The narrative structure of ReLIFE is a bit oddball, though it’s mostly in an endearing way. We started out with what looked like a strong focus on the central plot, diverted to side stories about kids in Arata’s class, went back to the central plot, and now we’ve pivoted back to another classmate. All of these stories have worked, but I’m not sure this is how I would have gone about ordering them (or indeed, whether or not this is the way the chapters are ordered in the manga).
This time around the focus turns to Honoka Tamarai, Rena’s BFF and the captain of the volleyball club. She’s been around for a while as an accessory to Rena’s storyline, but I was kind of surprised to see her getting her own arc. That’s compounded by the fact that so far at least Arata isn’t an important part of it, which gives the story a rather disconnected feel. With Kariu and Hishiro’s arc, Arata and his interactions with those two was an essential component at the very least. Why is Honoka’s story getting a multiple-episode run if Arata is irrelevant to it? Perhaps that will be answered in the next episode (perhaps he’ll prove to be relevant after all).
Honoka certainly has her problems, don’t get me wrong – if indeed ReLIFE is intending to make this a series a compendium on the various social syndromes facing teens, she’s doing her part. Turns out she’s almost as academically challenged as Arata (she fails five midterms to his seven), though she seems pretty OK with that. A bigger hurdle is that because she’s always been so gifted athletically that others don’t tend to relate to her, and don’t appreciate how hard she works to get where she gets to. The only ones who really understand her are her osananajimi Inukai (whose mother is the school nurse, played by the stellar veteran Shiraishi Ryoko) and Asaji, whose presence is the reason she attended this school with its weak volleyball team in the first place.
Honoka’s story is fine, though as I said it feels pretty disconnected to me at least. I also find Kariu and Hishiro more interesting and relatable, so it’s no surprise that their scenes are the best ones of the episode. Hishiro’s encounter with Arata in the classroom is utterly charming – her social cluelessness remains endearing. And Kariu’s blowup at Honoka after she injures her ankle is the most tense moment of the episode. Kariu means well, but that temper of hers does present a real problem because while the person she’s really angry at is usually herself, she vents it by lashing out at others in a very hurtful way. And they’re not always going to be as patient and forgiving as her classmates have been so far.
There are a couple of extraneous (even more than Honoka’s storyline generally) moments that I can only assume are foreshadowing of some sort. First Hishiro’s consciousness “leaves her body”, whatever that means – I took it as a manifestation of her larger social awkwardness, but given what happens later with Honoka I’m not so sure. She’s described as “pale” more than once, and passes out during practice after feeling weak (which indirectly leads to Kariu’s injury). Is there some kind of anime illness brewing her, or is this connected to ReLIFE in any way? Could it be both? Please don’t answer – I’ll find out soon enough…