The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Erased

Title: Erased aka Boku Dake ga Inai Machi
Genre: Sci-Fi/Drama
Company: A-1 Pictures
Format: 12 episodes
Date: 7 Jan 2016 – 25 Mar 2016

Synopsis: Fujinuma Satoru is a 29-year-old, struggling manga artist with an unusual ability to turn back time called revival. Whenever tragedy is about to strike, he is transported minutes before the incident and is able to prevent death. One day after his mother is killed, he finds himself transported back 18 years to a time before the disappearance of his elementary school classmates. Satoru realizes these disappearances may be linked to his mother’s murder and embarks on a quest to solve this mystery.

The Highlights
Time Traveling: Functionally a time traveling story, but it often feels extraneous to the plot.
Murder Mystery: Badly constructed, with the killer’s motives barely explored.
Drama: Has a surprisingly humanistic touch and is very raw.
Pacing: Poorly paced, making the conclusion wholly unsatisfactory as a result.

Time traveling is an increasingly popular storytelling device in the anime industry and it is easy to see why — it provides many great avenues for drama, mystery, and thrills. The basic premise of Erased is not unusual for a time travel story, centering around a murder mystery in which the protagonist Satoru must do what he can to prevent, but it does differentiate itself with a surprisingly humanistic touch. In fact, what ends up being most compelling about Erased is not the whodunit thriller, but the basic human drama at its core. Unfortunately, this is more emblematic of the show’s failures to utilize its different elements well than it providing enticing drama.

Case and point, Erased barely uses the concept of time travel to its own benefit. Satoru’s revival ability, which sends him back to the past, is used only 3 or 4 times in total during the entire storyline. Additionally, he has little to no control over its occurrence, resulting in it being used only for narrative convenience. Common ideas such as time paradoxes or the butterfly effect are never dealt with on any level and why Satoru has this ability is never explained either. By the end of the show, the time travel aspect feels completely extraneous.

Similarly, Erased sets up a murder-mystery case, but does an incredibly poor job of following through with it. The show never builds a good list of credible suspects to keep the audience guessing, nor does Satoru ever try to play an effective detective. The perpetrator becomes easily identifiable simply because the show quickly runs out of valid options rather than because a string of clues is provided so the audience can figure it out. Little to no time is given to understanding the killer’s motives, and the eventual reveal is glossed over so fast that a motive might as well have not existed. While these are by no means mandatory details of a mystery or suspense story, it limits the amount of intrigue these aspects can generate.

What does end up constituting a large portion of the show’s time is the story of the main victim, Hinazuki Kayo. This is where Erased shines best as it explores her problems involving child abuse and bullying. There are many raw, emotional scenes involving her predicament and it can be incredibly heartwarming to see her hardened shell melt away at Satoru’s attempts to help her out. Ultimately though, this proves to be a double edged sword for Erased, as director Tomohiko Ito’s obsession with her storyline chokes oxygen out of everything else.

By placing too much emphasis on Kayo, Erased never allowed itself time to properly resolve its story. While the first half of the show is deliberately paced to explore Kayo in detail, the second half becomes very rushed and ends up glossing over the rest of the characters, particularly the other victims. The final episodes end up feeling like a completely different show altogether both because of Kayo’s diminished role in the story, and how little time Erased spends building itself up. Erased is guilty of stuffing too many ideas into a story that it did not ever bother to develop. Perhaps a longer version of the show that we see in the first few episodes could have been really enjoyable, but the end product is simply mediocre.

The Rating: 5
5/10

Reviewed by: Reckoner

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