Erased – Review
Erased was Linny’s Personal Pick of the Year in our Anime Awards.
Original Air Dates: Jan 7th, 2016 – March 24th, 2016
Synopsis: Satoru Fujinuma is a struggling manga artist who’s yet to make much of a name for himself. Besides his career problems, Satoru suffers from a much stranger condition he’s chosen to name: REVIVAL, where he finds himself reliving the brief moments before something life-threatening occurs. He’s chosen to use this power for good, righting horrible events before lives are lost. After a near death experience during one such Revival, Satoru finds his Mother deciding to stay with him until she’s sure he’s recovered.
While catching up, Satoru’s mother reminds him of the horrible kidnappings/murders that happened during his middle school years. Satoru and his mother find themselves drawn back to his childhood and the murders/kidnappings he’d long suppressed. But after a sudden and unexpected murder, Satoru finds himself labelled as the criminal and moments before he’s taken in for questioning Satoru finds himself thrust back through time thanks to REVIVAL: back to days before the original murders during his childhood.
Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Erased starts off as a murder mystery, but soon transcends into a story about Satoru’s journey and experiences as he relives his childhood. There’s a strong element of suspense and mystery as we watch Satoru try to learn the identity of the murderer, all while being limited to the resources and skills available to those of a child. The show breathes fresh air into the time travel genre and concept by introducing its own rules and mechanics. However, what is truly noteworthy is its introduction of a well developed mother-child relationship between Satoru and his mother, Sachiko. While doting mothers are not a rare sight in anime, a lot of them (if not almost all of them) tend to have very little defining characteristics besides being a mother. From the very first episode itself, we see Satoru and Sachiko having intelligent conversations, with substance and realism. There is also a clear demonstration of the two treating each other like adults and individuals, which adds so much flavour to the show and to the relationship between them.
Tom: The first episode itself is misleading. Erased’s series opener isn’t at all what the series is like going forward. We’re not in it to watch Satoru solve crime after crime, but rather deal with the dark events of his past as he scrambles through his childhood in an effort to prevent the serial killings he’d blocked from his memory. While the time travel aspect remains, it takes a major backseat to preventing the murders, which itself is only a vehicle to make Satoru grow as a character and overcome his major flaw: He’s a loner. Erased is actually stronger for all of this, instead of focusing too heavily on the sci-fi time travel aspect, Erased stays focused for much of its run on saving Kayo, the first girl who was targeted for murder, and Satoru’s budding friendship with her and the way it changes him fundamentally as a person.
Linny: The visuals of Erased are really impressive and help to evoke a sense of noir and nostalgia, and even suspense when appropriate. Even the more emotionally intense scenes are extremely well done through the character’s expressions and the colour schemes. The characters are ever more believable thanks to the care taken in their design, especially in regards to the time travel. The actions and attitudes of the characters feel realistic and help the viewers lose themselves in the show and the story. Erased even manages to handle an extremely sensitive topic, that of child abuse, without making it seem gimmicky. The child abuse sequences are both heartbreaking and honest, never overdramatized, but never underplayed either.
Tom: It’s the 1980s period of Satoru’s childhood that makes for the most compelling aspect of Erased. When the series jumps back into the modern day it often feels like a brief period of set up, helping to further the overarching plot enough for us to then jump back into the past again with a new goal and momentum. The drama of saving Kayo, and Satoru’s growth as an individual, are simply more appealing and where Erased is at its strongest. This could be in part due to the anime truncating its adaptation. Erased is based off a manga that ran for 44 chapters until this year. Squeezing 44 monthly chapters into twelve episodes is near impossible, and some things had to be cut. But it’s hard to make a proper comparison, or even recommendation on which version to experience, when the manga still lacks a legal English localization. Ignoring the urge to compare the manga and anime, Erased’s high point is Episode 9, the conclusion of the series first ‘arc’, where Satoru’s efforts to save Kayo come to a conclusion. This is where Erased shines the most, with so much powerful emotion coursing through the episode, and the audience, that it acts as a euphoric release for such a dark and powerful story. Unfortunately Erased’s quality takes several hits after this episode, never quite recovering by the time we reach the finale. Erased starts to come apart: Plot holes crop up, contrivances to make the story fit in in just three remaining episodes, truncated events, and a conclusion to the mystery of the murderer’s identity that was perhaps too obvious from the start. None of these ruin Erased, but they are detriments that’ll play a major factor in your enjoyment of Erased’s finale episodes, depending upon how noticeable or bothersome you find these deficiencies.
Linny: On the theme of realism, Satoru is an interesting lead. He lives his life with a vague sense of ennui and doubts that most younger adults will associate with or recognize. The viewers watch as he struggles and stumbles through a bland life, then strives to uncover the mystery. His efforts are a healthy mix of hits and fails, offering the viewer a chance to get completely invested in the tension and stress of the situation, and rejoicing when he finally gets it right.
Tom: Satoru is a really strong main character. For me he started off a bit unlikable, someone who’d already given up on his life goals and was lacking passion and drive. But he quickly grew on me as we discover Satoru has an innate love for justice that his modern self can’t explain. The journey of seeing him realize who he wants to be, and stepping up for himself and others is powerful. Things don’t come easy to Satoru, and the setbacks he suffers in saving Kayo are pretty depressing and grueling. Despite my misgivings about Satoru initially, he’s really grown on me as a character, helping the conclusion to the series feel all the more powerful, even if it wasn’t perfect.
Linny: His mother is an equally prominent and vital character, especially when it comes to the supporting cast. Viewers aching for an everyday but impressive female character should be pleased to observe Sachiko as she demonstrates her wit and personality. She is not another anime mother introduced solely to be a sacrificial lamb. She displays a level of wit and charm that is rare in others. The other supporting characters also make for a convincing story, as their interactions and presence manage to add to the tale in subtle but realistic ways.
Tom: Satoru’s mother is easily the stand out character here. She steals the show in every scene she’s in. She’s the type of mother that anime doesn’t often produce, but could really use more of. She’s strong, caring, and as Linny said before, possesses traits often forgotten about with anime parents. She’s a strong positive outside of Erased dark story and self-discovery themes. She helps to make up for Erased’s lack of a compelling mystery, as the killer’s identity is easy enough to guess that you might’ve already figured it out by the end of episode two. For anyone watching for the mystery alone, Erased’s just isn’t satisfying, but can be made up for with strong characters like Sachiko.
Linny: It’s not all rainbows and sunshine. The show gets a lot of things right but it starts to fumble as its moves forward. The degree of realism and logic starts to disappear as the story progresses, getting to the point where some reveals undermine previous details surrounding the plot. Without spoiling too much, let’s just say that the story reveal things that call into question Satoru’s original thought process surrounding saving Kayo before any of the other victims, that needed to be explored and mentioned a lot earlier. This late reveal makes the plot feel a bit convoluted and under planned.
Tom: For those seeking an explanation of Satoru’s power it’s best to know now that the anime never even postulates as to why Satoru jumps back in time, or even how. Supposedly the manga addresses this, but without an official release it’s unfair to compare the anime to a product most of the western audience just doesn’t have access to. In the series final missteps, the anime enters an extremely reworked/truncated version of the manga’s finale. This has the unfortunate side-effect of leaving the audience with a disjointed pen-ultimate episode that’s forced to cover a lot of ground in order to prepare for that finale. The finale itself is quite emotionally packed, and while flawed with contrivances and cliches in order to bring everything to a complete finish, it still manages to work on an emotional level. For anyone seeking perfection, Erased’s finale is disappointing, but if all you wanted was a satisfying emotional conclusion Erased offers that in spades.
Linny: The show has some great voice acting for the child characters, that really sells their energy and innocence, and even their jaded realities. Even the music gets you hooked with the OP being really peppy and foot tapping, while the ED haunts you with its hopeful and determined tune, lending itself beautifully to Satoru’s situation.
Tom: The music really aids in selling Erased’s creepy atmosphere in the darker scenes, or even in places where the anime’s logic falters the music continues to push the emotions the audience should be feeling, and keeps the show together when maybe the writing isn’t quite doing its job.
Linny: For those unaware, the anime was being aired alongside the manga’s final chapters, right up to the very last chapter and episode. This obviously means that the show had to come up with its own version of the ending so as not to completely spoil the manga for readers. While the anime creators were given knowledge of the intended ending, it meant they had to improvise and edit certain parts, especially when trying to fit a 44 chapter story into 12 episodes. This could most likely cause discontent among fans of the source material but that’s an unavoidable risk in this case. As the manga series is yet to be licensed this side of the globe, we will have to wait to be able to fully explore and compare the show to its manga but here’s hoping that it won’t be long till we can get our hands on it.
Tom: There’s no doubt that the Manga provides the “more complete” version of the story, as squeezing 44 chapters into 12 episodes, as Linny said, came with the unavoidable risk of cutting content. The manga may, perhaps, be the better version of the story, but that doesn’t stop Erased’s anime adaptation from being a worthwhile experience in its own right. And the unfortunate truth is the Manga still hasn’t been picked up for localization, leaving Erased fans out in the rain when it comes to experiencing the original version of the story. With the anime as the only legal option it’s hard to say “Don’t watch the anime, read the manga.”
Linny: Erased is a show that transcends the murder mystery drama and ends up being an amalgamation of human relations, emotions and personal growth. It handles dark themes of murder, child abuse, and abduction with respect and realism and sucks the viewers in with well developed characters. If you have time for only one show, Erased is a worthy pick from its season.
Tom: Erased isn’t perfect, but really, good entertainment doesn’t have to be flawless and I wouldn’t be surprised if not all of Erased flaws stem solely from the adaptation. Erased isn’t much a mystery, but it’s a solid human drama with intense thriller elements and jammed packed with emotion. Erased will hopefully have an effect on the anime medium moving forward, perhaps pushing the idea that we can have parents as characters and not only will it not detract from the story, but bring about incredible strength and quality. Don’t watch Erased for the mystery, but instead for the characters and the heart of it.