The Secret Stars of Anime: ReLIFE

ReLIFE is one of the more interesting new anime this summer for a couple of reasons, perhaps most notably how it was released: all 13 episodes of this show were made available for viewing at once. The entire show was made available on the Japanese “comico” website, and Crunchryoll put up all 13 episodes at once for premium subscribers (non-subscribers would be allowed to watch the show at the usual one-episode-per-week rate). As a premium subscriber myself, I was able to watch the entire show, and the show itself is really good. It has a very likable cast of characters with some strong character development. While the show does not do anything extraordinary, it is very well-executed for what it is and that makes for a very enjoyable experience.

The premise itself, admittedly, can raise some eyebrows. An unemployed 28-year-old, Arata Kanzaki, gets a visit from a mysterious organization and is given a special pill that makes him look ten years younger, and he gets to re-enroll himself in high school and live out a year there. In a medium heavily criticized for relying too much on the high school setting, you would think that sending an adult character back to high school would be the last thing you would want to do. And yet, ReLIFE makes it work, in part because the main character, despite his looks and status as a high school student, still acts very much like an adult. This leads well into the show’s theme, asking the question, “What would you do if you could live your high school life over again?”

For Arata, who initially thought he would just blend into the background and cruise through his year of high school without drawing attention, perhaps the answer of “get involved more” was not the answer he was going for. And yet, as he finds himself getting involved with the lives and problems of his classmates, he finds that he is getting more from his year of ReLIFE than he originally planned for.

Granted, when you accidentally bring your adult cigarettes into high school, not standing out stops being an option.

Arata has many reasons for not getting too involved with his classmates. Part of the ReLIFE experiment involves anyone who knew him during his year at school losing their memories of him, and he also has personal reasons involving a time when trying to get too involved with problems at his previous workplace seemed to only make things worse. (Saying any more would be very spoilerrific.) Even without those issues, though, Japanese culture does put a lot of emphasis on maintaining group harmony, leading to many people being hesitant to stick their neck out for someone in fear of breaking that harmony and getting scorned by everyone else. And some people just do not want to deal with anyone’s problems other than their own, plain and simple.

And yet, something inherently in Arata’s nature leads him to help out a fellow classmate as soon as he sees her having trouble paying for her lunch. This leads him to getting more involved than he thought he would, trying to offer advice from his adult perspective where he can and pushing people to face the truth rather than hide from it. It does become something of a balancing act in not interfering too much so that the other parties involved are resolving things of their own accord, but without going into spoilers, it is pretty easy to see how much worse everything would have been for these kids if Arata had not gotten involved.

It is as if the show is trying to say that, to make the most of our lives, we need to get involved with the lives of others. It is not like we need to become social butterflies; even just making a couple of close friends and helping them out can go a long ways. Of course, our involvement will not guarantee that others’ problems will be solved; sometimes things will not change or even get worse, or the other person can choose to refuse our help. However, the show seems to portray that getting involved is every bit as good for ourselves as it is for others: it allows us to form closer bonds and ultimately lead more fulfilling lives.

For Christians, this harkens back to Galatians 6 where Paul says that church members should bear one another’s burdens, while also being aware that, ultimately, each person is responsible for bearing his or her own burden. Finding that balance can be tricky, with the key being that each person should ultimately take the final action themselves, while others support him or her with advice or even just a listening ear. Still, getting involved is important for how it is a display of God’s love.

There are definitely more lessons to be taken from ReLIFE, but those go a bit deeper into the story and contain some spoilers so I will save those for later, once others have gotten the chance to watch the show. While the show does depict adults drinking alcohol, and while the show does build its premise over taking a weird drug, it lacks any other objectionable content of note, though do be warned that the show does address some fairly serious topics like bullying and its effects. Again, while it is not a revolutionary show by any means, it is a very well-executed show that makes good use of putting an adult back in high school, and I definitely recommend checking it out.

ReLIFE is streaming on Crunchyroll, with the bonus that premium members have access to all 13 episodes already.

One thought on “The Secret Stars of Anime: ReLIFE

  1. The manga in full and all upcoming chapters are translated every week on sunday at I would highly recommend it as it’s one of my favorite anime of all time and my favorite manga.

Leave a Reply