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: Life’s not working out at all for Fujinuma Satoru. As a struggling manga artist, he makes ends meet by delivering pizzas. However, he has a special ability to travel back in time, which he dubs “Revival”, and uses it to prevent mishaps from occurring. One day, he finds his mother murdered by an unknown culprit. Framed and desperate, he tries to flee from the police and gets transported back as far back as 1988, the same year three girls were mysteriously kidnapped and murdered.

The Highlights
Ambiance: Subdued and unsettling; masterfully directed.
Suspense: Gripping; plot consistently thickens.
Narrative: Occasionally one-sided and limited.
Fujinuma Satoru: Perhaps not the most prudent hero of all time.
A-1 Pictures: One of their better, or even best, works to date.

Time travel has been used in sci-fi storytelling since the 1920s, and is a common central motif in the anime sphere. It is also filled with enticing hypotheticals, since no one really knows what complications come with it, be it the butterfly effect or the grandfather paradox. As such, a good time-travel story ideally explores these intricacies while also examining the impact that changing time might have on the time traveler. Erased offers all these elements and, despite some narrative and character issues, it’s perhaps one of the best mystery drama titles in recent times.

Erased‘s approach to time travel is the classic Back to the Future-esque approach of going back to the past to prevent an event from occurring. But what makes the series stand out is the overall presentation. The atmosphere is purposefully muted and foreboding, presenting a discomforting mood in a setting with ever-present danger in the form of an unknown child killer. This is enhanced by Kajiura Yuki‘s musical compositions which masterfully shift between grand orchestral tunes for its climactic scenes and soft piano melodies for the subtle moments. Even the letter-boxing adds to the viewing experience, making the audience feel like they are watching a mystery flick at the movies.

Erased also excels as a mystery title because of its well-written plot. The story consistently maintains the tension by cleverly concealing the antagonist to the end, an essential element to any mystery drama. This is made possible by the cast’s characterization since it is hard to rule out possible suspects due to their shrouded motives. The sheer riveting suspense of figuring out who the culprit is made me look forward to every new episode each week.

But as absorbing as the story is, Erased has its share of problems. One aspect that made the show compelling from right the onset is how it is able to view the underlying mystery from different standpoints. Although Satoru is the main protagonist and thus most of the story is narrated from his point of view, there were some instances where the same thing he saw is seen differently by another character. This multi-angled viewpoint would add a potentially amazing dimension to the storytelling, but unfortunately, as the series progresses it begins to focus only on the viewpoint of Satoru. As a result, the audience’s perspective of the plot gets reduced to only what Satoru perceives, and indeed his perception is short-sighted. As smart as he may be, his lack of prudence and failure to see the “big picture” renders him a hero lacking in charisma. He doesn’t seem to fully understand the gravity of the situation at hand, being fixated only in preventing mishaps rather than actually learning who the culprit is, which would render the story more riveting.

Nevertheless, Erased is indeed a time travel story done right. It’s not perfect for sure; the writers could have made the narrative more intriguing, or making Satoru more deductive rather than responsive as a detective. Plus, it’s tempting for many people to compare it to the more superior Steins;Gate, a series that explores time travel from all angles and led by a hero who recognizes what it means to change history. But doing so would unfairly discredit the merits of Erased, a show I believe is one of the best this season and even the year. A-1 Pictures has done well this time, and I hope it tries to do something provocative again for their next work.

The Rating: 8
6/10

Reviewed by: AC

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