I love ReLife. I love a good character arc, and ReLife had that in spades. I watched as leads Arata and Chizuru made the most of their second chance at youth to work past their adult baggage and to grow into the people they wanted to be. The show gave them that. It focused on them, and had utmost respect for them and their arcs. Such were my expectations starting Bokutachi no Remake. In a rare hour-long pilot I watched as lead Kyouya was given a second shot at pursuing the dreams of his youth, as he accepted at long last his greatest maybe and enrolled in art school. This is it, I thought. This is ReLife, and I’m ready.
And boy, was I disappointed.
The first episode of Bokutachi no Remake has got to be one of the most unfair bait-and-switches of modern anime. Beautiful animation and stunning closeups reminiscent of what you’d see in Vivy set the stage for a moving, mature drama. This falls apart almost immediately the minute we get to the second episode, where through a series of pervy scenarios and completely unwarranted romance scenes set to some totally lackluster animation and instantly forgettable music, I realized I was in fact not watching the second coming of ReLife, but the umpteenth return of the classic male self-insert power fantasy currently running through the anime industry like a rampant epidemic.
It’s a complete waste of a setup. Tsurayuki, Aki, Nanako are interesting characters. Referred to as the “Platinum Generation” for their incredible artistic talents in the near and abandoned future, they’re brought together as normal young adults, sharing a dormitory with our hapless but also talented lead Kyouya. “How will Kyouya grow into his dream surrounded by these people he once looked up to?” is a question that they could have run with. In fact, this would have made for an infinitely more interesting series – had the writers not decided to instead turn the show into the most run-of-the-mill harem male fantasy ever.
I hate it. None of these brilliant, talented young characters have any agency whatsoever, not the guys and most especially not the girls. They have no spines. No backbones, even, except, of course, for the amazing, talented, god-like, kingly Kyouya, who can do no wrong and who has no faults and whom all the female characters literally throw themselves at. And I mean throw themselves at him, because that is literally what this show has its female characters do. Nanako, perhaps, is the most understandably in love (puking emoji) with Kyouya, since he does actually lend her a hand with realizing her dreams, but Aki? Eiko? At no point does their relationship with Kyouya advance in any way that would warrant them being madly in love with him, and yet they are, because, and repeat after me, this is a classic male self-insert power fantasy. Tsurayuki practically does not factor into the show past the third episode, by the way, so you can forget about him the way Bokutachi no Remake has. Guess it’s because of his pesky Y chromosome.
What starts off as a promising look at our past “What ifs?” and the real work that goes behind making our dreams come true quickly devolves into some of the blandest garbage I’ve seen all year. Imagine this: the setting is college. There’s a school festival. Now, shows like Grand Blue have shown us how crazy college can get in anime, and this is, supposedly, an art school full of the greatest, most talented young people in all of Japan, so anything is possible, right? The sky is literally the limit, you would think, right? Right. Great that you agree, because Bokutachi no Remake takes all that limitless potential and instead sticks its female leads into maid outfits and has them run a maid cafe. I wanted to tear my eyes out. I was so damn bored and disappointed at this point, like, you cannot believe.
Bokutachi no Remake could have stayed bland and forgettable. I would have forgiven that, but Episode 5 is where they decide, instead, to go off the deep end into some seriously nasty territory. Some context: it’s the school fair. The same, bland fair I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Our girl Nanako, who first enrolled to this art school in the hopes of becoming an actress one day, is slowly coming to the realization that she, in fact, wants to be a singer. But she’s shy. She isn’t confident in her singing, and the last thing she wants to do is embarrass herself on stage in front of hundreds of strangers. It’s the fair concert, though, and it just so happens that one of the acts is a no-show. Looks like they need a backup.
Enter Kyouya. Anime Jesus that he apparently is, he calmly, assuredly, confidently volunteers Nanako to sing in place of this missing act. She, understandably, rejects, because what the hell, Kyouya, but he insists she sing anyways. She runs off. Kyouya chases her down (keep in mind that the animation here is still bland as balls) and tells her that she has it in her to be a great performer. Why? she asks. What makes you so sure? I’ll tell you why, says Kyouya. I’ll tell you why, he says, and he pulls out a laptop (???) to reveal that he had – and get this – secretly recorded her practice sessions and uploaded her videos to a streaming service site. That video was getting thousands of likes, he says. They’ll love you, he says. And somehow, in that one moment, she is instantly okay with what this manipulative ass of a guy has just done.
I can’t. This show is mean. Kyouya is a jerk who borders on being a literal criminal (consent laws, friends, are a thing), but the show forgives him for it, blessing him with all the romance harem cliche and unwarranted relationship development he could ask for. It’s bilge. It’s the worst that light novels has to offer, stripping its female characters of any agency as it rips off all the intrigue and potential it set up for itself in its pilot episode. I am truly disappointed with this show, and disgusted, too. Maybe it gets better in the episodes after, I don’t know. I don’t care, to be honest. Don’t watch Bokutachi no Remake.