[Manga] ReLIFE

ReLIFE graphics

Recently I’ve been reading ReLIFE, and if you check any review site or alternative out there, you’ll read the same kind of summary: Kaizaki Arata is a 27 year-old NEET who is having difficulty finding a job after he quit his previous one. After meeting Yoake Ryou from the ReLIFE Research Institute, he is offered the opportunity to go back and relive his high school life for one year as part of an experiment.

It’s an interesting premise, but if you’ve seen the plethora of Slice of Life anime available out there at the present moment, it sounds like it has the opportunity to become just another fluffy piece. It sounds fun, going back your idealistic high school days, hanging out with friends each day, chasing skirts… it’s a much easier life not having to work.

But the truth is quite different, particularly for a 27 year old man. When you think about it, I can relate without being nearly as old as the protagonist - it’s unlikely I would remember the content of those high school classes well enough to breeze through with complete ease. It will take effort.

Going back to those times reminds you of traits that you lost, things that you forgot along the way before you got jaded by the competitive and sometimes repressive and bullying nature of the work force. From Kaizaki-san’s more extensive life experiences though, he can also affect the lives of other people and make an effort to reach out to people.

Sounds deep...

Alright, alright. Enough of the heavy stuff. How is the story structured? I feel the story starts off pretty slowly as we get to know the adult Kaizaki-san who is, as you might expect, demotivated and wallowing in self pity in a way. I think I can relate to an extent.

At this point in the story I found it hard to get into as we learn the direction the story will take and eventually start his new school life which immediately throws us into drama. But it is at this point where the story begins to get interesting as we start his school life and discover this ‘new’ Kaizaki, who is being guided and learning as well as teaching his fellow classmates.

How you consume the story is also important though. I’ve been reading a translation of the manga of course, as I’m not fluent in Japanese, but most manga readers show the manga page-by-page which is not how this particular manga is supposed to be consumed.

ReLIFE graphics

The Technical Stuff

Unlike normal Japanese manga, this particular manga is originally published on the Japanese comico website. The pages of the manga are presented altogether on the one webpage, such that you can scroll downwards to digest an entire chapter. You don’t turn the page to read, but merely scroll - this is only something that can be done in webcomic format.

Reading page-to-page breaks up the story and can make it confusing carrying from one page to the next. Thankfully, some sites allow a similar mechanism through their mobile site - this which I discovered last month and has been a godsend. I can now experience this manga as I am supposed to - anything that is lost in translation notwithstanding.

Finally one definite perk of this manga is how every page of every chapter is delivered in colour. Usually all manga are black-and-white - this is the norm, which makes this manga special. Although by no means complex in its colouring, regardless it still makes it memorable. The drawing style is simple, but does the trick and in fact, I’ve been studying it for some tips. Complexity is hailed as being so important, yet in this case although the art is technically simple the delivery really makes a big difference.

Before I forget, what is also noteable is the panelling. Panelling is extremely important if you look at series like Bakuman or Sekaiichi Hatsukoi where they deliberate very seriously on how to split up panels to affect the flow of a story. I can attest to be someone who is bad at panelling, which definitely affects the story’s delivery.

In the case of ReLIFE however, as it is read mostly top-to-bottom, it seems that in this case we don’t need to worry about the panelling quite so much, the manga is a series of rectangles, open space and more rectangles with fade-to-black/fade-to-white. Occasionally these rectangles may be split into two horizontally. This is a very different approach to what I’m used to.

ReLIFE graphics

Closing remarks

All in all, ReLIFE is proven to be an intriguing manga so far and I’m curious as to where it will go, what the characters will be able to achieve in this time as well as what will happen to them after this ‘experiment’. Naturally given this definitive ‘1 year’ timeframe at the very start, we know that this manga will has a fixed timeframe for conclusion and I’m very much looking forward to seeing how far he has come, given that a month or more has already passed in the present storyline.

In the meantime while we wait for more chapters (the translations are very, very quickly catching up to where the Japanese publication is), I’m going to see what else is on the comico site given the high quality of this manga. It’s uncertain how we can support the manga artist at this time, given it’s a webcomic and unfortunately I don’t have the language skills to read it on the comico site itself, but I’m sure I will find a way in the future…

Edit: Seems it’s also being published as physical copies, so I’m going to keep an eye out for it. :) The physical copies seem to be set out slightly differently though, but I can’t be sure.

As an aside, ReLIFE is set to be an anime that will start in 2016. I’m going to be looking forward to who will be cast and how they will approach this anime as well. There are many great things to come in this manga’s future.