The sports anime genre is one I just can’t seem to stay away from. When it comes to real-life sports, I barely know a layup from a dunk. But something about the representation of sports in anime; the dynamically-choreographed matches underscored by inspirational music, the emphasis on comradery, and the feeling of satisfaction I get from deep-diving into a craft I know little about – all of it keeps me coming back for more. Whenever I’m in the mood for a more light-hearted watch, sports anime is my go-to genre.
So needless to say, when I heard about RE-MAIN, my interest was piqued. Even more so because it’s about a rather niche sport – water polo. Episode 1 of RE-MAIN premiered yesterday, July 4, 2021. After viewing it, I have mixed feelings; but I am positive of one thing: this show is oodles of fun.
A dramatic opening
RE-MAIN follows protagonist Minato Kiyoumizu, as he enters his first year of high school and decides to join the school’s water polo team. The first episode starts off in dramatic fashion, as we find out Minato has awoken from a 6-month coma – the result of a car accident. The way the anime handles this plot-point is interesting, to say the least. Rather than treating Minato’s coma as a serious and somber event, RE-MAIN takes a more humorous approach. Perhaps a wise decision, since the characters are unfamiliar to the audience and there would be no emotional impact.
Minato’s backstory leading up to his coma is told through exposition, accompanied by a series of children’s drawings and playful background music. We find out that prior to the accident, he was a talented junior high water polo player, even winning a tournament with his team. We’re also told that he has no recollection of the past three years, and thus can’t remember anything from his time playing water polo. Minato comments on feeling strange due to the lost time, though this isn’t explored as much as it could’ve been.
In fact, the only time Minato’s accident is portrayed in a serious light is through his family. While Minato himself has a nonchalant attitude towards his memory loss, his family seems to be still dealing with the effects of the accident. Namely, feelings of guilt about being responsible for Minato’s coma, and in the case of his younger sister, nightmares. It will be interesting to see if these themes will play a significant role throughout the series.
If I had to sum up the tone of RE-MAIN’s first episode in a couple words, I’d say it’s fun and humorous. I enjoyed a few of the jokes; Minato pretending to be someone else to get out of joining the water polo team made me chuckle. However, some of the humor was poorly timed, detracting from what could be an opportunity to explore serious themes like trauma and guilt.
In any case, it seems like (so far) the show is going for a more light and entertaining tone. After watching angst-filled sports anime like Free! and Sk8 The Infinity, this is a nice change of pace. Though whether this will continue to be the tone in subsequent episodes remains (pun intended) to be seen.
(Somewhat) Breaking the mould
When it comes to most shonen sports anime, there are two main archetypes that come to mind for protagonists. Firstly, there’s the naturally-gifted genius type; think Haru from Free! and Kageyama from Haikyuu!! And secondly, there’s the total novice; think Tatara from Welcome to the Ballroom and Ippo from Hajime no Ippo.
In that sense, RE-MAIN sort of rolls these two archetypes into one. Minato was formerly a water polo genius – enough so that water polo enthusiasts know his name. However, due to his amnesia, he’ll be re-entering the sport as a novice. It’s indeed an interesting angle for the show to take.
Another way in which RE-MAIN subverts genre expectations is with its inclusion of romance. Episode 1 of RE-MAIN ends with Minato receiving a kiss on the cheek from a girl he (surprise) has no memory of. Romance is usually either non-existent or plays a very minor role in sports anime. It will be interesting to see if RE-MAIN follows that pattern or not. Since it seems like the mystery girl is also involved in water polo in some capacity, perhaps she’ll become the catalyst for Minato’s decision to join the water polo club.
Something else I’m looking forward to seeing developed is the relationship between Minato and his old teammates from junior high. Given that they cried upon seeing Minato had woken from his coma, one can assume the bond between them was pretty strong. But now that Minato has entered a different high school to them, and is on track to join their water polo club, his former teammates will potentially become his new rivals. This would be an interesting dynamic to explore.
All in all, RE-MAIN episode 1 was highly enjoyable. It may have speed-ran its way through some major events, but since this was in service of setting up the series’ main storyline, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. Furthermore, the most stimulating part of the show – the sports action – is still yet to come. Here’s hoping the series delivers on that front.