When you went through anime forums around this time last year, you might've noticed the hype surrounding the anime Erased. The further along the series went, the more praise it got. This caused it to end up in the top 50 best anime ever while it was still airing.
But boy, did that change with the last three episodes. After the anime finished airing, the praise turned into bile and it hasn't stopped to this date. Try to speak any positive of Erased, and an angry mob will follow you to the end of days.
I was living under a rock around that time last year, so by the time I personally heard of Erased, the hate train already started and I carefully stepped back and let it pass.
But next to all the hate it garnered over the past year, it also still got praise from many people, including notable reviewers like Chriss Stuckman. And that kind of confused me.
Is the hate granted? Is the praise granted? There was one way to find out. So I dug in with a magnifying glass and searched for what went wrong with "Boku dake ga Inai Machi", better known as "Erased".
Problem is that there is SO much to talk about, I'm gonna have to split this up in two parts to keep it somewhat readable. The first part is the regular review (backstory, main story, characters, art & sound). The second part is going to cover what went wrong.
V Reviews - Erased (Pt. 1)
Let's rewind this clock to the very beginning... the Backstory
"Boku Dake ga inai machi" roughly translates to "the town with me erased", which was shortened to "Erased" in the west (which I'll keep using further on for clarity's sake).
Erased is a seinen thriller manga created by suspense mangaka Kei Sanbe. It's NOT a mystery manga (Keep that in mind)!. Kei has been writing thriller and horror manga ever since 2001 and started his craft as an assistant for the Jojo's Bizarre Adventure manga. Of all his stories, Erased is the first that received the anime treatment (AND live action treatment at the same time).
But in 2016, that is just what happened. A1-Pictures animated the manga into a 12-episode series and WB Japan released the live action movie.
I'd love to post twitter and website here, but his website has been down for a while now and he removed his original twitter account (maybe when the backlash started?).
The story starts in May of 2006.Satoru Fujinuma is a man down on his luck. Due to his lack of empathy, he's become estranged from his childhood friends and is failing as a manga author (he can't put emotions on paper). So he has to survive by being a part-time pizza delivery guy.
But he has one thing that does make him special. He has an ability that when he's in the environment of a tragic accident or murder, he relives it in a constant loop. This so that he can prevent the accident or murder from happening. The downside on this is that this is triggered automatically, so he always has to figure out what the situation is and how he can prevent it from happening. If not, history loops again and he has to relive that moment over and over again.
In one such moment Satoru saves a kid from being run over by a delivery truck, but in this process Satoru end up getting injured. He wakes up in a hospital bed, but at his bedside is his colleague Airi, who saw the entire thing happening and now thinks he's a hero.
In another "rewind" moment his mother and him prevent a child kidnapping/murder from happening. But as a direct result of this, the two of them become the target of this serial killer. This because Satoru's mom (Sachiko) thinks she knows the culprit from somewhere and it may have to do with a serial murder case that happened when Satoru was 10 years old.
The next day after returning home, Satoru finds him mother in his place; murdered in cold blood. But the landlord also drops in and sees Satoru with bloody hands and a shocked face. She wrongfully concludes that Satoru is the murderer. Seeing that he has to catch the real murderer and no time to explain things, Satoru flees. But the moment he's about to get caught by the police, his Rewind ability kicks in.
At first he thanks his ability so that he can prevent the murder of his mother. But soon after that he's in shock... Because time went back further than ever before. He's suddenly 10 years old again and he has to relive his own childhood.
Satoru now has to uncover what actions are going to save his mother from being murdered in the future. And he quickly concludes that saving the serial murder victims in the past will be a key element in changing his future and will hopefully save his mother.
The rest of the story focuses on Satoru slowly trying to change himself while trying to save the murder victims. He can no longer sit by idly. He has to become more pro-active.
|Satoru Fujinuma: Main character. A man struggling with his emotions and is slowly becoming bittered by this. Is sent back in time when his mother is murdered and realizes he needs to change himself in order to save all "future" murder victims from getting killed.|
|Airi Katagiri: Colleague of Satoru. Is the only person in the present time that believes in Satoru's innocence This because she saw Satoru's Rewind powers in action and knows he's a good person in heart.|
|Sachiko Fujinuma: Satoru's mom. A former reporter and a woman with a incredible sense of intuition (she's often called a demon by Satoru due to her ability to figure everything out way too fast). This sharp intuition is also the root cause of her getting killed.|
|Kayo Hinazuki: The first of the three murder victims in the past. Lives in a broken home with an abusive mom and has slowly lost all hope in humanity. She kind of likes Satoru because he acts "fake" (just like herself), but is unable to show it.|
|Kenya Kobayashi: Childhood friend of Satoru. Grew apart from Satoru after a common friend got murdered in the serial murder incident. But in the revisited timeline Kenya is growing fond of Satoru's pro-active behavior. He helps Saturo in the process of saving the serial murder victims.|
|Hiromi Sugita: Childhood friend of Satoru and one of the serial murder victims in the past. He's a typical guy with feminine looks (a "trap"). During the process of saving Kayo, Satoru tries to involve Hiromi as much as possible, to keep an eye on his wellbeing as well.|
|Gaku Yashiro: Homeroom teacher of the kids and the closest thing Satoru has as a father figure.|
During my Ace Attorney review, I talked about A1 Pictures B-team of animators. Well, this is clearly the A-team. There's honestly not that much I can remark about it, since it's all-around good. The environments are really well-drawn and realistic.
From the entire series, the most noteworthy scenes should be those involving Satoru and Kayo going to the "Christmas tree".
A fun thing to notice is the change in aspect ratio when it concerns present time vs the past. Present time is the regular 16:9 we see in widescreen tv series. But the past is in 21:9 (movie aspect ratio).
Sound is quite good as well... which is not a surprise if you look at who actually directed the music: Yuki Kajiura. Yuki is the person behind the epic soundtracks of Madoka Magica, Fate/Zero and Sword Art Online (one of the few good things THAT anime can offer).
But since this is less on an "epic" scale and goes more for the feels, the soundtrack feels more held back than in the previously mentioned series. Don't misunderstand me: It's not a bad OST. It's still worth listening to. But you're not going to remember much from it after a sit-through.
The Opening is by Asian Kung-Fu Generation, which is always nice to listen to.
My personal opinion
I personally liked the anime. It's no masterpiece and certainly doesn't deserve a ranking as high as it does right now. But it's still a worthwile watch if you like a good thriller with some drama elements.
Don't watch this for the mystery aspect, because it's not intended to be a mystery. It's all about survival.
I'm giving this a careful 7.5/10.
In the second part, I'm going to dig a little deeper and cover both what the series got right, and what it did wrong. Just to try and filter all of the hate into a constructive narrative. For that second part, click here
Until then, V out.