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.