During this year’s Japanese Film Festival Online, I watched the live-action ReLIFE movie for the first time. An adaption of the light novels, which also beget an anime series, ReLIFE features part-time convenience store worker, Arata Kaizaki, as he’s given a chance to return to high school and “relive” a year of his life. The movie was very good, capturing the same warmth and honesty the anime did, and portraying the idea that life can crush us beneath expectations, bad choices, bad people, our own faults, and so much more, but that grace given us—in this case, from the ReLIFE corporation to Kaizaki, and from Kaizaki to Hishiro—can set us free.
In both this adaptation and the anime, I found myself relating to Kaizaki. Like him, life wasn’t what I expected it to be when I was a young adult. Though I was never a NEET nor had to endure years without full time work, I was in a similar malaise; I wasn’t who I wanted to be. There was this long, descending line I would picture in my mind of a good, parent-pleasing child who over the years became an arrogant, awkward, and self-serving man. I knew this to be true about myself, but either failed in efforts to become a better person or simply justified my own actions as being better than most.
As I hid from these personal failures, so, too, did Kaizaki, but from his friends, celebrating with them while dressed in a business suit, portraying himself as a busy businessman rather than as a convenience store laborer. It had been years since he was that young, “pure” soul starting out in the workforce, who shortly thereafter made the decision to quit the black company at which he was employed. Life had become worse and worse since then, and Kaizaki, like me, felt little hope in breaking out of a cruel cycle.
But one night, Kaizaki is approached by Yaoke, who offers him a pill that will give him the chance at a “ReLIFE.” He accepts, and through his interactions, relationships, and commitment to change, is saved to a new life. He graduates, receives a job, and becomes the man he once was, again full of vivacity, brightness, and optimism.
Kaizaki’s return to that earlier version of himself reminds me of Nicodemus, the Pharisee who secretly visited Jesus under cover of night and could not understand the master’s teachings about being “reborn,” reliving life, and returning to a sense of innocence. Much like the Pharisee, I didn’t really get the teaching. I was raised as a Christian, but had drifted from the faith, and by age 20, was drifting even more. I couldn’t even begin to understand, in my heart, the concept of being reborn.
But how sweet grace can be. A Yaoke came into my own life, offering to take me to church for Easter. I was by this time experimenting with eastern religions and trying to come to terms with my new identity as an agnostic. But I immediately, and quite of out character, accepted the invitation.
And thus began my own journey into a ReLIFE, except that instead of a pill, I drank of the wine and ate of the bread. Instead of a job promised to me after completing the course, I was promised eternal life and a spiritual family by simply accepting. And instead of accomplishing these things by committing to a transformed life and doing my best, I was accepted by God, just as I am.
Still, the outcomes were very similar. The Kaizaki at the end of both the ReLIFE movie and the anime resembles the one in some of the flashbacks—happy, excited, energized. He has been reborn. This is not some add-on to his life; the experiment changed everything about him.
Thinking back to Nicodemus, the Pharisees shows that the same type of outcome, that which should happen to a Christ follower. After Jesus was crucified, Nicodemus was involved in his burial, providing the spices used to embalm him, an extravagant amount fitting for royalty. The once secretive, ruling class Nicodemus is proudly and dangerously shouting his allegiance to the King.
Day and night. Hidden and open. Adult and child. Sinner and saved. Those who have encountered and given their lives to Christ are transformed completely. We’ve come to understand that Christ suffered and died that brutal death, and then rose from the grave, to offer us a brand new life, a return to how we were made to be—in the image of God, enduring and forever.
Thus the story of Good Friday and Easter Sunday, from one to the next, is the story of our lives before—dying, suffering, falling apart—and our ReLIFE after he’s risen, becoming something beautiful, new, and eternal.
I hope that if you’ve been given a ReLIFE, that you’re taking advantage of it by worshiping him through prayer, words, deed, and scripture reading, and that you’ve connected to a community of believers through which you can grow more and more in your faith. And if you haven’t taken the pill, haven’t chosen to experience your own ReLIFE, won’t you consider looking into that this Easter Sunday? Try out a church, ask God to meet you, perhaps join a small group, and open your heart to the possibilities that your life now isn’t what it’s fully meant to be.
The old life is not enough. You were made for so much more.