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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Assassination Classroom – 02

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Two episodes in, and I regret to report that AC just isn’t my cup of tea. This time, I followed Nagisa’s lead and took notes, listing the pros and cons as the show exhibited them. I came to the general conclusion that while show looks great and has its moments, too often it either feels tonally confused or overly sincere. It’s also too cloying, and a little too self-aware and proud of itself.

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It starts with an unironically cheesy OP that deflates world-and-pride-saving stakes that we’ve never been able to buy. As sensitive and detail-oriented as Koro-sensei is (and do love how he can travel to the ends of the earth on a whim), his desire to destroy the world makes no sense, and not of the ‘Haha, that’s so kooky!’ kind, but a willfully abstruce kind.

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The episode is peppered with silly situations and jokes, but many simply clank to the ground in failure, undermining the ones that hit. I personally don’t mind that Nagisa is a boy despite looking and sounding nothing like one in the traditional anime sense; it’s his tired narration and both his and the show’s tendency to repeat itself that grates. Yes, I understand, you’re killers whose target is a teacher. Except he’s a yellow monster and thus engenders zero sympathy.

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The class seems poised to go through a Wile E. Coyote-style process for attempting to assassinate Koro: try something once, and when it fails, never try again. But unlike Mr. Coyote’s target, Koro uses the attempt as an excuse to help the baseball kid adjust his mechanics to better suit his body type. This kid, like everyone in Class E, all have innate talents that Koro will likely help them identify and cultivate

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That brings us to the plight of Class E, the “End Class”, a relatively small group of students who are exiled to the dingy satellite campus and treated like dirt in order to make the majority of students work harder, as well as pump up their own collective sense of superiority. This is not that far off from the way this works in the real world; privileged kids are warned that if they don’t work hard and excel, they’ll end up in some crap school and get a crap job and live crap lives.

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This social commentary baked into this show is not entirely without promise, but in such an otherwise zany and irreverent setting and such a blatantly nonsensical premise, that serious stuff only contributes to the show’s confused tone and ‘kitchen sink’ approach to storytelling. Nagisa’s narrated analysis of Koro and some cheesy guitar music don’t change the fact that I can’t care about a silly yellow tentacle monster.

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There was once sequence I enjoyed despite these flaws, however: after failing to pile on top of Koro and stab him to death, Koro decides to be clever and replace all of their “anti-me” knives with tulips. Only problem is, those were tulips they all worked hard to plant and nuture.

Realizing his mistake, he blasts off at Mach 20 to procure more bulbs and proceeds to plant them, not at Mach 20, because he’s under the watchful gaze of the angered students. It’s a nice reversal of dominance.

But then I realize…what the hell does he care about planting tulips or telling the baseball kid to “train well and surpass his idol” when he’s going to destroy the world? A couple students jokingly point out this contradiction, but that doesn’t allay my frustration. Even if Koro had a proper human form, his actions and motivations are as muddled as the show’s tone.

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More than anything though, the periodic Nagisa narration, as well many of the students’ reactions to Koro, are simply trying too hard, constantly rubbing our noses in its somewhat-forced ‘craziness’, shouting “OMG, we have to kill our teacher, isn’t this so deliciously loony? Well, isn’t it?!”

Actually, no, it isn’t, at least not satisfyingly so. It’s a jumbled mess of tones and themes, over-stuffed with anonymous characters. It’s a show that wants so badly to be so many different things—and never lets you forget it—but its visual polish and genuine enthusiasm can’t mask its inherent gutlessness.

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Assassination Classroom – 01 (First Impressions)

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Well, my first impression was, “This looks exactly like Danganronpa but with more toned-down student designs.”

My second was “Whoa, that’s a whole class of kids pointing assault weapons at their teacher!” It’s a pretty bold, intense image, rather let down by the fact the teacher is about the furthest thing from a human being it could possibly be: a banana-yellow octopoid…thing.

Also, the bullets are pink pellets, and the dude moves so fast not a single round hits him. Which led to my third impression: this show has a ‘Sanitized for Your Protection’ feel about it that Danganronpa managed to avoid, even though it featured pink blood.

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This looks like Danganronpa because it’s from the same director, Kishi Seiji, who has done a lot of shows we’ve watched and reviewed here on RABUJOI, including Angel Beats!, Arpeggio of Blue Steel, Kamisama Dolls, and Persona 4. He’s kind of a high-concept extraordinaire.

Still, right off the bat this doesn’t have the makings of his magnum opus, competent-looking as it is. As I said, more toned-down character design could also be described as ‘dull and uninspired.’ Not only that, but this classroom has thirty students, double the number in Danganronpa. That’s…that’s just too many! I’m not remembering all of these rubes!

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The story of how the Yellow thing, later named “koro-sensei” in a play on words (because he’s ‘unkillable’), came to be this class’s teacher starts with him blowing up 70% of the Moon. They’re very particular about that number: 70. Thank god there aren’t 70 characters.

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After the military fails to kill him, he requests to teach a class, this class, by name, for reasons that escape everyone. The military then decides they’ll use the students in the class to off him, since they’re at close range all day long. Someone’s got to get a lucky shot in somewhere, right?

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Well, not so much. He can move at Mach 20, which means nothing hit him unless he wants it to, and he heals very quickly. The class has to be inventive. They also have to kill him before the term ends in March, or he’ll do to Earth what he did to the Moon. Even though he’s from Earth. The more patently ridiculous exposition I heard, the more I turned my brain off.

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The wimpy protagonist Nagisa (who is not a girl, as it happens) has self-esteem problems, to the point he agrees to go along with a much older, obviously very held-back n’er-do-well’s plan to kill the teacher with a suicide attack, providing another dark, disturbing image. If our protagonist is in this much of a hurry to leave the show, should we really be sticking around?

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Of course, if he had been killed in the failed assassination attempt, making the first of many deaths to follow, that would have been something. But after the blast the teache r is fine, Nagisa’s fine, everyone is fine.

The teacher even changes the palette of the classroom and morphs in to a scarier but still-not-very-scary ‘Furious Mode’, but he’s furious not because they tried to kill him, but because nobody was looking out for Nagisa, even Nagisa himself.

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Yes, Koro-sensei is threatening to destroy the world…but what world? This entire episode takes place in a ramshackle classroom apparently full of downtrodden misfits whose lives suck. Why not let him blow up the world and start fresh? He also threatens to kill the families of anyone who fights dirty, but unlike him, none of these threats have any teeth.

I know, I know, I should stop being a wet blanket; this is supposed to be a comedy, nothing serious. But I think I groaned more than I laughed, especially as the episode winds down and we get some super-corny feel-good music accompanying Nagisa’s super-corny feel-good monologue. The tone is all over the place, and it lacked an defined ‘edge’.

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