If you could rewind back your life and do it again, what would you do different?
In the year 2006, 29 year-old Satoru Fujinuma is a former manga artist who now works at a part-time job delivering pizzas, has such an ability in his possession. He has an ability called Revival, which allows to rewind time a few minutes to prevent something from happening, saving people’s lives. When his mother is suddenly killed one night, the stress of her death results in him going back in time all the way to 1988, when he was only 10 years old. Now given a second chance in life, not only does Satoru vow to save his mother’s life, but the lives of three of his former classmates that were killed that March of 1988 as well. Chief among the killed children was his classmate Kayo Hinzauki, who Satoru had the chance to save 18 years ago, but failed to do so...
Back when it premiered in winter 2016, it seems like I couldn’t go anywhere on the THEM Anime forum or on ANN without hearing about ERASED. At this moment in time, it currently ranks #50 in the ranks on MyAnimeList, and #52 in popularity, with a solid 8.65 overall rating. But do those numbers seem justified? Well, let’s see.
ERASED starts off rather slow, with our main lead just kinda being mopey and indifferent to everyone around him. His cute co-worker - a fellow pizza delivery girl named Airi Katagiri - tends to tell him to not eat any of the pizza as he delivers it, which he argues with, “Is that a Gen Y joke?” in his head. After work, we then see his mother, Sachiko, just kinda drop in and stay the night. It’s not exactly a gripping beginning, in all honesty. It’s not until Sachiko dies that the plot really goes into motion, afterwards in which Satoru travels back in time to solve the mystery of her death, as well as some of his classmates’. Near the rest of the series plays around with the timelines of present day and the past, at least until the final two episodes. It’s part drama, part redemption tale, and, on the tiny bit of occasion, comedy.
The past is also when we met our other primary character of the series, 10 year-old Kayo Hinazuki, voiced by Aoi Yuuki (Madoka, Madoka Magica). A rather stoic girl at first - you’d easily mistake her for a kuudere if you went by image sites - but once the series brings up her family life, it’s hard not to see why she doesn’t smile. The bulk of the series revolves around Satoru and his efforts to save Kayo, which does lead to a few cute scenes with them interacting together. It would be even cuter except, well, Satoru still has memories of his adult self AS he shares these moments with her, so whenever he blushes around Kayo, it’s hard to not think of him as a bit of a creeper. (And no, the show lamp-shading this by Satoru telling himself “You’re 29!” does not make it any less unsettling.)
Ironically child Satoru has more character than his adult counterpart does. He’s smart, quick on his feet, and has a strong sense of justice, even proclaiming he wants to be a hero specifically several times throughout the series. He’s also not a loner, as he has a group of archetypical but friendly guys he hangs out with. And he also has a rather sweet relationship with his mother Sachiko, which was easily my favorite part of the show honestly. The mother-son relationship with Satoru and Sachiko is one of the best I’ve ever seen in an anime, and they manage to do so without making them overbearing of one other. Sachiko even plays an actual role in the 1988 timeline’s story too, so double kudos there, ERASED!
Satoru and Sachiko’s relationship is also used to point out the rather sharp contrast to Kayo and her own family’s, um, “relationship” (if you want to call it that). Kayo’s mother is, to be candid, an abusive jackass. She locks Kayo in a shed in winter with barely any clothes on, beats her regularly (and then washes her face with cold water after to hide the scars she leaves), and barely makes her breakfast, if she even makes her food at all. Despite this being a large source of drama for Kayo’s character, her mother is so two-dimensionally despicable and over-the-top, she seems less like a character and more as an obstacle for young Kayo to overcome. Kayo’s mother also has a useless, lazy bastard of a boyfriend, because why not? Two evil people for the price of one, after all.
Now onto the mystery aspect of ERASED. A lot of the 1988 Satoru time - outside of the time with Kayo - involves hm trying to track his mother’s killer, who apparently is the one who killed Kayo and his other classmates as well back then. And for the most part, the series does a good job with the mystery aspect at first. The clues are dispersed over the course of several episodes, and there’s a sense of progression as one moves along.
One weird positive I have about ERASED is that despite his best intentions, Satoru does NOT succeed his first time around in 1988. He makes mistakes, he messes up, he doesn’t think things through all the way - it shows that even with his Revival ability, he’s not just some super whiz kid who knows every little detail. And because of this, it makes him more human. About half-way through episode 5, Satoru winds up in the present again, and ends up on an even worse adult outlook than he did before somehow. We also get some rather nice development with his co-worker Airi, who’s just a total sweetheart (but not a doormat, as we learn in episode 5 as well). But even at his most down and out, Satoru does not give up, and that’s what makes him such a relatable character.
By the end of episode 6, we go back once again in time back to 1988. Satoru, along with his group of friends, put double time into saving Kayo and the others from the killer. And for the next couple of episodes, this show becomes Detective Conan lite, tying together rather nicely Kayo’s storyline, while Satoru at long last at the end of episode 10 meets the killer. Which should have a big, powerful, dramatic reveal built up to over the course of the whole series, but…it’s not. Instead of ERASED making its audience find out on their own who the killer is, the show flat-out just TELLS you who did it at the end of episode 10 by having him abduct Satoru. It’s as if the series is trying to tell you, “In case you weren’t vigilant enough to figure out who did it on your own, we’re just to reveal to you right away. And in an over-the-top way, too.” Granted, due to process of elimination, most viewers will likely figure who it was out long beforehand anyway, but couldn’t they have a bit more subtle on the killer’s identity?
Then we get to episode 11, the series’ final time skip. Here ERASED just kind of pauses on the whole mystery angle of the show, and instead shows us a now 26 year-old Satoru recovering from a 15 year coma, re-meeting his friends and, eventually, the killer himself. It certainly leads to a few cute scenes (including one with a controversial couple pairing, to the unhappiness of some fans of the show), with the next episode basically one long standoff between Sotaru and the killer. I’m not a big fan of the ass pull they did to get Satoru his memories back (involving him touching hands with one of his friends’ newborn child), but the rest of the episode - revolving around a “can’t have one without the other” scenario between Satoru and the killer - is done well enough. It even plays up the theme of heroes and villains (a recurring theme in the series is young Satoru wanting to be a hero), ending with one last epilogue scene with a familiar face in Sotaru’s life.
There are a few other things, sadly, that annoyed me about ERASED. One of them being that aside from Satoru, Sachiko, Kayo, and maybe Airi, most of the cast are rather typical anime archetypes. Hit the hardest with this is Satoru’s own classmates, who consist of a scrawny kid with glasses, the big, loud guy, and the slightly shy girly-looking one. Even the villain of the series, once he makes his presence open, is little more than a sadistic bastard. (The manga goes into far more detail on his backstory, involving him and his brother, which I will not transcribe here. There’s a reason that story wasn’t in the anime, trust me.)
And yet, despite the rather underwhelming end and a few lukewarm bits, I can more than recommend ERASED still. I was hooked rather quickly on the series, and the characters - while not the most developed of the bunch - are still likable enough to make up for their shortcomings in character development. The series also made me feel bad for Kayo and made me want for her to succeed in being happy - if I care enough about a fictional character’s well-being enough to hope for their happiness, you know you did something right. The voice acting is also spot-on as well; I couldn’t point out a single out of place voice amongst the entire cast. The art is also at times absolutely gorgeous, capturing the winter setting the series takes place in perfectly, even If the animation can’t stay up to par with it.
If you look at ERASED as a murder mystery series, it’s not a great one, what with the blatantly obvious reveal come the end of episode 10. If you look at it as a redemption story - a “if you could do this again, how would you do it differently” scenario, if you will - you’ll enjoy it much more. Satoru is a great male anime lead, in an era where the anime male lead seems to be regulated to kids’, action, or harem anime. Kayo, as forced as her backstory is at times, is a sweetheart you want to root for very step of the way as well, and applaud when she finally gets her happy ending. I came to really attach myself to these characters, and at the end of the day, that’s what mattered to me as I watched it.
Even with some off-putting jokes and a not-so-subtle villain reveal, I still more than recommend ERASED if you like dramas and rich character development. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.
While the ending and some underdeveloped characters drag down an otherwise great series, there’s still more than enough to recommend in ERASED for the general anime fan to like. — Tim Jones
Recommended Audience: Not for the kids. There’s the aforementioned abuse involving a 10 year-old girl, as well as the rather bloody death of Satoru’s mother in the first episode alone. There’s also a lot of intense moments as well involving the kid characters, too. And the penultimate episode features a scene where a character casually mentions taking a bunch of hamsters and then drowning them for fun. And we get to see them fall into the water, and THEN their dead bodies after! Yikes! Not for kids or young teens.
Version(s) Viewed: Crunchyroll stream, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (12/12)
ERASED © 2016 Kei Sanbe/KADOKAWA/Bokumachi Animation Committee
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