been able to avoid being spotted people he knows for four months? It’s a can of worms the episode presents that’s best left closed for the purposes of suspension of belief.

At any rate I’m glad Kaizaki is feeling better about the choices he made that led to his joining ReLIFE. Now I’d like to see him get back to that ReLIFE.

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ReLIFE – 10

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Both gifted and cursed by immense natural athletic talent that made her peers resent her and take her for granted, Honoka turned down all the powerhouses and sought refuge at Aoba High, a prep school not too serious about sports, where no one knew who she was.

But when she tried out for the team, someone knew who she was, and was angry she didn’t give it her all. She makes Honoka spike a ball at her as hard as she can, knocking her down, but she gets up laughing, her suspicions confirmed. Her name is Kariu Rena, and she wants to play volleyball with Honoka.

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For three years they played and had fun, but one thing that goes unmentioned is that the rift caused by her ankle injury wasn’t helped by the fact she never really caught up to Honoka’s level, and trying to stand beside her on a still-tender ankle felt impossible.

So Kariu said some very mean things and retired from the team, two actions she felt she could not undo, no matter how much she wanted to. She didn’t realize just how genuinely worried her friends were, and how they’d let her undo whatever she said or did if she’d just…play and be friends with Honoka again. It’s what everyone wants.

Hishiro’s role in the talk with Honoka is masterful, chronicling all the times she transferred and introduced herself with less and less enthusiasm, “giving up on knowing people” as her heart gradually numbed. The bond between Kariu and Honoka makes her jealous. She won’t let it crumble needlessly.

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Kariu is caught listening in on Honoka, and maintains her stubborn iron guard. Oga remains to assure Honoka she didn’t mean the things she said (again), and Honoka is in agreement. Kaizaki, basically acting as Hishiro’s backup thus far, surveys his friends and Honokas; they’re all of the same mind. They give Kariu time and space, trusting her to show up for the tournament.

When she doesn’t, Hishiro is pissed, and vows to drag Kariu there if she has to. Yoake helplfully provides Kaizaki with Kariu’s address. An points out to Yoake that he’s getting more involved these days, because he likes how things are changing. So does she. Kaizaki & Friends exploits are changing them too.

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Hishiro almost makes the rookie mistake of stating her name after ringing Kariu’s bell. Kaizaki shushes her and pretends to be a delivery man, Kariu answers the door, and they barge in. She’s in her tracksuit, with her uniform on underneath. It would appear their trust in her was not misplaced, only their confidence in her ability take the step of going to the tournament on her own. She’s still stuck at home.

Kariu calls Hishiro dense, that she can’t possibly understand how she feels, but Hishiro doesn’t care. Kariu’s her friend; she’s allowed to be worried about her. She’s come to fulfill her own selfish desire: to make Kariu play with Honoka again. She takes Kariu’s head in her hands and ask her what her selfish desire is.

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Turns out, it’s the same thing; Kariu was just afraid it was too late to achieve, but it wasn’t. All their selfish desires align. All that’s left is to act. Kariu accompanies Hishiro and Kaizaki back to school. Kariu enters the gym, and the match. Honoka stops looking, as Hishiro puts it, “ugly” and “dead.” They play, and have fun, like they’ve played for three years.

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They also lose, and are eliminated, and are officially done with high school volleyball for good. But as they both share a good cry behind the gym (with Hishiro sitting between them, a choice she initially regrets), Honoka makes it clear that winning without Kariu would not have been fun or made her happy. Losing is fine if it means she has Kariu back. And Kariu points out they can still play volleyball in college. Duh!

They exchange apologies before turning their gratitude and affection on Hishiro, who couldn’t be happier herself. She’d only just become friends with these two, and she was going to be damned if she was going to let their bond crumble. So she worked her butt off and it paid off marvelously, to the joy and relief of all. Stellar stuff.

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ReLIFE – 09

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Much like the way Kariu fell on her ankle, things have gotten very awkward between her and Honoka post-spraining. Kariu has elected to keep her distance, partly because she’s ashamed for what she said to her friend. Honoka sits with Hishiro, who instantly notices she’s looking “uglier” (due to the crying).

Inukai hates to see Honoka like this, wants to force Kariu to apologize; the more diplomatic Asaji holds him back. When two people on ReLIFEare out of balance, everyone is affected adversely. The question is, what to do about it?

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Someone I didn’t mention above is Kaizaki, who all but sat out last week, and is paying the price for not being more attuned to things. He knows something’s up with Kariu, however, and thinks the best thing for it is to leave Oga alone with her and let youth do the rest.

In addition to placating Oga x Kariu shippers, Kaizaki also taps into Oga’s chivilrous nature, sticking around specifically to help Kariu walk home, and not leaving even when she yells at him. She’s not surrendering to his kindness here so much as cutting him some slack. It’s difficult and scary to be honest with one’s feelings, and the truth is she does appreciate Oga.

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Two really great things about ReLIFE: it always finds ways to involve characters who aren’t in the present spotlight. Take Kaizaki and Hishiro, united in their need to figure out what’s up with their friends and what to do about it. Or take Yoake and An, who monitor Kaizaki’s talk with Hishiro. An grows closer and closer to Yoake as the conversation grows more personal and, well, dark.

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The fact is, both Hishiro and Kaizaki ended up heeding peers’ demands they stay out of a bullying situation. Hishiro’s friend left school; Kaizaki’s senpai…well, it sure looks like something awful happened that scarred Kaizaki emotionally. Suicide, I’m guessing.

In any case, the discussion triggers that memory, and for a moment Kaizaki mistakes Hishiro for his poor doomed senpai, and embraces her tightly. Before he does, Hishiro is very concerned for Kaizaki, and comes this close to touching his face before he hugs her.

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True to character, Hishiro doesn’t freak out by the close contact. On the contrary, I daresay she probably enjoyed it, as yet another step toward growing closer to others. But she’s not going to sit back and let what happened to her friend and Kaizaki’s senpai happen again. She wants “revenge”, against the mistakes of her own past self.

Neither she nor Kaizaki would have been able to act were it not for each other and their united front. Taking that next step to actively help your friends, without being asked or even when they specifically tell you not to do anything, is scary as well. They’re essentially each other’s courage.

Hishiro’s friend and Kaizaki’s senpai put Hishiro and Kaizaki before their own well-being and happiness, successfully compelling them to stifle their instincts to act. No longer. Hishiro and Kaizaki corner Honoka and get her to tell them what’s up.

In an interesting assist by Inukai, he tracks down Kariu and brings her to the closed door of the locker room where Honoka is talking with Hishiro and Kaizaki. The first thing Kariu hears shocks her, but not so much me: Honoka never wanted to play volleyball to begin with.

Next episode: Kariu/Honoka flashback! Till then, glad to see Kaizaki’s finger back on the pulse of things, and working so well with Hishiro. It’s been a joy watching these two grow as friends—and as people—side by side.

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ReLIFE – 08

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From the preview, I suspected for some reason that Tamarai Honoka would become interested in Kaizaki, but I was mistaken because I got his room confused with Inukai Akira’s, her childhood friend’s. That being said, Honoka does bond with Kaizaki a bit this week, as he becomes someone she’s comfortable confiding in on matters of volleyball, Kariu, and whether Onoya likes Oga (she doesn’t!).

And while ReLIFE continues its recent trend of focusing on a different character each week, this time Honoka, Kaizaki still gets a key scene in with Hishino, who expresses her envy of Honoka and Kariu’s close friendship. She also seems happy to walk to the station with Kaizaki, indicating her feelings for him are on a steady simmer in the background.

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The foreground this week, however, is all Tamarai Honoka, Volleyball Ace. She’s painted as a victim of her own immense athletic talent, as her coach tells her she’s pivotal to the team (and worries she lacks “appetite”), and her teammates talk about her behind her back like she doesn’t have to actually work to be as good as she is.

Honoka is disheartened when she overhears those teammates, but when Kariu hears them, she storms into the locker room and sets them straight, as Honoka listens around the corner, so happy she has such a good friend, she can’t help but cry. Kariu is absolutely honest about her feelings toward Honoka, including occasional envy and frustration, but she still loves the girl.

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Unlike Kariu, Honoka also has to deal with make-up tests after failing most of her midterms (which is how she comes to befriend Kaizaki), but her ever-loyal childhood friend Inukai Akira (whose older sister is the school nurse, as it happens) helps her study through the night.

Kaizaki is also studying, on his own, even, when Yoake calls to encourage him. An is with Yoake, causing Kaizaki to think the same thing I thought last week: Yoake and An like each other…right?

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The intense studying results in Honoka passing her make-ups (Kaizaki, alas, does not), but she’s exhausted and pale, and even blacks out during practice. Not long after getting back up, Kariu has a spill of her own, trying to avoid a ball that wouldn’t have gone her way had Honoka not blacked out.

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This episode is called “Rift”, and I assumed it meant some kind of rift between Kaizaki and someone else, but it turns out to be one between Honoka and Kariu, sparked by Kariu’s sprained ankle. Nurse Inukai estimates she’l need 2-3 weeks to fully heal, which Kariu takes to mean she’ll miss the last tournament they’ll play in high school. It’s a crushing blow.

But Honoka tries to be optimistic: if the ankle heals in two weeks, Kariu can play! Kariu rebukes her; even if it did, she can’t play without practice. And that’s when it comes out: Kariu says she’s not a “genius” like Honoka; she can’t just run out onto the court and ball like it’s nothing.

In this moment, Kariu is vulnerable and devastated and pissed off, and ends up saying the same things Honoka has heard from other teammates and friends—former teammates and friends—in the past, but never thought she’d her from Kariu, who made volleyball fun for her again.

And so the rift is open. Honoka has Inukai’s and Asaji’s shoulders to cry on, but that rift ain’t gonna repair itself. I’d say Kaizaki could moderate some kind of detente as he did with Hishiro and Kariu, but with Hishiro seemingly growing ever more enamored of him, he may have his own fish to fry.

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ReLIFE – 07

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While we learned a lot more about An in the last episode, it was still mostly driven by Kaizaki’s reactions to those revelations. This time, it’s Yoake who gets top-billing as protagonist-of-the-week, in an episode that takes place while he’s still supporting Subject 001.

The truth about An gave us an glimpse of the world of ReLIFE Lab that this episode expands by setting Kaizaki’s story aside and showing us how Yoake came to support him instead of An (who we see is very enthusiastic early on about the prospect of being Kaizaki’s support).

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ReLIFE Lab is portrayed as very much like any other workplace, just as Lacuna in Eternal Sunshine is very much like any other doctor’s office; a neat amalgam of the mundane and the fantastical. There’s a kind of bizarre magic in what ReLIFE does, and yet Yoake still has to deal with a board of suits concerned with their branch’s rep and interested in results.

My one gripe about this otherwise lovely episode is that we don’t really get much in the way of info about Subject 001, which seems like a cruel tease. However, ReLIFE has been so good up to this point I’m willing to give the show the benefit of the doubt on this. Maybe they’re saving that 001 reveal for later (and 001 went to Aoba High just like Kaizaki) or maybe they’ll never reveal it.

As for Yoake and An, neither seem interested in the other romantically, but one can’t deny there’s have chemistry and warmness to their rapport. Maybe it’s just a senpai/kohai thing, or the fact that their peculiar line of work, what with all the masquerade and stalking, can be isolating. Their scene on the bridge in the rain was very nice; so many complex emotions going on.

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I also got the feeling that while An is obviously disappointed Kaizaki was transferred from her to Yoake, at least it was Yoake, whom she knows and trusts, who got him and not someone else. That, and she’ll be right there at school with both Yoake and Kaizaki.

The episode ends back in the present, with Yoake surveying all the people Kaizaki has changed as a result of gaining the confidence to act. In the past Yoake mentioned Kaizaki had the “trauma of losing someone”, and the uncertainty of knowing if he did enough when he should have led to present part-timer status.

Watching Kaizaki gradually overcome those issues through his ReLIFE is having an inspiring effect on Yoake, who is also pleased that he seems to have found a proper “distance” from Kaizaki that he lacked with 001. And so yet another ReLIFE character has been wonderfully rounded out and humanized, while the world has been further enriched without answering too many questions.

With everything going so well, I reckon it’ll be time to rock the boat again pretty soon!

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ReLIFE – 06

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With Hishiro and Kariu now friends, and Hishiro looking up her feelings on Google (then scoffing at the result that it’s “love”) I was looking forward to the show pivoting to focus on the third girl in Kaizaki’s circle: Onoya An. This episode certainly did that, but not at all the way I thought.

Things start innocently enough, with the possibility of Kaizaki’s friends visiting his bachelor pad becoming a very abrupt reality when Oga and An arrive for a study session. It’s great to watch him squirm as he hides any evidence of his true age, even as I knew in his haste he’d forget something.

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Two things he missed: his MD player and a calendar with work stuff. The first can be explained away by the simple fact he’s a fan of vintage electronics; the second he sidestepped by using the calendar to “kill a bug.”

The true test for Kaizaki comes when Oga is called away for work, leaving him and An all alone in his apartment (which Oga is too dense/pure to notice could be a problem). Yoake, who has Kaizaki’s phone mic tapped, does, and races to Kaizaki’s aid when he believes his cover is at risk.

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What ensues plays out like a high school version of a spy thriller, with An removing her childish braids and glasses, revealing she fell in love with Kaizaki at first sight back when she saw him working at the convenience store, and starts coming on to him, all while Yoake navigates the busy streets to race to Kaizaki’s place.

The entire premise of ReLIFE seems a little creepy at first, until a scene like this comes around and you realize there’s nothing to be concerned about, because Kaizaki is a good guy who knows his boundaries. Even if An thinks he’s 17 like her, and even if consensual sex with her is legal, he’s not going to do that, and not just because he doesn’t love her.

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At the same time, An’s long look at the MD, probing, knowing questions, and her little hair-and-glasses trick were all clues that she’s not 17 either, but rather another ReLIFE agent like Yoake—a far more reckless and cavalier agent than Yoake, to boot. But this was a legitimate test on how to deal with romantic advances from high school girls, and Kaizaki passed with flying colors.

I liked this reveal, a lot actually, because it was earned. It explains why An was so friendly and close to Kaizaki all this time without ever being the main focus. It explains her equally awful test scores. It eliminates the love triangle with Hishino for the duration of the experiment, while also opening the possibility of Kaizaki and An remaining friends when the experiment is over, since she won’t be losing her memories of him.

Even the show’s poster was a clue about An. And she wasn’t even entirely lying about “love at first sight” either. When she saw Kaizaki’s case file, she knew she had her ReLIFE subject. Only she couldn’t be his support because her training wasn’t quite complete, hence the transfer to Yoake.

While the cat is out of the bag about her identity, the other four members of Kaizaki’s circle are still in the dark, which should make for an interesting new dynamic; it also makes the episodes with An in them worth another watch.

At the same time, a great many cats remain securely in bags, like the details of how Kaizaki was found and selected, why An really isn’t his primary support, and who the heck Sample #001 was, and how and why he failed. Heck, An could be Sample #001, for all I know. And what do you know: the next episode looks to be a prequel of sorts, so those mysteries may not be mysteries for long.

One thing’s for sure: I’m barrelling through ReLIFE like there’s no tomorrow…but I can’t help it. Show’s too damn good!

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ReLIFE – 05

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Last week’s cliffhanger portended a rough road ahead for all parties involved, and a galaxy of possibilities in terms of if, and how, the conflicts would be resolved. But judging from the first four episodes, I was confident ReLife would resolve everything relatively quickly, but in the most narratively and emotionally satisfying way. The right way: no shortcuts, no lies, and no running away.

As it turns out, both Kaizaki and Kariu were knocked out by their fall down the stairs, so there was no immediate confrontation between them and Hishino. Instead, Kaizaki wakes up in the infirmary. Hoshino and her bag are gone, so the mystery of where she went and how she feels about what she saw is always hanging in the background, adding tension to an already tense scene.

Before Kariu comes to, Kaizaki pieces together what happened, and he remembers back when he was training at his job. When the woman training him started out-performing the men, they turned on her and started working to knock her down, sullying all the hard work they’d done to get to where they are.

Kaizaki remembers his trainer saying she wasn’t mad, but sad that they had given up trying to fight fair. Now we know one reason Kaizaki quit his job; rivals had twisted into vindictive enemies. It happens all the time.

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Kaizaki knows this, because he’s 27. He’s lived ten years more life than Kariu or any of his other classmates. And so, without even thinking, when Kariu comes to he lectures her the way a 27-year-old would lecture a 17-year-old.

His own baggage comes into play, as he makes the connection between what the “filthy adults” stooped to at his workplace and what Kariu is doing; telling her he’s not mad, but “very, very sad”, and that she’s too young to be acting like this. Kariu blows up at him, caling him too self-righteous and too self-assured, considering they’re the same age. But much of what he said still hit home, even if it was delivered with a bit too much, shall we say, adult authority.

Kaizaki tells her what she’s overlooked: sure, she hasn’t been able to beat Hishiro or Honoka, but she’s still bettered herself. Her hard work wasn’t for nothing, and she shouldn’t give up. Not only that, she has the wrong idea about Hishiro, because they’ve barely ever spoken. Kaizaki delivers this advice knowing full well he himself gave up, but like both Hishiro and Kariu, he’s trying to change. And he is!

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That wonderful exchange (with more baller work from Tomatsu Haruka) would be about all we could reasonably expect from a good episode…but this is a great episode, which means Hishiro is waiting at the gate when Kaizaki, and later Kariu, leave the infirmary.

Kaizaki initially lies about Kariu taking the bag because it was “dangerous to have it in the hall”, but changes his mind and tells the truth, remembering Yoake telling him not to clear all the thorns. Hishiro reacts as one would expect: with calm, cool logic. She doesn’t know the right answer, so she’ll ask Kariu upfront. (There’s also the matter of her heart panging when she saw Kaizaki hugging Kariu, but she wisely tables that issue for now).

Kaizaki may be hiding in the bushes to watch how it goes (with Yoake), but both of them stay out of it when Kariu comes out and sees Hishiro. Kariu doesn’t run, nor does she try to lie and say she doesn’t hate Hishiro, because at the moment, she kinda does.

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The source of that hate had been cultivated each time Hishiro flashed her one of her scary mocking smiles, so when Hishiro assures her she never meant to mock her, and Kariu talkes Kaizaki’s advice and asks her to smile on demand, it dawns on her that she misunderstood; Hishiro is simply very socially awkward.

It was Kariu’s own issues with her than caused her to interpret it as mocking. Also, well, it really does look like she’s mocking her, but hey, that’s why you talk things out with people!

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When Hishiro tells her all those smiles were meant to help them become friends, Kariu lets out a hearty laugh; part in relief, part in amazement. She also realizes Hishiro wasn’t ignoring her handshake, and when Hishiro puts out her hand this time, Kariu takes it and agrees to be friends…as long as it’s clear they’re also academic rivals.

That’s fine with Hishiro, who is so happy to have made a new friend, she smiles for real, surprising and dazzling Kariu in the process.

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So, all’s well that ends well in the Kariu/Hishino Conflict! The operative word there being end, as the show had the guts to lay all the cards on the table and hash everything out in this one episode. Dragging out the misunderstanding would have only kept us from what are sure to be other great stories involving, say An.

I really enjoyed Kaizaki and Yoake celebrating like adults with beer and cigarettes, as Kaizaki gets a thank you from Kariu for ratting her out to Hishiro, realizing it was in her best interest. Kaizaki still isn’t sure he didn’t spare her the ugly truth about life, the truth he saw firsthand and drove him from the workplace.

But Yoake assures him he didn’t lie, either. There’s a happy median between blatant sugarcoating and outright nihilism. And even though Kariu won’t remember Kaizaki in a year, she’ll remember what he said to her if and when she runs into the same obstacles he did later in life. The episode closes with a triumphant shot of Kari sitting with Hishiro at lunch, the rest of the group happy and relieved. On to the next high school crisis!

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ReLIFE – 04

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ReLIFE takes things to the next level by delving deeper than ever before into a character other than Kaizaki, namely Kariu Rena. We’ve been able to infer since we met her that she considered her silver pin more than just a mark of status, with all of its perks and privileges, but a symbol that she was “good enough” to stand beside Oga.

It’s the kind of subject no one dare even bring up in her presence, but we’re privy to it because we’re in her head. She can’t hide how she feels there. But now Hishiro has the silver pin, and Hishiro is beside Oga and calling him “Kazu-kun,” while casting sneering, haughty, and/or victorious smirks at Kariu, as if to rub salt in the wound.

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Obviously, it’s not Hishiro’s intent to antagonize Kariu—quite the contrary; she thinks she’s on the cusp of starting a friendship with her—but all that matters is how Kariu is interpreting Hishiro’s faces and overall behavior, and because Hishiro isn’t aware she’s doing any harm, she can’t stop the vicious cycle that builds and builds like a knot in Kariu’s stomach.

It’s not just Hishiro, either: Kariu would at least have a release valve in athletic greatness, but her friend Honoka beats her on the volleyball court as easily as Hishiro beats her in test scores. To make matters worse, it doesn’t seem like either girl exerted the slightest effort to best Kariu. They just did it.

When Oga, who is totally tone-deaf when it comes to matters of the heart, tries to invite Hoshino to eat with them, Kaizaki and An read the room and realize what a bad idea that is, since Kariu is right there, already staring daggers into Hoshino.

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While Kaizaki handled that lunch situation about as well as he could, it doesn’t change the fundamental problem of Hishiro not wanting to be a loner but still eating totally alone. Kaizaki has to balance his desire to help Hishiro live a happier high school life while trying to stave off all-out war between Kariu and Hishiro.

All this is to say that Kaizaki cares. These “kids” he shares his life with day to day have become important to him; and thus his life starts to revolve around them. Yoake advises caution—sometimes kids need to fall and feel pain sometimes so they learn something—but welcomes Kaizaki’s newfound concern for his fellow man, something he didn’t really have as a NEET.

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But all of Kaizaki’s progress is put into jeopardy when the tinderbox that is Kariu finally catches. In a moment when Hishiro is simply trying to reach out to her, Kariu storms off, but immediately afterwards sees Hishiro with Oga again, and wonders if she smiles at him like she smiles at Kaizaki.

Kariu’s frustration builds late at night while practicing in the gym, after Honoka leaves with her childhood friends and there’s no one around but herself and her thoughts. When she returns the gym key and finds Hishiro’s bag outside the lounge, she decides to steal it, just to try to get back some semblance of control; to, for once, hurt Hishiro, rather than the other way ’round.

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Her caper doesn’t go so well, because Kaizaki happens to cross paths with her on the way to dropping off the study room key. Kariu tries to lie, but Kaizaki sees and recognizes Hishiro’s bag; the jig is up. Kariu tries to run, Kaizaki tries to stop her, and Kariu starts to fall down the stairs…

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Just when I thought some weird looks from Hishiro were going to end up landing Kariu in the hospital or worse, Kaizaki puts his creaky old body on the line and makes a shoestring catch, only to end up falling with her the rest of the way.

Hishiro hears the crash and goes to investigate, and finds Kaizaki and Kariu huddled together on the bottom of the steps, with her bag in Kariu’s arm. Roll Credits.

While I’d like to think Kaizaki can call a time out and explain all of this, the fact of the matter is, the most logical explanation for what Hishiro sees is that Kaizaki and Kairu conspired to steal her bag together, which means they’ve got it out for her, which means Kaizaki never wanted to be her friend, putting all of his interactions with her in a new light. Hishiro is a bright kid but inexperienced in social skills, and may well believe the worst.

I still hope they can sort it out somehow, but it doesn’t look good. What started out as a sight gag (Hishiro’s funny faces) has turned quite dark and serious. But hey, I’m not complaining: this is some damn good high school drama, de-aging pill or no. Kariu’s seiyu Tomatsu Haruka deserves particular praise for her sympathetic performance.

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ReLIFE – 03

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Kaizaki may be Yoake’s project, but Kaizaki has made Hishiro his, with entertaining results. Her manner of returning 1,000 yen to him is nothing short of inspired, while her attempts to smile at Kariu end up giving the redhead the mistaken impression that Hishiro is looking down on her (figuratively).

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The growing disconnect between Hishiro’s intentions and Kariu’s interpretations ends up being the primary driving force for an episode that’s otherwise pretty light. It goes without saying that despite his youthful looks, Kaizaki’s body is still every bit 27 years old, and his lack of warming up for a ball throw results in a paltry one-meter toss and lots of shoulder pain.

We also meet the childhood friend trio of Tamarai (Kariu’s athletic rival, but also friend), Inukai, and Asaji.

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When trying to be friendly with Kariu, Hishiro only manages to add fuel to the fire that she somehow has it out for Kariu, not remembering her name and failing to shake hands properly, along with that creepy smile that is the envy of anime villains everywhere.

Kaizaki actually gets off to a great start in the 50m dash, but trips and falls hard, prompting health rep Asaji to princess carry him to the nurse; a demoralizing new low for Kaizaki, but thankfully school isn’t all about sports!

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Things look up when Kaizaki learns Hishiro shares his route to school. When they arrive together, Kariu spots Hishiro smiling naturally (because she’s not consciously trying to smile), confirming her belief Hishiro is the type of girl who is mean to other girls but nice to the guys.

All the while, Kaizaki seems resigned to the fact no one will remember him in a year, so it’s not like he’s trying to start a romance with anyone. At home during his log entry, Yoake is glad Kaizaki is making faster progress than “Sample 001” in his first month of his ReLIFE.

At the moment, Yoake is more concerned about the cumulative emotional damage being done to Kariu, for which Kaizaki is indirectly responsible via his suggesting Hishiro smile more. Judging from those dead eyes, it doesn’t look like Kariu’s going to put up with Hishiro’s faces much longer.

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ReLIFE – 02

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The test scores are in, and a great many things become known. In ten years, Kaizaki forgot between 75% and 96% of everything he learned in high school the first time around. Kariu is mad about losing the class rep job to Hishiro not because she can’t get free lunches, but because she has feelings for Ooga. Finally, Onoya has even worse test scores than Kaizaki…and she’s a real high schooler!

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These two need tutoring, and Ooga is happy to serve the role as tutor, but gets more than he bargained for when Kaizaki and An start digging into his relationship with Kariu, including their matching earrings. I’m liking how quickly yet naturally the circle of friends is coming together.

I also liked Kaizaki’s outsize reaction to An whipping out her cell phone; once a capital crime in his day, now students use them with impunity (outside of class, that is). Or how he takes Hishiro’s reaction to his lending her 1000 yen (that he’s like a grown-up) literally; worried the brainy girl is on to him.

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Hishiro comes to dominate the latter half of the episode as Kaizaki makes it his mission to get her to come out of her shell a little more. The fact her forced smiles are so disconcerting is proof of how genuine and straightforward she is; the only smiles she can make are real ones, all of which were triggered by Kaizaki being nice to her.

At the beginning of the episode, Hishiro has no friends; now she has one, and of her own choosing, boldly asking for Kaizaki’s phone number. Hishiro really shines in this episode, greatly aided by her adorable character design…and Kayano Ai’s adorable voice.

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Ryou, who was skulking around corners the whole episode, observing Kaizaki from a distance, not only suggests he try to quit smoking (the smell lingers, plus no one will sell to someone with his new babyface), but also not to get too attached to anyone. Apparently, when the year-long experiment is over, everyone young Kaizaki interacted with will forget him, because he’ll be back to being 27.

Not like that’s something he’ll be able to explain if they every learned, but this still seems like a downer, especially considering Kaizaki will remember them, and will likely not feel so great as a result. When Hishiro told Kaizaki she had to rush things, that this was her last chance, it reminded him how confident he was that his future would go the way he thought it would.

It didn’t, and ReLIFE is ostensibly the path to getting somewhere closer to his ideal future (or even creating a new one). But having to sever all his new bonds at the end of the year seems like a steep price to pay for that future. As I watch the next eleven episodes (at my own pace), it will be interesting to see if he ever tries to haggle over that price. Hishiro—callsign “Sorry Cat”—is someone worth knowing. Could she also be a bond worth preserving, even if it breaks Ryou’s rules?

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ReLIFE – 01 (First Impressions)

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27-year-old NEET Kaizaki Arata meets Yoake Ryou of the ReLIFE Laboratory, and agrees to participate in an experiment aimed at rehabilitating NEETs. Arata takes a pill that makes him look ten years younger and endures a taxing first day as a third-year high school student, with Ryou as his observer.

Anime in which the MC re-lives their life in one form or another are nothing new—ERASED being a recent example—so a new take on it requires good execution. ReLIFE largely succeeds by keeping things light (aside from a couple of dark-ish moments).

The science of Arata’s transformation is thankfully not explained; suffice it to say the pill is a means to an end: a second chance at having a successful adulthood (as measured by Japanese society). Arata has a healthy skepticism initially, but as he’s just been cut off by his parents, he can’t very well turn down job that guarantees a year of living expenses.

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The veneer of seediness inherent in a secretly 27-year-old hanging out with high schoolers is quickly washed away by the exhilaration inherent in an adult being plunged back into the crucible of youth with no manual. Young people don’t just look different, they talk and act different as well, and while settling back into long-forgotten patterns is no cakewalk for Arata, it’s engrossing to watch.

This show has a nice even core of six main characters, including Arata and Ryou, and we get a quick intro of the other four in short order. Three are girls: the aloof brainiac Hishiro, the prickly-yet-kind Kairu, and the peppy Onoya, who takes an instant liking to her fellow transfer student.

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Like I said, the first day doesn’t go so well, with Arata constantly drawing attention to himself and the fact he has no idea what he’s doing yet. This culminates in the teacher, Amatsu Kokoro, finding a pack of cigs in his bag and calling him to the teacher’s lounge after school.

Arata has to write an apology letter, but when he applies his 27-year-old charm and perspective on Amatsu (who in reality is two years younger than him), her initial harsh manner softens considerably. It comes as no surprise the person at school he’s able to interact with most successfully is the one closest to his real age!

Of course, he’ll have to learn how to interact (again) with teenagers and start acting like one himself (at least a very mature teenager). Ryou intends to give him a wide berth in terms of how he’ll spend the year, be it keeping his head down in the background or making a big “Springtime of Life” splash.

But Ryou wants Arata to remember the purpose of the experiment is to reform NEETs (a label Arata dislikes); ending up right back where he started in the beginning of the episode would mean the experiment failed.

Arata’s year will likely fall somewhere in between the two extremes of high school life and exposure, and the credits indicate he’ll befriend all the other four core students one way or another. I for one am excited to see how this experiment shakes out.

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P.S. I am aware the entire 13-episode run is available all at once, Netflix-style, but I won’t be marathoning. That being said, I may well finish reviewing it faster than if it aired once a week. Think Prison School pace.