Losing a beloved person would certainly leave any person stricken with grief and confusion: self-condemnation and thoughts of preventing such death are things that would cross anyones mind. Luckily in the case Boku Dake Inai Machi, or Erased in its english title, the protagonist Satoru Fujinuma finds himself able to travel back in time to prevent such tragedy from happening; furthermore, he is set back at the time where a fellow classmate died. This is not everything: the mystery surrounding the death of the girl also seems to be tied to that of his very own family. Erased is a psychological mystery anime that portrays
human drama, yet sadly was very disappointing, being the characters and numerous plot holes the main culprits. However, it must be mentioned that it has a great direction in animation and a good buildup in the first few episodes, which arguably was enthralling, pulling viewers into the show.
The main problem in Erased lies in the little problems that become apparent as the show progresses: these ultimately are magnified by many others, which will be depicted. The concept of preventing occurrences through time travelling has been explored in numerous other works, yet a problem with the anime is the fact that these are completely random, allowing the author to make any necessary changes in direction when necessary. This is not bad on its own, yet instead of using it as means to develop the characters in the story, it utilizes it purely to change the direction in the narrative, which was not done in a subtle manner. Regardless of said issue, it managed to create some tension in the story as viewers never really could correctly anticipate the course of the narrative.
As mentioned earlier, the protagonist is able to travel back in time to his 11-year-old self to prevent a certain death from happening, in a time in which one of his classmates died. However, it becomes soon apparent that the protagonist does not explore said option at all, and instead of going to the root of the problem, investigating the possible murder, he decides to protect Hinazuki, his classmate. Another complication is also associated with the mystery surrounding the murderer: it is very clear who it is, which is not a great issue on its own, but the anime does not offer any alternative that may leave viewers in doubt. In essence, this anime fails at being a good "mystery". The anime also presents human drama, yet was rather poorly portrayed because of the characters actions and all the events tied to those. These were often of very simple nature, such as parents beating their own child, deaths or betrayal just to name some. The main problem with these are that they're cheap, without ever sufficiently expanding on it in a satisfying manner. It must be said that it uses this to its advantage to create tension, but it is just that, tension and shock factor without any strong meaning behind it. In addition, the anime sets up a lot of things, time-travelling, possible consequences of his own actions, yet just never explores them in-depth.
The problems are further magnified by the pacing of the work, which is rather lackluster as well. The introductionary episodes are satisfying, yet as the show progresses, it quickly becomes apparent that important segments that contribute to the overall plot are either too rushed or information is omitted, whereas the more "mundane" moments are too much focused upon. In fact, the majority of the show is centered around Hinazuki and her problems - but to this later. This actually brings into play the positive aspect of the anime, the interludes between the different occurrences, which are generally well executed portraying insight into the characters and their emotional state: however, this doesn't affect the important points of the story. There are just so many improbable events in the story that it just looses any credibility it has, going from nonsensical behaviour of the characters, or just the sheer amount of centering on the violence exerted by a second party - victimizing for the sake of it is not good writing.
The major issue that brought the whole series down were its cast of characters: they didn't act according to their age, their motives/goals were either very lackluster or were just a mess, and ultimately the abrupt changes in behaviour to accommodate the direction in story. There is the 29-year-old Satoru, a typical otaku protagonist being mostly indifferent to society, and has the power to prevent deaths by sneakpeaking into the future. The main problem with this character is his incomprehensible and irrational behaviour he displays throughout the series, such as fleeing from a crime scene he didn't commit or even attempt on murder. In addition, his main goal of seeking the killer just shifts from finding the murderer to protecting his classmate - which in turn brings up the pedophilic tendencies the protagonist displays towards the minor. The anime develops a light romance, which includes Satoru constantly thinking of either being together with said person, or even imagining things when in the bathroom. This came out of nowhere, and just felt very off-putting for obvious reasons. Character development is present, yet is lackluster and limited by the actions of the character himself; rather than resolving the issues on his own, it gets resolved by a second party, which is understandable due to his physical appearance, yet could have been expanded on.
Then there is Hinazuki, a victim of child abuse, which throughout almost the whole series is treated as a mere plot device, rather than human being - it could be compared to seeing a soulless robot. Luckily enough, she gets fleshed out in which through subtle scenes her human side is displayed. Which is a nice change to the constant unnecessary abuse scenes. Other character of interest is the super intelligent psychoanalyst Kenya, who possesses an intellect far superior to that of Satoru despite being only 11 years old. He aids the main character in many instances, yet his motives behind why he supports the protagonist are rather lacking as well, as he apparently was smart enough to solve various issues. Finally, the last character of interest is the murderer: although he is portrayed to be a mastermind behind the scenes, avoiding detection over the span of several decades, he makes tremendous mistakes when the main character is concerned. He ultimately degrades to a simple one-dimensional villain with no convincing motive at all: furthermore, this also raises the question why said person took so many poor decisions and why he just didn't switch his killing target(s) when things became too heated and unfavourable.
The various interactions between the cast are handled poorly in most cases, be it the one dimensional evil parent or perverted manager, or the supporting cast whose poor choices leads viewers questioning their mental age; or just the fact that most act as passive observers. Because of the stale personalities of the cast and their changes in behaviour, the interactions between them feel unnatural: however, this mainly affects the main plot points. For the slice of life moments, these were often well handled by the studio - those were often the most enjoyable parts of the anime, which is a huge disappointment, as it is not the main purpose of the show.
~Animation and sound~
One thing that can be given credit to the studio is its direction and use of animation: this was well done, displaying the various themes the anime had to offer such as loneliness, isolation, happiness, you name it. Through the art it is able to portray the different emotional states as well as physical conditions of the characters; despite executing this well, it is rendered useless when the narrative constantly shows constant abuse, making these little detail utterly pointless, which is a waste of resources. An example would be the focussing upon the bruises of Hinazuki. As for the art style itself, I personally didn't like it and found it off in some situations, be it in the character design or the different facial expressions. The anime also tried to mitigate the problem regarding the mystery behind the killer by applying red eyes to suspects, yet this is a cheap alternative to creating tension, and when everyone is can have those eyes, it loses its purpose.
Concerning the soundtrack of Erased, it often uses the different compositions to its advantage to correctly portray the various atmospheres of the show, intertwining with the dialogue: piano, violins, xylophones, gloomy tones, you name it. There is fact a huge preference to classical instruments, which was a good choice. The opening and endings were equally well crafted, presenting the themes the anime had to offer with some pop tunes to it. As for the voice actors, these generally performed their tasks well, complying with the different personalities of the cast. This wasn't entirely the case with the protagonists, where no significant difference could be appreciated from his various emotional states.
Erased had some potential, yet failed in executing the basic elements of the show, which was due to the little issues that ultimately snowballed into bigger ones - which is a shame, as its direction and usage of animation was befitting and well executed. I quite honestly did not enjoy the series at all, despite being intrigued by the first batch of episodes: the characters, lack of expansion upon key elements as the villain or time travelling gimmick are just a few of the many issues that made it a bad anime. It fails in providing a good mystery with cheap cliffhangers and shock factor to accomplish tension. It praises itself on being a human drama, but it equally lacks in said theme. Now I will admit I never have been a fan of drama, which made it more difficult to enjoy that genre. I personally do not recommend this anime, unless you aren't bothered by the above mentioned problems - which in turn, can make for an intriguing ride. Boku Dake Inai Machi is ultimately a show that feeds itself on cheap emotions and thrills.
Note: Tl;dr at the end for the lazy ones.
*MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS*
Boku dake ga Inai Machi, or Erased in English, is clearly the most popular Winter Season Anime of 2016. With it's sky rocketing popularity and rank on myanimelist in such a small amount of time, Erased has successfully caught the attention of the crowd and everyone has probably watched it or thought of watching it soon. Here on myanimelist, most of the reviewers are filled with negativity and are over-exaggerating the negative points of this anime. It is not that bad as most of the reviews are indicating here. So here I'm writing a honest
and positive review of Erased.
Erased narrates the story of Satoru Fujinuma, who is a 29 years old and works as a pizza delivery boy. He posses a strange ability called 'Revival'. This ability, 'Revival' sends him 2 to 5 minutes back in time, without his consent, whenever something dangerous happens around him. He usually tries to figure out what is wrong in his surroundings and tries to prevent that dangerous thing from happening. When he was wrongfully accused of murdering his mom, in the first episode itself, he is sent 18 years back in time when he was 11 years old in 6th grade where he tries to solve one mystery of serial abduction and murder going around the school to prevent his mother's murder in the future as they seemed related.
I feel that the initial story (from first to fourth episode) is the reason why Erased became so popular and highly rated! It's thrilling! The suspense will really eat you and will left you wanting for more. You will probably want to binge-watch the show or jump onto reading the manga to know more.
But after the first half of the show, I feel that the story starts moving in a wrong direction and it sort of becomes less thrilling. The studio was clearly rushing a bit to complete the anime in 12 episodes only.
There are many things which are left unexplained. For example, Satoru's ability of 'Revival'. So yeah that's the reason why I have rated the 'Story' section 8 instead of 10.
Erased clearly flaunts it's art in many ways. The backgrounds and scenes, like the Christmas Tree scene which was made using the stars in the sky, successfully delivers warm and entertaining moments. The way 'Revival' is portrayed by showing a blue butterfly across the screen and the way history or the future is compared with the timeline using movie reels makes Erased more interesting to watch. The suspenseful atmosphere which Erased is able to create, and the facial expressions which arouses suspicions on various characters are perfectly executed which supports it's mystery genre incredibly well.
Being a fan of Asian Kung-Fu Generation, I loved the opening of Erased, "Re:Re:" right off the bat. The ED "Sore wa Chiisana Hikari no Youna" by Sayuri is a beautiful song indeed. The OSTs are carefully played at crucial moments and is able to set the suspenseful mood very nicely.
Coming to the voice actors, they have done an incredible acting. The way Satoru uses his adult voice to show his real mature self is interesting.
There are some characters whom I really liked. And there are a few for whom I don't give a damn.
Satoru Fujinuma, as an adult, is a very boring character. But he has a really good side which forces him to save people whenever 'Revival' is triggered, and sometimes he even hurts himself in that process. On the other hand, Satoru, as a kid, seems more interesting. His boring side is removed and he's got determination, sense of humor and a really cool and gutsy side which makes him a likable character.
Kayo Hinazuki, the girl whom Satoru is determined to save from being the victim on the serial murders, gets a good amount of screen time and development. The circumstances which she is going through like being abused by her mother or bullied by her classmates makes us sympathize her.
Sachiko Fujinuma, Satoru's mother, is another great character. She has been portrayed as a very honest, caring and courageous mother with high willpower. She cooperates with her son in saving Hinazuki from her mother's abuse and nursed his son for 4 hours daily for 15 years which emphasizes mother's love.
Apart from these three characters, Airi Katagiri (a coworker of Satoru in a pizza shop), Kobayashi Kenya (smartest childhood friend of Satoru) etc are a few people who get a little amount of screen time but are still likable.
On the other hand, I never became much attached to Nakanishi Aya or Sugita Hiromi (other two victims of the serial murders) and most of the other side characters.
The idea of putting a supernatural ability like time travel is not a new one. I have seen Steins;Gate, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Higurashi: When They Cry, Charlotte etc in which the character goes back in time to save his friend again and again. Erased, is actually different than all these titles above. It has a dominant mystery genre which is centered around realistic and old school mystery of serial abduction and murdering which makes it enjoyable. If you are into mystery and detective shows then this anime is pretty much recommended.
In the initial episodes, the pacing was excellent. The show does an excellent job in creating suspense and leaves us wanting to know more. But in the second half, it starts to feel a little rush, but still it is able to maintain the the quality of it's genre.
Erased maintains a good sense of humor which makes it fun to watch. For example, Satoru, in his young form, often speaks something out loud while thinking it which puts him into embarrassing or awkward situations.
While Erased is a very enjoyable anime, it still is far from perfect. There are many things left untold, for example, the origin behind Satoru's ability 'Revival'. And it makes even lesser sense in the whole Erased world that Satoru is the only one having this ability. Infact this ability is the only thing which makes this anime a part of Supernatural genre.
Many realistic and thought provoking philosophical themes are offered by this anime. For example, mother's love for her child, child's love for his mother, frustrated parent's abuse on their child, loneliness in youth age, bullies in school, human's tendency to run away from problems, human's tendency to help other's in need, parent's situation whey their child is in a permanent bed rest for years, and I can go on and on.
+Very interesting and engaging premise
+Great art and animation style which is suitable for a mystery anime
+Main characters are realistic and interesting
+Great OSTs, OP and ED, excellent voice acting
+Lots of philosophical themes
-Story becomes a little monotonous in the second half
-It starts to feel a little rushed, especially in the last quarter
-Many characters got a very little screentime and character development
-Many things, including the ability 'Revival', are left unexplained
-Sometimes it becomes predictable
Erased is an anime, which you must watch this year. Though only one season has ended, I can guarantee that Erased is going to be one of the best, if not the best, anime of 2016. So if you haven't watched it already, then go for it!
~ updated 03/24 ~
English is not my first language so I'm doing my best writing this review, sorry!
Spoilers of the first episodes ahead!
✧ Introduction/the story:
Someone travels through time to save a person he/she cares for. I've already seen this. Madoka Magica, Steins;Gate, Higurashi. No creativity in that aspect, and in the case of Erased it's even worse because the time travel has no explanation at all. This is not a deconstruction and does not present something we have not seen before. This would not matter if the premise was well executed, but this isn't the case either, let me explain why.
✧ The characters:
The MC is
a cold, edgy guy that is good on the inside, I'm not saying this is a bad thing, but it makes him cliche and boring. He is also terribly written, acting like the story needs him to act, he goes through traumatic situations as he goes to work every day. This would be excused if this was a fighting shonen, but we are talking about a seinen with mystery and drama. The main character even acts irrationally running out of his house when a neighbour saw him near the body of his mom and thought it was him who killed her, which is quite impossible too, why would he worry about being accused of homicide if there are some little things called inspection of the crime scene and evidence?, of course the MC has no absolutely no reason to kill his own mother, which poses the question: is the police brainless in this world or something?
In spite of having a 29 year old mind, he still acts like a child most of the time. The excuse given to the viewers is that he wants others to like him (which is kinda contradictory too, because on the first episode he's cold with everyone), for example, instead of asking for all the help he can when he travels to the past, he thinks he can do everything on his own, which is childish and illogical. Nevermind that he is only a bit surprised when he travels 18 years on the past, when he should be extremely confused and overwhelmed by the situation.
The other characters act like soulless robots too, especially the ones that talk to the MC about the murder of his mother like they were talking about the weather, they are also forgettable because most of them act like passive observers.
The actual kids doesn't talk or act like kids in this show, which takes away all the credibility. For example, there's even a little boy who suspects that the MC is up to something, and when he decides to talk with him, it's like he just read the MC's mind. We are talking about a 10 year old kid, not about a private detective.
✧ Satoru's power:
It's supposed that he "applies" his time travel powers to save his mom, but instead of focusing on that, he tries to save a girl he barely knew. Why would he care about her instead of worry more about his mom and his friend? I know the disappearance of the girl and the murder of his mom are kinda related, but there is not a direct factor between the two events, I mean, yes, he can save his classmate, but the kidnapper could abduct any kid they wanted and the events would end up being the same or simmilar.
Also, if the MC's mind applies the time travel like in the first episode, why didn't this happen when he saw her full of bruises? the time travel has no rules or explanation so the writers can make up anything that is convenient for the plot. You can see the inconstancy of his power only on the first episode.
✧ The script:
This anime also presents some themes through the dialogue, such as depression, or even existentialism, but never explores them properly, it feels like they were put there just to turn the dialogue into something "out of the ordinary"
The show also presents pretentiousness by showing how a girl is hit by her mom, which is not even necessary and it's shock factor, only there for people who get emotionally manipulated easily.
And no, the abuse is not there to delve into the psyche of the girl, it's just there to victimize her. These themes need to be explored with more delicacy and should not be thrown in your face like this. If you remove those scenes, the story would remain the same, just implying it with the bruises would have been enough, but no, you need to feel bad for a character about which you know literally nothing more than that she is a cute, but abused child. We can only conclude that this series also fails miserably on the psychological aspect.
Erased also fails as a mystery series, because the murderer ends up being really obvious and they don't give us the opportunity of using our minds or feeling excited about the mystery itself because the way that is developed is very hard-set and they never give it too much importance.
The drama on this anime is also forced and ridiculous sometimes, to the point that they want to convince us that a reason for a divorce could be something as improbable as an accusation of stealing a chocolate bar. And the viewers are supposed to take that seriously and feel bad for the characters. This was also an external excuse for the MC to have an ally.
✧ The villains:
Another aspect in which Erased fails with its writing, are clearly the villains, we have two villains, Kayo's mom and the murderer who killed Satoru's mother and the kids.
First, we're going to talk about Kayo's mom:
At first, the show never gives any reasons for the abuse and Kayo's mom even looks happy while beating her own child. You may say that these things happens in the real world all the time, but that doesn't make them realistic or relatable, because not only was the girl murdered by a psychopath, but she was also abused by her mom with no motives at all.
There's always a motive behind such acts in real life. For instance, does her mom have a mental illness? in other words, on why her mom hits her and not only on the act of abuse.
Then, when it's already late for delving into real problems or motivations, the show explains in literally two minutes the "reason" of her being a abuser, this is presented very superficially and in a way that her, Kayo's mom, ends up being victimized too.
Now, the main villain:
I'm not going to say who they are, but their "reasons" for killing little children are also very bad excused through a very morbid metaphor. We never get to know him enough to know his true motives.
People who are bad just because, are a big problem.
✧ Production values:
This anime has a very good animation with delicate shadows and a soft color palette that mix perfectly with the bittersweet feeling that the story wants to transmit. It's also very interesting how they put 2 voices on the MC to differentiate between his old mind and his young body.
The music is on point with the feeling of the characters and it mimetizes perfectly with the way that the characters interact.
The cinematic effect that shows the memories of the MC is very nice and interesting, but they could have taken more advantage of it. It doesn't fit the story altogether.
This anime is bad, it has poor theme exploration, it's full of conveniences, plot holes, fails on its psychological aspect and creating a good mystery, the tension and the drama are meaningless and the only good aspects are the production values.
It's becoming more apparent to me by each passing season that if an anime gets any sort of recognition like this, it's bound to divide the community into 2 groups. The majority goes on to ride the hype train and hype the series in question up to the high heavens, while the other hops onto the hate train and then the shit-fest begins. I usually see myself not siding with any of these but frankly, the latter seems more reasonable to me than it ever was. I'll try to offer an unbiased opinion on this even though seeing its rating is kinda baffling. So let's
get into it, the most hyped up anime of the season and quite possibly the most overrated anime of the year (I'm asking to get shot, aren't I?) - Boku dake ga Inai Machi, otherwise known simply as Erased. This review won't spoil anything beyond the first episode.
The story centers around a 29 year old emo Pizza Hut employee who is trying to become a mangaka. On the other hand, he also has a reset power, "Revival", that occurs a few minutes before an accident, lending him the ability to stop said accident before it ever takes place. So yeah, he's basically a Final Destination lead. One day, while stopping an accident from happening he gets injured and in that time his mother moves in to live with him. The next day in Satoru's absence, his mother is stabbed in the back and killed in his apartment by some random guy with a fedora. Do you see the problem here? I said the next day which is quite literally the next day. We don't even get a full episode to get to know or sympathize with this character. Instead we just know her for half of the first episode until she is brutally murdered. Oh no, it's almost like Attack on Titan. Who didn't cry at the first episode of Attack on Titan?!
Anyway, we don't know the man who did it nor do we know his intentions. When Satoru arrives to the crime scene, someone conveniently finds him next to his mother's corpse with blood on his hands. Everything is going downhill for Satoru as the police arrives when he is suddenly, out of nowhere sent 18 years into the past to the year 1988, which at the time he was merely a 10 year old elementary school student. It definitely isn't too far of a stretch to say this is a lame plot device at this point, especially now that he has no control over it. Also, I'd like to mention how further down the line Satoru says that it will be his last Revival. So how does this thing work? Plot convenience, duh.
Prior to this it is also shown that a few kids from Satoru's school were murdered at that time period, namely our loli heroine, Kayo Hinazuki. Hinazuki was a troubled and lonely girl who never got along with anyone and was often abused by her mother. Satoru decides that as well as preventing his mother's death, he will also save Hinazuki before her birthday which is on the 2nd of March. Considering it's already mid February he doesn't have much time. The accused murderer of these kids was 23 year old Jun Shiratori or known to the children simply as Yuuki due to his courageous nature. He was a person who would always approach the lone students around his house, which already raises a giant red flag. However, Satoru always remembered Yuuki to be a kindhearted and happy guy who would never commit a crime.
So obviously the show's primary element is mystery, which I have mixed feelings about. If the mystery is done well it can really lead to a great series, but that usually isn't very easy to pull off and more often that not it just falls flat. The worst mistake a mystery series can make in my eyes is when it raises so many questions but in the end fails to answer them, or maybe just leave it off at a cliffhanger like Rokka no Yuusha. Erased done well in that aspect, seeing as it didn't raise that many questions to begin with. See, what I think is the main problem in Erased's mystery department is the amount of suspects it brings up, or lack thereof. 4 episodes in I was pretty confident in my guess on who the killer was as it was so easy to trace back once you actually think about it. I would of been surprised if my guess was wrong to be totally honest, and that's not because I'm some sort of super-genius.
Art / Animation
I seem to have a very obvious bias when it comes to works done by A-1 Pictures. I thought the art style resembled their previous works too strongly and therefore it derived from the series for me as it didn't strike me as dark enough in tone, especially for the kind of series Erased is. So, much like the opening and ending, the art and animation slowly grew on me the further it went on. It's very soothing and visually appealing. Combined with a decent musical direction and atmosphere it even felt cinematic at times.
I wasn't a very big fan of the opening at first to be honest but it gradually grew on me and is easily the best opening of the season and even one of my all-time favorites. That also applies to the ending, it's neat too. As for the OST, I'm indifferent about it. There wasn't anything that struck me as good or above average, it all just felt like regular background music to me but it does it's role, for what it's worth. The voice acting is rather impressive as everyone had a great performance. Seeing as both of Satoru's seiyuu never done any previous work, regarding anime at least impressed me quite a bit. I especially like the guy that does the adult version, his voice is very soothing. Aoi Yuuki was also really good at portraying Hinazuki's character but that is to be expected.
The characters in Erased are for the most part incredibly lackluster - from the protagonist to the supporting cast. Because most of the series takes place in the past, a lot of the characters are just 10 year olds, which leads me to my next point - Most of these kids don't even act their age! At parts they act like full-grown adults which really derives from the show, why even bother making them kids in the first place? Looking at you, Kenya, Hinazuki.
Satoru, while being more interesting than your harem protagonist doesn't have that much going for him, which is fine to a point because the characters aren't really where the series shines but his character could have definitely been more solid or maybe had a stronger personality. He doesn't seem like he particularly enjoys the time resets, but he still decides to help out. What a nice guy! The series has a much heavier focus on the past than the present, so for the most part we just get kid Satoru. Well, he's just a normal 30 year old man who's trying to save his 10 year old girlfriend from her seemingly inevitable demise. Sounds about right.
Hinazuki is a very reserved and closed off girl but she opens up more and more as the series progresses. She gets abused by her parents for some unknown reason aka SHOCK FACTORRRRR. She suffers from the same problem as Satoru, as she doesn't have a personality that defines her either. Instead (for the most part) we are simply supposed to feel sorry for her and like her because of the predicament she's in. She is pretty cute though - good character.
The supporting cast is also very lacking, filled with 1-dimensional characters. The reasoning of a lot of characters can be pretty unreasonable and even ludicrous at times - people getting divorced because of a chocolate bar, etc. Then you have characters like Hinazuki's mother who, every time she is on screen tends to turn this show into a misery porn galore.
Kenya is another instance of wasted potential. They done as much as they could to make us understand that he is incredibly intelligent and by the end of it all, he barely does anything and his character is awfully utilized. I feel the same way about the killer as I've heard his reasoning is a lot clearer and better explained in the manga. It's not that surprising though as they did try to bash 8 volumes into a 12 episode series. All in all, the characters aren't done very well.
I can sit here all I want and point out the flaws of the show, but truth be told, I had quite a lot of fun with it! I think this is mostly due to how the pacing was handled as it is very fast for pretty much the entirety of the series, yet tends to not feel rushed for the majority of the first half. Only at about the halfway point does the pacing start to affect my outlook on it and turns for the worst. Despite this, I was still entertained for most of the show. The two major downfalls here are the tremendous amount of plot conveniences all throughout the story and the (in my opinion) poorly done mystery.
Erased is mediocre in every sense of the word. Despite that, I'd still argue that it's one of the better titles of the season. Does it deserve the hype, praise and to be ranked higher than LotGH? NO. The characters are awfully lackluster + the story is not that great as it has to rely on an iffy plot device and a ton of plot conveniences throughout. I wanted to say that it has more good than bad but A-1 stayed true to their nature and managed to ruin a promising show for me, once again.
In the end, I don't think Erased is neither as good as some praise it to be nor as bad as others make it out to be, it's simply average. It's like a rollercoaster and the further you go down, the messier it becomes. However, if you're not a critical watcher and just want to have some fun, Erased is definitely your go-to this season. Sorry in advance if this review gives you suicidal tendencies for not giving it a perfect score.
[Warning: this review will contain vague spoilers]
I was originally not planning in writing anything in regards to this anime in specific, as I thought I had nothing interesting to say about the title. However, after reading the analysis by Zephsilver, I managed to put together some thoughts in regards to Boku Dake ga Inai Machi (or Erased, if you are not fond of tongue-twisters) that I’d like to offer in addition to the debate. I also would like to say: Zeph, I appreciate and respect your text, since it had a rational depiction of your perspective that I could reasonably grasp, but I’d like to
Before getting into the review, though, I want to give some context: before the beginning of the winter season I had read the synopsis of Erased and added to my Plan to Watch list, as it seemed mildly interesting. Later, after watching the first two episodes, I was hooked by the premise and highly invested in what could be the outcome of the story. Only then that I got to know about the hype surrounding the series and from that point I witnessed the internet go insane over its score.
Story and Characters
My reviewing method for this one will be somewhat different from the norm. By the time I’m writing this, the series itself is still surrounded by controversy with two sides with very questionable motivations either raising it as the best thing since Page 3 or clamming it’s an overrated abomination pandering to masses who want to think of themselves as smart (doesn’t that apply to 99% of humanity?). Here, besides commenting of the story and characters within the work, I’ll also discus some of the arguments brought up against Erased and offer my perspective if they are correct in any form or if they hold any water. The first thing I think it’s important to understand is that Erased is, at its core, a very simple story. Besides the time-traveling plot, it has a very streamlined narrative and it is focused almost exclusively on the actions of the main character, in accordance to the fact that he is the “strange element” in the child timeline (suddenly feels like I’m talking about Zelda!). What it avoids in complexity, it opts to use in character interaction, developing the drama and the motivations that move the story forward. Before I get to the meat of the argument, though, let’s talk about some of the characters.
Fujinuma Satoru is the main protagonist. “Gifted” with the ability he calls Revival, he can go back a few minutes in time, whenever something bad is about to happen. Detached and constantly feeling unfulfilled, he holds a strong regret due to events of his childhood, when two of his classmates were murdered and one of his friends was incriminated. These feelings lead him to distance himself from his past, but he is forced by a Revival to go back to the days of his childhood in order to prevent those crimes.
Hinazuki Kayo is the girl who Satoru wants to prevent from becoming the first victim. Frequently abused by her mother, she avoids interacting with her classmates and is usually seen alone. She initially tries to keep a distance from Satoru, not understanding his motives for trying to get close to her, but his friendly demeanor ends up softening her emotional barriers.
Yashiro Gaku is Satoru’s teacher and one of the main agents in the narrative, as he seems interested in solving Kayo’s family situation. Satoru later comments on how Yashiro was an influence to him due to a speech he gave at school, before the story had began, and a specific moment in which Yashiro looked like what Satoru expected his deceased father to be.
Shiratori Jun, mostly known as Courage, is an adult who was friends with Satoru in his childhood. Socially awkward and with a heavy stutter, he feels more comfortable interacting with children, which leads him to be framed for the child-murders Satoru tries to prevent. Besides feeding the motivations of the protagonist, the story also uses him to briefly comment in how his inability to be socially active and preferring the company of children led society to misjudge his intentions, especially when Satoru faces a similar situation in the future.
While the thriller aspect of the anime is in the center of the driving forces of the narrative, the bulk of the emotional investment Erased strives to build is on the bonding between Satoru and the people he is trying to save, and his motivations within the story. Great focus is given to his interactions with his friends, who with the exception of Ken’ya, who seems unusually mature for someone of his age, are all very believable child characters. By that I don’t mean being as obnoxious as an inch-deep testicle wound, by the way, these kids are actually designed to be likeable. This aspect of the story is built upon until the conclusion, where they play a part in finally getting the killer arrested. Having all of this in mind, let’s tackle some of the complaints about the series.
“The time travel element is underdeveloped”
The time travel element is kept simple. Firstly, Satoru’s ability to go back in time is nothing more than a plot device to put him on the track of the murders and since it seems to be simply a supernatural element instead of the usual sci-fi occurring, keeping it simply is a better idea. The story in Erased isn't about time travel, it just features such element as the one necessary for kicking the narrative into motion. Stories that are centered around time travel usually stumble and fall when they decide to flesh out this element without paying proper attention to consistency, which leads to gross plot-holes. Maintaining this element simple and undetailed allows Erased to avoid major inconsistences and focus on the main drive of the story. Also, I know some people were upset by the second instance where Satoru goes back to his child-self as it seemed he had gained control over his ability. To that, I hope you can forgive me stepping out of my polite demeanor for a while to say: For fuck’s sake, that only happened ONCE and it doesn’t even look like he had much control over it! Being it a supernatural ability, and one that seems to have a mind of its own, nonetheless, the event itself isn't so out of place as one might think.
“The identity of the killer is obvious and the reveal is underwhelming”
This complaint is one that fans and detractors of the series seem to agree, although in different levels of importance. I mean, the opening itself tells you who it is. The point of contention here is not whether or not the average viewer can easily guess the killer’s identity, but the purpose that such attribute plays in the story. To some, working under the mindset that Erased’s genre is Mystery; such flaw would represent a sign of incompetent use of red-herrings, as well as inability from the writer to effectively create other suspects. In other words, hack writing. Fans of the series, however, work under the mindset that Erased is, in reality, a Thriller. Such idea is supported by an interview with the director of the anime, where he states:
- “I see this story as a suspense thriller, or well, a human drama in the guise of a suspense thriller”
By that definition, the tension within the story would come not from the mystery over the killer’s identity, which is constantly flashed throughout the story, but from the knowledge the audience has in opposition to the cast, since knowing who is the killer would raise tension whenever he and the main characters were close, and that emotion would then culminate when the villain finally reveals itself for the protagonist. Some of his attitudes could be very ambiguous, like the ones at episode 09, but they ultimately filled the role of driving him closer to Satoru, which would then lead to their connection in the years to come, finally bringing his downfall, as Satoru himself had become the killer’s weakness.
“Erased becomes an unfocused mess in the latter half”
This is the one argument to which my response is a categorical NO. Before I get into a fair explanation in relation to that statement, though, let give a better example of how to define lack of focus. For that, I’ll actually give the other face and throw under the bus an anime that just so happens to be one of my favorites, Ergo Proxy, because self-awareness is important. The first 8 episodes of the anime are some of the most tightly written episodes in anime, with barely any line of dialogue wasted and plenty of subtle details in character reactions. Right before the first half, though, the main characters go into a journey looking for the truth behind the main mystery of the series, and from that point on Ergo Proxy adopts a highly experimental structure, focusing plenty of episodes in isolated conflicts tied only to the theme it wanted to address in that specific episode (I apologize for the repetition). Very little of those episodes has connection to the main goal, and when the characters reach their destination it turns out to be a dead end, forcing them to return in order to find the truth. For all of that, it’s not unreasonable to say that Ergo Proxy specifically lacks focus on its narrative. From the point Kayo leaves the center of the plot, Satoru’s objectives change, from saving the girl to protecting the other victims and uncovering the identity of the assassin. As a result, the series follows along with such change and turns its eyes to him, in the same fashion as does the danger of attracting the attention of the villain, just like we would see later on, when Satoru’s actions lead him to be the new target. In that sense, the anime simply shifts its focus, it didn’t lose it and that was the natural root to take. That also leads us to another topic;
“Erased lost its charm once Kayo left the picture”
I always found questionable the idea of attributing the entire appeal of a story in a side-character, but that aside, let’s understand this argument: The idea here is that, since the anime spent so much time revolving around Satoru’s efforts to save Kayo, much of the audience’s investment was crafted around the girl, as she would be the one the viewer would immediately want to see shielded from harm. The series does many efforts to frame her in sympathetic light and give her endearing qualities, so when she is moved away from the plot many felt it had wasted their investment. This is a comprehensible thought, indeed, but I believe it ignores another important aspect of fiction: by maintaining focus on a character that has already fulfilled its narrative purpose, the work runs the risk of saturating such character, diminishing the values that made them endearing in the first place and ultimately compromising the story to make room for them. Moving Kayo away from the narrative not only makes sense from a logical point of view, as it completely places her away from the killer, but also preserves her from becoming a hindrance to the story and leaves her character with the emotional baggage that comes at play during the last episodes. There is a merit in avoiding wish-fulfillment if it prevents characters from becoming a problem to the flow of the narrative.
"The ending is rushed and the villain's motivations are poorly explained"
This criticism specifically I can understand on the basis of how the anime progresses in his final episodes, but I’d like to explain the reason for my disagreement by discussing one of the references made by the villain, the spider thread tale. This element is first brought up at the beginning of episode 11, when the antagonist comments that after a specific event during his childhood, he begins to see spider threads hanging above the heads of his victims, in reference to a tale about a criminal who gets the chance to escape from hell using the thread sent by Shakyamuni Bhudda, but is condemned once again when the thread breaks, in punishment for his selfishness. In this tale, the thread was the last source of salvation given by a superior being to a soul in despair, so seeing it above the heads of those he wanted to kill can be interpreted as the antagonist’s desire to be someone above his victims, to be an “entity” with the power to condemn or give salvation. When he is finally defeated by Satoru, he sees a spider thread above his own head be torn apart. This is the point when he realizes that he was powerless and susceptible to being manipulated and judged just like his victims, he realizes he’s not an entity in control. By the same line of thought, he takes an interest in Satoru, after the kid survives his first attempt to kill him, because Satoru was the one able to escape his judgment.
I believe many of you heard Erased’s visuals being called “cinematic” and that is actually a statement that holds water, as the anime utilizes some techniques of traditional cinema in much more noticeable fashion, a result of the experience the director had working with other professionals like Hosoda Mamoru or Araki Tetsuro, this last one an expert on making anime with mainstream appeal. Now, another term I believe can be applied to the show’s presentation, in general, is minimalistic. The characters are frequently framed in wide shots within the scenery, with the fixed camera giving full comprehension of the environment while the figures are kept small and with minimal action. The purpose of this directing style is to avoid the viewer getting lost in the imagery and lead them to focus only on the details that are relevant to the narrative. In the other hand, it also serves to emphasize emotional moments and heighten the impact of scenes that display a little bit more of flare, giving them a whimsical feel.
A minimalistic presentation, when executed effectively, can suscinctly drive home the emotional core of the scene, and i'd say that Erased uses that method with excelence. This trait also manifests in the characterization, as the shots stealthily introduce certain details and character motivations, like the hero’s Mask in Satoru’s bedroom, to show a figure that inspired him as a kid, or in the manner in which the killer is framed, from the point he’s fully introduced to the brief interactions that hint to his identity, like when the camera is focused upwards, mirroring Satoru’s perspective. These choices of framing serve to cut on the necessity of exposition, reducing the dialogue only to what is essential. This can also be noticed on the sound work: important scenes, like the moment Satoru makes the first impactful contact with Hinazuki, frequently opt for not having soundtrack, driving even more attention to the dialogue and giving full responsibility to the viewer to infer on what is going on between the characters. For an anime that has been accused of being heavy-handed, I’d say this directorial decision is pretty respectful towards the audience.
The points that feature soundtrack, though, don’t tend to be impressive. Most of the noticeable tracks play their purpose, but are fairly generic, serving only to highlight the specific mood the scene wants to convey. Exceptions would be, of course, the highly catch opening, the fitting and mellow ending, and tracks such as “Only I am missing”, “I have to save her”, which is brief but very effective at crafting tension despite the upbeat vibe, “Reasoning” and “She was there, alone”. Hum, I’m noticing a pattern here! When it comes to the acting, it’s very consistent with character portrayal and overall quite solid, but one aspect that might raise disagreements, more than usual at least, is Satoru’s voice actor. Despite a solid performance, even taking into consideration it’s his first anime role, Shinnosuke Mitsushima is one of those actors who has a voice that is too singular, which can drive attention away from the acting itself.
I think now we can address some of the external questions related to Erased.
Is Erased the best thing since dark beer? No, I can myself point out more than a handful of titles that are better, without taking away from the anime itself. Was it overhyped? Sure! I mean, it’s hard to refute that an anime getting into MAL’s top 10 before it is even finished is quite a ludicrous event. Is the negativity warranted? My stance, at least, is “not really”. I believe it’s fair to ask how much of the negativity towards the series is a direct result of its hype, as some people might think it pressures them into a position. I’ve seen even better shows get attacked with far less meaningful arguments, as a result of public opinion being highly favorable towards them, so the attitude itself doesn’t surprise me. The most interesting question, though, seems to be: how did Erased of all anime become so hyped? Think about the most notorious titles of recent years that can be considered overhyped: Attack on Titan was a shounen with focus in drama and a high body count, with an overall gritty setting and story; Kill la Kill was a self-aware ride of nonsensical action with very little restraint; One Punch Man was a parody of superhero tropes centered around fast-paced action and comedy. To think that a slow-paced thriller like Erased, with such an emphasis in children interacting and very little action, would become the hit of the season is a very surprising event.
I must admit that I somewhat enjoyed the polemic surrounding the anime, not so much for how it affected the show itself in the public eye, but because it rings specially close to one of my personal beliefs: fixation on scores is bullshit! People going crazy over one title’s score seemed ludicrous and drove the discussion away from the important elements by turning it into an exercise in group-think. Now you had to rate the show a certain way so that your opinion could be taken seriously by certain sections of the anime community. Now, however, the fires of the flame wars are on the rout to be tamed, so I thought it would be a good idea to offer my perspective on the anime, hoping that it can invoke some respect around.
Since this is the section of the review I leave (specially) dedicated to self-indulgence, I’d like to talk about specific details about Erased that I really like: I like Satoru’s interactions with his mom as a child, showcasing that he still cared for her, even with the distance between them in his adult self; I like his interactions with his friends, both as a child and as an adult, when we can see the contrast their relationship takes; I like the lack of control Satoru has when talking as a child, showing the disconnect between his body and his mind; I like the meaning the title takes at the end of the series; I like the whimsical moments between Satoru and Hinazuki, which really drove home the meaning of his actions even at short term; I like the childishly awesome lines Satoru’s friends said; I like when he reads the text he had written as child, about his favorite hero; I like it, simple as that.
With this review I don’t aim to change people’s opinions or scores about Erased (although if it leads more people to give the show a try it would be really cool!), I hope simply to showcase how this opinion in specific can be valid, because as minimalistic of a story as it was, it did something for me, and for that I appreciate it.
With any established community there are traditions that take fruition from within it. And when it comes to the anime community that tradition can be seen with the ritualistic assignment of labels that is accompanied with every new seasonal lineup. Each season's catalog is cherry-picked through by the ascending masses to be filed away in neat little categories that're decided by whatever the common consensus is at that time. And it's thanks to this unspoken system that we get our "anime of the season", "hidden gems" and "BURN WITH FIRE" shows that, for the most part, seems to be what the general audience agree upon.
But among these rank-and-filed titles, we always have at least one show that splits the community into opposing camps; with one side exalting it as the next best thing since sliced bread and the other side wanting its head on a stick. These contentious titles ignite the embers of flame wars across several forums and opens the floodgates for keyboard warriors to caps lock the hell out of each other. These are often the most "hyped" show for that given season and tend to remain that way long after its airtime. Ladies and gentlemen, Boku dake ga Inai Machi (or Erased) is without question that title for Winter 2016.
If I was to give a very brief overview of Erased it would be this: engaging 1st half, deplorable 2nd half.
Erased is the type of show that will get under many people's skin. There's titles that upon 1st glance you could easily deduce that it will be no better than B-grade schlock, and then there's shows that genuinely get your interest. For most, Erased will be the latter. With a firm grasp on cinematography, color placement and all around competency in crafting a grounded setting; Erased upon initial impression seemed to be quite the promising prospect from Winter 2016. It exudes this feeling of control over its actions that it's quite easy to buy into it. A reassuring appearance that it will be a smooth ride from start to finish. The reason these kind of titles are more bothersome as oppose to the shows that are instantly identified as bottom-rung, is that with lesser tier titles there's no expectations set for it. When I view an 'Akame Ga Kill' or 'Asterisk War' level show, quality is the last thing that comes to mind. I know as a viewer that what I'm getting ready to watch will at its very best be easily digestible excerpts of things I've seen done far better. On the other hand, shows that allure me into anticipating something substantial carry far more investment with it. So when these titles fall under their own weight it packs a bigger punch. There's nothing more disheartening to witness as a viewer than untapped potential being flushed down the toilet. And like its namesake, Erased 'erased' any chances of being herald as anything more than a novelty act.
Instead of reciting the synopsis I'll go right into addressing where Erased showed commendable effort and how it eventually unraveled into a hokey hogwash.
Time-travel as a plot device in any story can be a fickle thing to work with, the slightest overuse or tampering of it to alleviate inevitable conclusions can quickly result in audience backlash with the collective chant of "bullshit!" being ushered out in response. The best use of time-travel is really not using time-travel at all but there's a reason why it's still a compelling tool for writers to dabble with. It can open up scenarios and prospects that previously were made unavailable in the conventions of regular stories. So the reasonable solution for those instances is finding restraint in when and how time-travel is used in the confines of the narrative being presented. This was an area that Erased seemed to have covered relativity well. The main character can jump back in time a few minutes before something tragic happened, as stated by the synopsis. What made this use of time-travel welcoming was that despite this ability, he himself has no true control over these time jump occurrences; the option to jump at will is out of his hands. With this stipulation set in place, Erased found a reasonable limitation to work with. It eliminated the misuse of time-travel by the protagonist to retcon any events whenever the writer sees fit. But as you may have surmised by my statements regarding this show's 2nd half, this established restraint doesn't remain constant, and that spells the first major misstep of the show.
The second major catalyst that crippled Erased was its genre itself. Marketed as a mystery anime, Erased spent a great deal of time foraging through its settings and characters living in it. This is what indirectly set up the first half to seem so promising. There were layers of detail being caked onto the "mystery" story, which helps to better define it to the audience. Erased felt like a place not too far out of reach from our own world, thanks in no small part to the extra time dedicated to making the experience as cinematic as possible. With widescreen angles (Letterboxing) implemented in certain crucial moments, to off-kilter camera angles that helped express messages without the need for expository dialogue, everything the show was doing up to a certain point showed a level of quality not often seen in the anime industry. It was able to build suspense using music cues and proper lighting, giving life to its mystery through comprehensible visual motifs and proper use of color placement. The show expressed capabilities far more common in the world of cinema than what anime usually dabbles with. It's for reasons like these that many flocked to it, labeling it as one of the best without so much as to second guess their stance. And ultimately it's this that also fended off proper judgment for the far inferior 2nd half. The frenzy was too high for rationality to kick in.
While the quality of the show's visual and audible presentation remained relatively consistent, the same could not be said about the writing. When I mentioned the show's genre being a detriment, this is where that becomes apparent. With the primary genre being "mystery", one would think a great deal of time would be dedicated to making that aspect as foolproof as possible, but what we got was nothing short of underwhelming. To those unfamiliar with the purpose of a 'red herring' in a story, it's something or someone that's manifested and exists for the purpose of misleading the viewer from the truth. It's like the slight of hand trick practiced by a magician, while the real action is happening out of sight. A red herring isn't supposed to be your answer but rather a falsehood that takes on the shape of an answer. In a mystery story, red herrings are those clues that lead to a dead end, or the suspects surrounding the true culprit that detracts the viewer from the correct answer. At no time is a red herring suppose to be a final conclusion. Even when there is an attempt to subvert this fact, all that does is make what appears to be the "truth" to be nothing more than another red herring in disguise. So when Erased effectively missed this fundamental fact, it is nothing short of baffling.
In what was an attempt to curve the obvious fake out into the actual truth, Erased single-handily shot itself in the foot. These are the actions of a satire that pokes fun of the genre, not a show that is a part of it, which made the mystery of Erased to be an unintentional joke to those keen to this fact and an underwhelming reveal to those still infatuated with the show up to that point. No one walks out a winner, both cynics and fans alike loses in this situation. Had Erased place in some kind of deviation from the elephant in the room this wouldn't be a problem but poor planning sadly killed those chances. This anime was one script revision away from being passable.
Even if one was to view the show as a thriller (a very common excuse used by detractors that stand against the title's criticisms), it still doesn't hold much merit. A thriller, like its namesake, would imply, is a genre that's supposed to "thrill" the audience with an exciting, often intense plot, where the tension feels ever-present and a sense of urgency is placed on the viewer for the character's well-being. It's wound up dread followed by cathartic release. A very textbook component that's the backbone of any successful thriller. That being said, it's hard to be "thrilled" when the narrative makes irrational decisions that quickly breaks immersion, or deflate any tension that was built up with an anticlimactic conclusion. You're supposed to be in a state of nervous anticipation as to the outcome of a storyline, not scratching your head questioning the leaps in logic of said outcome. If a convenient ticket out of every impending danger is offered to the characters, then how could their predicament be anything short of a temporary bump in the road? Without a proper end result to any build-up, the show is essentially leaving you mentally flaccid. When a show continuously makes decisions that negate risk or impending danger, then it ceases to lack consequence in the eyes of the viewer. A thriller with no substantial consequence is like a mystery with no red herrings; and wouldn't you know it, Erased ended up being insufficient in both aspects.
This half-baked writing also seeped its way into the visual presentation, as the show's ineptitude in handling its symbolism and motifs became quickly apparent. What is important to note is the proper usage of these elements in a story and not the actual meaning of said elements. In any form of grounded storytelling, symbolism and motifs are suppose to be implemented with finesse. They're placed there to add subtext to what is being presented at face value. They're things that don't necessarily need to be identified to properly understand what you're watching, but upon analytical inspection, adds a new layer of meaning to what is presented on screen or implied in the narrative. To put it in layman's terms, they're like brownie points for those that dig deeper into the subject matter they're presented with. That being said, when these literary devices are spoon fed to the audience, it defeats the purpose of their usage. At that point, it's no longer a praiseworthy effort, but something that's equally detestable with the likes of lazily implemented expository dialogue. It's the difference between letting the visuals and action speak for themselves, oppose to beating the audience over the head with the obvious answer (Yes MothersBasement, red = danger.. In other news, cows go moo). Something being symbolic doesn't inherently make it good, an aspect that Erased failed to comprehend.
And like a snowball effect, all these shortcomings kept on culminating into something far too glaring to be rectified. This brings us to the conclusion of the plot in the show's 1st half, which saw our protagonist Satoru muster everything in his power to protect Kayo. All of the show's efforts were slowly crafted around this plot. It was a gradual buildup to Kayo's revelation in the story. This brought with it the show's best efforts. Viewers were swayed into investing in this conflict, which became more gripping by each new episode. "Will Satoru finally save her?" "Would his efforts be in vain?"; these and many more questions were raised along with the stakes as things drew closer to its final destination. And after all the layers of suspense, all that attachment, all that investing... the conclusion quickly deflated in value by a poorly-realized, rushed solution that saw a character be re-written and patronized, while simultaneously removing one of the central focuses from the story entirely. So when one of the biggest investments for many viewers were removed from the equation, all these aforementioned issues that were initially dismissed, no longer had anything to hide behind. The shit was out in the open, it was just a matter of stepping back to finally realize it.
If I had to say what the biggest issue with Erased was it would be that all of the great aspects of it, all of the promises it made, and all of the standards that it set, was quickly counteracted by the occurrence of everything in the 2nd half. While the same issues were also there in the 1st act, it was never made apparent when the show pulled focus away from it. For every high point, Erased offered, an equally appalling low point balanced it out. It was a duality that kept it from being any better than where it ultimately ended up in the end.
For the first 6 episodes or so Erased was quite the enjoyable experience. I was invested in the conflict, I wanted to see the protagonist succeed, as well as uncover the mystery surrounding the killer. The show had my interest. But just as quickly as it drew me in, it lost me with the same speed. The 2nd half of Erased is nothing short of painfully mediocre to intellectually insulting. It was disappointing to see what it could have been, and how it turned out instead.
Erased could have been great, what it did well it did exceedingly well, the potential was there in ample proportions. But almost like a countermeasure, when it faltered it didn't just trip a little before catching itself, no, when it fumbled it pretty much fell down a flight of stairs, breaking every bone on its way down. So do I recommend Erased even with acknowledgment of this? Yes, I do. Despite what trouble it had, later on, the 1st half was enjoyable enough to still warrant giving it a try. You may not like the end result but there's enough inherent value here for the 12 episodes to be worth going through for yourself.
Ever felt like you made a big mistake in life and wanted to fix it? Or perhaps you just want things to go in the right direction if given another chance? Most people will never get that sort of opportunity. But for a guy named Satoru Fujinuma, that’s another story. His ability, Revival is pretty much a gift that allows him to travel back in time with his memories. So in essence, the guy can basically fix mistakes in his life with a second opportunity. Actually, I should probably rephrase that. What he has isn’t just a gift but also a responsibility. The ability to
time travel is an extraordinary power but it also comes with a lot of responsibility because in this story, Satoru has an encounter with a very experienced killer that puts him, his friends, and family at risk.
Based on the manga, Boku dake Ini Machi (also known as Erased) is a psychological thriller. Adapted by A-1 Pictures, the series chronicles Satoru’s life and his responsibilities to avert certain events. From the first episode, we see that he is a rather cynical man who seems indifferent about every day events except when there’s some sort of oddity or strange event happening. As one of these events, Satoru encounters a bizarre instance when an unknown man emerges from his neighborhood. This apparently has connections with a series of murders in his community that also includes the death of a family member. I guess it’s easy to tell what comes next as Satoru uses his Revival ability to avert such a tragedy. The problem? The unknown man/killer is very experienced so it takes much more than just time travel to prevent such a tragedy.
Now I have to admit, this series has quite an intriguing premise. The idea of being able to witness events again and being able to fix them sets up a lot of plot planning for Satoru. The first few episodes establishes this as we see how events are constructed based on memories and narratives. What’s interesting to see is how Satoru sees his own past. It’s noticeable because of how the past relationship he shares with his mother is a bit different from the one we see in the future. In essence, Satoru begins to realize how happy he was and attempts to forge a stronger relationship with his mother. This is sharp contrast to Kayo Hinazuki, a lonely girl in the past timeline. Kayo’s mother is the antithesis of a good parent. She is manipulative, abusive, foul mouthed, and treats her daughter like her property. Furthermore, her role in the story seems to be influence Kayo’s personality as she becomes like a hollow shell. Of course, that does change once Satoru appears in her life.
One of the stronger dynamics of the series is the relationship and chemistry between certain characters. Besides Satoru and his mother, Satoru and Kayo easily has the most prominent relationship. From strangers to allies to friends, the two builds trust and a tight connection. At first, it’s not easy because of how other students in the class also ostracizes Kayo. However, Satoru is able to break down her barrier of solitude. This is achieved by standing up to her bullies, treating her with kindness, and even confronting Kayo’s mother as a way to show her wrongful deeds. In essence, this naturally allows Kayo to open up more and show her own cheerful side. At times, it’s easy to see that Kayo’s personality seems to be a bit of a reflection of Satoru in the future timeline. This also brings out Satoru’s character as he realizes his own weakness at times as he feels powerless to stop certain events from time to time.
Another one of Satoru’s important relationships is the one he shares with his friends, most importantly Kenya. Despite being a supporting character, he helps Satoru and is able to deduce certain abnormalities with his cunning mind. His strong sense of justice also inspires Satoru to stop crimes from happening especially to find the crafty killer in both the past and present. Despite this, I do think some relationships suffers. Satoru and Airi’s relationship in the show is less noticeable and seems to be only based on trust. While it share similarity with Satoru/Kayo, it doesn’t have the amount of emotional appeal. Even during one scenario where Airi’s life is in danger, it feels like the show doesn’t really appeal more than just the typical “Satoru jumps in to save the day”. Similarly, Satoru’s relationship with his teacher is also based on trust as he seems to be one of the few adults that he can rely on. In essence, trust is a controversial part of the series as well because in the end, events that happens in the story isn’t always what they seem.
By the time you’ve watched 1/3 of the show, it’s easy to tell that the series is very story centric. Every episode builds on more and more with the construction of events, the descriptive narratives from Satoru’s point of view, and how important events influence one another. Satoru’s revival ability creates opportunities, not just for himself but others too. Unfortunately, the killer is also a very crafty individual so they often plan ahead to strategically carry out their goals. This leads to Satoru’s trouble with the law as he finds himself powerless at times. This is one of the weaknesses of the series. Satoru’s motivation is to save certain people but he is sometimes unable to save himself. The weakness here is that we may feel that Satoru relies too much on himself rather than others, at least for a good portion of the story. Remember, Satoru only has the pieces of the past that he sees clearly but not always the solutions. Speaking of story, the show is also a bit predictable. Despite being labeled as a thrilling mystery, it’s not difficult to predict who the killer is. On the other hand, there’s also the idea about the motives. It will get the viewers to ask why certain people acts according to their actions. This includes Kayo’s parents, friends, and obviously the killer himself. Also on a technical note, the series is only adapted into a 1-cour so expect a compressed adaptation. There are certain events that is omitted from the manga to speed up the pace while trying to keep the story as credible as possible.
On the visual front, the series has some pretty good quality. There’s a lot of foreshadowing so the show is able to carefully piece together with clever camera angles, in particular with the moving framework. Even the show itself presents itself like a movie cinema, which is a reason why I’d recommend watching the show on a big screen. In addition, character designs are very stellar to create the thrilling mood. The atmospheric feel of the show is delivered by the character expressions to show their personalities from the compassionate mother Sachiko, stoic Kayo, or the casual friend Airi. The killer is the also most noticeable in the show with his red eyes to reflect his dark twisted desires. Another character that stand out part is Sachiko with her signature lips, a distinctive way to show her as a prominent adult in the series.
Soundtrack is another strong dynamic of the series. Yuki Kaijura helms the series composition and is fairly well known for her ability to create a thrilling atmosphere. This is accomplished by the fine details of eerie music especially during suspenseful scenes. Furthermore, there’s the OP and ED theme songs with not just foreshadowing but also elements of mystery. Another noticeable part about the show is the character voices. Now obviously, there’s a sharp contrast in voice tone between Satoru’s present and future self because of the age gap. However, the praise should go to Shinnosuke Mitsushima, a newcomer with his ability to portray Satoru.
Boku dake ga Inai Machi is far from a masterpiece. The story is predictable and despite a good amount of characterization, certain characters can be easily forgettable. Furthermore, time travel isn’t a new concept as series such as Steins;Gate, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and even Zetusen no Tempest has dived into such themes. However, it’s still a thrilling series mostly with how it keeps the audience at their seat. We want to see Satoru succeed and each episode builds more and more on that. The relationship dynamics remains one of the most prominent concepts of the series and it easily brings the story to life. From the past to the present, it shows how characters progress with fine details through storytelling. And speaking of fine details, the production team really did put a good amount of effort in the visual quality and soundtrack. As for a show like this, it’s about embracing the story and see what it has to offer. If you’re a fan of that, then there’s a lot to look into to.
So I've just finished this anime and if you're wondering if it's worth watching, I will tell you it truly is. A great masterpiece that keep me wanting more. The characters aren't too overwhelming or annoying and the pacing is nice. The story line is great also.
Some elements of the story may seem predictable at times but that's only if you really pay attention to the details. The ending was memorable and left you feeling complete which truly made this anime stand out from many others.
Overall, I recommend this anime if you haven't already seen it but I'm sure you have since it's been
everywhere for the past 3 months. One of the best anime of the winter season
"Everything will eventually rot away. As long as the factor of time continues being the apex predator of the universe, the inevitable decay of all pain and memory is unstoppable." - Overpriced Mac computer
In the beginning of 2016 an anime with an absurd rating popped out of nowhere on Mal's top list.That anime was ofcoarse Boku dake ga Inai Machi.Being the tea-drinking gentleman that i am,i've disregarded it as the Oscars did with Edward Norton,but lately i've mustered some fate in humanity and decided to give the short 12 episode mystery a chance.
The story centers around
a 29 year old pizzaman (sadly that is not Kenji the Enji) trying to become mangaka,while also having convenient time traveling powers given to him by the Magical Space Jesus,that only work when they are needed for the plot.
One day,while driving his fancy pizzamobile,he sees a speeding vehicle going towards a little kid and much like a certain protagonist from Yu Yu Hakusho he decides to be the hero.While managing to save the kid he also ends up being in a hospital.After being released his mom decides to live with him and on the next day in his absence she gets stabbed to death by a shady looking character wearing fedora.When he returns and finds her body some woman conveniently sees him and calls police.The police then assumes him as the prime suspect,but instead of clearing his name,he runs away from them,using his inexplicable time traveling powers given to him by the Magical Space Jesus to go back in time,precisely 18 years ago and find and prevent the killer from killing his mother.But to do so by his logic he must become someone else,he must become something else.That something is his 11 year old self,By doing that he assumes that if he prevents the kidnapping of a classmate of his - Kayo,he will exculpate his friend who was originally framed for the kidnapping and sentenced to death,leaving the real perpetrator free to kill his mom in the future.So he decides to get friendly with her until the day of her kidnapping,giving a weird uncomfortable pedo vibe.
But the thing is,it really didn't matter which kid would the killed choose to as his victim.Making the entire effort pointless if the wasn't convenient for the plot the killer to be someone that Satoru knows from 18 years ago.
Another thing thing i want to mention is that the emotional scenes in this particular "gem" are probably the worse i've seen in just about anything.I've laughed in every single supposed sad scene there was.
Characterization is probably the biggest flaw in Boku dake ga Inai Machi. The characters are irritating, flat, inconsistent, contrived, and they alone destroy any possibility of this being even a decent anime..
Every single one of them is a bland plot device which acts anyway the plot wants them to act and without a doubt will be forgotten in the next 2 months or so.You really can't tell which one is worse or best since they all suck.
But ofcoarse then most noticable one is the one with the most screen time.That ofcoarse is Satoru.He makes really illogical actions in just about every episode.
The other main character for the majority of the series is Kayo.For the sake of shock factor,she is abused by her one dimentional evil mother, a fact which all the adults around her are aware of,but are unable to do anything about. Child Protective services had attempted to deal with the situation but were unable to gain any concrete proof or even set up a meeting.
Due to this abuse, she's a social outcast at school, preferring to distance herself from other people, hoping that if she wears the mask of apathy long enough, it will become real. After school, she spends her time mostly alone at a local park until 6 P.M., to avoid going home and facing her mother.
The killer is an absolute copy of Mark Jefferson,except that his plans make no sense at all and unlike the charismatic Life is Strange villain,he is very predictable and his motivations are non-existent.
The rest of the characters's personalities can be deducted from their character designs alone.It was like they weren't real life people, with their own mindsets and ideas.
Although the ending wasn't bad,although extremely cheese and predictable,because of the poor character development it didn't manage to become paramount.
The animation as avarage as it gets for this damn age !Nothing more to be said.
The voice acting was as bland as the characters which in this case is a good thing.
The ost was pretty meh.It didn't make my ears bleed nor did it impress me,so it's between avarage and fine.
Although having avarage Sound and avarage animation,this anime had MAJOR phasing problem,rushing until the very end,failing to emotionally connect the viewer to the characters and some''genius'' mind though using monologues to the point of beating a dead horse.
Boku dake ga Inai Machi is one of the dumbest show to ever take itself seriously. It is essentially a hackneyed amalgamation of cliches and overused plot devices that clumsily attempts to disguise itself as something greater.
Watch Boku dake ga Inai Machi if you have a weird Deus ex Machina fetish, but otherwise stay away. It does nothing new and it does nothing well. It doesn’t even fail in an interesting or original way, destroying any chance for campy "so-bad-it's-good" appeal. As a result, I can't think of a single positive thing to say about it, and I have no choice but to give it a 2.
Moral of this is.....
It's time to stop!It's time to stop!Ok?No more!Where are your parents!?Who are your parents ?I'm gonna call Child Protective services!It's time to stop !
For some actually good anime that revolves around Time travel i point you not towards Steins;Gate,because chances are that you've already watched it,but towards Noein.Not one of my personal favourites tho,but it did everything that Boku dake ga Inai Machi failed to do with flying colours.Even Crispin Freeman is in it.Who doesn't like Crispin Freeman ?Nobody!
Well, I've almost watched all anime masterpieces and undoubtedly, this is one of them. I've never written a review before, but now I do, because this anime really earned it.
Everything about this anime has a unique atmosphere which you can feel from the first episode.
Some people like to compare this anime to Stein's Gate because it involves some time travelling. Other people wondered about the mystery and crime genre and compared it to Death Note. This anime is neither of them. It doesn't revolve around time travelling as the main idea or the plot of the story. Also, it doesn't involve that much darkness and
crime twist as Death Note.
It is about loneliness and friendship, courage and hesitation, evil and good, family and abuse; It is about a lot.
The art in the anime is much better than the manga. It is also somehow unique than other animes I 've watched. You will unlikely to find mistakes while watching that may disturb you. The art is very well done.
It just got me in the story. I didn't feel that there is a SOUND being played. I just felt the story going before my eyes while I am feeling it.
I felt the characters as they're real. Actually, I think the characters are taken from real persons. The characters, their backgrounds, feelings and complications are very well put. You can watch the character grow up and evolve as you march through the anime.
YOU WILL NEVER GET BORED WATCHING THIS ANIME.
Ahh, time travel. That big ball of timey wimey as the doctor once said, filled with countless paradoxes, plot holes, problems, different theories on how it could work and lots of books, movies and television series that have used the concept in so many different & interesting ways. Add a mystery story into the mix and what do you get?
Something to work with. But did Erased work with this idea well? No.
Note: I don't know why its 10 on MAL as of writing this. I'm here to get this far away from MAL's top 10.
Meet Satoru. A lazy, deadbeat, 29-year-old manga
artist that has a time travel power called "Revival" which makes him travel a couple minutes into the past every time an accident around him occurs. Simple enough. His mom comes to his house one evening and dies, assumably by a mysterious man with a fedora. Satoru enters the house, sees his mum dead, freaks out and his "Revival" power goes off in which he goes 18 years in the past when he was a child to prevent an abduction and the killing of one of his classmates which is connected to his mother's death.
In most time travel stories and for all good ones for that matter, the first thing you need to do is establish the rules & principles on how the time travel works since it's such a tricky concept to grasp. As the protagonist states in the first episode "It happens when an accident is nearby". But throughout the entire show you see instances of Hinazuki getting beat up, which he should have prevented from his supposed 'powers'. One of the many reasons proving why the time travel is a plothole and is a lazy plot convenience which only works when the author feels like using it. There is even an instance where the main character literally shouts as he is getting caught by the police "TAKE ME BACKK!" which basically implies he can now suddenly go back in time whenever he wants which in turn, turns all the drama and tension into complete bullshit. It's even worse that you can't just ignore these time resets because you wouldn't have a show without them. The show wouldn't even give me the decency of at least saying why he got this power, what purpose was he suppose to fulfil with this power, who gave him the power to time travel, when was he was given the power. It was irritating to say the least. A simple error the author could have fixed.
Secondly we have to remember this show is a mystery. But this anime has little to no mystery. There are no hints or clues we can work within this 'mystery' to find out who the killer is and the only time there is, the author certainly does not know how to plant this 'clue' which quite literally just falls into the main character's lap near the end of the show! That's right, the only big clue on who the murderer is happens 3 episodes before the end! Nice one.. The killer is the one everyone suspected and the only one this anime gave some sort of hint towards, so of course the reveal was terrible and extremely anti-climatic. The reveal was so obvious because the show didn't act like a proper mystery, he was the only suspect. Instead of fleshing out & giving the characters depth, lining out possible motives for characters as to why they would have committed the murder, make the viewer try, guess and solve who might have committed the murder as the show proceeds by placing pieces of the 'puzzle', they just make you suspect one guy the entire anime and don't do anything for any other characters. I don't know how people could have not seen this coming, the only reason people were surprised because it was so straightforward & obvious.
Characters, something a mystery thrives on is nothing too special either. We have a one dimensional evil parent that hits her child and laughs for forced drama, no theme discussed just cheap feels. And to make Hinazuki have 'depth' lets just have her get bullied at school as well! Lazy writing. Everybody in the show is also too retarded to do anything about the domestic violence occurring in Hinazuki household and her beatings. Because certainly a teacher & students filing reports to the police about Hinazuki, Hinazuki being covered in bruises and the mother escaping multiple inspections from Child Protective Services is not suspicious or evidence at all! Bullshit. Along with Hinazuki being a walking pinata to promote cheap feels, the children in the show that I will remind you are about 10 years old can psycho-analyse the protagonist, deduct he is hiding a secret about them and are practically smarter than him in every way despite his age and the era he has lived in. Again, lazy writing. Also there is a pedophililac romance in the show. The guy is 29 years old but starts getting turned on by a 10 year old, even start holding hands and blush at each other. The excuse of him being in a 10 year old's body, no one else knows only the viewer does, does not excuse him being a pedophile, he still has the mental age of a 29-year-old. Now it's not so much a bad thing that the story has a pedophile in it, but this is never brought to the main character's attention that he's attracted to a little girl and just shoved off because the plot needs a romance so you can insert yourself better.
Satoru as a character is bad. The only thing going for him is his monologues that take place inside of his head that give him more depth. Although that doesn't give any closure on why his motives & personality change constantly in the show. In the first & second time reset he saves the kids because he has a sense of selflessness. In the third time reset he wants to save his mum by saving Hinazuki, a selfish reason, the complete opposite of what he was doing before because he deducts that by saving Hinazuki he will save his mum, because the plot said so. And in the fourth time reset he just wants to save the girl and doesn't care about his mum. No detective work, nothing the entire series. So much for a mystery where the main character doesn't even do anything. And this guy is dumb, so dumb in fact that he blurts things he is thinking of constantly, so dumb that he never tries to figure out who the killer is. But when he wants to be smart, he just has epiphany pulled out of his ass on how to catch the killer.
Speaking of the killers, his motive and basically (in my opinion) the whole buildup and point of a mystery story; the cherry on top, was appalling. Instead of giving a complex and understandable reason as to why he wanted to abduct the kids and murder the mother is because he likes doing it and see's some silly string above their head. I'm not joking that's what it is. What is this? You make me watch 11 episodes for a borderline retarded motive like that? Oh my god. The easiest thing to not screw up on, a killers motive, was screwed up. He feels like a saturday morning cartoon villain now. The criminal mastermind that laid out all these plans for that reason. Evil because evil, great!
I do have to note the cinematography is amazing. Every shot in this show looks like there is a lot of vision, care and pride taken in it and the director is clearly trying to show something in his visual presentation. It's just a shame it had to be on this show.
The ending is indeed incredibly rushed with lots of problems and flaws on how they caught the killer and not much needed detailed explanation on what was going on. But my biggest problem with it is that there were no real repercussions on him after getting his time travel powers & journey. He got his dream job, girl and lived happily ever after. If anything it turned out for the better. Something the time-travel genre always does. Nothing ever bad sticks with the MC of a time-travel story. Something I thought I should point out.
In conclusion, I didn't like it, I could easily list another million plotholes and problems with Erased but that would take me all day, like how the protagonist freaked out when his mum was dead and instead of informing the police, decided to run away or how the protagonist didn't just wait until the day of the murder and prevent it, I mean his life is shitty now, why not re-do it? Or how the protagonist somehow survives a car crash which lead to a freezing lake.
It had a rushed ending that could have been better, a story with lots of shock factor, lazy writing which had lots of conveniences, 1 dimensional characters and tons of unexplored themes which worsened it a lot! It lacked depth and overall weight feeling really chaotic; a mish-mash of different ideas on what you could include in a mystery/time-travel story that weren't laid and fleshed out correctly.
In my humble opinion this definitely deserves a this deserves to be ERASED from my memory out of 10. It's bad.
Honestly, I hate picking holes in other people's reviews because whether I agree with their opinions or not they still would have put time into them- but before I dive into the enigma that is Erased I'd just like to quickly point out some of the things that bothered me in a few of the other reviews I've read here on MAL.
I won't point out any particular reviews, because like I said this isn't about being a bitch or anything, just observing what the positive reviews for Erased seem to have in common, but anyway, there seems to be a a bit of a trend
with people describing Erased as "unique", "well-thought out", "well written", with an "interesting premise" and art that is "easy on the eyes", now apart from all these phrases clearly being from reviews that are voicing their praises for Erased, what they have in common is that they are all vague compliments that are dished out so frequently and are backed up by so little that they barely serve to mean anything whatsoever. I appreciate that it isn't always easy to describe why you like something, and some of the "reviews" I'm criticising were technically previews to begin with anyway, but none of these 10/10 reviews ever say WHY it's unique, or WHAT is well thought out, or what the fuck "easy on the eyes" means and why it's the first thing that comes to mind when talking about a show's visuals.
Not to mention there seems to be the lingering stigma that people have to mention Steins;Gate in their review just because they both feature time travel.
That's not to say you can't talk about these things without having sound reasoning, it basically just boils down to some of these positive reviews spending to much time on the "what" and not enough time on the "why".
But what these reviews seem to have no issue with expressing is how "exciting", "thrilling" and "engaging" the story and its cliffhangers are, now again, don't get me wrong, it's essential that a show can engage its audience, but I'm pretty sure its no coincidence that these positive reviews seem to put such heavy emphasis on the dramatic elements, and almost completely disregard anything else.
But anyway, this is a review, I promise.
Our protagonist, Satoru has the ability of "revival", the ability to time travel. It's established within the first episode that this is an ability that lets him time travel 1-5 minutes into the past to prevent something bad from happening. And yet after his mother is murdered when she catches someone in the act of abducting a child, Satoru time travels back to being an 8 year old kid when he sees her corpse and is met at the door by the police in his state of panic; of course, the advocates of the show would probably argue that in this particular incident his life was in danger so the rule established in the first place doesn't necessarily apply to the situation- but then, a few episodes later, Satoru sees what (supposedly) could be another character's clothes tied up into a bag after their disappearance, and then proceeds to run away yelling at the top of his lungs, travelling back to present day where he is being tailed by the police. So the condition of time travel that is longer than 5 minutes isn't that he is in danger? It's that he's.. scared? That he's yelling? Is this the first time the time travel has worked this way because...reasons? No, the condition is that the plot demands it, the very nature of this ability is completely idiotic and effectively allows the writer to cop out of any situation and removes all the stakes. Whether there had been an explanation for why he has this ability or why it works the way it does or not (which there isn't), that doesn't change the fact that it's a painfully clear way of forcing plot progression when the writer shoots himself in the foot.
You'd think at this point the show would at least try to patch itself up and flesh out the boundaries of the ability in a last-ditch attempt to excuse these apparent narrative shortcomings, but I guess not, because an episode later, Satoru time travels back to being a child again while he's being arrested for the murder he was framed for, because he tried really hard I guess. But hey, he was yelling that time too, maybe I'm onto something!
To go off on a brief tangent- I struggle to understand why this show is praised for its cliffhangers to such a level- the same things that are rendered completely inconsequential due to what is arguably the show's central element of the "revival". This isn't just removing the stakes, it's completely fucking obliterating them; if you look through the episodes that have cliffhangers, it's not long before a pattern emerges either.
In episode 1, Satoru is framed for the murder of his mother and met by the police (which he runs away from because plot) before experiencing what we can assume is his first revival of more than 5 minutes.
Episode 4 has Satoru walk into class to find that Hinazuki has gone missing.
Episode 5 has pizza girl trap herself (after opening a door to a room that is clearly on fire because plot) and faint.
By the end of episode 6, Satoru is back in present day and gets arrested for the suspected murder of his mother.
And in episode 7, the show teases that the murderer is about to find Hinazuki again while she is hiding in a bus. (which he goes into just to kick a box because plot)
After the big reveal of episode 10 Satoru is left drowning in ice cold water (oh shit dude how's he going to get his way out of this one)
Episode 11 ends with Satoru regaining his memories.
All of these "cliffhangers" are solved with he flick of a switch (or the yelling of the protagonist in this case) once the protagonist time travels, and have no long term consequences whatsoever.
In most Mystery/Thriller shows, or just any show that is trying to create dramatic tension in general, you'd expect the creators to have a certain amount of tricks up their sleeve to play around with as the show progresses, usually through withholding or teasing certain pieces of information and then revealing them later down the line. Erased doesn't just do this poorly, it barely has the initial tools to do this to begin with, which is why it has to rely on cheap cliffhangers that, beyond their immediate shock factor mean n-o-t-h-i-n-g with the presence of the revival.
Even ignoring the writing crime that is the "revival", the mystery itself has little to offer at least as far as guesswork is concerned, it's frustratingly obvious that the killer is the teacher- when I first saw the teacher tap Satoru on the back and the camera panned up to his towering body as he glared at Satoru with a smirk on his face and red-tinted eyes it was such an unsubtle way of implying he was the bad guy that I thought that he HAD to be a red herring, but nope, he's the baddy. It's not like the show makes any effort to conceal the fact he's the killer either, with him being one of only two adult male characters that get any significant screen time in the revival episodes, the other of which has long blonde hair and looks nothing like the killer in the short glimpse we get of him in the first episode.
Some people would argue that it's about the "why" and not the "who", and that this may have even been the show's intention, but then I'd have to ask, why can't it be both?
I'm not suggesting that the show needed a ridiculous number of red herrings, that too would get obnoxious after a while, but I don't think it's wrong to expect at least ONE scene, one line of dialogue, one piece of information, one character to throw us off the tracks of the killer.
Even the creator himself when interviewed said he sees the show as "a human drama disguised as a suspense thriller", suggesting he did in fact intend for it to be obvious that the killer was the teacher.
But then again, this is the same director that said his two favourite things about the show are its "suspense" and "scenes that make you think Kayo is cute", so I take that statement with a pinch of salt.
It's not like the killer's motivation is particularly interesting either, the show briefly touches on his childhood and some story about him killing hamsters, but little else is done to help with the pay off for our all important "why". "He's fucked up because he's fucked up".
If the intention was to make the killer's identity obvious, then why did they give him such a flat backstory and barely explore his character? I get that it's supposed to be ironic that Satoru was next to the killer all along- but dramatic irony can't carry the show on its own whether you consider it to be a mystery or not, the teacher doesn't get nearly enough focus, his motivation was cliché and his method of killing victims was boring, his character was inconsistent, meandering between intelligent and idiotic, and some still claim that "this was the point".
Having returned to his childhood for the second time in the show, Satoru now approaches the situation from a different angle and begins to take more of an active role in protecting Hinazuki and discovering the identity of the killer- which is a bit of a backhanded compliment, because while I'd definitely say that this was the direction the show ought to have taken, the fact that it took 7 episodes of pure unfiltered schlock for the plot to progress in any meaningful way beyond reiterating the same information about Hinazuki being a victim of abuse and Satoru lamenting the decisions of his past sort of makes this feel like too little too late.
After getting his mother involved, Satoru successfully saves Hinazuki by ensuring she in the custody of her Grandma, because apparently that would stop the killer from targeting her, even though, if anything, having an elderly woman as her only direct form of protection would make it easier for the killer to target her- it's clearly implied ol' teach is seemingly indiscriminate with the kids he kills, his only criteria being that they have a spider thread on their head, which we can assume is a delusion, a twisted way of rationalizing his actions (similar to that of Humbert Humbert from Lolita) so why wouldn't the teacher continue to pursue Kayo?
Which brings me to the next glaring issue, how are any of Satoru's actions helping with the situation at hand? Sure he's ensuring the three victims the killer originally targeted are safe leading up to the date they originally died, but that isn't going to stop teach' from going after them at a later date, or even other children, in fact, the show doesn't try to hide this, there's even a few short scenes where we see him trying to target another girl outside of the three Satoru knows died in his timeline.
If that wasn't ridiculous enough, after a few shenanigans with some of the non-Kayo children that Satoru tries to save, the teacher catches on to Satoru and straight-up drowns him by strapping him into a car with a seatbelt (genius) and rolling the car into a freezing lake with a basketball after convincing him to get into his car to find a girl that was missing when in actuality she wasn't.
This far into the show, the natural assumption would be that Satoru would do his best impression of an opera singer and time travel back into the future, but I guess even the writer was tired of the plot device, because with no explanation whatsoever, Satoru goes into a coma and wakes up fifteen years later. (so pretty much a revival but with the added drama of amnesia)
But what about the car? Satoru was drowning in freezing water, who saved him? The teacher was the only one there, did he save him? If so why? If not who did? And how did they get to Satoru in time to save him while still providing enough time for the killer to escape? A character claims in the final episode that there was "no evidence", why was there no evidence? We're told by the teacher that he has multiple cars- but they all look the same, does no one in the show pick up on that after Satoru goes into the coma? What about eyewitnesses, did no one see them leave in the car together? Something tells me the show doesn't know the answer to any of these questions.
With such a ridiculously vague way of concluding the "revival" scenes, I'm gonna spitball and say that the writer realised that, should he have Satoru escape with a "revival", Satoru wouldn't have protected any of the children in the first place, and the story would be back to square one- so the chances are he realised there were only two ways to avoid this dead end; either have Satoru somehow escape the killer and live out the rest of those 15 years to get the show back into present day, or get there nice and quick by shoving him in a coma, and the latter is infinitely easier to "pull off" and has infinitely more "thrilling moments" to be pulled out of its ass, so naturally that was the choice.
It's one thing to assume that the killer wouldn't target other children during the revival scenes, but now we're supposed to believe that 15 years have passed and he hasn't been busted for the attempted murder of Satoru? I guess the show also wants you to deny the idea that the teacher would have killed anyone else during this long stretch of time, although it does make sure to throw in the implication that he's grooming a little girl leukemia patient.
Finally, with Satoru having regained his memories, the final confrontation begins and teach takes a wheelchair-bound Satoru up to the roof of the hospital they are in.
Teach is shown to have every intention to kill Satoru, even going as far as to send a fake suicide message to Satoru's mother; but then Satoru catches him off guard by wheeling himself to the edge of the roof, threatening to kill himself, prompting the teacher to confront the possibility that he'd never wanted to live without Satoru in the first place.
I guess the idea was that he'd started fixating on Satoru somewhere down the line and decided he couldn't live without him. That's not really a problem in itself, I can dig a good crazy character, a quality love/hate relationship between an antagonist and the protagonist, but every scene up until this point had pointed towards the idea that this man was every bit as calculating as he was cold, this slowly deteriorates towards the end when he starts reciting his "evil plans" to Satoru on their way to the lake, but It's the nail in the coffin to have this guy who seemed to have his hand in all the pies go on to fuck up so badly. Not to mention it's barely tangible with his character.
To add insult to injury, the entirety of this shoddily realised premise is the result of the pure coincidence that Satoru's mother happened to notice the murderer in the act of abducting a little girl, not the protagonist, not intentionally, but the unintentional observation of a side character that dies in the SAME EPISODE (although admittedly she gets a little more screen time after this due to the time travel).
Surely it would have been far more solid of a concept to have the protagonist actively search for the killer (considering he begins to research into the matter after remembering the incident in his childhood anyway), and then have HIM discover the murderer abducting a child, have the murderer notice HIM observing his actions, and then have the murderer go to his house to kill him, only to find the mother there alone instead because Satoru was still at the pizza store and kill her instead. Not only would this solve the issue of the show's reliance on coincidence, but it would also have meant that when the MC found his mother dead on the floor and got caught by the police, his revival to his childhood could have instead focused on the fact that he knew the identity of the killer, but is near helpless to deal with them due to the limitations of being in a child's body and the fact that if he attempts to directly confront the killer, he would risk exposing himself, putting his and his mother's life in danger, and wasting the one chance he has to rekindle his relationship with his her.
This is a show that has been designed to be popular, which I know sounds a little silly considering at the end of the day every show wants to be popular- but I guess what I'm getting at is that this show from head to toe is written in a way that lends itself to a mainstream audience, which *again* is perfectly fine, but when a show excludes content from its source material and simplifies the narrative for the sake of having a plot twist at the end of the first episode and the majority of subsequent episodes, it really does feel like the creators were sacrificing a degree of integrity for the sake of securing popularity, although I can't say I'd believe that the source material is any better anyway.
Satoru is a struggling manga artist and pizza boy, beyond his ability, he's not ground-breakingly interesting, but is at least to a certain extent a bit of a break from light novel guy #1000. The predominate focus of his character is his social anxiety and inability to express himself, and the idea of a make-or-break chance to re-evaluate his life, start fresh and show appreciation for those around him ties directly into these character traits- in fact, the idea of having his adult self engage with the environment he used to live in and people he used to know (ignoring the inevitable time travel issues) is actually rather clever- allowing the show to reveal characteristics of the adult Satoru (most notably through monologues) as he explores the environment along with the viewer, and then simultaneously communicating the characteristics of Satoru as a child through the way in which other characters respond to Satoru's mannerisms now that he's back in his younger body- which Satoru then picks up on and attempts to suppress, making for a dynamic that not only creates the perfect platform for non-intrusive world building and exposition as Satoru rediscovers details he would have either missed or forgotten from when he was a child, but (for lack of a better way of putting it) allows this sort of ricoshet between Satoru and other characters as we get a better look into both what he was like then and what he is like now, and how those changes in his personality effect his decisions.
Unfortunately, despite this interesting narrative tool, the show barely makes use of it- in fact, Satoru spends the majority of his time with characters he wasn't even acquainted with in his childhood, which seems pretty counter intuitive given the premise.
Kayo, (one of the children who Satoru tries to prevent from being abducted after he travels back in time) lacks the standard of characterisation I'd hope to see in a female lead, but then again, she's only a kid; so there's a limit to how well explored she can be. Fortunately, the small amount of characterisation we do get for her is fairly solid with this in mind, and rather than being a kuudere just because "tropes", she is introverted and self-contained as a result of her shitty upbringing and lack of nurturing- this doesn't necessarily change the fact that she falls into the trope of kuudere regardless, but it certainly excuses it.
The show doesn't hesitate to exploit every opportunity possible to show us just how evil Kayo's mother is, and there are several scenes of Kayo being mercilessly beaten by her, which while emotionally raw, fail to even attempt at characterising the mother at all, and instead paint her as a sadistic bitch with no dimension whatsoever- people always seem to use the argument "there are people like this in real life", and while I don't think I've ever met someone like this, I'd be inclined to agree, but that doesn't change the fact that the writer had every opportunity to make the mother a character who is defined by more than just her abusiveness.
Eventually we do get a brief look into her past, and we find out she was abused too, I guess this is at least some sort of explanation, but all that's really changed is that she's gone from "a character defined by her abusiveness" to "a character defined by her abusiveness who was abused by another character defined by their abusiveness", justification or not.
The relationship between Kayo and Satoru is confusing. At times, the show seems to want to develop her as a romantic interest in various scenes where they touch hands, go visit places and go on little dates together, all scenes that are cute and all- until the show stops and addresses the fact that the protagonist is actually a grown man in a few out of place passing comedic remarks.
I know the argument here is that Satoru's intentions are completely pure-hearted, and in reality he's only doing all of this to prevent Kayo from being abducted again, but that doesn't change the fact that he's clearly flustered when holding hands with a little girl, and you know what, if the show actually addressed this in non-comedic moments and acknowledged the protagonist has what seem like at least pseudo-paedophilic tendencies, perhaps this would be a completely different story, but it doesn't, and as a result it gave me the impression that the show wants to write Kayo as some kind of fucked up bae material without actually addressing it and writing it off as "because the story demands it".
To the people who deny him being a paedophile, I'd encourage them to think about how, in one particular scene, he sat outside a bathroom staring at the door, listening to an 11 year old girl have a bath with his mother, gulping and blushing before shaking his head, turning away and reminding himself to "get a grip", totally not paedophilic.
In fact, honestly this is more a problem with the way fans of the show perceive the main character than what the show does, because while the show at least (partly) addresses these paedophilic tendencies, the fans seem to completely deny it, which is frustrating to say the least.
But anyway, I digress- the concept of having a paedophile who isn't actually driven by their urges seems to be explored with Yuki, the teenager who is framed for the murder of the children, and is established as a paedophile. The show makes a point of making us aware of this, and yet also makes it clear that he's not a bad person, and the majority of his screen time actually portrays him as a fairly kind and compassionate person who is misunderstood by the public, and it's a shame he didn't get more screen time, because he's easily one of the more interesting characters in the show.
The teacher, who I've already talked about a fair bit, occasionally showed a spark of promise (despite what I've said) , I'd even be tempted to call him the character with the most potential in the show.
While some aspects of his character fall short, I was a big fan of the idea that he genuinely cared for Satoru, their relationship being akin to that of father and son, admittedly in a rather malformed way.
On paper it sounds a bit absurd, and while I'll admit that the way the show goes about explaining his actions isn't the best (I even said earlier that it wasn't tangible with his character), the idea itself was interesting enough to overshadow the fact that it may have not been communicated in the best way.
The main reason why I feel like this idea actually works rather well is that the show, at no point, tries to ignore the fact that the teacher is screwed up, but rather explores the idea that he is simultaneously a kind person (in public) and detestable person (in private).
I think people naturally assume that because a character's a serial killer the way they act in public is a facade, but I feel like it's slightly more complicated than that.
There's frequently stories of people who live perfectly normal, healthy lives; but unbeknownst to their family and friends, have urges to kill, urges they may even act upon at some point, like a "voice" inside their head which they have to suppress.
So while it's admittedly contradictory, I feel like his character was written to genuinely enjoy teaching a class; if that wasn't the case, for what reason would the show even bother to address the fact that he was about to kill Satoru while he was in his coma, but decided NOT to, other than to suggest he is struggling with the side of him that wants to live a normal life and the side that wants to kill.
Part of me would even be inclined to say it justifies him not killing any other children in those 15 years, perhaps he IS the one who rescued Satoru from drowning, despite being the very person that drove him into the water (although the manga debunks this idea, I feel like I've started writing fanfiction here), it's far fetched, but fascinating nonetheless, that the relationship between Satoru and the Teacher almost seems to interest me more than the characters themselves.
I won't deny that I'm completely contradicting myself here, it wasn't until I started writing the review that I started to think about the dynamic, so my thoughts on whether or not the teacher is a well written character are a bit jumbled, but honest to how I see the character nonetheless.
Pizza girl who I can't remember the name of (not to be confused with pizza sauce imouto from Charlotte) comes across as a rather bland and uninspired character, and really only serves as a way of anchoring Satoru to the present day when he returns because plot.
Perhaps one of the more obvious reasons why this show got so popular in such a short space of time is just how confidently it goes about presenting itself, at no point does the show stop to question its mistakes and this is deeply rooted within the directory choices and art design, that it to say that, this show has been designed to heavily rely on its visuals to carry what is in actual fact a fairly poorly constructed narrative. From the letterboxing used in the revival scenes to imitate the rectangular format used in widescreen filming, to the visual symbolism and shot composition that, in complete contrast to what I've seen from the manga are at times fresh and completely upgrade scenes that would otherwise have little to no draw, complimenting the intended dramatic tension the anime strives for- this show clearly wants to catch the eye of the viewer with a bold and self-assured cinematic atmosphere characteristic of live-action, high budget movies.
The character designs too, have been given a much needed upgrade, and at least from the few panels I've seen from the manga have a lot more personality to them, especially when considering this was produced by A-1 pictures, who in recent years have become notorious for having a lack of diversity with their character designs.
It's definitely a step in the right direction for A-1, but for every shot that spices up a scene, another comes along and provides equal mediocrity, and I can't shake the feeling that it would almost be better for the show to demonstrate none of this at all rather than occasionally show a spark of forethought.
Ignoring that jarring sound effect that blasts your ears every time Satoru activates his "revival" or a fucking butterfly flies across the screen, the sound direction is sharp and consistent- the opening is orgasmic, it's been too long since we've had an Asian Kung-Fu Generation song in an anime, and similarly, the ending song is of high quality- I can't claim to know shit about what makes it good, but considering it's only the second song performed by "Sayuri" for an anime (the first being for Ranpo Kitan) I think it deserves a mention, even if both seem to borrow a few visual motifs from other shows.
The OST, by Yuki Kajiura, pulls from the same bag as her usual catalogue of stuff- that's not to say that she was ever a "bad" composer, but she often steers her pieces into a very narrow direction which makes her stuff a little repetitive, and Erased's OST is no exception to this.
The voice acting is fairly standard, with the exception of Kayo Hinazuki, voiced by Yuuki Aoi- who did a stellar job with the role of a kuudere, and Shinnosuke Mitsushima with his first role ever in an anime as Satoru, who's voice acting was so natural that at times it almost felt out of place next to the some of the more average performances, which felt pretty rigid when held up against his.
I wouldn't call Erased terrible, in fact, I can completely understand why it garnered the attention it did. It's thrilling, ambitious and easy to get invested in for some- with a cinematic presentation that turns a passable concept into something that, for better or for worse, stands out from the crowd, but beneath all of these elements is a show that fails at the fundamentals, which crumbles from the ground up and tries to hide these issues by ignoring them completely, and no amount of visual polish can change that.
+Some great voice acting
-Never make the butler the killer (or in this case the teacher)
-Time travel power that serves as a cheap plot device
-Seriously how the fuck does this power work
-Doesn't always fully take advantage on some of its more interesting ideas
-Ignores the killer's indiscriminate nature for the sake of wrapping things up in a neat little bow
-Poorly handles the theme of abuse, no commentary whatsoever
Little issues I had with the show that I couldn't be bothered to incorporate into the actual review:
-Pizza girl's dad had his life fucked up because he stole a chocolate bar, pretty ironic given the ridiculous shit the killer gets away with.
-Ends with implying Satoru's manga is inspired by the events of the show, the editor remarking that it's going to be a huge success.
Something about that seems a little too self indulgent/vain.
Erased is a grippingly cinematic, but ultimately childish and half-baked attempt at an anime mystery drama that makes a mockery out of the serious themes it chooses to incorporate. However, that didn’t seem to stop it from taking the anime world by storm and soaring into the top FIVE on the all time MAL rankings while it was still airing. Yikes. This show is clumsy, saturated in over-convenience, and excruciatingly awkward at times, but it’s obvious that something about Erased really resonated with a lot of people. Let’s find exactly what makes this show popular and, more importantly, where it all went wrong.
Satoru Fujinuma, our protagonist, is a detached 29 year old Manga artist who possesses a special ability that he refers to as “Revival”, which causes him to be sent back in time several minutes before tragic accidents that occur in his general vicinity, whether he wants to or not. He will continue to be sent back in time until he stops the event in question from occurring. One day, tragedy strikes, but this time, Satoru is sent 18 whole years in the past. Soon, he realizes that the event he has to prevent is the abduction and killing of one of his classmates, the solitary and mysterious Kayo Hinazuki, which took place when he was a child.
If you couldn’t tell right of the bat after reading the synopsis, Erased was playing with fire from the very beginning. The use of time resets as a plot device carries great power in the context of a story, and with great power comes great responsibility. The problem with time resets is that if you don’t establish strict and appropriate rules and restrictions from the very beginning, it becomes nothing more than a transparently lazy deus ex machina whose properties bend and shape to the convenience of the plot. Nothing breaks immersion like some mystical superpower with no established boundaries that seamlessly drifts in and out of the plot for no discernible reason, only reappearing to solve otherwise unsolvable problems. This is a problem that Erased has, and it’s one of the main things that make the story so impossible to take seriously. Satoru’s “Revival” ability has absolutely no rules. It shows up for no logical reason, doesn’t show up in situations where it did before, contradicts the very short and insufficient explanation we were given of it, and the story can’t seem to decide if he has the ability to consciously trigger it or if he does not. It’s madness. Utter chaos. The foundation of this anime’s premise was so badly botched that it causes the world of Erased to come off as one that doesn’t have any rules, and that is far and away its biggest failure as a mystery drama. I don’t mean to suggest that Revival is the only aspect of this show that is overly convenient and lazy though; the anime is riddled with poor planning and lack of explanation. For example, people show up for no reason and out of nowhere at the best/worst possible moment on a consistent basis, like this is some sort of battle shounen. Erased’s writing is a disaster, plain and simple.
I could talk for a long time about the technical problems of Erased’s storyline, but it commits a sin that is perhaps even more egregious: The bastardization of a mature theme. Namely, child abuse. If you are going to incorporate such a serious and heart-wrenching topic into your story, fine; just make sure that you treat it with the respect that it deserves. Unfortunately, Erased utterly fails to do that. Instead, it merely shoehorns it in as a cheap, lowest-common-denominator way of tugging at our heartstrings. Erased chooses to make us feel bad for its characters not by fleshing them out with personality, but by having them be graphically beaten on camera for reasons that are completely unnecessary to the plot. This edgy, shock-factor bullshit is what cemented my dislike of this show. This is the kind of thing that doesn’t just impede my enjoyment of the anime, but makes me genuinely angry that the writers thought they could manipulate the emotions of the viewers so underhandedly. It’s completely shameless, and they should be embarrassed.
There’s one more aspect of this show’s plot that I can’t resist mentioning... *Sigh… Hear me out on this one. Maybe this is just me, but the entire premise of this show is fucking CREEPY. Seriously. There are some shockingly blatant pedophilic undertones in Erased. There are multiple instances where the protagonist, WHO IS 29 YEARS OLD, gets obviously aroused by the thought of a relationship (or more…) with Hinazuki, who is a child. If you think I’m joking, there is scene in the latter half of the show where Hinazuki is taking a bath and Satoru overhears her from the other room. He then gets a flustered/uncomfortable, flushed look on his face and thinks to himself, and I quote, “Get a hold of yourself. You’re 29.” WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT SHIT MAN??? That’s not a one-time thing either! That is a reoccurring gag throughout the show! Who the HELL thought that would be a good idea?! Is this some sort of underground fetish show or something? Was it made for people who fantasize about fucking children while they are also in the body of a child? Nobody is ever going to convince me that Satoru’s reoccurring and vague attraction to Hinazuki is not disturbing as hell. It makes my skin crawl, and more importantly, it makes the show even more impossible to take seriously. This is incorporating humor into your show GONE WRONG.
As bad as Erased’s plot is, even shows with bad plots can often be redeemed if they have a strong cast of characters. Well, Erased doesn’t have that. Not even close, in fact. Our protagonist, Satoru, is your standard white-knight archetype. If you don’t know what that is, it’s when a character is defined entirely by his desire to be morally righteous and help others. There is literally no other defining trait to this character whatsoever! The first episode makes it seem like they would make him deadpan or detached or, hell, SOMETHING in order to differentiate him, but no. Any individuality Satoru may have possessed in the first episode completely evaporates and is nowhere to be found from episode 2 and onwards. He’s just a walking, talking robot who spurns the plot forward with his soulless, mechanically predictable actions. At no point, except maybe in the first episode, did I care about this character, and that is a certain way for a show to fail.
Now let’s talk about Satoru’s love interest (Yes, I’m calling her that. This show knows what it did), Kayo Hinazuki. Kayo is a character that is able to single-handedly exemplify so much of what is wrong with this show, in the sense that she is not a real character at all; she is a plot device, just like the rest of the cast. Her sole purpose is to be used as a literal whipping post just so that justice-kun can swoop in to be her knight in shining armor and pretend he doesn’t want to get into those prepubescent pants. She is nothing more than an object the show utilizes to manipulate the emotions of the viewers; an artificially created victim who exists only to suffer some one-dimensional, interchangeable hardship rather than an actual character with a personality and interesting outlooks, dreams, or crises. Erased is lazy, deceiving character writing at its finest.
So at this point, if you haven’t watched Erased, you may be wondering that if everything I wrote in the above paragraphs is true, what is the appeal of this show? The answer, quite simply, is that the cinematography is very well executed and the directing is very engaging. The environments are always crisp and detailed, plus the shot composition is absolutely spot-on in most instances. There are notable exceptions, but I won’t get into that. As for the directing, Erased presents information to the viewer in a very streamlined, matter of fact manner. Scenes intended to be connected are always spelled out to the viewer through the use of flashbacks, and lots of creative transition sequences are used with narrative accompaniment between scenes. I prefer when shows leave it up to the viewer to deduce certain things rather than being spoon-fed, but for what they were going for, they did a good job. Erased looks good, is animated dramatically, and is easy to digest. Those are the factors that lead to its massive popularity, and frankly, those are the only aspects of the show that can’t be harshly criticized justifiably.
At the end of the day, Erased is just another overhyped anime written for edgy teens that uses cheap, manipulative tactics to emotionally affect the audience, fooling them into thinking it’s a well-written show when it obviously isn’t. It’s immature, terribly inconsistent, the characters are soulless plot devices, and its laughable use of the ultimate anime cliché “time resets” is just the icing on the cake. Erased is a bad show with good animation, and sometimes, that’s all a show needs to get popular.
Story (9/10): The plot is well written and fairly original (realistic with a hint of supernatural to get the action going), with very little and debatable plot holes.
Art (9/10): It is not a masterpiece of animation, but there are little scenes that require a lot of movement. The art style is not out of the ordinary, but directing is great, the scenes being very nicely cut and hiding a lot of meaning.
Sound (8/10): It has nice opening and ending songs, but there are not part of a soundtrack you would search a playlist of and play it on repeat.
(10/10): For only 12 episodes, the characters (both positive and negative) are greatly written, being diverse in mentality and always delivering smart and introspective lines.
Overall: 9/10 Enjoyable to watch and it makes you think (and feel).
Boku dake ga Inai Machi (ERASED) is an anime that capitalizes on emotional appeal. It incorporates plot devices that primarily targets the audience’s pathos and on a surface level achieves this very effectively. Unfortunately, these same plot devices are only contrived for the sole purpose of making the audience have the so-called “feels.” From a more logical perspective, they do not make any sense, and because of this, we are left with an inconsistent plotline that is riddled with flaws.
(Side note: minor spoilers from this point on.)
As one example, consider how Kayo was abused by her mother. Although I am sure the author meant to
incorporate some level of realism into his writing, Kayo’s abuse was ultimately used as a way to draw the audience on an emotional basis. Since society frowns down upon all forms of child abuse, most people would accept it at face value and never question it. But let’s be honest for a second: none of it was explained. Why was the abuse occurring? Were there any specific triggers? Why didn’t anyone notice this if this has been happening for years? And so on.
Plus, was it really necessary to use child abuse like this? There are so many other ways that you could have elicited just as powerful of an emotional response and NOT use something controversial. Being heartbroken, amending broken friendships, taking a stand with your friends, etc. (all of which could have been implemented in the context of this show, by the way) could have just as easily done the trick.
Now aside from the emotional appeal, the rest of the plot doesn’t make any sense either. For something that is so fundamental to the plot, there is no explanation as to how Satoru gained the Revival ability other than the fact that he somehow magically has it. In a world that is governed by the natural laws of this universe, the Revival ability hardly seems remotely realistic and, as a result, it seems to serve no real purpose other than to force the plot along. On top of all of that, the Satoru’s Revival ability seemingly has no rules to it other than Satoru’s free will. Need to use it because you really don’t want to go to jail? No problem, Revival time! Don’t need Revival ever again because you said so? Okay adios, now it’s gone. Forever. Because of reasons.
As for pacing, it spans the entire spectrum: fast, slow, just right – it’s all there. Sometimes the show pulls it off just dandy. The first episode, for example, was crazy fast, but it still eked out the main gist of what was going on: Satoru’s weird mysterious power, the main characters, and so on. On the other hand, the last three episodes were fast too, but they were all crammed in a way that resulted in unsubstantial character development (e.g. Hiromi and Aya) even though it was clear from the first episode that the two of them played a significant role in the entire plot. Furthermore, all of this cramming eventually leads to important parts in the manga being left out – so, manga readers, beware!
Now onto the characters. Sure, Satoru is collected and analytical, but his personality is incredibly dry. A lot of the other characters did not stand out that much either, minus maybe the smart, attentive Kenya. But what I found most remarkable about the characters was that some of them shared deep, meaningful relationships. For example: Satoru and his mom, Sachiko. A true motherly figure, Sachiko not only takes care of Satoru but also his friends. She knows how he thinks and operates on a day-to-day basis. She knows when not to pry into her son’s life, and she respects him for who he is as a person. All of this is reflected in the short yet interesting dialogues between her and Satoru.
Unfortunately, some other relationships end up not being as strong as Satoru’s and Sachiko’s. Satoru and Kayo is one example of this. The middle 6 or 7 episodes were intentionally slowed down in terms of pacing so that the two of them could build their relationship from out of thin air to something deep. And for the most part, the show accomplishes this well. But in the last three episodes of the show, the show takes a complete U-turn, tossing out their entire relationship out the window. Now before you accuse me for being super butthurt or laughing at me because their “ship” sank, let me be clear: I would have no problem with this if this were executed well, but let’s break down what happens. To start off, Satoru’s been there for Kayo from the very beginning, so it really does not make sense how she would turn her back on him after Satoru reawakens. Sure, maybe the other-guy-in-the-picture had gotten to know Kayo when Satoru wasn’t physically around, but there was nothing in the anime that suggested such a thing. Just a minute of explanation and leaving things at the status quo wouldn’t be an issue. Satoru and Airi is another example, since the anime leaves out a huge chunk of their relationship in its adaptation.
Moving away from the characters and now onto the sound and the art. The artwork is animated by A-1 Pictures. They’ve also animated Shigatsu, AnoHana, SAO, and the whole spiel so it is done well. Sound is also great. The music was timed well to create an ominous mood when it was needed. Voice acting was decent too, although none of it was that exceptional.
In the grand scheme of things, ERASED is a watchable show and I wouldn’t mind recommending this to others. Emotional appeal isn’t inherently bad. Think about Clannad After Story, Little Busters! Refrain, and others – they all had their charm, and ERASED is just another show that falls into that category. However, basing an entire plot primarily on emotional appeal – that’s when things start to fall apart and become incomprehensible and illogical. That’s why ERASED isn’t a masterpiece – but it’s not downright horrible either.
Author's Disclaimer: Please remember, this is my own personal opinion. I critique anime primarily on how the story is executed and how well-rounded the characters are. This review is not meant to target any other review but was intended to provide a more holistic analysis.
It should also be noted that this is a full-fledged review of the entire season.
Ambition is the elixir of creation. It is that which gives spirit to its container, and those rare gems that rise above their standardized, rehashed counterparts are almost always backed by the unadulterated ambition of their creator(s). And ambition rests on the shoulders of ideas. The notion of ideas and ambition being interlocked is an unspoken truth - a virtuous tenet of great works. However, there is something more; something that too often gets overlooked, and when untended, sets both ambition and the idea that bore it on route for inevitable disaster. That ‘something’ is focus. An idea – no matter how great or innovative
it is – even if backed by a cosmic-scaled ambition will remain infantile if it has no tangible focus to drive it. The focus conundrum is one that plagues creators alike no matter how big their starry ideas are or juiced up their spirit is, the end-result will remain a disappointment and one that’s far greater than those that are destined for mediocrity or lower from the get-go.
This focus- malady was essentially what broke one of the most promised shows of the 2015 winter season. Boku dake ga Inai Machi or Erased, even with its high points and a decent number of redeeming factors could not be fully salvaged as a whole, for its ambitions were high and ideas notable, but it lacked a solid backbone to support it - leaving it to bear its half-hearted promises openly for all.
Adapted from the manga by Sanbe Kei, Erased revolves around a 29-year old Satoru Fujinuma – an unsuccessful mangaka – who has a supernatural ability that allows him to revert time to prevent ill-fated disasters. The plot of Erased however is triggered by the murder of someone close to Satoru for which he becomes the suspect for. In order to resolve this mystery, his “ability” sends him back to when he was a grade-school student where he discovers that the murders of his present could be connected to crimes that occurred in his past, specifically the abduction and murder of his classmate Hinazuki Kayo. This revelation sets off the causal pendulum of Erased.
One thing that should be immediately obvious is that the premise isn’t groundbreaking. The reason why this is important is because it seems like many “criticisms” floating around are obsessed with the notion of ridiculing this show but couldn’t find a reason beyond “wow this is really unoriginal”. Unoriginality has become one of the most use-when-convenient forms of criticism that it becomes almost a detractor for anyone using it as such, since it signifies nothing. There is no working definition of originality anymore and the free-for-all, nebulous meaning which people assign nowadays bears absolutely no value to the reader nor does it add any particular insight. Saying something is unoriginal is not a stand-alone in-of-it-self argument, just like arguing something is good because it is/was well-executed. Just because “time-travel” has been employed by numerous works in the past does not mean every work to adopt it in the present of future will or should be instantly written off because of complaints of imitation. What matters is how the individual work molds its premise, constructs it within the bounds of its narrative, and resolves them. It’s the technicalities, the nuances, the hows and whys, the internal mechanics that fuel the progression that will validate the premise, not sketchy, ambiguous buzz terminology.
In the case of Erased, its premise is nothing glamorous, but the way the plot points were built: through visual direction, atmospheric intensity, and having a tight grasp on consequential progression made it worth investing in – at least initially. This was crucial to the essence of the series considering that its foundational appeal was that of a psychological thriller/mystery. Regardless of the tonal transformation and genre shifts that occur later where the series opts to rely more on drama tactics, incorporating slice of life elements, and some traces of romance, its base appeal came from the mystery and the psychological turmoil it exposed of its characters and their circumstances. The mystery element was always supposed to be at the forefront and there was nothing subtle about that. For the first three episodes, Erased keeps a strong-hold on its world – revealing necessary information and characters, whispering secrets to the audiences, invoking an uncomfortable environment, and keeping the momentum high with each episode’s conclusion. Not only did it manage to stimulate audience imagination but it continuously teased one’s curiosity (even if the mystery itself wasn’t that complicated or hard to figure out). That in itself is rather commendable since it implies that in such a short time/frame the work was able to create an atmosphere that transcended its intended appeal. This is probably the core reason why the show was able beguile its viewer so imminently and intensely.
Yet, the atmospheric grandness that tempted the curiosity of its viewers wasn’t enough. It did well enough to create that illusion and avoid giving “good” answers for a while, but eventually the mask it adorned started to crack, and the hollowness of what was inside began to permeate the stage. At some crossroad, the once-focused direction of the series morphed into a jarring vision-less drama. The fundamental problem with Erased wasn’t bad characters or thematic inconsistency but something far more basic than that. It lacked focus, completely. What began as a finely focused show morphed into a hodge-podge of splattered ideas that went everywhere except where they needed to. Inconsistencies began to appear, plot devices began to appear, character absurdity began to appear, and things that didn’t matter began to matter, because that’s the result of a complete loss of focus. This amplified almost every flaw of the show, which might have not been a flaw prior, but with the sudden loss of vision, they became a very tangible reality.
This lack of focus led to the ultimate downfall of the series. Due to the show not knowing what it was doing, the audience didn’t know how to digest what’s being presented and this led to many misguided problems. For example, being unfocused caused many of the character problems that appeared, especially regarding the nature of Satoru’s relationship with Kayo. Another flaw that surfaced was the pacing. The constant regurgitation of emphasizing about how much Satoru cares (by resetting over and over) turned a potential point of good character exploration into a feels-y gimmick. This fared to be quite devastating, since the show had very little time to spend on other characters, motivations, and the resolution which ultimately made some of those aspects feel incomplete and lackluster. Even some of the visual strengths became glaringly flawed. The heavy-handed use of color, shadowing, transitioning that all literally added to the narrative now appeared to be chicanery, because the focus that once drove those things existed no more.
Though it must be noted, Erased has a lot of problems but many of the flaws that have been repeatedly argued are so over-exaggerated and a product of nit-picking that I feel almost compelled to address them, and by extension, offer some defense. For one example, the claim that the series has bad characters because some of them are one-dimensional is absurd. There is something called foil characters, or static characters that exist for the sole purpose to add dimension and value to primary characters (and their overall development). This is specifically in regards to Kayo’s mother and other characters that had very specific functions. A work having a cast involving some static characters does not equate to bad characters altogether. Though, this does not negate the actual instances of weak character exploration and contrivances in the show which was definitely a problem, but that alone does not stand as a valid critique of overall bad characterization.
Furthermore, the claim that Erased was thematically impotent because it didn’t do anything grand with its depiction of “child abuse” is really just baffling. Why should it? The show paraded as many different things, but one thing it never claimed was the title of some deep and meaningful commentary nor was child abuse a theme of the show, rather it was more a catalyst. It’s completely acceptable for a work to create a backstory of a character in any way it desires as long as it adds to the narrative, and the abuse was crucial to the first timeline. It wasn’t added to make some grand sentiment about the subject itself. It actually made way for character exploration and interaction, and some of the themes of hope, change, camaraderie that the show tries to instill. Of course, whether those themes were meaningful in the larger context of things is questionable.
Lastly, the flak it received for the supernatural aspect is also bizarre. The ability that Satoru had was something that had to be assumed on the part of the viewer and the world of Erased. Of course it can be argued that it’s a convenient plot device, but it seems to be a pointless endeavor. To illustrate, when watching horror films, does the need to question the existence of ghosts or demons ever deter from the film’s actual value? It is an assumed trait of the plot, the world, and the premise of the work and there is nothing inherently wrong with adopting a supernatural plot point, given that the world supports it. In Satoru’s case, it was briefly explained within the context of the story’s ambition. It isn’t utilized from a sci-fi perspective where there needs to pages of subtext and exposition explaining why and how the mechanics of this ability work for the story to have meaning or merit. The problem arises when the ability or element is used as a cop-out or for petty outs over proper conclusions, but that lies on the plot holes caused by the ability, not the ability itself or the lack of explanation surrounding it. In scope of that, there could have been more substance behind it, which might have helped the show’s fundamental problem of focus, but it isn’t a point that drives this show into the gutter that many have placed it in solely due to this ability existing without a manual explaining it.
Regardless of its post-hubris problems and its anticlimactic descent, there were some components of Erased that remained impeccable and worth experiencing. The visual and sound aspects of the show were really a treat. For the most part, they created the exact kind of feeling necessary for impact. The mood that Erased was able to consistently supply and maintain was nothing short of a feat. It kept its melancholic roots steadily into the ground and its eerie nature steadily at the forefront, even if some of it was in vain; it was still emotive and compelling.
It was absolutely successful in its ability to deliver what all good thrillers should: tension. I cannot stress how amazingly this series constructed build-ups and as consequence, a chilling tension that seeped through the screen.This was perfectly captured throughout the show. And even though the mystery itself seemed pretty simplistic, the tension and atmosphere created by the series never allowed the viewer to turn back. It stuck to basic ingredients and partly delivered on that with great fervor. Additionally, even if the overarching focus was lost, some of the moments in the show were extremely well-done and dramatized in a way that were quite evocative. These interactions helped weave the thematic fabric of the show while also refining the characters in the process, in a fairly meaningful way. This was pure magic created by how well the atmosphere was able to drive the dynamics of the series from its plot choices to its character imperatives.
Overall, Erased was a solidly entertaining show that had a good deal to offer, and I enjoyed the ride - as haphazard and bumpy it was. Though I still can't help feel - even with its redeeming points -the biting disappointment that continues to linger through over lost potential and misdirection. Even with its spirited ambition, and interesting ideas, the lack of focus kept it from becoming a work of stature, and left it ingrained as nothing more than bittersweet memory that unfortunately cannot be reverted.
It was a cold, uncompromising winter in the early weeks of 2016 but thankfully a new anime had heralded its arrival with a promise warm the world’s hearts. People braved the blizzard of mediocrity to find that one show that could rise to the top and be the ray of sunshine they craved. Boku dake ga Inai Machi (Or known by its English title ‘Erased’) waved its hand high and proud, promising a touching tale of one man’s journey to fix both the past and the present. The show did indeed have a certain glow about it that appealed to me but it’s sad to
say that it died out into a whimper by the time the curtains had closed.
It’s unsurprising to see the initial widespread interest Erased generated because it had a list of ingredients that when put together could create something special. Time travel? Murder? Mystery? I strapped myself in for what I expected to be a tense experience that would leave me searching for answers. But as anyone would know, you could have a list of the finest ingredients available and in the hands of an incompetent chef it would turn into a disaster. Erased delivers what is an underwhelming execution to a setting that promised more. I was left bitterly disappointed by the show’s conveniences placed into the script and its underwhelming reveals. Despite some memorable scenes, Erased has left little impact on me.
We follow Satoru Fujinuma (Voiced by anime debutants Shinnosuke Mitsushima and Tao Tsuchiya), a 29-year-old manga artist with an ability to go back in time several minutes before some form of tragedy strikes. His ability, which he titles ‘revival’, gives him a chance to change events to prevent any disaster from happening. When one of the most horrifying incidents imaginable befalls him, his ability kicks in. This time however it’s not just minutes but years that Satoru gets sent back. Working with his old school classmates he tries his best to catch a criminal and change the future – or the present he just arrived from depending how you look at it. Realising the significance of the time period he’s found himself in, Satoru starts to dig around for the solution to not just change one but several lives for the better.
The opening episode of Erased was one that left me asking questions – but in a good way. It had easily done enough to get me make me care about what the end result could be. It screamed one thing above all: Potential. There was one big problem that began to develop however and that was the anime betrayed my expectations that it had helped me to establish early on in the piece. Following its presentation of suspects and the crimes in 1988 that took place I was led to believe that we would be dealing with a mystery. Everything in the first couple of episodes pointed the show towards going in that direction, from being shown the wrongfully accused to Satoru playing the detective with his childhood friends. As the episodes progressed, however, I came to realise that there was no chance the show would be taking that route. The perpetrator becomes bleeding obvious far too early on, so all that was left was to see Satoru’s progress in getting closer to them. I couldn’t help but feel that the writers of Erased were treating me, the viewer, like an idiot. Any ‘clues’ they start to throw your way are as subtle as taking a tyre iron to the head. This strange misdirection Erased put me through took me some time to assess and get over.
What I was left with when the show reached its final few episodes was some strange mess caught halfway between a mystery and a thriller, just floundering about and being below average at both genres. For a while there was enough in both respects to keep Erased entertaining. It seemed the less I knew about the overall picture that the more the show had me by the hook. But as it peels away the layers of the story guarding the identity of the culprit it tore away my emotional investment. There aren’t enough interwoven clues in the story to be deemed a rewarding mystery yet there is nowhere near enough tension to labelled a competent thriller. Is there at least some interesting character dynamics to cling on to? Not really. Because the characters at the centre of the conflict aren’t compelling – particularly the culprit – I didn’t find myself on the edge of my seat when I was clearly being prompted to. Erased is, essentially, a show with no identity.
Erased ultimately abandons its ‘mystery’ and spends far too long building up the relationship between Satoru and classmate Kayo Hinazuki in its place. In a rough defence of this, Kayo’s story at least does enough to keep the show watchable. Watching her outlook on the world shift thanks to the events of the show is somewhat satisfying. Aoi Yuuki (Madoka Kaname of Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica) is a good choice as Kayo’s voice actress, carrying across a certain bitterness and melancholy to the role of the downtrodden class member. Her arc at least did enough to get me invested in her character but the cast as a whole just didn’t reel me in. Kayo’s angle could only carry the overall story for so long, and it’s clear to see the pacing then kicks up into overdrive to compensate for the lost time. As much as I didn’t mind her screen time, Erased spends too much time making us care for Kayo when Satoru could have used a similar amount of attention. The character interactions suffer because Satoru’s at the centre of most of them. A negative mention must also go towards Kayo’s mother who was a laughably over-malicious character written that way just to stir the pot, looking at baiting an emotional response from the viewer with her abusive antics. The reasons for her behaviour are never explored and thus cheapens the attempt at generating empathy for Kayo.
The writing behind Satoru’s character is bizarre. For a 29-year-old he seems to lose a ton of emotional maturity upon being sent back to his 10-year-old body. On top of that, for someone attempting to play the detective, logic seems devoid from Satoru. He makes some unbelievable decisions throughout the course of the show that might have been excusable for a 10 or 11-year-old to make but not someone with two decades more life experience. It’s almost like the writers forgot to separate his mind from body when writing the scenes set in 1988. There actually isn’t much that’s memorable about Satoru’s character as a whole, whether it be his older or younger self. He’s a standard, cold main character that does nothing to leave an impression. We’re supposed to be following his story but it feels like we’re riding along the coattails of others.
It’s disappointing to see that the show’s writing doesn’t match up to its presentation. There’s a few good visuals utilised to help set the tone. There are some scenes that can even be called drop-dead gorgeous. It’s ultimately a wasted effort because a good script and interesting characters aren’t there to make use of it. The motivations of the perpetrator are glossed over to the point where I even questioned why on earth I even bothered to use my brain to try and search for the answer myself. The reasoning was so unsatisfying it actually made me angry, considering it was what set the entire series into action. I’m not a manga reader of the series but, from what I have discerned, the writers left a massive chunk of information out of this area. The best villains in fiction are flawed for reasons we can understand, when we are given reasons for their actions that we can dwell upon. If you come into Erased expecting something of that sort, then prepare to be left sorely disappointed.
After a first episode that got me hooked Erased began to stall, then ultimately collapse under the weight of all that it was trying to take on in the space of 12 episodes. No amount of decent visuals from A-1 Pictures could fix their clunky handling of the story, mostly forgettable cast and simply shambolic writing choices. Conveniences that lay around every corner go a long way to distracting me from any tension director Tomohiko Itou (Sword Art Online, Gin no Saji) was attempting to layer into the story. There always feels like a way out no matter how cornered or dangerous a situation seems to be. Satoru’s revival ability isn’t explored or explained in great detail, making itself useful at the most convenient of times. Many parts of the story feel irrelevant considering the conclusion the show arrives at. Erased seems like an appropriate title for a show that won't be hanging around in my memory for long.
ERASED is the single most overrated anime I have ever come across. The fact that this is a 9.08/10 on MAL at the time of writing is unbelievable. Please completely disregard the reviewing credibility of those proclaiming this anime as a masterpiece and a 10/10 because it most definitely not.
This is the worst part about the show. The story was an absolute trainwreck that fails to be intriguing or interesting at any point. The mystery element of the show is absolutely dreadful as it was clear who was the killer from the start. This meant the suspense of the story
was completely meaningless due to the fact that Yashiro was the only person that the show indicated the killer to be. It was the most obvious reveal for a poor excuse for a villain I have EVER seen. The last few episodes were also very anti climatic and rushed, with a last episode being the worst example of these problems.
Now, the characters of ERASED aren't all that bad; but they're nothing special, either. I thought Satoru, Hinazuki and Satoru's mum were all decent characters, but I don't feel the same about any of the others. All of Satoru's friends were relatively uninteresting with no defining qualities and they remained quite one-dimensional throughout the story, blindly following Satoru in his quest to save children from loneliness with no real motives of their own.
Following this, Hinzauki's mother was the poorest character of them all, with her abuse of her daughter being justified through "oh she was a victim too". She also shows no motives for her abuse of Hinazuki but simply beats her as a plot device.
Yashiro is a close second to the worst character of the anime. The show spouted some mumbo jumbo shit expecting the viewers to buy the poor justification it gives to Yashiro's killing.
I liked the OP and ED of the series and this was probably the aspect of the show I liked the most. The OP was riddled with imagery and meaningful aspects.
The art of the show was pretty average to be honest. I liked the style and some scenes had excellent use of colour but there were a few CGI shots that I felt to be out of place that detached me from the experience.
I looked forward to every episode of the show during the first 3 episodes but after that I started to easily notice the problems that the anime had and the lack of suspense in this "mystery" anime.
Well, now that Erased reviews are a dime a dozen, might as well add my two cents.
The first thing to consider when reviewing Erased is what exactly is it good at?
No. The formula is taken straight from Scooby Doo, some people predicted the killer before the halfway point of the series.
And no, the red herrings don't make it any less predictable after they've been used multiple times already.
Well is it a good thriller then?
No. The predictability kills any thrills this show would've had.
Maybe it's a decent drama then?
Kinda...sorta...when they don't use pointless victimization by one-dimensional characters to make you feel bad for
the cast, now that's some lazy writing.
Also the time travel is BS.
Nothing too great to watch.
--Full review: spoilers incoming.
-Presentation (visuals & sound)
Definitely the strongest part of the show.
Asian Kung-fu generation does a great job with the opening and the ending is almost as good.
The director clearly knows what he's doing with how he presents things, The film bars especially were a great addition.
I like how they present Satorus Internal dialogue and how he actually speaks differently at times.
Nothing looks out of place and I have nothing to complain about here.
And here's the weakest part of the show.
From the first episode it's clear that the story could be better, the first mistake was to make the MC, Satoru run from the police for no reason.
They actually explained the whole thing in the manga, and that shows that the whole thing is a pretty rushed adaptation.
The time travel makes no real sense, it works when it's convenient, it doesn't take butterfly effect into consideration and it always seems to transport Satoru to a safe location for no reason.
Also there doesn't seem to be any limitation to the time travel abilities, which is yet another reason why this show is just not very thrilling.
Something that also got stuck in my mind is how forced the drama can feel, this show has characters whose only job in the story is to victimize others.Lazy writing.
The killer's motives are also just...pointless...basically he does it because he likes it...I'm starting to think Scooby Doo actually had better writing.
Also the children in this anime actually seem smarter than most of the adults.
As I said before Having a mystery most people will be able to solve before the characters makes the mystery almost pointless from that point on.
The ending felt a bit comical and corny to me, but aside from that no real problems there.
I also have a couple of nitpicks about the show:
-Satoru doesn't know how seat belts work(you know what i mean).
-Some people have claimed that having a 20-something year old guy in his 10 year old body almost dating another 10 year old is creepy,
it didn't seem like that to me, aside from one scene where Hinazuki is taking a shower with Satoru's mom. That actually seemed a bit weird, why is that even there?
Finally something I even have a few positive things to say about.
Satoru's mom is made to be a very compassionate person, maybe even overly so, but i can't complain because there's a real lack of decent parents in anime.
Most of the characters don't have that much personality behind them, but at least they're not cardboard cut outs.
Satoru himself is a very cynical MC, those have been very popular lately, he develops pretty much like you would expect.
So at least halfway decent main cast, but as I said before Some characters are just obviously evil and have no redeeming qualities.
The killer is also a completely uninteresting character.
Satoru's friends at least got a personality quirk or two.
And the pizza girl whoever she was felt like a pretty pointless character.
The best thing I could compare this anime to is Mirai nikki, That one is also completely filled with plot holes and has a cool premise that doesn't really work out.
It's not a good watch if you want a mystery, it's not good as a thriller and it only kinda works as a drama.
At the very least it's presented nicely so it's easy to consume.
Unless you absolutely need to watch a Time travel Drama and can't just watch Steins;Gate again there's nothing here for you.
It's not like this is the worst thing ever but it was still a big waste of potential.
PS. can we all just collectively agree to never hype shit up again?
Time travel. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I’m pretty sure you have seen this plot device more than once. Live action movies, video games, cartoons, books… It’s everywhere. Good and bad examples of how to use it are also everywhere. You can have a good time watching Back to the Future or playing Chrono Trigger… and if you want a dose of suffering, there’s also stuff like The Butterfly Effect or A Sound of Thunder. There’s a lot to choose from. And anime media does not lag behind, of course. Steins;Gate, Suzumiya Haruhi, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Madoka Magica or, of
course, the anime in question: Erased. As stated before, there are ways to make good use of time travel, and if you have seen the score I gave to Erased, you know for sure I think it failed. Now, up to the review.
/*This review is FULL OF SPOILERS.
I apologize in advance if my grammar is flawed.*/
At first, A-1 Pictures is the animation studio in charge. Well known for making trainwrecks like Sword Art Online or Fairy Tail. A good beginning, isn’t it? Nevertheless, among all their works, there are a few sparks of light, like Shinsekai Yori, one of the best dystopian anime shows, or Silver Spoon, a sincere “charming kind of good” slice of life. As for production values and quality of artwork and animation, they generally can go from basic to gorgeous, mainly depending on budgets and popularity.
The director this time is Itou Tomohiko, and there isn’t much to say about him. Known for the direction of Sword Art Online, which, for the case, is a very unbalanced one. Things happen here, things happen there, and it doesn’t matter because he doesn’t know how to blend them correctly. His direction in Silver Spoon S1 worked better because of the same nature of the show: simplistic. Erased isn’t exactly a dynamic show, but as it will be seen, the messy writing it has made the direction to follow the same path.
The show starts just like any other. We got to know who the protagonist is. Satoru Fujinuma is an uninteresting guy that has a job delivering fast food, and he’s also a manga artist or something. And nobody cares since it doesn’t have anything to do with the premise or plot, it doesn’t have anything to do with the character’s way of being… it doesn’t have to do with anything. It’s just mere decoration. Then, what does this show “interesting”? Well, it happens Satoru has a special ability! When something bad happens around him, some mysterious power makes him go back in time to solve that same issue. At first this idea had potential since, for a change, the main character doesn’t have control over the thing. It happens just in certain situations (or that’s what we were told at least). It sounded interesting, but then you start to wonder: What is this mysterious power? Why does Satoru have it? How does it work? Well, I hope you like to imagine things because NOTHING OF THIS IS EVER EXPLAINED. Not a single bit. And that’s not the only problem. After some more episodes you will realize that the power doesn’t have any logic or sense. It just happens when the plot needs it to happen. But let’s use some examples:
-First revival: Someone nearby that Satoru doesn’t know dies. He’s sent 3 minutes into the past to evade it. Also, he didn’t know somebody was in danger until the power sent him back.
-Second revival: Someone nearby that Satoru doesn’t know dies. He’s sent a few seconds into the past to evade it. Again, he didn’t know about the danger until the revival.
-Third revival: Satoru’s mother gets killed. He’s sent 18 YEARS into the past to evade it… somehow. This time, she gets killed BEFORE Satoru even realized but the revival happened just once he saw her. In point of fact, the revival happens even after, once Satoru grabs the body and stains his hands with blood, so that just after the police and a neighbour appear and think he has something to do with the murder, SO THAT AGAIN Satoru panicks and run away making it look like the culprit... Plot convenience where?
-Fourth revival: Nobody is getting killed or dying or being in danger. He’s sent 18 year into the past again… just because. It happens conveniently when Satoru is imploring to be sent back. Not to say this time the revival allows him to fix the mistakes he made at first. You know what this means: A sassy time reset, yay!
Very plausible, isn’t it?
By the way, he’s sent back to the future once because… what was the reason again?
Once my rant about time travels is over, everything should be fine, right? Well… no.
Speaking about the plot as such, the show has a lot of problems when it comes to identity. It doesn’t know what is more important than what, and it feels pretty uncoordinated, mainly because of the time/situation factor. There are two different time periods, the past and the present. And what’s the problem with that? The thing is, Satoru is sent to the past because his mother gets killed after discovering the identity of a children’s serial murderer. And revival happened to prevent the murder (again, somehow). That was the show’s first motivation, it looked like that was the premise. And then… Hinazuki’s case and a whole new premise appeared. Yes, I know this new case is allegedly the way to find out who the murderer is and thus save the mother and so on; but the story’s main focus is lost in the process. The show’s “mindset” forgets almost completely about the murder of Satoru’s mother when he’s in the past and it starts focusing on Hinazuki. And when he’s sent back to the present, the show again forgets about Hinazuki. What’s the show trying to do, then? The writing fails completely trying to join both premises. Satoru should be more concerned about one of them. And even if Satoru’s main motivation would be just to save his mother, then that would mean he is using Hinazuki and the other kids to achieve his goals. In fact, the writing is so bad that once Satoru achieves to rescue Hinazuki… the plot puts her aside! She cries saying goodbye to Satoru. The end. It looks like nobody will miss her, even if Satoru professedly build a solid relationship with her. At the end of the day, it looks like Satoru was just trying to save his mother by resolving the case… but then what was the point of all those episodes deepening the relationship between Satoru and Hinazuki? Why did the show tried so hard to make Satoru’s relationship with Hinazuki more honest? You know? I don’t care anymore. The plot is so messy I don’t really know anything. Erased has a severe case of bipolarity.
Wait… is there even more?! Sigh… let’s carry on, then.
As I said before, once Hinazuki is finally rescued from her one dimensional mother (I will talk about this later) and from the murderer, Satoru forgets about her and continues to investigate the case in question. Leaving the details of the mystery for later, he discovers the murderer was his teacher… actually, I don't need to leave the details of the mistery for later since THE TEACHER HIMSELF reveals this to Satoru and the audience with a VERY lazy exposition. If that's how you think a mistery should be exposed, then I don't know what to say to you. Then, as expected, the teacher tries to kill Satoru by capturing him in a car’s seat belt and then launch this last into a river. But he survives, because plot armor; he goes into coma for 16 years, because time skips; and he has amnesia, because shitty plot devices. Then a complete episode is spent on his rehab and determination to carry on. “What happened to the teacher?” you may ask. Well, it follows that the teacher was a murderer because he sees magic gossamers over victims’ heads… and that’s all. Speaking about absurdities. It doesn't work as a symbolism (there's something called "subtlety", you know?) and it doesn't work as a concrete thing (it's unexplained magic). He then reappears when Satoru wakes from coma, but he has amnesia, so he doesn’t recognize him… until they alone go to the hospital’s roof. He actually remembers everything. Apparently he recovered his memories because of Hinazuki’s son. Touching his hand. Yup, magic again. Then, because we don’t need explanations, it results that the teacher is unable to kill Satoru because he needs him. Why? Apparently, because of a hamster he protected after this first survived by letting other hamsters die. What is the relation between this and Satoru? The show used that unexplained flashback to justify everything, even if it doesn’t make any sense. And even so, the teacher almost killed Satoru so then he could commit suicide. But then the power of friendship conveniently appeared and rescued Satoru, the teacher is arrested with a smile in his face and everybody lived happily ever after. Literally. Satoru is a successful mangaka who made a manga that obtained an anime adaptation that looks curiously similar to Guilty Crown (known for being one of the worst written anime shows, heh). He maintains a solid relationship with everyone. And… he meets Airi again. Because conveniences are not bad thing for this anime. The end *ironic claps*.
This hopefully should be the end of the story’s analysis, but there are still a few details to highlight. I’ll keep this short:
-A man loses his job, divorces and leaves his town because he stole… a chocolate bar.
-The place where Hinazuki hides from her mother was also the murderer’s deposit. How convenient.
-Hinazuki gets married to a minor character with which she didn’t had a proper relationship until the time skip.
-I knew who the killer was since the second episode.
If not as weak as the story section, characters aren’t by any means remarkable, not even good to be honest.
Satoru’s characterization is fairly simple but it works. A 29 year old guy, with a quiet but not shy personality. It felt void more than once though, not only because of his way of being but also because of the amateur voice actors (both of them) that perform his voice. When it comes to his development, it's hard to say he had some because of the story’s composition. When he goes to the past he needs to act as a children the majority of time, so the only things we have to know him are his internal monologue and thoughts. The majority of the show happens in the past, so that’s a bad thing. By the way, a lot of his internal monologue consists in the deductions, relations and conclusions he makes to resolve the case. This supposedly makes him to look as a smart person, but the mystery is so badly done (and simple anyways) that it’s not that helpful to this section. And, to make matters worse, he falls into a coma, and when he wakes up his internal monologue changes completely because of the amnesia. Probably the most remarkable thing here is how his relationship with Hinazuki grows up, and even that feels useless after the time skip.
The second “main” character is of course Hinazuki. I don’t have that much to say about her. She was very shy because her mother beat her (victimizing where?) but she gains confidence with herself and with the outside thanks to Satoru, which is probably the best thing this show does. And again, thanks to that time skip, a lot of information about how her trust kept growing (because it did, we see her as a normal woman when she talks to Satoru) is lost. This show just doesn’t want to make things right.
And then there’s Gaku Yashiro, Satoru’s teacher and the actual murderer. We know literally nothing about this guy. Well, we know he’s cruel just because (he liked to kill hamsters when he was young), and that he sees gossamers over victims’ heads. That sounds like some weird unexplained magic, it doesn’t add anything to him nor to the story. Bad as a character, and bad as an antagonist.
As for secondary characters, the show doesn’t do any effort again. Satoru’s mother is a single mother archetype, she loves her son, and that’s it. Airi is the typical character that helps everybody because of her optimism. She even helps a guy who can be a KILLER. This tries to be excused with a forced story about her father stealing a chocolate bar. So, she’s comparing a murder with a harmless theft… nope. The kids Satoru had as friends are just… well, kids. As always, it’s a good thing they’re not treated as fanservice, but that doesn’t change they don’t add anything to the show. Even Kenya, the kid the show pays more attention to, means nothing after the time skip. Purely decorative. Hinazuki’s mother is a one dimensional character that beats her daughter simply because her one dimensional (again) husband abused her before. There are no deeper explanation, nor any exploration. The show wants us to feel empathy for her because of a one minute long flashback. Sorry, but it doesn’t work like that.
Visual art and animation:
The show looks fine, but not amazing. Animation is basic at best, the majority of the show is about people talking or kids playing after all. The artwork is good, though. When Satoru is in the past, the color palette consists of opaque colors. They took advantage of the season (winter) to make the environment foggy, which gave the proper tone to the "mystery". Satoru’s inner thought when he is deducting and concluding stuff is symbolized by a tangle of old filmstrips that show the events he’s linking up. A good and quite functional detail. Into the bargain, the show uses black bars to give the whole thing a cinematic feeling. Character figures are generic but they fit with their personalities.
Soundtrack is as generic as it can be. Trying to give again a cinematic feeling, the BGM is fully composed of your typical orchestrated instrumental themes. That's not a bad thing per se, but the compositions in this case doesn't have any kind of memorability. On the other hand, the opening song, performed by the known Asian Kung-Fu Generation, is a good addition to the soundtrack. An energetic but not explosive indie Rock song gives the proper momentum to start watching the show. A likable guitar arrangement plus a catchy rhythm; it always works. The ending song was also a good choice. The slow acoustic beginning merges nicely with the regular cliffhanger every episode has. Then the sound starts to increase to a melodic J-Pop that ends on a high note (pun intended).
The voice acting, conversely, is mediocre. As I said before, Satoru’s voices were performed by amateurs. And it’s very noticeable, especially when Satoru’s voice needs force. They tried, but the result is not the best. The other performances were fine. Hinazuki’s voice felt off but the character isn’t very expressive after all. There’s no need to complain about that.
Erased failed. There’s no need to say anything else. The writing was a mess, filled with conveniences and inconsistencies. The characters were boring and forgettable. The mystery was crap and there was no thrilling, just cliffhangers. Another nice-looking overrated mess. We get this kind of anime every now and then. As far as I'm concerned, I’ll forget about the show pretty soon.