The Summer 2021 Preview Guide
Remake Our Life!
How would you rate episode 1 of
Remake Our Life! ?
What is this?
Kyōya Hashiba is an unsuccessful game director. His company goes bankrupt, and he ends up returning to his parents' home. He lies in bed thinking about the successful creators of his generation. When he opens his eyes, Kyōya finds that he has gone back in time 10 years to when he started college. He has an opportunity to remake his life, starting as an arts college student. He now lives in a four-person coed share house. Kyōya has the chance to spend his formative years with creators he knows will be famous in the future, but things might not turn out as he expected
How was the first episode?
Boy, if any anime benefited from an hour-long premiere episode, it's this one. If the episode had only a 30-minute runtime, Kyoya would likely have been transported back to the past only a few minutes in—possibly at the exact point the episode baits us into thinking a time jump has happened when it hasn't. However, having double the total runtime gives us the chance to get to know Kyoya—and understand why exactly he is worthy of the chance to redo his life.
Kyoya is a person who had to balance his dreams with what he thought he could handle. Thus, aspiring to get into the game industry, he went to a college that would grant him the skills to work anywhere. And to his credit, he succeeded. However, the problem with having the same generalized skills as everyone else is that you're infinitely replaceable—which allows employers to treat you like crap.
Now as we see from his second job working for Eiko, his problem isn't that he isn't a hard worker. In fact, his generalized knowledge makes him a true asset, able to help out wherever. However, like with his first job, it is bad bosses and office politics that leave his second attempt at his dream crushed just like the first.
However, what's important is that even then, Kyoya doesn't blame his bosses or even simple bad luck: he blames himself. He knew that he had a chance to risk it all and instead chose the easy route. His decision to not go to art school is the root cause of everything. It's this sense of responsibility for his own actions that makes him karmically worthy of his trip through time.
The second half of the episode not only introduces us to the rest of the main cast but shows that despite his industry experience and mature work ethic, Kyoya still lacks what he always has: specialization. He can grasp the basic level aspects of his studies but some of the other students are already way past that since they're laser-focused on their goals. While he does have some things that only he can do, he hasn't found that one thing he wants to do. Going forward, that will be his goal—and maybe if he finds it this time his life will turn out differently.
Well, that wasn't what I was expecting. And, considering how low my expectations were, that's a good thing.
Here is what I thought Remake Our Life! would be: Kyōya, working a disappointing grindy job, passes out at his desk and wakes up in a completely different place. His social life is as disappointing as his professional life, since he has no time to meet people and has never so much as been on a date despite his age. He's disoriented, and one by one runs into girls displaying their boobs and/or butts in various ways. One is angry and slaps him, one is shy and stammering, and one is quiet and cool. He realizes… he's in college again? And all his dormmates are girls??? And in love with him??????
I hope you won't blame me for my cynicism; the years of slogging through dozens of crummy, cliche-ridden premieres in hopes of finding five or six worthwhile ones has left me feeling a bit jaded. While Remake Our Life! indulges in fan service tropes a couple times, the majority of the double-length premiere is actually much more thoughtful and grounded. Kyōya isn't a poor schlub so much as suffering from a string of totally believable bad professional luck; without an art degree, his job options are limited and he ends up working on crummy games nobody buys for a company that overworks him. When he seems to catch a break, it's a passion project that gets shut down because it's seen as a financial risk and resource hog compared to the easy-money social game.
It's sad to see, but considering the horror stories out there about the work conditions in the gaming industry, I totally buy it. When he goes back, it's a very real crossroad; even if it's not a guarantee of success, having an art degree will open more opportunities for him to work in the field he's passionate about.
There is one eye-rolling moment where he wakes up to a strange girl in his futon, who then proceeds to trip and fall face-first into his crotch, but to my surprise and pleasure, it's really only a one-off joke. The character writing from there is actually quite chill, and while they still fall into “types,” they're more types of people you encounter in college than types of anime characters. There's the weirdly intense one, the one who doesn't have to try because everything comes easily to him, the one who works hard behind closed doors… I knew all these people, and if you went to college, I'm willing to bet you did too.
I made the decision at the beginning of the season to seriously cut down my anime consumption to reduce burnout. If I weren't, I would consider putting this on my watchlist.
If Remake Our Life! does one thing right, it's that it is one of a scant few recent anime that actually focuses on characters that aren't high schoolers. Sure, they're all freshmen in college, which means they're still teenagers, but I'm taking whatever scraps I can get here, folks. There is a high-concept conceit, though, because we can't just tell a story about actual adults and be done with it; as the title suggests, Remake Our Life! is a time travel tale of sorts. It's 2016: The recently laid-off and completely disenchanted Kyōya Hashiba is tired of life as a 28-year-old burnout. He only wishes that he could go back in time and accept that invitation to the prestigious arts school of his dreams, since that might have given him the opportunity to work with the movers and shakers of his generation that he admires so much. As it so happens, the universe is apparently in a particularly magical mood, since Kyōya wakes up in 2006 with all of his memories and skills intact, which means his quest to redo his life “right” can commence.
To be honest, I can relate to Kyōya's personal crisis, and I have to wonder how many of my fellow Almost-30-Year-Olds haven't spent time wondering about how much better things would be if they just went back in time and did that one thing differently. Still, I have an inherent skepticism for any story that waxes so nostalgic for the good ol' days of the teenaged years, since God forbid you ever try to pursue a new career or improve your life for the better once you age out of your twenties. Yes, I appreciate Remake's focus on a more collegiate setting, even if that means that the characters are all still acting like the young adults that every anime teen is written as, regardless of whether they're college freshmen or 7th graders. I also like the show's willingness to tackle Kyōya's personal journey in a somewhat realistic manner, in that he quickly realizes that it isn't enough for him to just go back in time and pick Option B when he originally went with A — he's got a lot to learn both personally and professionally, and the road to happiness is going to take a lot of work to find.
I've got quibbles, though. For one, Studio Feel's production values on this thing aren't especially noteworthy, so Remake doesn't make for riveting viewing or anything. The bigger issues, though, are the writing and the pacing. I get that going back and making a bunch of cool friends is an inherent part of the fantasy, but did all of Kyōya's classmates have to be such stock-standard archetypes? We've got the lackadaisical and overly casual girl; the sleepy bro; the assertive and focused redhead (who just so happens to be Kyōya's boss in the future), and so on. I just can't help but feel like the novelty of the collegiate setting is undone a bit when all of the characters seem ripped straight out of a high-school rom-com.
And then there's the length. I'm sorry, but there's simply no reason that this premiere needed to be nearly an hour long, and my enjoyment of Remake's story was hobbled by how often I found myself checking the clock on my phone when the dialogue started to drag. Maybe, once the show settles into its rhythm and can move at a quicker clip, I'll find myself warming up to Remake Our Life!. For now, though, I remain skeptical.
This premiere had two pretty big factors going against it from the start. For one, this is a double-length premiere, which is almost always a bad idea – you really have to earn that extra time and justify being twice as long as other shows debuting at the same time. For two, it's another in the seemingly nascent trend of time leap stories about reliving adolescence with an adult perspective, and those are a hard sell for me in particular. I'm just not charmed by the idea of reliving the past, and going back in time to just to do things the “right” way is a largely uninteresting narrative compared to characters coping with the here-and-now.
On the first issue, Remake Our Life! comes away with mixed results. While the ending of what would essentially be its second episode is a better stopping point than where a typical half-hour premiere would have left off, it's hard to say it uses most of its time well. Several scenes are padded out with repetitive dialogue, and in general the episode feels aimless in a bad way. Also the middle section when Kyōya meets his new housemates is easily the worst – especially Nanako freaking out over finding our hero and Shiro in your typical accidentally sexual pratfall. Like girl, both parties seemed totally fine with what you thought was happening, so I don't get why you're so angry. You're in college. Hell, you're in art school. You're going to be seeing a lot of socks on doorknobs for the next few years, so you might as well get used to it. The worse part though is Shiro “innocently” dripping day-old yogurt onto her exposed cleavage as the show's single foray into fanservice. It's as cringe-inducing as it sounds.
On the second issue, things fare a lot worse. Kyōya's entire impetus for wanting to redo his life is that he spent years trying to work his way into the games industry, only to be laid off when the project he was working on was canceled. I hate to tell him, but that's something that's gonna happen regardless of whether he has a visual arts degree. That's just how screwed the games industry is, my dude. More importantly, all his problems are external – when we see him at work, he's impeccably efficient, sociable, and an all-around great employee with no flaws to improve upon or faults holding him back from reaching his potential. As such, his desire to redo things as an art student just feels like wanting to escape to an idyllic college life, one that he largely gets by episode's end. That's just not compelling conflict, and if the goal is fluffy escapism with a bit of sentiment, nixing the whole time-leap gimmick to be a slice-of-life college story would be just as effective.
Thankfully the show at least looks nice. It's not particularly animation intensive, but the character designs and overall environment are bright and attractive. Though I'm not wild about love interest Shiro being a head shorter than everyone else, nor Aoi Koga's breathy and childlike vocal performance. I get that these are 19-year-olds months removed from high school, and some people just look younger than they are, but our main heroine looks like a 13-year-old compared to the other women in the cast, and that's just always gonna feel a little uncomfortable.
Overall this premiere isn't terrible, and there are actually some elements that might get me to check out another episode, depending on how the rest of this season shakes out. I like that Kyōya isn't magically great at his new pursuit just because he's secretly 29, and the speech given by the school's principal is pretty interesting as she hammers home that going into professional art is a difficult prospect. But there are also so many extraneous and unpleasant aspects that I can't give this a full recommendation.
There should be a rule: you can only have a double-length premiere if you really, truly need it. That may turn out to be the case for Remake Our Life!, but as I was slogging through this episode, I was hard-pressed to see why. Things start out promisingly enough, with sad-sack protagonist Kyōya on a bus home from a failed stint at a game company that produced classy works like Pretty Booty but eventually folded. Once home, we learn that he had the chance to go to art school but didn't take it, and then he wishes that he could just wake up 10 years in the past. That doesn't happen this time, but after another job at a second game company that shutters the game he's working on, it does. Hooray! Now the story can really begin!
Or can it? Much of the problem here is that Remake Our Life! doesn't seem to understand that a simple premise – in this case going back 10 years to undo a single, bad decision – isn't enough to carry 50 minutes of runtime. I can see where it really tries: Kyōya initially didn't go to art school because he didn't have the confidence to assume that he could make it in a creative field. That's in some ways laudable, because as the hard-knocks professor tells all the little bright-eyed first years, the chances aren't good. Therefore, having him work for two separate companies, one of which simply decides to scrap the project he's working on rather than shut down completely, serves as both a reminder that creative fields are viciously difficult to make a living in AND that Kyōya does, in fact, have what it takes to work in one, albeit with a little luck. This is presumably meant to make him a harder, more determined worker, because he has first-hand experience at how things can go wrong.
That doesn't do much for the episode's two chief problems, which are dullness and cliché. This episode feels almost interminably boring, largely because all that happens is we see Kyōya's life suck, him wake up ten years in the past, and then all the thrill of his first day at his new school. There's some bonus content like Aki, a grown woman with the voice of a toddler who somehow thinks that sharing a random guy's futon without asking is okay. She provides our fanservice for the episode, while Nanako is our throwback to the days of Love Hina, when women smacking men for imagined wrongs they committed was considered funny. And naturally both of the women, plus the one male housemate, will all turn out to be the so-called “Platinum Generation” Kyōya lamented not being in school with because of that one bad decision. If this episode was any more obvious it would be wearing blaze orange in the woods.
It does have a chance to pick the pace up in coming episodes. If Kyōya and his housemates (and of course that one boss from his second job, who is also at school) can all come together to create a project, this could shift over into industry insider mode. If that's a genre you like, it may be worth sticking with this, but after this episode, I don't think I'm holding my breath.
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