- Titles: RE-MAIN
- Genre: Comedu, drama, school, Sports!
- Episodes: 12
- Studio: MAPPA
Minato was set for greatness. At the end of his middle school career, he managed to become the best water polo player in all Japan, assuring him not just a cushy spot in an elite high school on a sports recommendation, but also a kiss from the girl of his dreams. Minato had friends on his team who both supported and challenged him as well as an iron will to cease all his dreams. I said had, because Minato just isn’t the same person anymore. In an instant, it all disappeared. One tragic car accident and Minato is no longer the star athlete he once was, and with that, he lost it all, including his memories of every even playing water polo. But when you really love something, you end up finding your way back to it. Will Minato ever become the man he once was, and does he want to?
I’ll be honest, I just put pretty much all sports anime on my to-watch list. That’s just the type of person I am. I might eventually clear out a few if the reviews aren’t speaking to me but generally, I end up watching most of these shows. It’s sort of my thing. The anime that got me into anime in the first place was Hajime no Ippo so I’ve had a soft spot for the genre ever since then. And that’s the only reason I watched RE-MAIN.
If you’ve seen the key visuals for the show, you have an idea of the aesthetic here. It’s a pretty boy show with nice designs and great colours. I really liked the colour of the water in this show. It’s that bright slightly turquoise blue of swimming pools that just perfectly encapsulates summer. And water is everywhere in this show, so you see it a lot. They also do this interesting visual trick. Because of the nature of the story, there are occasional bits of exposition and voice-over narration to catch us (and the characters) up on events. And during those, the show uses rough sketches that look like they were drawn by small children. It’s a choice and I for one thought it was pretty cool. I think it ties into the theme of Minato having lost his memories and being in a way stuck at an earlier stage. Maybe I’m reading too much into it. In any case, I enjoyed those.
Otherwise, the animation does get a bit skimpy from time to time. Is skimpy a word? I know skimp is. What I mean is that they do cut some corners when it comes to movement. Sometimes they use stills, other times what we actually see of matches are only brief highlights. I do think they covered it up rather well though. I’ve seen much worse when it comes to lack of animation in a sports! anime.
Story & Characters
Ok, so this is my issue. I think that RE-MAIN is a very good sports anime that then becomes a bad one. And that really sucks. Bad may be an exaggeration, it just undoes itself.
I am not exaggerating when I say that RE-MAIN has one of the best first episodes I have ever seen. In my opinion of course. Not best sports anime, or even best anime, best first episode period.
The first scene of RE-MAIN is a schoolgirl happily talking seemingly to herself about what going on at school and her plans for the next few days. Her tone is light and jovial. She is having a great time. The camera pans out to show that she’s sitting in a hospital room and what seems to be the main character has just woken up in the bed. He’s still groggy and is just quietly listening to the girl as she wraps it up saying that she’s late to meet some friends and will be back tomorrow. She grabs her school bag and starts to run out when she suddenly looks towards the bed and starts screaming for the nurses and doctor that “he’s awake”!
We soon learn that Minato has been in a coma for a little over six months. Although he’s perfectly fine now, he has lost all his memories of middle school, even though he was in his last year. They might come back but for now, it’s a blank slate. He gets a visit from friends but doesn’t recognize them at all. He also learns that he was some type of big shot athlete in water polo but doesn’t remember ever playing. He’s also going to need months of rehab before he can properly move again since he’s been immobile for so long.
Despite all this Minato is fairly optimistic. He’s sort of not completely able to wrap his head around everything so for the moment, he just wants to concentrate on getting back to normal and he’s really happy to be back with his family.
This is the first act and the only actual exposition comes from the doctor who briefly explains the situation to the parents before they can take him home. That exposition lasts less than a minute. Everything else is real-time dialogue and mise en scene. It’s a feat of show don’t tell. And in that single act, I got to really understand the protagonist’s mindset and his personality. It could take other shows several episodes to get that much development. I also understood the situation and the amazing stakes. I was already invested in this story. The base premise is so wonderful and all I could think was, obviously, he’ll be playing water polo again but how, and under which circumstances? I was hooked. This was a very good first episode and the show remains (ha!) quite good for a long time.
The high of that opener does go down as the show settles into a slightly more conventional sports anime but there are still a lot of unique and unconventional elements. For instance, forget about getting back to water polo, Minato has to take High School entrance exams and he has literally forgotten everything he’s learned in middle school. And an episode is just devoted to him just trying to catch up. I really liked that conflict. It was handled with humour but was still very poignant. And I couldn’t help but put myself in Minato’s place.
There are a lot of very good questions brought up. The title itself “RE-MAIN” refers both to a move in water polo but also to one of the core concepts of the show. What remains of a person when you strip experience away. Are you still you without your memories. It soon becomes clear that Minato was a very different person before the accident. Not only in body and physical ability but also in personality. And there’s this concept that Minato is in a way jealous of himself. Or of the person, he use to be. Although it’s never said, it’s clear that Minato feels pressured to become as he was and that he’s afraid that he’s constantly disappointing people by not being able to do everything he use to. At the same time, he resents it and is afraid he’ll never be able to recapture his prime so he avoids it.
But because Minato is a generally optimistic guy, all of this plays out gently, quietly. No tears or dramatics. He’s just torn between doing everything he can to once again become an ace athlete and not trying too hard to avoid disappointment when he fails. This character arc is great. It’s more nuanced and interesting than most sports anime protagonists and even when the show errs on the side of oversimplifying things, it remains full of food for thought.
And then, Minato realizes that maybe the guy he use to be wasn’t that great after all. In fact, maybe all that drive and ambition he use to have, took the place of all the kindness and friendliness he has now. Maybe the pressure of competing at such a high level and winning is something he didn’t deal with in the most pleasant way. And perhaps there’s an inherent selfishness and arrogance that is simply required to become the best at anything. At this point, Minato has to figure out whether it’s worth losing what he has in order to reclaim what he had. And is there a middle ground?
Still fantastic. We are like ¾ into the show and I’m having a great time. In the meantime, Minato got into a low-tier school because it was really the best he could do under the circumstances. Of course, they had a really downtrodden one-guy water polo team but are now rebuilding with all new members. They lost to grade-schoolers in their first match! All the fun Sports! anime shenanigans. But with some nice fat to chew on.
And then, I think, They made a big mistake. Obviously, spoilers. I honestly still think Re-MAIN is a show worth watching so if anything you’ve read so far has piqued your interest, feel free to skip to the drinking game and go watch the show.
I think twists in a narrative should be like accessories according to Coco Chanel. You know, before you go out, look in the mirror and take 2 off. RE-MAIN starts with a twist as most viewers will have expectations going in and it blows them out the window straight from the opening scene. And now we have this second twist since everything has been leading us to look up to past Minato as the better version of himself but it turns out he was a childish jerk who was mean to his little sister to booth! I haven’t mentioned it but the relationship between Minato and his sister Asumi is actually quite important in the show and very sweet.
So now, just one episode after twist 2, before we get to explore any of the fun stuff that is brought up by it, we get twist 3. Minato falls from, his bike and bashes his head causing him to regain all his middle school memories but lose all his new high school memories. And I think they jumped the shark. It’s just too much and too quickly. I rolled my eyes so hard it hurt a little.
Sadly, I think this destroyed the momentum of the narrative and it never quite managed to get its footing back. There were still some great moments afterwards. I did get invested in the final match. But I do believe this twist and the way it was executed weakened the overall story. This may be an issue of the pacing of the adaptation though. So there is hope that the manga does better in that respect.
And despite what I just said, I have to give RE-MAIN some props for this idea. Minato is an extremely affable protagonist. He’s like a lost lamb most of the time and he’s just nice. That’s important. It’s a big part of the reason we all want to see him succeed. And with the second twist, we want to see him succeed without compromising his happiness and kindness.
But after the third twist, Minato becomes a jerk again. He softens a bit but he pretty much remains a jerk for the rest of the show. And that takes a lot of guts! Making your main character unlikable in the last act and never quite redeeming him. This author has balls of steel! Like I said, I don’t think the anime pulls it off but if it did, it would be one of the greats!
Bottom line, for me, RE-MAIN sort of evens out as a sports anime that I generally enjoyed but fell short of greatness. And that’s too bad.
You might like this anime if:
You enjoy Sports anime. You are intrigued by what I thought were the good parts!
My favourite character:
In the end, I had to go with Jo! I like optimists, what can I say?
- Every time Eitarou is a water polo otaku – take a sip
- Every time Jo’s spontaneuos – take a sip
- Every time the bet between Minato and Chisu is mentioned – blush
- Every time Minato gets intimidated by his past self – awww
- Every time we see Minato’s old teammates – take a sip
- Every time there’s a family dinner – get a snack
- Every time they call Amihama “Amiami” – Amiami!
- Every time Ejiri is super confident – take a sip
- Every time we see the turtle – cheer
- Every time the visuals switch to children’s drawings – take a sip
- Every time anyone mentions eggbeaters – think aout what you shoud make for dinner
- Every time Ejiri and Amiami bicker – take a sip
- Every time Asumi is looking out for Minato – so cute! let’s get Asumi a present
- Every time Yoshi gets gloomy – take a sip
I save all my screencaps on my Pinterest and you can find more there if you are interested. But I still like to show you a few in the post. If you’re like me, screencaps are something that really helps you decide to watch an anime or not.