ReLIFE – 17 (Fin)

Aw HELL yeah! I didn’t ask for much, just a happy yet satisfying ending that felt earned, and ReLIFE delivered exactly that. Initially framed by Yoake’s final report, things start out in the afterglow of Kaizaki and Hoshiro’s confessions. All their friends are super-excited for them, but they keep it very cool and low-key, which is just like two teenagers who are actually adults.

They’re both simply savoring every day they have left together, because they don’t have a lot of them. It makes you wish they’d gotten together much sooner…but then again, I couldn’t have asked for a better way for them to finally realize their feelings for another, and their love only deepens as the days pass, as evidenced by their late night phone call when simply messaging on LIME won’t cut it.

Graduation Day comes, and Kanzaki manages to graduate by the skin of his teeth (thanks to Oga). There’s goodbyes, notes of goodwill, flowers, smiles…and tears. But there are no tears more bitter than those shed by both Kanzaki and Hoshiro.

He finally gives her a hug, just when she needs one most, and it turns out he needed that hug just as badly. He says it feels like a break-up, even though they’ll see each other at the start of the college term. Hoshiro thanks him for being such a transparent yet kind liar.

And that’s the last they see of each other in their respective ReLifes—with a tearful embrace, assuring each other they’ll never forget each other, even if they know they can’t keep that promise.

Yoake congratulates Kanzaki for a marvelously successful ReLife, telling him he can look forward to very promising job placement in exchange for his cooperation with the experiment, and should hold his head high. Meanwhile, Onoya has her exit interview with Hoshiro, who never really warmed up to her newer support.

Describing her ReLife, Hoshiro describes how her heart is “ripped open” by getting close to people only to lose them, but admits she does feel like she changed “a little.” After taking her pill and falling asleep, Onoya accidentally discovers a marker Hoshiro used to write “I was in love with Kaizaki Arata”, and breaks down at Hoshiro’s failure to hide it better, as once Onoya sees it, she has to get rid of it along with all other evidence. It’s her job, after all.

Fast-forward to a bit of time after Kanzaki regains his 28-year-old appearance and starts interviewing for the jobs ReLife provided. Ultimately, however, he wants nothing more than to help others as he was helped, so he requests a job with ReLife, and is accepted. Now he is the one visiting shut-ins and other wretches, offering a way for them to find themselves again.

At a ReLife company dinner, Kanzaki arrives a bit late, but a space was saved for him. Turns out the seat he takes belongs to Hoshiro, but it’s no big deal or anything, as someone from another part of the restaurant is calling for her. As she turns to walk away, Kanzaki notices the strap on her bag…

At the end of the dinner (well, the first round, but the only round recommended for newbies), it starts to rain, but Kanzaki doesn’t have an umbrella. Just then, Hoshiro appears once more and opens the very same green umbrella the two shared just after confessing. She offers to share it, but Kanzaki politely declines, and she starts to head off on her own…but turns and says she heard the higher-ups calling him a test subject.

She then mentions her own stint as a subject, how it lasted two years, and how her supporter pushed for her to get a job at ReLife, and she took a position in the pharma section. Kanzaki asks if she’d tell him about her ReLife, and she compares it to…fireworks, like the ones she saw at the festival with her friends.

They both latch onto the spectacular yet fleeting nature of fireworks, and eventually both remember flashes of that night when Hoshiro told Kanzaki he was like fireworks. I tellya, I got an absolute thrill out of watching them gradually put the pieces together in their heads.

You could say the fireworks…sparked their memories, heh-heh. Once he recalls Hoshiro in her red yukata looking up at the sky, Kanzaki calls her by her name. Hoshiro needs just a little bit more, but she eventually remembers writing the note on her hand as she cried after taking the pill. And that’s it: in spite of the lab’s efforts, they found and remembered each other…and it didn’t even take that long!

Now, while the ReLife procedures were concluded with all due diligence, I’d like to think both Yoake and Onoya played roles in facilitating a reunion. Yoake accepting Kanzaki’s request to work for ReLife; Onoya predding Hoshiro to work there as well…even telling Kanzaki that Hoshiro’s seat was his in the restaurant.

But while the supports made the conditions more favorable for a happy ending, at the end of the day they were just that, support. It took Kanzaki and Hoshiro being friendly, open, and honest with each other, and especially Hoshiro bringing up how she heard he test subject, like her, at that crucial moment.

If she hadn’t they might have gone their separate ways, perhaps forever. But I’m immeasurably chuffed she did, and the resulting re-connection was nothing short of mesmerizing. Time for some #Adulting!

ReLIFE returned quite out of the blue to rip my heart out with the prospect of tearing apart two lovely people who had only just found each other…only to painstakingly reconstruct that heart, and fill it back up with love until it almost burst all over again, only in a good way!

Of course, you’re mileage may vary, depending on whether you read the entire web manga (I did not) and your particular emotional investment. Clearly, my investment was significant, and one and a half years of time away didn’t dull it in the slightest. This was a big win.

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ReLIFE – 16

Well THAT escalated quickly! Christmas is approaching, and after Kaizaki recommends an almost too-pure-for-the-world Oga to just take Kariu anywhere and they’ll have fun, he suddenly finds Hoshiro not only avoiding him, but bolting away like a scared chipmunk whenever he makes eye contact.

Kariu and Tamarai kinda already know what’s up; both Kariu and Oga previously pegged Kaizaki and Hoshiro as being in love, so they convene in the locker room to get it from the horse’s mouth. Yet all Hoshiro can say about her feelings is “I don’t know.” Kariu, suddenly the mature one to provide the advice, tells her “I don’t know” isn’t going to cut it…not when she’s just “one step away.”

Later, Tamarai simply advises Hoshiro to ask Kaizaki on a date, just as Oga advised Kaizaki to ask Hoshiro. But just when Kaizaki thinks their distance couldn’t be any greater, Hoshiro sneaks up behind him and asks him if he’s free on the 25th and to expect further details by LIME.

That night, Kaizaki is a nervous wreck, but finally gets those details, along with another silly Hoshiro cat sticker. Hoshiro makes it clear it’s a date and she’s looking forward to it. After getting the all-green from Yoake, Kaizaki isn’t about to turn her down, even if he believes it will “ruin her Christmas” when she inevitably forgets all about him.

The date starts out a bit stiff, but both parties seem to be enjoying themselves immensely as they mill around the mall doing date stuff. In an adorable little detail, Hoshino, completely unaware that “Christmas” dates typically happen on Christmas Eve, set the date for Christmas day, but that ends up working out just fine, as it’s a lot less crowded.

The montage of their date is a somewhat creepy montage of photos taken by Yoake and Onoya, who are keeping a respectful distance but still watching and listening to their charges like hawks…while trying to get in some Christmas chilling of their own.

When Onoya acknowledges with a somber look that both of the lovebirds will forget all about their wonderful date, Yoake, always trying to find the silver lining, says that won’t mean it never happened…which, fine, but dude, that’s not the same of having a date and remembering it! The latter is much better, and these two deserve much better!

Yoake, having at least a sliver of heart, sends a quick message to Kaizaki informing him it’s actually Hoshiro’s birthday. When she gets him a present for Christmas, he gets her one for both Christmas and her birthday, bringing a warm and appreciative smile to her face.

When the two go up in a Ferris Wheel, Hoshiro asks Kaizaki what his birthday is. He tells her it already passed in August, and both get very troubled and pained when they say they’ll just have to celebrate it next year, knowing full well (at least at this point) that next year won’t happen for them, and saying they’ll never forget today. It’s hard to watch, I tellsya!

But even if nothing romantic happens on the Ferris Wheel, things turn around on a bridge. Kaizaki impulsively reaches out and takes Hoshiro’s arm as if to hug her, but she draws back. Apologizing, she tells him how much he’s “on her mind”, and the more he’s on her mind, the less she understands what to do.

It’s all the opening Kaizaki needs. He tells her she’s on his mind to, and that he loves her. That in turn allows Hoshiro to take the one final step Kariu was talking about: she tells him her feelings for him are the same.

With that, it suddenly starts raining. Ever prepared, Hoshino breaks out her umbrella and holds it out for Kaizaki. He takes hold just above her hand, but she puts her hand over his before they walk away together into the dark sacred night.

I honestly have no idea where things will go from here, and I can’t rule out the possibility Yoake will have his way and their memory of one another will vanish, which would be an appalling tragedy. That’s why I wouldn’t have minded if this was the final episode.

After sixteen episodes of these two, things are exactly where I want them. Will I regret watching one more episode? Am I a fool for hoping some kind of happy ending is still possible? One, perhaps, in which they meet and hit it off as strangers? Hey, I’ll take a relationship respawn over a system failure any day.

ReLIFE – 15

In this outing the Aoba Fest, with its maid/butler cafe and stalls and bonfire, comes and goes fairly briskly. Kaizaki and Hishiro alike try to make the most of their second chance at a pivotal time in high school life, but it’s a decidedly bittersweet experience.

It’s obvious why it’s sweet: the festival looks like a lot of fun, especially when much of it has Kaizaki, Hishiro, and their friends dressed to the nines. After Hishiro tried to get Yoake to slip up and tell her Kaizaki is also a subject, she tries to find out for herself by grabbing Kaizaki’s arm and drawing close to him, as if they were dating…with inconclusive results.

She could interpret him as being uncomfortable because he’s really an adult, or he could just be flustered because she’s acting out of the ordinary, which she kinda is. The bitter part comes when the festival ends, when Kaizaki laments that he’ll “vanish” when his ReLife ends.

Yoake corrects him by saying he has to take solace in knowing he left his “mark” with these high schoolers; things happened in their lives that wouldn’t have happened without Kaizaki.

Onoya has a similar chat with Hishiro, telling her to take pride in the fact she’s taken a “lovely step forward” by taking an interest in someone like Kaizaki. Whether it’s true love or not, that’s something the pre-ReLife Hishiro couldn’t do.

Yoake’s attempt to cheer Kaizaki doesn’t last when his class undergoes college counseling. Both he and Hishiro choose to go to Aoba U like Kariu and Oga, even though they know it’s “pointless” since in reality their ReLifes will end and they won’t be joining their friends, nor will their friends remember them.

Any way you look at it, that stings. That stings hard enough to wonder if it was a bad idea to do a ReLife in the first place, even when one considers how socially and emotionally improved it made them.

It stings enough for Kaizaki to ask Yoake if he really has to go back to his old life, and has to let all the friends he’s made forget about them. Yoake reminds him that Kaizaki didn’t become someone new in his ReLife, he regained the friendly straightforward person he was.

But that restoration couldn’t have happened if Kaizaki hadn’t lived his life as he had before ReLife, which he’s now asking to discard. Yoake tells him not to give up on “Original” Kaizaki; “High School” Kaizaki is, after all, only an illusion.

Onoya, having only just started becoming Hishiro’s support, has nevertheless been engaged with the whole crew for some time now, and unlike Yoake, hasn’t quite accepted what they’re doing and sees the end result as cruel, sad, and scary.

Continuing his role as comforter-in-chief, Yoake tells her ReLife isn’t about enjoying every moment to the fullest in a life that is fleeting by design, and all they can do in their capacity as ReLife staff is support them with everything they’ve got, without regrets.

That night, Hishiro resigns herself to the fact there’s really no way to find out for sure whether Kaizaki is a fellow test subject, and there’s no point in thinking about it…yet she can’t stop thinking about it. Could that mean it’s not so pointless after all?

The next day is class photo day, and Kaizaki and Hishiro both know that it’s a photo in which no one else in the shot, not even the good friends they’ve made, will remember them.

They’ll be like “ghosts” in such a photo. And yet, just as the shot is taken, they look in each others‘ directions, holding out hope that a fragment of a memory will still remain in someone’s mind when they look at this photo.

Must all of the dream-crushing things the vile Yoake says really come to pass according to plan? Must these two people really forget one another? I, like them, certainly hope not!

ReLIFE – 14

Well, this is a nice surprise on the second day of Spring when there’s a Nor’easter pummeling my coast: a bonus episode of one of my favorite shows of 2016, ReLIFE! These four new reviews won’t make much sense without watching the 13 that came before, which I highly recommend. You can catch up by reading my reviews here.

When we left the main couple of Hishiro and Kaizaki, we knew they were both subjects, but they didn’t know that they were, and so maintained a distance that was not bridged, since they both assume they’ll lose contact with the other forever because of the nature of ReLIFE.

Still, both have benefited tremendously from their experiences as high schoolers, and continue to do so. Meanwhile, real high schoolers Kariu and Oga are now an item, while Yoake is transferring Hishiro to his junior Onoya now that she’s entering an “unprecedented” second year.

Hishiro now rather strongly suspects that Kaizaki is a test subject like her, but Yoake will neither confirm or deny it, while warning her that if she learned that he was a subject, it would spell the end of his experiment and an immediate severance, and Hishiro would never see him again.

With that in mind, Hishiro treads carefully, but is still eager to learn the truth. To that end, when Kaizaki is made the class boys’ cultural festival officer, she volunteers to be the girls’ officer. They work tremendously well together and the paperwork flies off the proverbial desk.

Their work is momentarily interrupted by a problem Oga is having. He got in a fight with Kariu for shooting down the idea of her coming over to his place after a date, because he didn’t want to hurt his older shut-in brother and feared Kariu wouldn’t “approve” of him.

Kaizaki and Hishiro put on a veritable friend-cheering-up and advise clinic, with Kaizaki assuring Oga that the best way to act around family is naturally, without hiding anything, while Hishiro assures him if he just tells Kariu what’s up, she’ll accept it; in fact, she’s probably mad because he didn’t in the first place.

Afterwards, Kaizaki and Hishiro exchange words of mutual respect. Kaizaki, unaware that Hishiro is a fellow adult, continues to be astounded by her maturity and wisdom beyond her years, while Kaizaki’s very accurate suspicions persist.

The two continue festival prep, and Oga and Kairu make an appearance to show they made up nicely, but later in the day, when Kaizaki returns to the classroom to find Hishiro worn out and asleep at her desk, he resists the urge to touch her head in affection, while in his head admitting he’s fallen for her.

So, we’ve come a little further from the fireworks festival episode, in that Hishiro is on to Kaizaki (the level of her surety is up for debate, but the fact she’s right is indisputable) and Oga and Kariu are doing nicely as a couple. But both Kaizaki’s ignorance of Hishiro’s true age and Oga’s veiled threat prevented all the truth from coming out. We’ll see if that happens in the next bonus episode.

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 Yoake, 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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