Erased Has Excellent Direction & an Interesting Premise, but is That Enough?
After over a month of waiting I am finally getting to this review of Erased! This is the first Anime ABC’s show that I haven’t seen prior to it winning a vote. I was really excited to have a show win that I hadn’t seen yet. I had been wanting to watch Erased, or Boku dake ga Inai Machi it’s Japanese title, pretty much since it aired back in the Winter season of 2016, but just didn’t get around to it. This anime was pretty contentious so where exactly do I stand?
Before I get to the actual show itself, I want to talk about the Aniplex release for Erased. As with all things I review, I bought the physical Blu-ray release and I was impressed! Set 1 and 2 come in stark White and Black (respectively) cases that have a great tactile feel and are quite durable. These aren’t the flimsy paper boxes that Aniplex usually does. Inside you have the discs which are plain, but the cases themselves have great artwork on them and are sturdy. To add, the sets also came with a short manga and the soundtrack by Yuki Kajiura. For the price, $89.98 a set (a bit less for me since I am a member) I feel like I actually got my money’s worth compared to most Aniplex sets.
Ok, on with the show!
Erased is a strange beast. It presents as a murder mystery thriller, but it isn’t really that. It’s a bit hard to explain. For those who don’t know the general plot, here’s the basic idea. Satoru is a failed manga artist who works for a pizza delivery place. Sometimes, he can travel back in time just a few moments to save lives. One such time he stops a child, inadvertently, from getting kidnapped while out shopping with his mom. She realizes who the kidnapper is but is murdered by him before she can have him arrested. Satoru walks in with poor timing and is framed for the murder. This triggers a time traveling event, but instead of just going back a few minutes, he is thrown back into the body of his eleven year old self where he tries to fix things.
Let’s start with everything I like about this show. The first episode does a fantastic job setting up the show. It introduces Satoru’s time travel abilities that activate randomly and usually help him to save lives at some small inconvenience/cost to him. It also gets the viewer to associate color significances, like red is danger. Then there is the whole murder plot which kicks everything off. It’s a well done episode with only a few weird bits to it, like Satoru complaining about how kids now-a-days talk, which just doesn’t land well.
The time travel element of he show is also well done, for the most part. When Satoru is tossed back into the body of his younger self, Erased showed the disconnect between his adult mind and the more child-like actions he would take sometimes. This was not a completely necessary touch, but small things like this made the show a lot more enjoyable as well as keeping it more believable.
Jumping ahead, the last few episodes were quite good as well because at this point in the show, the direction the anime decided to take had managed to surprise me a bit. Up until these few episodes, the show had been pretty obvious in where it was gong, which isn’t a bad thing, but having the show deviate from its predicable nature was a good choice.
Past that, there is a lot of excellent direction in many of the scenes that add to the experience. It makes the show feel more like a long film rather than a TV anime. Little touches like the widescreen aspect ratio for when Satoru is in the past and normal aspect ratio when he isn’t, is an example of the kind of thing I’m talking about. I’ll link some videos for those who have seen the show, spoilers there so fair warning.
Just one example of a great scene in Erased that Mother’s Basement analyzed. SPIOLERS
An example of the symbolic use in Erased that Mother’s Basement did. SPOILERS
The opening song, “Re:Re” is catchy and got all of us pumped (as you may recall I watch my ABC shows with a group of anime newbies) and was never skipped. The animation is more than well done here. Episode 11 was also quite “clever” with it’s OP as well but I won’t get into that for spoiler reasons. If you’ve seen the show check out the second video I link below this. The first will be the opening as is, but the second will go into detail (spoiling everything by the way) about why it is so well done.
The opening for Erased: Re:Re
Spoilers in this one. Mother’s Basement breaks down the OP and why it is really well made. SPOILERS
Taking a minute here to plug Mother’s Basement, if you have watched Erased and viewed the videos above and though, “Sure would love to see more stuff like that.” Then head on over to his YouTube channel and check out his other stuff. I think it is really interesting and sometimes he points out things I didn’t notice and sometimes he can even change my mind about certain aspects of a show.
Ok, one more quick YouTube detour. I’ve been enjoying the music from Erased so much lately that I have practically been blasting AmaLee’s English cover of “Re:Re” which also mixes in some of the ED. It’s really good and if you have never listed to her music I would encourage checking her out. I’ve not ever plugged her here and figured now was as good a time as any. Listen to the song below and follow the link above or here to check out her other stuff.
AmaLee’s English cover of the OP mixed with some of the ED
As for the ED, “Sore wa Chiisana Hikari no Youna (それは小さな光のような)” I suddenly felt like I was watching a Shaft production. It was bizarre. I thought it was excellent and it had lots of interesting animation and imagery, but it felt a bit out of place for an A-1 Pictures show. Not a bad thing, I actually liked the subversion of my expectation here, just thought it was worth mentioning that it felt weird. Give it a look though.
The ED. It’s interesting
Now for the part of the review where I talk about all the dumb stuff in Erased, and there is kind of a lot of it. Satoru sets off to stop these murders from happening, which is all well and good, but he doesn’t really try to figure out who the murderer is. This is the biggest point that is going to bother people. The first two episodes, yup, good, but after that it is mostly dropped. Instead, he focuses on saving Kayo, a girl who died when was younger. Seeing that he is in the body of his younger self, he has the chance to save her, which he hopes will fix things in the future.
Personally, I was not too bothered by this but since the show bills itself on the onset as this thrilling murder mystery story, it is weird. The promotional stuff also makes the show seem like a romance anime between Kayo and Satoru, it isn’t that either. Tone is important and this is an area that Erased fails to deliver on when it comes to communicating what kind of story its supposed to be. Sure, you can figure it out by the end, but it is weird that it is so obfuscated for no real reason.
An example of this tone issue can be seen in many places but I’m going to point to episode 6 because it had the most hilarious imbalance of tone. In this episode there is a scene where one of the characters Satoru knows, Airi is explaining how when somebody believes in you burdens are easier to bear. Stuff about trust, etc… The what really isn’t all that important. To demonstrate this though, she tells this story about her dad and when he left while she was a kid. The problem was that the way this scene was framed made it feel like a comedic story, not a tragic/sad/or whatever it was supposed to be story. Her tale was framed in such a way that it felt like this was her whole story, not even joking: “My dad left me over a chocolate bar.”
Immediately after this scene, they have an excellently shot one that perfectly captures the tone of the moment. The anime is pretty inconsistent in this department. I could have pointed to episode 3 for another example, but I feel that is just overkill at this point.
Erased has quite a few moments like this and that’s just not a good thing, even if they do make me laugh really hard and provide me with infinite amounts of entertainment.
Note about Airi, some are going to be annoyed that she gets mostly side-lined in the anime compared to the manga. I don’t normally mention the manga, as the anime should be able to stand on its own, but since I’m aware that she plays a pretty big part in the manga, if you’ve read that and come to the anime it may be a bit disappointing.
The manga also expands on the killer too, making him a bit more sympathetic. It also would have made the anime way too dark though so I don’t mind that he didn’t get a bit more fleshing out in this regard, but if you want the darker, more fleshed out version of this story the manga does exist.
Back to the anime, for 12 episodes, content doesn’t feel like it is missing. Which is nice. Sure, you can notice these little holes for things they had to cut, but nothing that broke the show. Just thought it was worth mentioning.
Alright, I’ve been holding off on talking about this. Dreading it a bit actually. I can put up with the silly little tone imbalances and all that, but this is the one thing that really bothered me while watching Erased: the symbolism.
“What do you mean?” you must be wondering. I said earlier that the anime did a great job prepping the audience for this sort of thing back at the start. True, I did. However, the show beats you over the head with its themes and symbols.
On the one hand, this means that literally anybody should be able to follow the story and get its points. On the other hand, it can just make some of the scenarios so stupid. Let’s give an example from episode 2, minor spoilers here but nothing that big.
In this episode Satoru’s boss is trying to trick Satoru and get him arrested since he thinks that Satoru killed his mom. He does this by inviting him for dinner since Satoru missed work, which is unusual, and his boss claims to be worried about him. This ruse is obvious to the viewer, or should be at least. However, the scene stupidly decides to linger on a painting in the boss dude’s apartment of The Last Supper. It is completely out of place and had me busting up so hard. It was really dumb and just terrible directing.
This is the biggest flaw Erased has. The other stuff is kind of nitpicking, but despite how well made most of the show is, there just isn’t any fixing/excuse for stuff like that. Erased had subtle moments, but only on stuff that didn’t matter at all. I was always so thrown off by these little moments that were genuinely clever, but for the most inconsequential things. For stuff that mattered, it was like the show could only manage overtures and excessive repetition to drive the point home rather than be a little more subtle and let the audience have the chance to figure some stuff out on their own.
Past these complaints, the killer is obvious. I had it figured out by episode 2 with 100% certainty. Friend 1 had it a few episodes later and Friend 2, who is a moron in the “reading between the lines” department, knew the answer by episode 7 or so. Too easy, but the show isn’t really a mystery anime, so kind of a meh point.
I could probably talk about this show’s writing a lot more, but I’m feeling like this review is getting a bit long so let’s move on and wrap things up. If you want to continue the discussion in more depth about what Erased did well or poorly in terms of presentation and writing, feel free to do so in the comments.
Erased looks beautiful, even when it is being dumb, and that is a good thing. I hadn’t mentioned it before, but the animation is among the high points for the anime. There are only a few times where there is a noticeable quality dip, but for the vast majority it is really well animated.
On the topics of high notes, the acting in this one was very good, at least in the dub. The sub has some weird translations for subtitles and didn’t feel as good to me. The dub on the other hand, was excellent. Particularly, Satoru’s English voice actor for when he is an adult, Benjamin Diskin. He’s been in a lot of anime I’ve seen but he really stood out here as a top-notch VA.
In addition to this, the comedy in Erased really landed for me. Especially the running gag about how Satoru’s mom always knows what he’s thinking, to which he mentally goes, “witch!” There was also another extremely funny scene involving Satoru, Kayo, and Storu’s mom, but I won’t spoil that one, it is too good.
Despite how much I ragged on some elements of Erased, I greatly enjoyed it and am very happy that it won this round of ABC’s. Enjoyment is the factor I give the most importance to, and in this camp Erased delivered in spades. Coupled with what the show did right, and the fact that I would definitely be up to watching it again, I give Erased a final score of 9/10 with the recommendation to watch it. For many, this is going to be a millage will vary show, which is why I only recommend watching it over buying it. It manages to score so high for me by just being so darn entertaining, I was ultimately able to get over the problems I had with the show because of this fact and rewarded Erased accordingly.
If you do want to buy the show, you can pick up both Blu-ray sets over at Rightstuf as I mentioned back at the start (or click this convenient link to store page here). Like I said before, this is one of Aniplex’s better sets so I feel it is totally worth the money if you liked the show even half as much as I did.
So, did you enjoy Erased as much as I did or was it a complete flop? Let me know in the comments below. Leave a like if you enjoyed the article and consider following me here to keep up with all the latest happenings. Looking for more ABC content? Check out the last ABC review for The Devil is a Part-Timer and be sure to check back here for the next voting round which will start soon!
Until next time!