Genres: Drama, Romance, School, Slice of Life
"ReLIFE is an absolute special one in so many different ways."
Yes, it’s not exactly a “manga,” but it’s not a “manhwa” either since that’s a Korean term to describe webcomics. Thus, it still qualifies as a Japanese manga since the webcomic format still falls into the broader umbrella term, and last I checked, Yayoi Sou is Japanese. Comico has printed over one million copies easily during its serialization, and I think that itself can speak about how amazing this story really is.I don’t think I’ll be able to go through every single ounce of detail in this review, but I’ll do my best to highlight the key areas and dig into our usual review structure of story, art, and characters, while giving an overall score out of 10.
Story Rating - 9/10
The premise was intriguing, and the plot itself was consistent and emotional. Not only did the story kick off with a mysterious yet informative beginning, but I also noticed just how well written everything was from the get-go. Ryou was explaining the details of the ReLIFE program to Arata like a gossiping maniac with a calm demeanor, while all the other beloved characters (the characters are what I loved most about this manga) were introduced early but with good intentions. This allowed me as a reader to instantly understand the circumstances Arata was going through, and comprehend why folks such as him gave in to that ReLIFE program. I also grasped the details of the program and its limitations/boundaries, or set of rules if you will, thanks to the way it was all laid out early in the story. At first, due to an eerie tickle I felt from this mysterious program, I thought the organization was evil - but boy did I get a pleasant surprise as the story fleshed out like an expanding blue sky.
Once things were established, Sou immersed readers into the full drama and rollercoaster arcs of Arata, Chizuru, and the high school cast. There are over 230 chapters in this manga, yet every individual one offered a consistent thrill which never felt dragged on or “milked.” Lest we forget the fact that this is a high school setting - a very typical and saturated genre guilty of too many overused tropes and ideas. This wasn’t the case with ReLIFE; every arc felt different and unique, and the bond between Arata, Chizuru, Rena, Kazuomi, Akira, Honoka, Kokoro and Nobunaga just felt strangely existent (and grew!). Heck, I’ll even throw the school nurse and the gym teacher in there.
What I was most impressed with was Sou’s ability to “challenge” this bond between Arata and all the other characters in the most emotional way, but still facilitate the much-needed romantic development between him and Chizuru. The plot progressed in a manner with a clear end goal of rehabilitating the state of Arata’s life, but by the actual end of the story, it felt like it accomplished ten other things. Despite the lack of a true consistent “antagonist,” there was always a major plot point pulling strings and moving our characters along.
And finally, the ending - a critical piece of the story that really, REALLY needed to deliver to wrap things up properly. Spoiler alert: it did. At first, I didn’t know what to expect; the ReLIFE program was ending once they graduated high school, but once Arata and Chizuru returned to their adult lives, I didn’t know what else would happen (besides their romantic development). I thought Sou tied everything together perfectly, even keeping the rest of the high school cast relevant until the very end.
Art Rating - 9/10
Sou’s webcomic art was fantastic to say the least - but my ability to analyze webcomic art is a quarter of that of traditional manga art (and the latter skill isn’t up my alley either). Perhaps I’m loosening the critique here, but nothing felt out-of-place regarding ReLIFE’s webcomic format. I grew incredibly accustomed to reading it early on, and while the panels weren’t covered in details head-to-toe, I doubt you’ll find anyone out there critiquing Sou’s art that much. Plus, it was all colored from start-to-finish! Bravo!
Characters Rating - 10/10
Finally, the good stuff. While others may disagree, I thought the cast was what truly accelerated the story into the stratosphere.
Kaizaki Arata is a well-loved protagonist who’s outgoing, kind, and supportive, but holds clear flaws which are covered by his counterpart, Hishiro Chizuru. Immediately, the dynamics between our two MCs stick out, but more like a flashing lily among the grass rather than like a sore thumb. This dynamic is what enables readers to ship these two right away, and the mysteries between both unravel themselves in parallel like they were destined to be with each other.Chizuru herself is another amazingly-written character: what started out as a cold, unemotional and reserved person soon developed into a more thoughtful and open individual by graduation - thanks to her own self-growth and Arata’s help.
Let’s not take for-granted the rest of our cast; the other beloved duo who undergo development are Rena and Kazuomi. I think it’s worth recognizing that despite these two actually reflecting the minds of high school students, they grew emotionally just as equally as the two MCs.And who could forget our ReLIFE program facilitators! Ryou and An are quite the interesting pair, both among themselves and their interactions with everyone else. Introducing characters that know all about the program, the secrets of Arata and Chizuru, and what to expect once high school graduation arrives - this was fantastic. They’re prime examples of characters who know information that readers don’t (until later on), but that didn’t hinder the plot’s growth, either; it complemented it perfectly.
Overall Enjoyment Rating - 10/10
This has by far been one of my longest reviews, but for good measure - ReLIFE deserves the praise it receives. It’s a story that sheds light on numerous literary themes like corporate politics and unethical cultures. It obviously explores the miserable states of working adults who want the opportunity to reset in life, but don’t have the environment nor energy to do so. And finally, the idea of a “growth mindset” was prevalent as well - the willpower to always challenge or improve yourself and your life, no matter the circumstances (with the help from others, of course!).
"If I don't understand how a friend feels, am I not allowed to worry about them? If I don't experience what you do, am I not allowed to worry about you, my friend?"
It’s one of those manga (or webcomics) that instantly pops into mind when one asks, “what’s a solid romance drama with a good ending you’d recommend?”