Anime Review: ReLIFE

Genre: Science fantasy, drama, romance

Episodes: 13

Rating: 7/10

To get another chance at living an easier, more carefree time of your life. That would be ideal, wouldn’t it? No more worrying about searching for a new job, paying the bills, or any of that old, boring, crusty adult stuff.

That’s exactly the deal that 27 year old Kaizaki Arata gets when he meets a mysterious man called Yoake Ryō.

One pop of a magic pill and he’d be rejuvenated by 10 years- which would then allow him to attend highschool all over again. That would be a dream come true for many. Unfortunately, life isn’t an anime, no matter how much we wish it would be.

Luckily for Kaizaki, ReLIFE is one.

So what is ReLIFE exactly about?

If you’ve taken the time to at least keep up with news regarding Japan every now and then, you might have heard of the term “karoshi”, and in turn, the difficulties found in a Japanese working environment.

For those who aren’t aware, “karoshi” is a Japanese word that is defined as death from overwork, or suicide from work-related stress.

As one of the few Japanese entertainment shows to touch upon the subject, I was immediately intrigued. An anime about karoshi? You can bet I’d pay to see that- and I did.

The story starts with a peek at half-NEET Kaizaki Arata’s daily life. After quitting his job of only 3 months, he struggles to find employment, as companies refuse to hire someone who seems unreliable on paper. He claims that the reason behind his resignation is that the company “does not fit his highest potential” when in reality, he couldn’t bear the thought of working for a black company any longer.

So with his reputation in pieces, he walked away from that job and has been struggling ever since. The situation only worsens when his parents cut off his allowance, and he has to fall back on his only other source of income- a part-time job he managed to snag at a mini market.

It is at this point that Yoake enters his life, and offers him a job opportunity, on the condition that he agrees to be a test subject for a scientific experiment first. This experiment involves rejuvenating Kaizaki by 10 years and sending him back to highschool as a student, in order to fix whatever is wrong with his life as well as to provide a chance of enjoying youth again.

Desperate and running out of funds, Kaizaki agrees and signs the contract.

So that was it. He has a year to fix his life and maybe, just maybe, score a job.

Getting a bit too real in here

Despite the obviously fantastical element, ReLIFE does manage to weave in doses of bitter reality in its tale.

The Japanese working environment is not an easy one, and ReLIFE does not hesitate to explore the hardships it possesses. From sexism, power harassment and disregard for life, this anime lays it out on a silver platter. The content is perhaps not as in depth as one might wish it would be, but it does the job nonetheless. And it is through this that one might get the Japanese’ obsession with the highschool genre- things were just much more simple back then, no?

That said, ReLIFE is not without its light-hearted moments. It has plenty of those, especially when Kaizaki struggles to fit in as a student. Having been out of school for so long, the really-a-27-year-old has completely forgotten what he had learned in classes all those years ago. Maths? What the heck is that? The man can’t remember how to solve third year equations for the life of him.

Don’t even get him started on his dilemma with a certain attractive and jarringly familiar girl in his class.

So is ReLIFE worth a watch? I would think so, especially if you’re interested in the subject of karoshi.

The anime retains a fun, easy-going feel despite its darker undertones, and this makes it easier to watch in one go. There is plenty of humour to be had in this, with an amusing cast of characters and their own stories to further colour it.

I look forward to watching Season 2 the conclusion of this series.

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Anime Review: Your Name

Genre: Supernatural, Romance

Rating: 8-8.5/10. I can’t decide because dang it, I want more

Hailed as the movie to beat Miyazaki’s famed “Spirited Away” in 2016, “Your Name” immediately impresses with its beautiful use of colours in its animation. There are few anime that can leave me in awe over its aesthetic artistry; this is one of them. You know that shit is good when you can tell the amount of love and hard work was put into the art from a single glance.

Moving away from that, the story itself is definitely worthy of appreciation. Largely removed from the usual tropes we see in anime today, this is a movie that will entertain both younger and older fans of the genre. Don’t believe me? Keep reading.

“Your Name” is centered around two protagonists; a bored girl named Mitsuha who lives in the countryside, and a boy named Taki who lives in Tokyo. It begins with a confusing start, as “Mitsuha” behaves in a way everyone can tell is odd, but this is soon explained as we are told about the body switch phenomenon. This is something that takes Mitsuha and Taki awhile to figure out, as they quickly forget about each other, like dreams, but they can tell the experiences are real thanks to the people around them.

Funnily enough, despite her initial shock and horror, becoming a handsome boy who lives in Tokyo was actually poor Mitsuha’s wish. She just couldn’t take the quietness of country life!

Unfortunately for her, these body switch experiences are not permanent, as they happen repeatedly and seemingly at random throughout the movie. Still, Taki and Mitsuha manage to create a bond despite not meeting each other. A wonderfully done part of the storytelling, as it feels sincere and exists without cliches.

The hilarity that happens each time they switch makes it all the better!

Honestly speaking, I’d love to go on and on about the movie -how could I not?- but for the sake of avoiding spoilers, I will refrain from doing so.

Really, it is something that needs to be watched on your own for better understanding.

In essence, “Your Name” is a story that is filled with friendship, sacrifice and romance- with bits of Japanese culture thrown into the mix. You’ll be given an insight into old Japanese traditions and rituals such as the making of kuchikamizake, which is a type of rice-based of alcohol produced by the main female lead. The famed red string of fate makes a few appearances as well!

With the presence of symbolism and certain plot lines, “Your Name”  is a film that makes you think about it even after it is over- which is another thing I love about it. It is no way a heavy thinker, but it does do the trick. Those who are fascinated by Japanese culture will certainly be happy with this.

That said, I do wish that there was more to be told in terms of Mitsuha and Taki’s relationship. It feels like the movie could have benefited a bit more if we were given more “interactions” between the two; just so we can root a lot harder for the pair than we already do. The lack of time the producers had is really obvious.

All in all, this is another anime I’m adding to my list of recommendations. It exceeded my expectations, and yes, it is comparable to Miyazaki’s works.

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Anime Review: Erased

Genre: Fantasy, mystery, thriller

Rating: 10/10 with lovely animation to boot

After the slew of disappointing anime after disappointing anime, my interest in this particular brand of animation started to dwindle for awhile there. So much that I went for months without watching one, with even a year in between viewings.

A bit sad, considering how large a part anime has had in my life. I was so obsessed I used to draw my favourite characters, even bought those little official figurines to put on display in my room.

Thankfully, Erased has restored my faith in this genre.

Which, in turn, led me to kicking myself for letting the DVD gather dust on my shelf. It’s so rare to find a series, and I mean this in the broadest way possible, from books to live action tv to anime, that is good from start to finish.

Because that is precisely what Erased is. With only 12 episodes under its belt, those who can’t stand long ongoing anime can let out a sigh of relief. It is a nicely sized anime that makes good use of its time. No fillers. No prolonged monologuing. You can easily finish this over the weekend, or within a day if you’re determined to complete it in one sitting.

But before we get on to the rest of the review, here is a quick summary of what it is all about:

Erased follows the story of Satoru Fujinuma, who possesses a unique ability called “Revival”. With Revival, he is able to travel back in time before a life-threatening incident, allowing him to prevent it from happening. When his mother is murdered by an unknown assailant, Satoru panics and transports himself back in time by 18 years whilst he’s cornered by the police- which means he has to relive his life as an 11 year old. Here, he quickly figures out that if he hopes to prevent his mother’s death, he must first prevent the deaths of two of his classmates, and of one girl from a nearby school.

Now, bear in mind that this review is based on the point of view of someone who has only watched the anime. There may be certain manga-exclusive details I’m unaware of.

Anyways.

The show starts off simply enough, with the introduction of Satoru who is a struggling manga artist working as a part-time pizza delivery man. At first glance, he gives off the classic cold, stoic vibe that is immensely popular in anime. Think Uchiha Sasuke (Naruto) and Ishida Uryuu (Bleach). However, Erased proceeds to show that Satoru is much more flexible as a character, as in he is able to warm up more easily to others. The lad can certainly be quite emotive, which is a useful tool for nudging the story along.

And not to mention essential too, to grant a well-balanced tone to Erased. One that maintains an appropriate level of sobriety whilst remembering to bring in dashes of good cheer and heartwarming moments, so as not to overwhelm the audience. Definitely a plus in my book, because it makes it easier to consume in one go.

As a murder mystery, the identity of the villain is obvious almost immediately. However, the thrill of Erased lies not in figuring out the antagonist’s identity, but in his and Satoru’s metaphorical game of chess. Even with the advantage of knowing future events, Satoru struggles to outsmart the faceless killer, mind reeling as he desperately tries all he can to save his friends.

But take heed. If what you’re looking for is a villain with a deep, tragic background, you’re definitely not going to find it here. There is no sympathy meant for him, because sometimes, as I believe this is how Erased wants us to take it, people are born infected with psychopathy. It’s simply a matter of whether or not they decide to take the right path.

Definitely a refreshing take, as this breaks away from yet another popular trope found in anime. Erased has a knack of doing that; introducing ideas that seem predictable, before proving you wrong. If it is not that, it seems to know exactly what you’re wondering about before providing you with the answer right then and there. It’s something that it does, right from the beginning till the end. It’s almost uncanny, but it’s also one of the things I love about it.

I won’t delve into the meatier parts of Erased -gotta leave you something to watch, right?- so I’ll touch on one last point.

If there is anything about this series that nags at me a little, it would have to be the existence of Satoru’s ability. In the anime at least, it seems that this is exclusive to Satoru only, which I normally wouldn’t take issue with if not for the fact that everything else seems immensely… normal. No one else exhibits supernatural abilities, nor is there an indication of there being such a thing aside from Satoru and his Revival. I’m more than accustomed to seeing supernatural powers in anime, but those are always in settings that establish it as the norm or at least acknowledge its existence.

This makes Erased stick out a little, but not enough for me to complain about it. After all, the creators have done an amazing job with the time they were given, and explaining that ability further would require more episodes they do not have. We’ll just have to take it for what it is: that Satoru is unique.

All in all though, a wonderful series, especially for older anime fans who want something that goes beyond the common tropes found in anime. This is definitely going on my Must Watch Anime List.

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