ReLIFE, and changing the past

I’ve just finished the anime ReLIFE, and how for someone like me, watching it has been a very cathartic experience. The premise of ReLIFE is a good one: there exists a laboratory which have developed a pill that one can take to revert back to how they were at high school, and re-live a year as a high school student, the aim of which being that they will rediscover the person that the world took from them. The lab targets NEETS, and the main character is naturally given this chance and takes it (I mean, otherwise there wouldn’t exactly be an anime would there?). I loved season 1, I found Kaizaki (main character) very relatable, and the characters and scenarios were done so well. The series concluded in a four episode series that I discovered via facebook yesterday had been released, so it naturally shot to the top of my to-watch list. It was as good as the first series, and while some may bemoan the small number of episodes, I don’t see a problem with it. The story was able to be sufficiently concluded in the time that they gave it, with no expense to quality. I found myself enjoying the series just as much, laughing as much (very few anime actually make me laugh out loud like ReLIFE does come to think of it) and the ending was very well executed. It was the (joint with Your Name) closest I had come to crying at an anime and indeed if a certain event which triggered a character’s emotions hadn’t happened when it did, I may actually have done so. If you haven’t seen it, definitely check it out. I know I got something particularly special out of it as Kaizaki is so relatable to me (more on that in a second), but the story, characters, art, everything really, is done so well that even if I didn’t it would be a show I had really enjoyed.

But ReLIFE will definitely be a special anime for me, one which will get me thinking for at least as long as I am in my PhD. It is a very cathartic anime for me, as I find Kaizaki so relatable. Due to politicking in his old workplace, he leaves, and unable to give potential employers the truth, he finds himself stuck, unable to find work, unable to move on. His life is in limbo. I sometimes feel like I am standing on a bit of a cliff with my PhD. If I manage to make it back to safety, I can continue with it. But I also know that I am unhappy there. While hopefully next Monday’s meeting will give me the chance to make this better, I am naturally not very optimistic about it, especially if my old supervisor cannot be removed from the meeting (and in case anyone is wondering, my current supervisor is yet to respond to my meeting request).

But on the other hand, if I jump from the cliff, and leave my PhD, what then? Would I ever have a chance to try again? Probably not – I mean, while I’d be in a much better position for references this year, there would be some uncomfortable questions that would inevitably come up in an interview. Like Kaizaki, I would likely not be able to tell the whole truth, and so who knows if my lies would be enough to allay, some frankly natural, doubts from interviewers that I wouldn’t “pull a similar stunt and leave” if they gave me the offer of a place. So what does that leave me? A normal job, which I knew could never satisfy me. I always said that when you get your first “normal” job, realistically that’s it. You will join the billions upon billions of people who have gone before us who live, breathe, have wonderful experiences and die, but are forgotten. They are completely erased from history as ultimately, they don’t actually achieve anything significant in their lives. No record of their existence is ever kept. It’s a thought that overwhelms me sometimes: uncountably many people have lived and died like this in the past, and I could meet the same fate. Everything I have done, every person whose life I have touched, my experiences, even my name, would be erased from this world in all likelihood, barring some twist of fate that would have a famous long lost descendent of someone in my family discover my name on an episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” or a similar genealogy programme but that’s not exactly a comforting though anyway. While I know that greater joys await in heaven, I can’t help but think that we are all on this Earth for a reason too, and I want to leave something behind. I want to be able to say “I was here, and I made a difference”.

Returning to Re:LIFE (that got a lot deeper than I thought), the reason it is so cathartic for me, and really gets me thinking, is because if I found myself in Kaizaki’s position, what would I do? I do think I would take the ReLIFE, and make use of it as best I could. I mean, given that friend A is just 18 days off being six full years younger than me, I’m already quite good at befriending people younger than me, probably because for the most part I’m not really any more mature or adult like than a teenager, and it shows, friend A thought I was just a year, maybe two, older than him when we first met. But having the chance to re-live a time of your life when there were so many more options on the table, having a chance to make a fresh start and truly be whoever you want to be, it’s a very appealing option, and it gets me thinking about my own choices in life that have lead me to where I am now.

Having a brother in school meant I always had to be a bit on edge. There were times when I wanted to do things to fit in a bit more, but I knew he would heavily judge me for it even though my parents would probably have understood, after all everyone else’s parents were fine with it. So I never really managed to fit in at school. I had a total of three good friends barring my brother, and we would be the group in the corner playing Yu-Gi-Oh or video games, or using our lunch times to study so we could play more games at home. But I guess in all honesty, the people I went to school with were by and large people I still wouldn’t click with, so that’s not a huge loss. But I was quite emotionally dead, and didn’t really have much of a personality truth be told. That was how I knew I needed to leave home and go elsewhere for university. It was the only chance I had to discover my emotions, and to really find out who I was without the insulation that would come from being pressured to live at home at university. To be able to go back to high school as the person I am now, the person I really am, would be a blessing. I would be able to see what my life could have been like.

Turning to the choices I made that lead me here, the first was my subject choice of joint honours maths with something else. This very much limited my university options, but I got an offer I was happy with and took it. I later switched to maths with Japanese options as the second department I was in was awful. To be honest, what I had really been tempted by was to study Japanese as a degree on its own at the university I am currently at, and I could have written a damn good personal statement. But I had no support. My careers teacher looked at me as though I had two heads, and I knew my parents, who were causing me enough problems about my decision to go away for university, would have just made things so, so much worse if it was for a subject that they would inevitably have considered “useless”. I would have met very different people to the ones I did, had a very different experience of archery (I am very, very glad I learned archery somewhere else before coming here, I do not like how this university handles new members although this year I’ve been able to change that somewhat, but it’s far from a perfect system), and had a very different overall university experience to what I did. While I know I would have met other people had I gone elsewhere, had I pursued Japanese, am I happy with the people I did meet in the end? Very much so. I’m still in contact with a good number of close friends from my previous university,, and meeting them all has really enriched my life, developed me as a person, and given me so many good memories. I have no guarantee that going somewhere else and meeting a completely different group of people would have made me who I am today, and I would probably be worse for it.

That’s what catharsis does for me, it lets me know that, while things may not be looking the best, while there may be so many uncertainties in my life, and I feel overwhelmed by it all sometimes and see no way for things to improve, I am actually happy with what has lead me here. I have lots of memories and people I cherish, and making these was always going to lead me here, so I have to be happy to be where I am now. To say otherwise would be to reject everything that lead me here, and that’s the last thing I would ever do. It’s the same for Kaizaki: while things may have not always turned out for the best, while there were very difficult moments, while he found himself in a rut with no way out, ultimately, it lead him to being offered ReLIFE, and experience he would not want to lose. So like Kaizaki, I can hold my head up high after watching ReLIFE, and say that I am happy with the decisions I have made, and can honestly say that I really wouldn’t change them if given the chance.

So there you have it. I find the best solution for tacking problems is to find an anime, or other show (but obviously anime is best), that deals with them. By relating to the characters, and seeing so much of yourself in them, and following their journey, you come to better understand your own. Without ReLIFE, it would be so easy for me to forget what lead me to where I am, and how happy I am to have experienced it all.

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