Once in a while, an anime comes along that captivates its audience. Sometimes the hype surrounding it fizzles out and something that was once revered becomes nothing more than a mere afterthought, but then there are those times where the quality does nothing but improve week after week. Sooner or later, something intangible connects you to the anime and it makes you want to see more, it makes you cry out in agony when an episode ends and the realization of having to wait another week sets in, it makes all of the hype surrounding it validated.
I’ve watched nearly 400 different animes since becoming a fan and a very small percentage of those shows have captivated me in such a way. Today, I get to add another show to that very short list. The Japanese name is Boku Dake ga Inai Machi; the English name is ERASED.
ERASED centers around a manga artist named Satoru Fujinuma. He is struggling with his manga because his characters lack the emotion they need to bring themselves to life. This is because Satoru, himself, has no emotion inside of him. For eighteen years, he has been blaming himself for the kidnapping and death of a classmate, Kayo Hinazuki. If he had only walked her home that one night he saw her alone in the park, could she have been saved?
Satoru makes ends meet by working a part-time job as a pizza delivery driver. One day, while on a delivery, Satoru’s uncontrollable ability triggers. He calls it Revival and it allows him to travel back in time in one to five minute intervals. Knowing that he couldn’t save Kayo, he vowed to use this involuntary ability to help others in need. Satoru’s mother, who used to be a news reporter, visits him and brings up the kidnappings from when he was young. She says that she has learned the identity of the killer, but before she could tell Satoru, the killer himself murders her while Satoru is at work. The killer also frames Satoru for the murder.
While escaping capture, Satoru experiences Revival once again, but something different happens this time. Instead of going back one to five minutes, Satoru travels eighteen years into the past; all the way back to 1988! With his entire life’s memories intact, Satoru must now relive his life to clear his name and protect those he couldn’t protect eighteen years ago.
We all wish we could have a second chance. There is not a human walking this planet who does not have at least one regret deep down inside of them. Granted, the circumstances in ERASED are a bit on the grim side to serve as a reason to go back and do things over, but Satoru gets that second chance to set things right. This is a murder mystery series with a sci-fi twist to it. It does follow the laws of time travel in its basic sense, but doesn’t really go too deep into them like Steins;Gate did, but the show was self-aware enough to keep everything consistent from episode to episode.
The story itself was absolutely amazing. You experience one twist and turn after another that keeps you guessing, but while the show attempts to keep the killer a mystery, it sadly foreshadows the killer rather bluntly and anyone who takes a half-assed guess at it will more than likely get the answer correct. That is my only regret about this show is that they didn’t do an amazing job masking the killer, but I do give kudos to the show for putting in just enough material to maybe cause you to second guess your choice, but when you find out you were right all along, it kind of dampens the big shocking and suspenseful reveal.
While the story was VERY well scripted, it was only enhanced with amazing characters that each had their own personalities that enriched every bit of the story with a myriad of emotion. Let’s take a look at some of these characters.
From the story synopsis, you can already tell he is the main character. You really get to see the change in Satoru almost immediately. He went from this young adult who was dead inside to an energetic kid filled with compassion that wanted nothing more to save his friends, but I couldn’t help but think that Satoru was also doing all of this for a bit of self-validation. Yes, he wanted to change the events of the past to save his friends and to save his mom from getting murdered, but what was never outright stated was that Satoru needed to do this for himself. It’s a little nuance I picked up on that maybe… just maybe… I’m reading a little bit too much into it, but I think that Satoru needed to do this for himself more than anyone.
He’s gone through eighteen years of his life regretting every breath he took because he knew he could have done something to save Kayo. Now that his mother’s life is in his hands as well, Satoru knew that if he didn’t save them, not only would they be lost once again, but he would have fallen deeper into depression and despair. There was no telling what kind of person Satoru could have become. He had to prove to himself that he could not only change the past and the future, but also prove to himself that deep down inside, he still cared. He wanted to show those feelings to the world and I think they came through loud and clear through our next character.
Satoru was a brilliant character, but Kayo was the one who really made this show. The amount of emotion you got from this one character is insane. You felt pity, you felt sympathy, you felt like you wanted to reach out and give her the hug she, most likely, never received in her entire life. Then there are times you felt happiness and joy that moved you to tears because you realize the warmth she was eventually surrounded by. Because of Satoru, she transformed from the person who wanted nothing more than to disappear to a person who could finally put her trust in someone. Someone who taught her that there are things in this world such as friendship and love.
Then she became one of the most hated characters in the show. If you decide to watch ERASED, you’ll know exactly what I mean towards the end. The fact that the author went in that direction infuriated the ever-living HELL out of me and it is taking every fiber of my being not to tell you, the reader, because I want each and every one of you to go watch this show unspoiled. In fact, making this statement is probably more than I should have said, but at the very minimum, a fair warning should be issued over this character.
Airi is a fun character. She works with the 29 year-old Satoru at the pizza shop. She’s the only one who believes that Satoru didn’t murder his mother and goes out of her way to help Satoru, even putting herself in harm’s way. Airi’s personality is very light-hearted, but at the same time, a bit naïve. She’s still a teenager which makes the chemistry between Airi and Satoru just that much weirder, but it’s this naivety that reflects her age and causes a distinct contrast between herself and other characters.
She wasn’t annoying either, like most teenage anime girls. She had a lovable side to her that actually made you care about her as a character. Her past also played a role into why she believed Satoru; she also had a bit of a sense of justice in her as well. She was a pretty well-balanced character that I wished would’ve gotten more screen time, but didn’t. Even though I haven’t read the manga, I heard that there were scenes in the manga that were cut from the anime involving Airi or some scenes that were completely changed all together. Did the studio hate her that much?
She is Satoru’s mother and wins the mother of the year award from just about every fan of this show. Sachiko is, without a doubt, the very definition of what a mother should be. The love, attention, and compassion that she gives to not only Satoru, but to his friends, is just mind-shattering. It is that love and connection to Satoru that gives her this otherworldly mother’s intuition to the point where Satoru keeps calling her a yokai (ghost). She seems to know every bit of Satoru’s intentions before he even makes them known. She’s about as supportive as a parent can get without crossing that fine line of smothering. She was one hell of a character and I enjoyed her very much… pronounced lips and all.
I’m bundling them together here because Kenya was the only one that stood out among them. The rest just seemed like cannon fodder for the show and really didn’t bring anything to the table outside of the random emotional support. There was Hiromi, the boy that looked like a girl, Osamu, the nerdy guy who plays video games, and Kazu.. the fat one. No, really, I have no other way to describe him aside from being the fat friend.
Kenya was the one who got the most attention and development. Kenya has a keen eye for details and when Satoru leaps back in time, he’s the first to instantly recognize the departure from Satoru’s normal persona. He becomes suspicious, but even though he’s very mature for his age, he easily believes Satoru when he said that he just wants to be a superhero. It shows a lot of diversity when you can give a character, that is a child, a very adult personality, but still make him live within the rules of a child’s mentality. I think the Kenya character was done very well and I think it’s because he was done so well that Satoru’s other friends just seemed like mere afterthoughts.
It’s really sad to see a character like this in today’s age because if a character like this existed in the real world, he’d be locked up behind bars almost instantly. Jun is a simple man who likes talking to and playing with children. He keeps them company and makes sure that the kids always have someone they can play with. Jun is not a creep by any means. He has a heart of gold and would never hurt a fly, but in a realistic setting, he’d be labeled a predator and/or sex offender which tells a lot about today’s society. For his brief time in the show, I really enjoyed the character.
He is Satoru’s 6th grade teacher. His personality is that of a typical teacher who cares about his students and their well-being, but he isn’t exactly quick to act when Satoru asks him to help Hinazuki as there is a lot of red tape he has to cut through in order to aid her. Yashiro does, eventually, step in and helps save Kayo, though.
Art, Animation, and Sound
A-1 Pictures, the people behind Sword Art Online and Fairy Tail, did this show and it’s clear how much budget this studio gives to shorter series than to long ones. ERASED got a decent budget, but the art and animation wasn’t really anything to write home about, but there were some pretty scenes in there, such as the Christmas tree scene depicted below.
“Christmas? You know it’s February, idiot”
The character designs were pretty good, but one thing that bothered me was that everyone seemed to have an elongated head. At times, the back of Satoru’s head stuck WAY out and looked so unnatural. Plus, what was the deal with most of the adult females having very pronounced lips? Even after going through all twelve episodes, I never got used to those lips.
The animation itself was pretty average. There was really nothing that stood out as over the top. There were times that the animation shined, though, such as the ice skating race scene with Satoru. It seems A-1 cherry picked certain scenes to give more love and attention to than others. Another scene involving Airi also got some budget love. Those who watched the show will know exactly which “heated” scene I’m talking about.
One thing that the anime did pretty uniquely, though was that during the times when Satoru was a kid, they framed the anime in “theater mode.” They put those letterbox black bars at the top and bottom of the screens, which gave the show quite the unique feel. Some people caught it right away, but more often than not, the anime was too busy drawing you in for you to notice. They also used film grain along with film strip animations for flashbacks, adding more uniqueness to each scene. It’s a nice, subtle touch, but one that really enhanced the overall feel for the show. Well done A-1 in that regards.
The soundtrack, though. Man, if there was a soundtrack that just drove home the emotion and fit perfectly into every scenario, it’s ERASED’s OST. Sure, a lot of the music doesn’t just jump out at you like Attack on Titan’s OST, or is haunting like Shiki’s, but every single song served its purpose and helped enhance the emotion and the atmosphere of the show. Good soundtracks will keep you listening, but great soundtracks will help absorb you into the show’s world. This is a great soundtrack and I recommend anyone goes out and gets it when it drops.
The opening and ending themes were also phenomenal. Asian Kung Fu Generation did the song’s opening by covering one of their old songs off their 2004 album Sol-fa called “Re:Re” The 2004 version was really good, but the 2016 version, with its crisper audio and improved vocals, was just simply amazing. It’s not an exact note for note cover as it is a rearrangement, but it still captures the awesomeness of the original and builds upon it. It does it in a way where you don’t really have to choose which one is better.. you can just appreciate and enjoy both.
The ending theme is brought to you by Sayuri who made her debut by providing us with, what I feel was, 2015’s best ending song, “Mikazuki” for the anime Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace. This time she’s back with another song called “Sore wa Chiisana Hikari no Youna” The song starts off just as somber and as beautiful as “Mikazuki,” but I’m afraid after that, the song just doesn’t deliver. Dissonant tones along with lyrics which sound like they’re just being rambled off and not even bothering to fit the rhythm of the song really hurt this track overall. I could sit and listen to “Mikazuki” over and over, but I can’t sit through one full listen of “Sore was Chiisana Hikari no Youna.” I’m really hoping Sayuri isn’t a one hit wonder because I really love her voice and if she can just find a way to structure her lyrics better, she could improve greatly.
There are still a LOT of amazing animes coming out such as Steins;Gate 0, the second season of Attack on Titan, D.Gray-man, Berserk, etc. and I’m already calling this an anime of the year contender. It’s really hard to say that about a show that aired during the first season of 2016, but this anime has had such a profound impact on the community that it would be a damn shame not to put this up for nomination immediately. At one point, this had climbed all the way up to the number five spot on MyAnimeList’s top anime of all time, dethroning a couple of iterations of Gintama in the process. As of last week, it slipped down to rank ten. It will be interesting to see where it ultimately ends up, though.
Suspense, drama, science fiction, time travel, moments that will make you laugh, moments that will move you to tears, and moments that will make you cover your mouth and mutter “Oh my God.” This anime will do all of that to you. I say to you that you would have committed a grave sin if you do not make the time to watch this show. I can’t recommend it enough.
It is also a show that very rarely gets this from me, but it’s getting the perfect score. 5 out of 5 stars!
Just like Satoru had to fill an empty hole in his heart, now I have to find something to fill an empty Thursday.