We reserve a special kind of feeling for regrets, an emotion somewhere between sadness and anger. Sadness because the opportunity is gone, anger because we know things could have been very different. Sometimes the simple fact that others chose a path we didn’t and end up seemingly successful and happy makes the feeling worse. And on top of it all […]
We reserve a special kind of feeling for regrets, an emotion somewhere between sadness and anger. Sadness because the opportunity is gone, anger because we know things could have been very different. Sometimes the simple fact that others chose a path we didn’t and end up seemingly successful and happy makes the feeling worse. And on top of it all is the crushing unhappiness that we can never go back to do it over again and make things right.
Anime is full of stories where a character gets to redo their lives either by traveling back in time or reincarnating. None have affected me with those feelings of the sadness—and anger—of regret that Remake Our Life! did. That’s something I will always remember this anime for. Evocation is one of the greatest elements an anime can have, regardless of what the evoked feeling is.
Apart from evocation, this anime is just above average. The characters and story are what produce the feelings, and they’re well done, but not great. The artwork is really nice, utilizing some of those currently (2021) in-vogue techniques that I really like. But I really liked this show. It wasn’t super remarkable, but it got my attention, and I have high hopes for S2 whenever that arrives.
Kyouya Hashiba is the main character who is struggling through his post-college life, and quite clearly regretting his decision not to attend art school. He’s out of a job and back at home with his parents at 28 years of age. Luckily for him, when he goes to sleep the first night back at his family home, he wakes up 10 years in the past—just in time to choose which college he wants to go to.
All of this happens in the first few minutes of episode 1. The relatability kicks in strong right away for most anime fans who are older than high school age. So many of us have been here in one form or another. Life doesn’t ever work out like we think it will, and more often than not those surprises are unhappy rather than pleasant. Kyouya immediately invokes this feeling. Not that this is anything new in an anime character of this type, but it’s effective here and therefore noteworthy.
But other than that, Kyouya is your typical MC that blends into supporting characters. And there’s a decent set of supporting characters here. The girls are great, but not super special. Aki Shino is sweet and funny, her “country” accent enhancing the memorability of her character. She has some really sweet moments with Kyouya, invoking a little romance in this otherwise slice-of-life show. Her tiny voice is courtesy of Aoi Koga, who most of us know as Kaguya from Kaguya-sama: Love is War! and more recently as the rather reticent Komi-san in Komi Can’t Communicate. Nanako Korgure is a rather rowdy classmate, sporting a mild gyaru look with flowing blonde hair. She’s pretty and very lively, and also has some sweet moments with Kyouya as she learns to find her way through her trials.
I kind of liked Kawasegawa-san. She was a little bit tsundere, and a bit crabby, but she had a big heart and was hella pretty. We see the two-tone eyes here a lot once again, and hers are astounding. Plus we see her in both Kyouya’s current and past life, so we have a bit more connection to her than the other characters. I kept sensing that she was truly the one who would end up with Kyouya in the end. So far that has not occurred, but there is more to go in this show when S2 rolls around.
One of my favorite VAs of all time makes an appearance in this show, Miyuki Sawashiro. She plays the forceful art professor at their college. She’s only in the show for a few scenes, but I never get tired of hearing her voice, no matter the kind of character. She can marry me anytime she wants to.
I will get into more about these characters in the Story section, as aspects of their characters are inextricably tied up in the story. So I’ll wrap up this section with this. It’s a nice set of characters, and they support the story ably. It’s a little harem-y at times, but that element is actually pretty light. None of the characters are big turnoffs, and most of them either touch our hearts one way or another or have something relatable about them. They are very human in that sense, and important aspect of slice-of-life characters.
You can usually tell an anime is seinen based on its saturation. Sometimes colorfulness, but usually the more seinen a show it, the less saturated it is. The reverse isn’t always true—the less saturated a show is, the more seinen it is—but I stray.
So as expected, the saturation is a little light here. But surprisingly, this show is more colorful than I expected for the genre, so much so that I didn’t think this was seinen when I first saw the pre-release visuals. Greens, blues, reds, and bright sunlit scenes adorn the marketing images for this show. So I was surprised—pleasantly, as I highly enjoy this genre—that this show was about college- and graduate-aged people, and thus aimed at those audiences. I could not easily tell it from the color.
But I like the decision, because the license to use color means beautiful eyes are possible. That’s not to say low saturation and limited color palette doesn’t equate to beautiful eyes—go see my friend Revy if you have doubts about that. But the best anime eyes are glassy and all the colors of the rainbow. And that is certainly the case here.
Importantly, we have the magnificent two-tone coloring on most of the characters’ eyes in this show. This is becoming very prevalent currently (2021), and I really like it. In lieu of simple darkening at the tops of the eyes, indicating shadowing from the lids and brow, we see an alternate and complimentary color as it gets closer to the top of the eye. Usually the color makes sense, as some colors do appear almost like a different color the darker they get, but sometimes it’s a different color entirely. On the guys, like with Kyouya here, you have one blue and then a different (and yes, darker) blue above. But on Kawasegawa, you have almost gold and then green at the top. It is breathtaking at some points, and always beautiful. I love this and am perfectly content for this trend to continue.
Animation itself isn’t as important in slice-of-life as it is in action, etc., so there’s not much to discuss here. But it’s not deficient to be sure, and that’s good, because we’ve all seen shows where perhaps animation isn’t supposed to be as important, but then it’s really distracting because the mouths aren’t properly synced with the voices or some such thing. We don’t have any of those imperfections here.
Colorful despite the genre, and at times breathtakingly beautiful, this art will keep you watching this show even if nothing else could. And that’s saying something, as there’s a lot to like in this show. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the artwork is exceptional, but it is high quality, and the artists deserve lots of praise as always.
A big part of Kyouya’s regrets come from his love for art and the fact that he didn’t go to art school after high school, instead choosing a different college and a different career path. He admires a particular cohort of artists, the Platinum Generation, as he deepens his depression realizing he could have gone to school contemporaneously with them if he’d so chosen to.
Once he leaps back in time, he rights his mistake and goes to art school, where of course he meets all the members of Platinum Generation while they’re still studying. He doesn’t immediately realize who each of them is, but he finds himself attached to all of them, as they all end up in the same dorm-house on campus. From there, he becomes inextricably involved with them. He has ten more years of experience in the entertainment industry (he worked for some such company in that field in a business capacity in his future life), so he quickly becomes a leader in their small group.
Several things are well done here. First, his involvement, predictably, begins to change the future, drastically. However, we the viewers don’t see that coming. Everything seems so perfect for Kyouya, and everyone is succeeding and moving towards their goals. It seems like things can only turn out for the best. But it’s the unpredictability of the story at this point, and the believability of the unpredictability, that is well done.
The biggest difference is that all the members of the Platinum Generation lose their motivation. They learn to rely on Kyouya and his directing of their group, mistaking his experience for natural talent, learning to lean on him too much and so losing their individual creativity. It’s not easy to predict this happening in the show, so when it happens it’s a shock back into reality. Everything is going so well, and the group members are overcoming their obstacles, then suddenly none of them want to do it anymore. As a story element, this feels a bit far-fetched, but I think this isn’t too unreasonable to expect. Artists often are very individualistic, and this is important. Too much input makes the work not their own, and likely would dull their creative spirit. Have you ever felt like someone is doing your work for you? Regardless of the context, this usually makes one feel very unneeded and not meaningful, and depression often follows swiftly. Creativity can exist amidst unhappiness, but rarely amidst depression. This is an effective story element in this plot.
Second, and related to this, Aki marries Kyouya. This does a couple of important things in this story. One, it highlights how Kyouya has affected these people’s futures. Not only has he impacted their creativity negatively, but even amidst something that seems completely happy, there’s the great sadness of realizing what was lost. Aki has no interest in drawing anymore, but is supremely interested in her new family. She’s a loving and adorable wife and mother to their sweet little daughter, and she and Kyouya have a made a life together that almost everyone on this planet would take if it was offered to them. But it’s not her future—it’s the future created by Kyouya’s interference in the past. Second, it sets up a terribly sad juncture in the story, made more sad by the fact that everyone watching can actually see it coming this time: we know Kyouya will have to make an impossible choice. We know Kyouya will get the opportunity to right this chain of events. But that means choosing between his new family and that future or going back and trying to undo the damage he did and get everyone back onto their main timeline career paths. Neither situation is very happy because we are so very conscious of what is being lost.
Regret is an unhappy thing. This story is full of it. No matter what Kyouya chooses, he creates regrets. Not just little regrets like wishing one had enjoyed something a little more or gone a certain place at a certain time, but big ones like altering future careers and families. It might be his own regret or he might create regret for what others lost. It’s borderline miserable to watch. If this show wasn’t somewhat lively and positive otherwise, it would be horribly depressing to watch. But this is the evocation I mentioned that’s so effective. Everyone has regrets to varying degrees, and we often realize that paired with regrets is something we actually have currently. People usually think of regrets as a total negative, finding ourselves like Kyouya at the beginning of the show with nothing left but regrets. But we don’t realize that sometimes regrets can come even from completely happy situations, like with Kyouya and Aki’s marriage. There’s no way for that to work out happily for Kyouya or Aki even, as they both experience deep regret over what was lost currently, but if they undid it and went back, they would lose the beauty of what they had. Regret takes a lot of forms, and this show does a great job of showcasing this.
On the other hand, regrets even during good times have a flip side. I’ll get more into that in the Overall section. Because it’s one key point about Kyouya’s situation that particularly set off my emotions, and it has a lot to do with the opportunities he has.
One thing that bugs me about this story is the time travel. I realize such phenomena mostly remain unexplained in any story, but it feels particularly out of place here. It’s doesn’t seem supernatural or like science-fiction. It’s simply there and very convenient. Very convenient. Indeed, Kyouya has some control over his movement between timelines at some point, working with another character who is somehow involved in all this time jumping. It’s a little confusing and a little distracting, but it isn’t a big issue in the show.
I think the story is very cleverly made and very well executed. It’s very sad but tempered by the humanness of the characters involved. We know they’ll always make the best of their situation, and that makes the regret elements bearable. Still, it’s quite sad, and when a story evokes that much feeling, that’s a big success.
As I watched this show unfold, I was sad but hopeful. While the hopefulness never waned, the sadness came in heavy waves. But I will not remember this show just for its hopefulness amidst despair or its sadness. I will, in great part, remember this show for the flash of anger I felt very suddenly at one point in this show. And at that moment I got it. I knew why this show had a power over audiences different from other relatable slice-of-life shows.
Even up to the moments near the end where Kyouya discussed his situation with Keiko (the other person aware of and involved in his time jumping), I was sad for him and those involved. Then Kyouya broke down emotionally himself, perhaps for the first time truly in this series, as he screamed in pain to Keiko, “I want to go back to the past, to be with everyone.” And I snapped. Simultaneously I knew this was truly exactly what he wanted, through all the twisting and turning he’d gone through figuring things out himself, and that this was the very heart of regret. This was the burning core, and for this brief moment it was exposed to us. It burned.
Because, on one hand, it gave clarity to both him and to viewers. This was why this situation was so relatable, and Kyouya finally understood what he was missing. He wasn’t missing his career in art, or his choices in his redo, or even his new future with his wife. He was missing the people he didn’t center his life on during all that time, who he even neglected more than a little along the way. And suddenly it made me very angry. As heat erupts from opening the door of a hot oven, so my sadness suddenly dumped hot rage into my mind.
Why should he get the opportunity to go back?
Why should he be the only one? He, who used that opportunity to selfishly try to change his life for the better, not realizing what damage he was causing to the people around him. No matter that he was doing so out of the kindness of his heart, he nevertheless tread all over their wishes and talents and futures. Why should he get the chance to go back? How many of us wish we had that opportunity? How many of us wouldn’t waste it like he did? How many of us would realize what we had truly missed the first time, and not need a second chance at a second chance to realize what we missed were the people we met along that path in life?
And then the related questions all poured out at once. How many of us would want to go back to a key point in our life and change it, taking all of our experience since then with us and thereby ensuring ourselves at least a satisfying future, and at most a highly successful one as well? How many of us want to go back to see a departed friend or family member, or take that chance to declare our love that we missed, or change something in our lifestyle that would have left us healthy instead of debilitated, or just simply do more? More to maintain a relationship, show love to our family, enjoy an experience or time of life?
Regret is a terrible thing. And in that moment, with that statement from Kyouya, our own regrets were scalded and their pain brought sharply into our awareness. Because we cannot go back. Kyouya not only can go back, but he can wish it in a moment of despair and it not be the hopeless wailing of someone with nothing left in their life worth keeping and no power to change it. He actually can go back. None of us can. We’re left with not only our regrets, but to top it off, with Kyouya’s endless set of redos to watch while we’re at it.
It definitely made me angry. And perhaps that’s unjustified. But the line between sadness and anger with regret is thin, and this was a moment where it spilled over. Maybe some of you felt the same thing at that time, or sometime during this show. Or, perhaps, I unhappily stirred that awareness in you now. That which is lost is truly that, lost.
That being said, life is not just regret. Many times we look too easily at the bad things in our lives, failing to see how well off we are in other ways. The bad things look terrible, and they are, but more often than not don’t outweigh the good. And even if they did, it’s not healthy to focus on them. Focusing on what’s good, the “counting of blessings” that people once spoke of, is as important to health and wellbeing as exercise and proper eating are in some ways. But I stray. The point is that all human experience isn’t bottled up in regret. And Kyouya discovered this through his experiences.
This is obviously the best thing about this anime. This show is somewhat profound in its treatment of human regret. The writers seem to have a very good grasp of human nature and the effects these kinds of experiences can have on people. Add to that the artistic ability to make it evocative and relatable to an audience, and you have a very high quality work.
Tied to this is the fact that this anime will never enter any levels of popularity that it, and others like it, deserve. Seinen has this issue, particularly slice-of-liife seinen. Reason? Because for better or worse, the majority of anime viewers are less than 20 years old. Those of us who have the artistic awareness to realize the quality of anime as an art form and continue watching it throughout our lives are actually a fairly small group, particularly in comparison to that younger group. Sure people still watch it in college, but you lose a lot of audience thereafter. Therefore, shows like this that deal with the personal experiences of college graduate-age people are automatically going to be less popular. That large young audience won’t understand it or appreciate it, and will toss it aside as a result. That’s not a fault—I cannot identify with shounen protagonists or middle school mahou shoujo either—but it will affect the popularity of a seinen show like this. Sing “Yesterday” for Me, a top-tier show in so many ways, is even more evocative and arguable more relatable than this show, and it still is relatively unknown to most audiences because it has the same target audience elements that Remake Our Life! does.
That is very unfortunate, because shows like this are amazing. They are beautiful, priceless gems in the glorious world of anime. They touch our heart profoundly, and sometimes even leave a lasting mark. This is why we watch anime. It’s why so many of us continue to watch and enrich our lives in this beautiful world.
Remake Our Life! may not be the greatest anime ever made, but it has that one powerful thing that so much anime doesn’t: it touches our feelings and makes us happy to be alive. Maybe all those emotions it evokes aren’t pleasant or happy ones, but nevertheless we can feel them, and feeling those emotions is an important and very unique human experience. When an anime can spotlight that human experience, that’s a wild success. And so this anime, ordinary in so many areas, elevates its own status through the power that sometimes only anime can have. And so I will remember it.