Remember when you had more pimples than unblemished skin? Remember when you started feeling like a moron 24/7? Remember when your body seemed to be made out of lumpy noodles? No? Just me?
In ReLIFE, an unemployed 27-year-old is given the chance to participate in a trial that will pay his living expenses for a year and even set him up for a job at the end of the experiment. The catch: He’ll have to take a pill that will turn him 17 again and, as a high school student, get in touch with the positivity and engagement he lost as an adult.
Slice-of-life, high school anime irritate me as a rule because they so rarely cut recognizable pieces out of my life experiences. But ReLIFE gets me: There’s a socially inept scholastic genius who genuinely doesn’t understand why people are jealous of her; there’s a girl who never quite makes it to the number one spot in sports or academics (or, apparently, even with the guy she likes) no matter how hard she fights; and there’s a clueless guy who genuinely doesn’t understand how dating or attraction work even though he’s a straight-A student. I’m pretty sure I went to high school with all three of these people.
There is a host of other characters, but our main man, 27-year-old-unemployed-NEET-turned-17-year-old-high-school-student Arata Kaizaki, is a pleasantly novel lens through which to view this speckled period of human life. From the front lines, Kaizaki offers insights into coping with personal problems and character flaws that, left unchecked, would undoubtedly affect his classmates well beyond their teenage years. Because of his experiences and his own desire to grow, Kaizaki helps others avoid making the same mistakes he did.
The writing’s funny, the characters are relatable, the animation is adequate, and the story is solid, even if season 1 ends before Kaizaki finishes out the school year. (Hopefully season 2 will round everything out satisfyingly.) It’s not the deepest sci-fi drama, but ReLIFE poses some thought-provoking questions about the shaping and perception of identity. There are compelling features to this tale, ones that I haven’t seen explored in other de-aging movies or series, and I think for that reason alone it’s worth checking out.
ReLIFE is available on crunchyroll. (Picture borrowed from here.)