Reviewby Nick Creamer,
ReLIFE Final Arc
As Arata Kaizaki's ReLIFE experience moves into its final phase, Kaizaki finds himself filled with sadness at the thought of not just leaving his friends behind, but disappearing from their memory entirely. Additionally, his growing feelings for Chizuru Hishiro are making him begin to question whether he really wants to return to his old life at all. What Kaizaki doesn't know is that Hishiro has as secret of her own - she's also a ReLIFE candidate, and grappling with many of the same feelings as her conflicted classmate. Will these two find the courage to embrace their love, and can that love survive vanishing from their memories entirely?
The first season of ReLIFE was hampered by a variety of issues, from its middling visual execution to its general lack of dramatic focus. But one of its issues, at least, was a product of its format: the anime simply didn't have enough episodes to follow the manga's story all the way to the end. Arriving quite some time after the end of the show proper, ReLIFE: Final Arc aims to rectify this problem, and give ReLIFE the finale it deserves. So does this OVA actually resolve ReLIFE's conflict in a satisfying way, and perhaps even elevate the overall series behind it?
I'd give this OVA partial credit on both counts. On the positive end, the series' central romance is foregrounded to great effect, buoyed mightily by the end-of-season reveal that Hishiro was a ReLIFE candidate just like Kaizaki. All through the original season, the appeal of an actual romance between our leads was undercut by our understanding of the alleged age and experiential difference between them. As a twenty-seven-year-old adult, Kaizaki attempting to woo Hishiro wouldn't just be a deception, it'd be a massive abuse of his relative experience and power. With Hishiro at last put on equal footing, ReLIFE can actually embrace the weirdness of their relationship, as each of them attempt to subtly figure out the feelings of the other.
Revealing Hishiro's actual situation also allows the show to embrace her as a genuine perspective character. While Kaizaki is mostly preoccupied moping about losing his friends, Hishiro approaches the concept of Kaizaki potentially being another ReLIFE candidate with the deadpan intensity she applies to all her pursuits. Getting to hear Hishiro's anxious but very logical perspective from the inside is one of this OVA's greatest strengths, and a reflection of ReLIFE's general strength of characterization. Hishiro is stoic and straight-faced, insightful yet emotionally oblivious, shy but prideful, and surprisingly willing to get caught up in silly competitions. Her personality is as rich and contradictory as Kaizaki's, and the rapport they've developed over the show proper is put to terrific work in these final episodes.
With basically all of their friends' emotional conflicts settled, much of this OVA plays out like full, unadulterated payoff for all the waiting we've endured. While the first episode focuses mostly on building up Hishiro as a co-protagonist, the rest are almost entirely focused on their movement towards actual romance, including their work collaborating on the school fair, their first date, and their long-awaited confession scene. It's adorable, engaging, and altogether solidly written stuff, while also echoing ReLIFE's overarching musings on the simultaneously fleeting yet omnipresent nature of our youthful experiences.
Unfortunately, while this OVA's character development is as charming as you could hope for, its attempts to instill that relationship with dramatic consequences felt pretty misguided. ReLIFE's core gimmick has always been the sort of vaguely-conceived contrivance you handwave for the purposes of the story's emotional/thematic goals; the idea of eating a pill that makes you younger is ridiculous, as is the idea that this agency can somehow cleanly wipe out all the memories people have of that person, but we accept those impossible ideas for the sake of the story being told. In this OVA, ReLIFE unfortunately decides to double down on the significance of those vaguely-conceived ideas, making this last act's core conflict “what will Hishiro and Kaizaki do when they forget each other.”
The threat of forgetting hangs over this whole series of episodes, instilling them with an unwelcome sense of deeply arbitrary drama. While you could make the argument that the forgetting is core to ReLIFE's own argument that our youthful experiences are meaningful regardless of what they leave behind, I'd counter that you could probably articulate that point in a way that didn't emphasize this series' threadbare scifi conceit, or hang its final dramatic moments on “these two ReLIFE candidates will forget each other because them's the rules, I guess.” It's a deeply unsatisfying core conflict, but fortunately, it's unable to truly drag down this OVA's satisfying emotional moments.
In terms of aesthetic execution, ReLIFE remains the visually bland but altogether competent production it's always been. The show's animation is still limited and colors still washed out, but this OVA managed a handful of moments that used smart direction and lighting to really bring the characters' feelings to life. The soundtrack is similarly bland and similarly unintrusive; it basically sounds like electronic elevator music, neither elevating nor undercutting any of the drama on screen.
This OVA comes in a standard bluray case with the episodes on DVD and bluray. There are no physical extras, but the collection does feature a couple of goofy video features. Those videos both take the form of “Internal Secret Files” from the ReLIFE Bureau, with the first focusing on the team installing a hidden camera in Kaizaki's room, and the second focusing on Kaizaki offering Kazuomi some dating advice. They're pretty skippable, but a nice inclusion nonetheless.
On the whole, if you're at all invested in the ReLIFE narrative, these four episodes offer a relatively satisfying conclusion to the story's romance and drama. The ending isn't truly transformative, and some of the central dramatic choices here struck me as misguided, but ReLIFE ultimately lives and dies by its characters, and this finale does right by them. It was nice to once more spend just a little time with this charming cast.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B
Animation : C+
Art : C+
Music : C
+ Satisfying conclusion to Kaizaki and Hishiro's story, plenty of funny character moments and lots of charming romance
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