I never venture that much into randomness, especially in the realm of mangas not unless I’ve read/heard a recommendation. It feels great however when I discover brilliant finds such as ReLIFE.
I’ve discovered Barakamon pretty much the same way – and was surprised to find out that this is also a web serialized manga. This got me thinking – how explored really is the web series territory? I don’t think I’ve seen a lot of scanlated series from Gangan Online alone…
Anyway, onto the topic!
If not high schoolers, it’s salarymen who are often the typical protagonist set up for some plot that would extraordinarily change their life. The salarymen trope is often associated to conformity, just as how ‘ordinary’ high schoolers are, except that this trope has this charm with regards to quarter-life crisis (life goals, settling down) unlike naive high schoolers who just want some adventure. What I’m trying to say is, more often than not, it’s a better stage if you want more depth than the usual slice of life. ReLIFE manga takes advantage of that. I guess what makes it a nice hotpot for me is due to the story being a combination of both the salaryman and high schooler archetype.
ReLIFE’s story follows the protagonist Kaizaki Arata, a 27-yr old man, struggling to hunt for a corporate job. He had a very short stint of three months with his first company since he resigned after a traumatic incident. This basically served as a dirty stain in his resume resulting to failed job applications afterwards. If you read the synopsis (Batoto), the story involves a so-called ReLIFE Research Institute, the company responsible for ‘hiring’ Arata as a test subject for their ‘experiment’. The premise of the experiment entails Arata to take an age-regressing drug (a perfected APTX 4869!!) and relive highschool for a year (thus the title). After completing the experiment, Arata then gets a referral that would land him a sure corporate job.
Some people would probably disagree that starting a corporate career means normal life but when you read the manga, Arata’s background is slightly revealed having come from a rural hometown, which I guess somewhat justifies his aspiration/hunger towards corporate life – a scene usually associated to an urban life.
I honestly think ReLIFE as a title is a misnomer because what Arata had to do was more of ‘re-experiencing’ high school once more. Reliving means everything would be the same from how it was. Re-experiencing is a different game since he’ll go through the process with different people, environment and expectations this time around. This actually sets the tone of the story regarding personal growth – since he has the choice this time to improve and put things right. I’ve always been a fan of stories that highlights character growth which is why I’m a fan of Yukino from Karekano, and almost all of H&C’s characters. Just like the two titles I mentioned, ReLIFE deals with growth, except it creates a pseudo environment for its protagonist to develop, and was able to pull it off naturally. (I guess that’s the point of it being called an ‘experiment’!)
Did I mention that everyone’s memories of Arata will be erased after the experiment? I guess this is also one of the aspects of the story which draws a line for Arata as to whether he’ll act as ‘a shadow passing by’ as he phrased it, or go all-out as high-schooler once again. ReLIFE Project’s aim is to gear up the NEETs so that they can go back into the corporate scene. Yoake, the person who monitors Arata, is responsible for examining if the experiment is a success or not. It is therefore implied that Arata must show growth and improvement as an individual. He may easily breeze through the year and land a job after the experiment, but it will be a mere temporal growth that won’t be sustained if there’s no shift in his mentality.
Another aspect that the manga explores is ‘second chances’. Failure in life does not always give you the option to retry, just like how the three-month stint of Arata would forever be a blot in his resume. He didn’t have the chance to redeem himself because no one has hired him after seeing this peculiar record. The high school where Arata studies for the experiment has implemented the system of endless retake exams for the students until they pass it. This may not amount to how the world outside the education ladder works but it reinforces one’s determination to keep trying despite failure – a trait that the test subjects might have lost along the way. For the most part, one would realize the grave importance of education, not in terms of knowledge, but in building one’s character – something recent shows with a high school setting have been taking for granted.
The more recent chapters would take us through Arata’s gradual involvement in the life of other students as he slowly builds his circle of friends. These chapters pretty much propel the story to character development since Arata takes up a supporting role in encouraging the students in their own share of burden. I like these chapters because there’s this implicit mutual growth between the characters while we see Arata’s internal struggle to pick himself up in front of the young ones who are doing their best. It’s not heavy drama (read: forced, at least for me) – plus there’s loads of funny conversations and interactions so the character development had its well-balanced humor.
Meanwhile, the grown-up segments of the story set a more serious atmosphere as what happened with Arata in his previous company gets revealed. We go back to the tense and gloomy part of the story where Arata lost his faith in his previous company. These flashbacks slowly haunt him as it gets triggered by the people around him. For now, this serves as the core of his character development – as to whether he’ll be able to recover from it, which pretty much is the reason why he feels miserable and adrift.
So far, I haven’t seen any pet peeves that would make me stop reading it because it simply delivers both in narrative and entertainment aspect. I guess the only questionable part of the story at this point is the entity ReLIFE Research Institute. Very little has been disclosed about the company, and the chapters have yet to reveal its ultimate goal behind the experiments. Well, not to mention how shady the age-regressing drug is! To be frank though, I’m not sure if we’ll ever get more details on this one since sci-fi hardly is a focus of the story. I guess if that’s something you can overlook, you’ll thoroughly enjoy it.
If my post made you want to read it, let me know your thoughts once you’ve tried a few chapters! It’s already slated for an anime but there’s no confirmed date as of yet on when it will be airing.
image credit: Yayoi Sou