Out of all the shows to be announced for the winter season, the one that attracted the majority of the attention was ERASED (Boku dake ga inai Machi), meaning ‘The town where only I am missing’. Now that the final episode has aired in Japan, what’s the verdict on the most popular series of the season?
For those who aren’t familiar with the synopsis, ERASED is a mystery/crime/supernatural drama about 29 year-old Satoru, a pizza delivery driver who can travel back in time – involuntarily. He is regularly transported five or so minutes into the past just before a tragedy occurs around him, leaving him to find out the problem and solve it. He repeats the five-minute time slot until he fixes the problem. The real story begins when Satoru is visited by a very personal tragedy, and he is transported all the way back to elementary school to fix things by saving a girl from being kidnapped. From here, he is embroiled in a series of abuse and murders, and Satoru must save these children and find the murderer to prevent his future from being destroyed.
The plot gets off to a flying start, hitting us with the reality of Satoru’s ability in the first few episodes. He is a 29 year-old in the body of his childhood self, trying to save female classmate, Kayo, from her tragic fate as a way of saving his own future. This first half is, in the opinion of many, the best. It deals with child abuse, being powerless as a child, and feeling like an imposter in your own world. We see some masterpiece scenes, artfully conducted by the anime’s director, Tomohiko Ito, including some powerful moments with his abused classmate Kayo. Their friendship is the anchor of much of the show.
The rising tension set up in the first arc sort of dissipates in the second half. By now, we’ve guessed who the child-killer is, and it’s a disappointment when our suspicion is confirmed. It was a sloppy answer to the question that had us on the edge of our seats from the very beginning. Satoru spends the majority of the first half as a child, but in the space of the next seven episodes, he goes back and forth, elements are introduced without being explained, and plot points become a matter of convenience.
You can tell that the show is trying to make the ending emotional, but I knew I wasn’t getting anything.
Plot-wise, ERASED could have done with at least twice the amount of episodes. Squeezing in a bunch of different locations or plots in the last couple of episodes made it feel horribly disjointed, which is a shame, since the first half was pure gold. With more time, this could have been fantastic.
The characters are perhaps the most loveable thing about the show (save for the antagonist). Satoru is extremely likeable, a pizza delivery driver with dreams of being an artist and a strained relationship with his mother. He has a pizza-delivering love interest too, in high schooler Airi. She turns out to be his emotional rock in his future timeline, and it’s a pity she didn’t get more screen time. And the award for best anime mum definitely goes to Satoru’s mother, Sachiko. She showed dedication to her child, in a complete contrast to classmate Kayo’s abusive mother. She is seen as a force of reliability, and she definitely lives up to it.
The villain is a pretty big disappointment. I found it difficult to accept that I had actually guessed the villain as soon as he was established as a character; he walks into the room, and you go ‘I bet he’s the bad guy’, and then you’re right. There’s making sure the viewer doesn’t get lost, and then there’s spelling it out. Even considering this, the rest of the wonderful cast make up for ERASED’s failings.
ERASED is by far one of the best series to come out this year. Despite its shoddy construction in places, the characters make it all worth the while. You’ll definitely be rooting for Satoru and his friends, and blown away by the incredible opening and ending themes. It was great, but definitely had the potential for more.