I’m still not sure exactly what to do with ReLIFE, but I’m sure I really like it.
TMS is having quite the season, and ReLIFE is a big part of it. I don’t know how I’m going to end up watching this series (I suspect I’ll shoehorn episodes in on the rare occasions when things slow down) and I can’t even really read discussions about it when so many people have finished it. But this series is really good – way, way above average. In fact, it may just be the first high school series where I’ve actually liked every member of an ensemble cast. So far at least there’s not a bad apple in this barrel (though I suppose there’s still time).
What I really love about ReLIFE is the way it subtly plays up the differences between Arata and the kids he’s attending school with. On some level 17 and 27 don’t seem all that far apart, but in truth that gap is an ocean – a galaxy. It’s not that Arata is exceptionally smooth with women or mature (clearly), but in this context he comes off as such without even trying to. The way he immediately spots Ooga’s putting his foot in it with Kairu, the way he remembers everyone’s names reflexively, the way he an read and assess a situation far better than his classmates. They say youth is wasted on the young, but experience is equally wasted on the old(er) – and while Arata is no Ojii-san, he’s getting a rare opportunity to apply what he’s learned through his unexceptional decade of simply surviving.
Ooga (Uchida Yuuma) is a nice kid, if completely clueless (about the earring thing, too – but then, he’s a 17 year-old boy) and he offers to tutor Arata after he fails every test. Oonoya An – who managed to trump (sorry) Arata’s “4” with a “2” on her math test – horns in on that, and she’s likeably goofy. But it’s the new class rep Hishiro Chizuru (played by the peerless Kayano Ai) who gets the biggest slice of the pie in the second episode. She’s another kid who Arata reads with ease, and she definitely picks up on the vibe that he’s different from the others in her class. A loner who’s never been able to make any friends, she latches onto the “dumb” Arata like a life preserver – with pretty adorable results.
By contrast, the third episode is generally more about the aforementioned Kariu Rena (played by another top-drawer seiyuu in Tomatsu Haruka, though this part is not a stretch for her to say the least). She’s certainly the tsundere in the group, and at least as troubled as Hishiro even if those troubles look completely different. Kariu has friends, but she’s incredibly hard on herself and ultra-competitive. And she’s on a bad run of second-place finishes – Hishiro beat her out for the class rep position (and the coveted free lunch pin – is that common in Japanese schools?) by scoring higher on the first-day tests, and her friend and volleyball team captain (to Kariu’s co-captain) Honoka-san beats her out athletically. And for someone as obsessed with winning as Kariu, finishing second is probably worse than finishing last. And for her, stuff like the target of her obsession Hishiro not even remembering her name is about as existentially brutal as it gets.
Yoake implies that Kariu is a potential trouble spot, and that certainly wouldn’t be a shock. Between Ooga’s cluelessness about her affections and Hishiro accidentally terrifying her with hideous death’s head grins, she seems pretty on-edge. Meanwhile Arata himself seems to be settling in pretty well, even as he keeps failing tests both academic and physical. I can pretty much speak from experience that Arata’s trials during the trials were spot-on – you just can’t get away with waltzing onto the field and putting your body through that kind of stress once your armor-clad teenage years are that far in the rear-view mirror. Arata certainly isn’t old, but he’s not the sort of young his classmates are, that’s for sure.
Maybe I’ll get a hankering to marathon ReLIFE one of these days, who knows – but right now having time for that seems as far-fetched as a 27 year-old taking a pill to look like a 17 year-old. I won’t make any promises to you about the blogging schedule, but I’ll certainly blog this series one way or the other – it’s a strong season so far, but this show has a chance to elbow its way into the top tier if it delivers on the promise of the first three episodes. Oh, and by the way – please, no spoilers in the comments, not just for my sake but for the other readers, too. Thanks for being considerate.