Warning: Review contains plot spoilers, but I kept affected characters vague.
Anime’s glorification of re-doing a more fantastical life at the expense of the reliable yet mundane has hit a fever pitch in the past few years. The word “isekai” will either inspire or infuriate anime fans depending on who really enjoyed 2012’s Sword Art Online or Re:Zero or are just tired of half of each anime season being another trip to a distant fantasy land. As the fantasy side of this genre has had its towel ringed of every drop of originality, what about the drama and shenanigans of using a second chance to re-do things in your own world? Alright, I’ll bite, lets go Remake Our Life.
Kyouya Hashiba is a late 20s man on the arduous trail of becoming one of the covetous cogs in the video game development machine. His internship with a popular game studio has his hopes high before the opportunity ends to budget cuts. Feeling like he’s not only wasted his traditional degree but most of his life on chasing a dream that he cut short by not going to the arts college he had an acceptance letter to, Kyouya moves back in with his parents. After overlooking one of his favorite game development groups, Platinum Generation, he succumbs to sleep after a long bus ride home. When he awakes, he’s 10 years in the past, right before his pivotal decision on which college to go to. With the knowledge of the future and what it foretold, he embarks to an Arts College to shape his current timeline into the life he always wanted and maybe finding his way closer to the developers he envied so much.
In most situations where someone would travel back to the past with years of knowledge ahead of their cohorts, one would think they might play the game and become rich quickly, or alter scenarios to better themselves, or save someone or something that will eventually be in trouble. And well, you’d be right on two occasions. Kyouya goes into his new world looking to take the trials and tribulations of cutting his teeth in the game industry and using that drive to quickly garner experience and work his way to a Platinum-like position in the industry. During one of his classes he spots his old boss, Eiko Kawasegawa, now just a budding art student like himself. When Kyouya enters his shared living quarters he finds himself over the course of a few episodes and a-ha moments to be with the not-quite-yet members of Platinum Generation: underachieving artist Aki Shino, aspiring singer and actress Nanako Kogure, and naturally-gifted writer Tsurayuki Rokuonji. Seeing possibilities piling up like the amount of cute college girls in this anime, Kyouya now spends his time working into the group to become an integral part of the team’s initial success, leading to the life he always dreamed about.
The first few episodes lay down the groundwork of what will be no surprise, a run-of-the-mill high school-but-we’re-actually-in-college-this-time slice of life filled with various whatabouts around the arts and designs of what goes into making multimedia projects. Various tidbits of photography, music, art, and film get an anime “Consider the Following” Bill Nye session showing specific doodads of each moniker with behind-the-scenes like montages and showing what each medium can bring to the table. If you ever had an interest in this field, and if you’re watching Anime I gotta figure you do, it’s a neat little info dump here and there. But where Remake Our Life grabs your wrist and keeps you in the shot is the individual drama co-signed to each of the main characters and how Kyouya finds himself in the middle of it all.
Kyouya in his past life was a fixer, shown with his countless nights at his intern position working overtime to fix issues when others couldn’t, and uses this to a ridiculous degree in the current college run. Kyouya has the drive and info to tackle nearly every issue thrown in his lap, becoming not only a lifesaver for each roommate but a very good friend in the process. Each student comes to terms with a pressing issue: self-doubt towards their chosen career, the stress of becoming better, the crippling weight of financial burdens, and Kyouya comes swooping in like an answer sheet to a pop quiz swiped from the teacher’s desk. These moments shine brightest with Remake’s stout writing for each character. The issues cut deep, are immediately relatable, and the payoffs are notably heart-warming. But the amount of luck and success rate Kyouya has is almost comical. He almost never misfires, eventually lifting the spirits of all around him and even courting feelings and romantic interests with a few of the girls he frequents being around, even if he himself is not trying to forge that path.
Kyouya is doing everything right, he’s in the driver’s seat of his life, he’s the fucking man.
But if you remember anything from Ashton Kutcher’s 2004 epic saga The Butterfly Effect (you really shouldn’t.), you’ll know that going back in time and messing with stuff is a no-no, and there are consequences to those actions. And as quickly as the highs got their highest, the lows got their lowest and the shitstorm hits quick. Which brings me to Remake’s weirdest but most necessary inclusion: where everything started to go almost too well for Kyouya, the fork in the road hits hard, and as he comes to realize his want to fix everyone’s problems eventually will shake how his remembrance of his late 20s plays out, we’re introduced to a character who just…whoompfs Kyouya 10 years farther into the future. Who is this character? Why do they have this power? No idea. Not explained. …Kinda frustrating.
What it DOES do, is very swiftly shifts Remake Our Life from a slice-of-life re-doer story into a more layered supernatural yet possibly psychological dramedy, and it does it in the span of about 10 minutes in one of the season’s later episodes. It’s a crazy tonal shift that revitalizes what was becoming a very stale success story and injects just a whole bunch of interesting possibilities as to what happened and why it happened.
The future paints a very detailed picture of Kyouya’s use of his knowledge in a past not his own. Each character’s celebrated ups and diminished downs are correlated to Kyouya and his constant grip on their future, as noticeable as fingerprints smudged on a film reel. And while Kyouya’s perceived future isn’t classified as a bad one per se, the day-to-day interactions with Kyouya and a significant other are very heartwarming and cause a very realistic rift in wanting to leave, the differences in what he has to what he wanted is very evident and the mental deterioration of his actions forces his hand to fix what he broke rather than leaving his new future as, and this you’ll hear a lot, “nothing else we can do here.”
For better or worse, Season 1 of Remake Our Life feels like an elongated introduction to the real part of the story it wants to tell. But as of this writing, there is no Season 2 announced and the author has publicly detoured needy watchers to the light novel to continue the story. A lot of the major plot lines: the introduction and understanding of the supernatural being that is taking Kyouya for this ride, the continued puzzle piece matching of keeping Platinum Generation on its desired course, and all the glorious docking of potential character ships, are left entirely unanswered. The pacing issues may cause whiplash and without a real payoff the ride may feel a little unfulfilling, but I really enjoyed what I watched! The characters are fleshed out well, the emotion is very real, and the moments of jubilation and despair feel well-constructed. Above all, it was an interesting and enjoyable journey through a well-used and established genre. Here’s to hoping for a Season 2 in a reasonable timeframe (looking at you SNAFU! Season 3), and answers to some very interesting plot points for Kyouya and his journey through self-reflection and acceptance.
Available to watch on Crunchyroll and VRV.