ReLIFE is a story about a 27-year-old man named Arata who transforms physically back into his 17-year-old self and attends high school. At his new high school, Arata meets Rena Kariu (the red-headed girl seen at 00:37 in the video above), a serious student with a temper. Arata soon learns that Kariu dislikes her classmate Hishiro, a socially-inept but ace student who always causes misunderstandings due to her aloof and naïve attitude.
Hishiro has what Kariu wants: the silver pin given to only the top student in the class and the ability to stand beside the boy Kariu likes and call him by his nickname, and to top it off, it doesn’t even seem like Hishiro is breaking a sweat. Adding insult to injury, Hishiro doesn’t think of Kariu as her rival, no matter how hard Kariu tries.
When I first began to read ReLIFE back when an anime had not been even announced, I started to despise Kariu. She wasn’t honest with others, took out her frustration on the people around her, and even resorted to bullying. When I began to watch the anime after not reading the beginning of the manga for a long time, I felt the same. I felt anger seeing her treat the others around her like she did, even going so far as to steal her classmate Hishiro’s bag when she wasn’t looking to make trouble for her.
Why did I feel anger while watching her? Because I was bullied in high school, just like Hishiro was. Seeing someone coming to the conclusion that it’s OK to bully someone if you feel frustration with yourself infuriated me. So many years did I experience the malice of my classmates who found it amusing, even stress-relieving to bully me. My heart was saying that this character was despicable… That she was the exact same kind of selfish person caused me so much pain.
But then, I remembered how I felt in high school when those same bullies were always voted into the student council and loved by the teachers for their humorous attitudes. I tried harder than anyone, but still, the bullies got everything I ever wanted, and it didn’t even seem like they were even trying; all they seemed to do was party and text on their phones.
When Arata told her not to stop trying her best, Kariu screamed the exact sentiment I felt back in high school: “I have tried my best! …But no matter how much I try, and I try, and I try…!” And that’s when I realized, somewhere deep inside, that Kariu was similar to me all along. She tried and tried and tried, but could never catch up to the people who didn’t seem to be trying at all. When she burst into tears, I found tears coming from my own eyes as well. I hadn’t cried while reading the manga, but the mixture of the animation and the stellar acting on the part of Haruka Tomatsu, the voice of Kariu, made me realize: Kariu isn’t a bad person. Kariu is just lost and frustrated in an unfair world. Kariu is going through the exact struggle I went through so long ago.
Even after this confrontation with Arata, Kariu has her problems. She still has problems with those around her, and can’t bring herself to be honest. However, there’s a reason I can still hold faith in her: she realizes her own faults, and is trying to move forward, no matter how hard that may be.
And that’s why I give you this plea: Please don’t hate Kariu. She’s more sympathetic than you might initially think.
The entirety of the ReLIFE anime is available now on the comico app only in Japan, but Crunchyroll is streaming the anime as it airs on television there weekly.