What They Say:
Arata Kaizaki is a 27-year-old loser. While struggling to get a job, things have not been going well for him. When he meets a member of the ReLife Research Institute, he’s offered a mysterious pill that could give him a chance to pull his life together. The catch? He must make it through another year of high school. Is being a teenager again worth a new life or will he end up failing again?
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo as well as the English language dub, which gets the 5.1 boost, both of which are encoded with the lossless Dolby TrueHD codec. The show doesn’t garner a lot from having a 5.1 mix as it’s mostly a dialogue oriented piece with a couple of bigger moments that wouldn’t even qualify as action. The show handles everything well as it’s a real-life kind of piece so the ambient noise and background sound effects give it a bit more life and the music hits some good notes within the show as well as through the opening and closing, but it is by and large just a dialogue show. This is well-handled where there’s some good placement from time to time and the inner monologue aspects but it’s not something that’s going to stand out. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2016, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second. Animated by TMS Entertainment, the series works its real world setting well with some very solid detail to the backgrounds and its overall color design while not going for something that’s overtly rich and toned, instead coming across as a bit cool and perhaps a bit careful with its budget. It all fits and works but it doesn’t have that high gloss sheen and polish to it. The encoding works this well as there’s a certain coolness to the colors that holds up well and with it being all about the dialogue it’s not trying to deal with a lot of high motion scenes, rather scenes involving a lot of sitting around talking or walking around talking. Everything is solid and problem free throughout which makes it a very good experience.
The limited edition version of this release comes in a heavy chipboard box with a very well designed wrapping that gives it a slightly different tactile feeling that I like. It uses the familiar artwork from the Japanese side with Arata on the front while the back panel puts two of the main characters together. The color design is solid and it just has a nice slick feeling without being too glossy. While I’m not a fan of digipaks this release is well-suited for one as it folds out using all of the Japanese artwork from their covers where it’s filled up with the character pieces with various colors all while mirroring the main cover design of the background block and logo. It’s simple but very effective and it looks great opening it up to see everything. The pack-in for this set is a nice selection of seven art cards that serve as character bios on one side while the reverse goes for a full block of color with a quote from the ReLIFE Laboratory.
The menus for this release are a bit simple but effective though I think it could have had a bit more style. The release works with clips from the show to give it a bit more life but with it working a lot of darker scenes it’s a bit more depressing than some of the key artwork that we’ve seen as a static piece that could have been done. The logo is kept in a blue block center top that’s simple but effective while the larger full-length block along the bottom gives us the standard navigation selection that doubles as the pop-up menu during playback. Both work well and are functional and problem free but it just lacks a little something to give it some style as opposed to being a cut and paste of most every other menu.
The extras for this release are a bit minimal but there are some good things here. Having the clean opening and closing is a plus and I like revisiting the promos to see how a show was originally solicited. This release also gives us an English cast commentary track for the last episode to talk about the show as a whole and have some silly fun with each other.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga series from Yaoiso, ReLIFE is a thirteen episode series that aired in the summer 2016 season. The show was surprising for fans as they ended up getting it all released at once so that it could be binge viewed, which was met with a mixed response as expected and I don’t believe has been done again since unfortunately. The original manga from Yayoiso kicked off back in the fall of 2013 and has seven volumes to its name and it also got a live-action film earlier this year, which certainly upped its visibility. The show also performed well enough that next year we have some OVAs being produced for it to keep the story going on.
The premise for this is straightforward enough before it begins to really reveal itself. The focus is on Arata Kaizaki, a twenty-seven-year-old man who is something of a NEET but not quite depending on your definition. While he did the school thing and managed to get a job when he got out he couldn’t last there more than three months before quitting. And that was a huge stain on his “permanent record” of a resume that has other companies less than interested in him. So he’s doing part-time work in a convenience store and is still trying to go on interviews. Because of where he is he’s hiding what’s going on from his friends when they go out drinking as he plays it up as though he’s still working. It’s not an easy situation because he’s hiding much of who he is and that hollows out a person. To make matters worse as the series gets underway, his parents no longer are interested in covering for him by paying for a lot of things.
Where things go sideways for him is that he’s been watched for some time by an operate from the ReLife company as a potential test subject candidate. While he’s not given a clear idea of what it is, being told he could get a job at the end of a year of being a test subject, a year in which they’ll cover his living expenses, it makes it a no-brainer. The trick of it is that he takes a pill that rejuvenates him by ten years and they send him to high school s a third-year student again. The idea is that he can “fix” what’s wrong with him that makes him a NEET-type and then become a functional member of society. There are some huuuuge leaps of logic you have to make with this in order for it to work, but the charm of his supervisor with Ryo Yoake helps because he’s just so charming. And it doesn’t hurt that he works as an on-site observer and takes the pill himself so he can go to school with him and help out.
The idea of going back to high school to fix yourself does have some merit but it’s not like you’re reliving your life. You’re going into a new place, not the past, and are given a year in which you can change how you interact with other people. Particularly since once the year is done everyone will forget you and your experiences, ensuring that it doesn’t cause any sort of weirdness. Yeah, it’s just plain weird in itself but you have to roll with it. Arata’s experience is a slow build one here as he comes in as a transfer student at the start of the school year and slowly but surely makes friends. The problem is that we’re not really sure how his own high school experience went and the truth of the matter is that he’s not really a NEET and this doesn’t (really) solve his problem as we learn the truth of what happened at the company he worked at. I can get how it caused enough of a problem for him to be kind of withdrawn but there are just so many other issues at play that it really does feel like Arata is a completely wrong test subject pick.
In fact, while I won’t spoil it, the more we learn about what happened to Arata at that company in discovering that it’s a black company as well really just reinforces that he’s a good guy from the start and doesn’t have anything to truly atone for. Yes, he has to learn to connect with others and understand the impact of his actions, but for it to go “this far” with a ReLIFE approach just feels like it’s over the top. In fact, if the show hadn’t gone for that angle at all I could easily envision an intriguing series with a lead character struggling because of his choices and trying to get by and seeing it all unfold there as a proper drama rather than switched around to a high school figuring it all out phase. I mean, I like it, but it feels like the whole setup is kind of misplaced and that Ryo chose the wrong guy – even knowing the truth of what happened in that company.
A good part of the show focuses on the dynamic between Arata and Ryo as his handler had problems with the first test subject previously and got too involved so he’s trying to find a better balance here. There’s some good interplay between the two as it goes on and Ryo’s story definitely makes for some good expansion on events and I liked his work with An Onoya, his “junior” at the company who is in training to handle things with test subjects as well. It provides a way for Arata to talk with people in the know (and get a few drinks!) when in private so that he’s not isolated in this experience, which is both good and bad. The show also dovetails into a couple of friends that they all make within the case with Kazuomi and Rena and their relationship that’s slowly blooming as well as dabbling with a few other characters, which over the course of it allows for some decent character-centric episodes to unfold while giving Arata some connections to it all.
ReLIFE has some interesting ideas to work with and it succeeds in having good characters, particularly since even while they’re teenagers in the show they’re functionally adults who have had experiences and views on life. So many shows are still of the high school set that it’s engaging just to deal with it even from this angle. At the same time, ReLIFE feels like it missed a lot of opportunities where Arata could have been either more dismissive of what happens in high school knowing how life works or embraced more of it because it’s a lost period of life once it’s done and over with. The wonkiness of how the whole pill thing works is one of those best left unthought of and instead focus on the character material and the dynamics from there, which is where it succeeds. Funimation put together a solid release here through and through that’s definitely a fun experience overall.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 13 Commentary, Promo Video, Textless Opening Song
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: October 10th, 2017
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.