Director: Tomoki Koboyashi
Streaming on: Crunchyroll
One of the weird and strangely enjoyable things about anime is that there are distinct types of genres that are so weird and specific that they’d never be a genre anywhere else. This can often contribute to a premise feeling tired; since these genres are so specific, they often do feel like the same stories. Despite that, every once in awhile, along comes an anime that fits that niche and manages to be truly great, and far more than the sum of its unoriginal parts. Today I am reviewing a series that plays many of the same notes to a new, fantastic composition, Remake Our Life.
I have seen one, two, or a couple million anime where a mediocre guy gets the chance to use time travel to improve his current life by redoing the past. I made a joke in my Tokyo Revengers review that it was similar to Erased, even though the same concept has been done repeatedly, both in Japanese and western media. None of these guys even bought a sports almanac to make a killing, so I’m kind of getting tired of guys who had the chance and didn’t buy Amazon stock in 2004.
Remake Our Life falls in the same category, but thanks to a strong pedigree courtesy of the people who made the good parts of Oregairu, and some superb writing, it does much more with its premise than I could have predicted. I’ve had a long relationship with this anime; I thought, ‘hey, that sounds neat’ when it first got announced, and it finally has come around. Does it live up to the hype? Almost certainly, but scroll a little further down to figure out why.
Kyouya is a 28-year-old failed…everything. He’s tried his hand at many different jobs after getting a vague business degree in college, giving him an impressive resume he can take to interviews before getting rejected. He bitterly laments not going to art school when he had the chance, as he submitted an application on a whim and was surprisingly accepted. Still, life has no second chances, and he pushes forward.
Thanks to a chance encounter with Eiko, a woman who works at the game company of his dreams, Kyouya scores a temporary job and inches closer to that dream that has eluded him. He does well and gets along with his coworkers, only for reality to kick back in again and his project gets shut down, and he gets laid off. Back at square one, he returns to his parents’ house in shame, wistfully thinking again about what he should have done differently.
And when he wakes up, well, he gets a second chance. Transported ten years prior, Kyouya is now facing the same choice he regretted making all that time ago, and he takes his opportunity. He quickly warms up to his roommates, the lazy but naturally gifted Tsurayuki, the obligator tsundere Nanako, and undisputed best girl Aki Shiro, affectionately referred to as Shiroaki.
But remaking Kyouya’s failed life isn’t so simple as going to a new school, or buying a sports almanac. The program he’s entered has a minuscule graduation rate, and a worse employment rate, and he doesn’t possess a fraction of the natural or acquired talent of his classmates. Cruising through his life is no longer an option, though, and he’s determined not to waste his second chance.
This show is all kinds of pretty. The first thing that stands out is probably how good everyone’s eyes look. They’re vibrant colors with alternate gradient tones that help balance out the character designs. If you’ve seen my Shadows House review, you know I’m a sucker for a well done anime eye, especially color, and this did wonders to endear the series to me.
The character design is all around excellent, with pretty much everyone receiving their fair share of the brush. Admittedly, it passes lightly over Kyouya and Tsurayuki, but it isn’t so bad as to take you out of it, and you can forgive it since the girls are so well-designed. And considering the series doesn’t seem to be super heavy on fanservice, the main ecchi scene in the first episode is especially gorgeous.
Kyouya wakes up in his new housing only to find that Shiroaki’s futon hasn’t come in yet, so she decided to share his. Yeah, I hate when that happens. He wakes up to find an attractive, partially-undressed girl draped next to him, who immediately spills fermented yogurt (gross) on herself. Yeah, I absolutely hate when that happens. Um, where was I, again?
There is some lovely use of lighting and all around excellent direction, both of which come to play in the final big set-piece of the first episode. As Kyouya and Shiroaki walk down the path lined with majestic and inexplicably glowing chery blossoms, you’re just kind of taken away that this was done for a TV anime. Deep conversations about art paired with phenomenal visuals are a good shortcut to getting a glowing review from me.
As a whole, the first hour-long episode is a good self-contained story while serving as a competent introduction into the wider narrative. Obviously the story wasn’t going to end here, but it’s structured in a way that it kind of could. It feels as though Kyouya has come such a long way in this time, and if they managed that sense of growth in just one episode, I want to see how they play it over a whole season.
These kinds of stories where mediocre guys remake themselves through time travel depend on whether or not the protagonist works. If Subaru or Takemichi don’t start off as cowardly knobs, it doesn’t mean much when they turn it around. Kyouya, though, isn’t a jerk and more of just a guy who made some crappy decisions. He’s more relatable for being a regular guy who just wants another go at life.
I think that is a compelling story to tell, and it helps to differentiate it from similar stories. It’s not that Kyouya is lacking or suffers from a severe personality defect, but everyone has made a choice and regretted that they couldn’t go back and change it. He doesn’t need to work on being selfish or a wimp, but struggling and working hard to reach your dream? Surprisingly enough, that’s an uncommon theme in a genre where it’s mostly just about saving people and becoming a man.
And the upside of having a cast full of characters in an art program is that they all have different hobbies, creative outlets, and reasons for why they’re creating in the first place. It’s basically a hack on how to come up with a variety of engaging characters who have established nuances and motivations. At that point, just slap on some stunning presentation and you’ve got a dangerous combination on your hands.
Remake Our Life did not fail to live up to the expectations I put on it, and did in fact exceed them. Maybe you can tell I have a soft spot for this kind of anime, but I promised not to talk about Re:Zero for awhile, so I have to get it out by gushing about similar shows.
I know praising anything this much is a recipe for disaster, because the moment I do, they’re going to reveal that the true villains were aliens and they’re going to fight them in space. However, I’m willing to take that risk. Do you know how long it has been since a first episode blew me away like that? To Your Eternity, so not really that long, but it’s not my fault that there is so much good anime out that comparing them is pointless.
Remake Our Life is a wonderfully produced anime by a competent studio with a good track record that seems to be making the most of the source material, so I think I have plenty of reasons to be optimistic. This is where I ask anyone who has read the light novels to talk about them in the comments below, as I’m considering picking them up after how good the first few episodes were. Regardless, Remake Our Life stands at a Neutral Fantastic.
|Mediocre||How A Realist Hero…|
|Pleasing||The Detective is Already Dead|
|Fantastic||Remake Our Life!||The Case Study of Vanitas|