This is review number three hundred and fifty six. This anime is part of the Winter 2016 lineup. Yeah, I decided to go back to the updated lineup. I plan on reviewing six shows for now, and decide what to do after that. I do plan on covering the seasons I missed though, but we shall see later on. For now, the anime I’ll be reviewing is called Boku Dake ga Inai Machi or ERASED. It’s a twelve episode anime about a dead girl and a guy that travels to the past. Let’s read on.
In order to stop his mother’s death, Satoru Fujinuma uses his power of “Revival” to go back in time and prevent the death of Kayo Hinazuki. He believes that his mother’s killer is also the same person that killed Kayo and many other girls whose crimes are pinned on innocent people instead. This guy has walked free for a long time, but Satoru might be the one to finally stop this monster.
Taking the Pants Off
So I took to facebook and asked my followers, “hey, what’s good in Winter 2016?” They told me ERASED is one of the most talked about shows of the season, and this got me intrigued as well. I promised to review six new shows to change my pace a bit, and I figured I might as well leave the choice up to my facebook followers. Why the hell not? This anime is a really interesting one. I love murder mysteries, and this show is just full of exposition to untangle and analyze. There’s so much to enjoy that it promises to be a really wonderful anime experience. The characters are complex, the story is intriguing and it really just gets better as the show progresses. I like the show so much that I finished it in one sitting. I haven’t done that in a while, so I am really happy that an anime got me invested in so much. With that being said, holy sh*t this anime is a mess. It started out really great, but the show shifted focus at the end. Instead of a really gripping murder mystery where an eleven year old boy is trying to stop a grown man from killing children, it somehow turned into a melodrama about some bullsh*t that really killed the momentum of the show. The signs were honestly there in plain sight. I think the show already had growing flaws by the time it reaches the second half, and you really just trust that the story will pull through in the end. This anime promised an incredible anime experience, so I didn’t question the flaws. When it ended though, I ranted in my facebook page because I just felt so betrayed. You invested in the characters, and the ending just felt really disappointing. All the elements you wanted to thrive in show were basically lost in the fold as the flaws starts taking over. Erased is an interesting anime, but it’s also one of those cases where the adaptation is rushed and the ending is shoddy. Of course, the flaws is also something the manga shared so, all in all, f*ck everyone and f*ck everything. This anime could’ve been a whole lot better.
This anime is about a twenty nine year old guy named Satoru Fujinuma. He is a struggling mangaka and he’s stuck in a dead end job as a pizza delivery guy. In other words, his life is pretty miserable right now. Satoru also has a special ability where he can see an accident coming before it happens. It’s like déjà vu, but he knows that it’ll end in tragedy in some way. This ability is called “Revival” where he sees a vision happen, snaps back to reality and then watches the vision come true. Satoru often feels responsible for whatever happens, so he always tries and changes things. Unfortunately for him, he witnesses one event where he can’t change things so easily. He goes back to his apartment to find his mother stabbed in the back. Caught up in the moment, a witness saw him covered in his mother’s blood and he is now suspected to be the one that killed his mother. Satoru can only run, but he suddenly goes on Revival mode. The next thing he knew, he’s back in 1988 reliving his past when he was 11 years old. He knows this is an opportunity for him to prevent his mother’s death and it all leads back to that one incident involving one of his classmates. He must now stop the incident from happening making sure this second chance isn’t wasted.
The first episode alone feels so wonderful. We have a guy caught up in the murder of his mother suddenly transported back in time to when he was eleven years old. It’s a pretty solid concept, and it really has a lot of potential to be great. Going back to 1988, Satoru knew he must do one thing right. He must prevent the death of his classmate named Kayo Hinazuki. She was abducted in a park, and he was the last one to saw her alive. He always felt responsible for her death, since he knew he could’ve prevented her death if he asked her to go home with him. His mother died because of this incident as well. She apparently remembered the case, and she finally understood who the real killer is. Before she can do anything though, she was stabbed in the back by the killer himself. The two cases are tied together, and Satoru knows that capturing the culprit now will change the timeline for good. It’s a really exciting premise, and it’s like the best episode of Detective Conan combined with the answer arc of Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni. If executed perfectly then this premise could lead to some incredible things. As soon as the first episode ended, I just felt this incredible rush that really hyped the anime for me. Satoru must now act to change the past if he wants to change the future.
This anime has three chapters, and they all affect the show drastically. As I said before, this anime has some flaws but it’s only apparent when the show transitions form one chapter to another. The first chapter is about his return to 1988. He is back in elementary, and he is trying to get close to Kayo Hinazuki. She is an incredibly distant person, but Satoru knows he must get close to her before the fated day of her death. The first chapter pretty much focuses on Satoru’s growing relationship with Kayo. Since he has lived this life before, he knows how to set things right. He knows how to keep Kayo in range, and he is smart enough to really understand the situation. As he gets closer to Kayo, he also discovers the things that contributed to her death. Kayo is a really sad girl, and she is in an abusive home. She is distant with her classmates because her mother has strict instructions making sure her bruises aren’t seen. Being a quiet girl lends to some childish teasing though, so poor Kayo really has no choice but to be alone. Satoru is going to make she isn’t alone though. As long as he is with her, then there’s no way the killer can get close to her. This is a sure fire way to make sure Kayo lives after the official day that she died. Satoru is hopeful that he can pull it off.
As he gets closer to Kayo, love soon blossoms. Satoru is starting to develop some feelings to the girl, and she is reciprocating it. It’s not a school crush to him though. This is also just preventive measures to ensure she lives, but things happen and Satoru has no control of it. The big emphasis here is really the wonderful connection between the characters. Kayo is a free spirited soul, and she is with a guy seemingly making amends for the live he has wasted so far. It’s all cute and innocent since they’re all kids, but it’s also pretty heartwarming knowing that Kayo is being given a second chance to live as well. This is all fine, and I don’t mind love becoming an element, but this is a massive flaw for the anime right about now. We’re dedicating four episodes to this relationship but the mystery seems to be shoved to the side. There are a lot to explain here, but it seems like the anime is deliberately dodging them. How did she die? If another guy is framed for the murder then why aren’t you focusing on facts that prove his innocence? Who are the suspects to give a build up to the enigmatic killer that ended his mother’s life? Aren’t all these things important facts as well? The show is so caught up with Satoru establishing a relationship with Kayo that it’s forgetting that it has a mystery to flesh out. While I do understand that having a relationship with Kayo will affect the story more, I think that it should be properly balanced with the engaging mystery that got the audience hooked in the first place. For now, it’s just a straightforward story of Satoru making sure Kayo isn’t alone so he can prevent her death. Everything else seems to be ignored for now.
There is a big reason why the show is focusing on relationships though. Satoru’s relationship with Kayo is important, because the anime isn’t just a murder mystery. There is another genre, and it’s f*cking Seinen. This genre follows the life of its character that is basically old enough to reflect about life. A good example is Welcome to the NHK that tackles the character’s NEET problem by establishing a relationship with an insane girl. Another good example is Chobits about a guy learning about sex robots by establishing a relationship with one. Natsume Yuujinchou is also Seinen, and it’s about a guy learning to enjoy his life by establishing a relationship with the very thing that he hates the most. Seinen is about a “realistic and pragmatic approach to relationships, and this trait makes Seinen a sophisticated genre. ERASED is one half murder mystery and one half Seinen. Satoru’s journey back in time isn’t solely on knocking heads with a killer but more about rediscovering himself through the missed opportunities he is grabbing onto now. If only the f*cking show is clear about this then it would’ve made a difference. Unfortunately, the show is having a hard time balancing the two genres. It’s keen of creating gloomy scenes and making characters suspicious making the audience think that a murder mystery is about to unfold. Creating an atmosphere for a murder mystery but suddenly bulking up your story with conversations about life seems a bit counter intuitive. It’s confusing because the Seinen genre is never clearly established from the get go. We were welcomed by a murder mystery, and we expect it to develop as the show progresses. I honestly thought befriending Kayo gets him a step closer to finding the killer, but I soon realized the entire first chapter is just about Satoru and Kayo connecting as individuals. It’s not as exciting as the relationship being used as anchor when Kayo is eventually brutally murdered by the killer.
Anyways, aside from Kayo, Satoru also establishes a relationship with his mother. The fact that she gets killed in the first episode makes the small moments with her alive really special. When Satoru first saw her, he cried and I think it’s more than just missing her. In a sense, he blames himself for her death as well. This is pretty lightly touched upon by the first chapter though, but I think it’s still a poignant element of the anime. His mother isn’t really an important character in the first chapter. The only moments she has with Satoru is during dinner or when he is about to go to school. You never really see any meaningful dialogues between them, but it’s still a really wonderful aspect of the anime. His mother is the caring kind with a pretty down to earth style of parenting. She only looks on, but she has a full grasp on how her son is doing. Satoru even calls her a “youkai” because she is so intuitive. She knows how Satoru acts, and I think her presence in his life is something he really took for granted. These scenes mean a whole lot more when you know that she is no longer there to take care of Satoru. She acts as an invisible support for Satoru holding his hands through the tough times, and the wonderful human being is now gone thanks to a killer the damn story is refusing to even acknowledge this time around. I think that the anime also glossed over the importance of this part of the anime. In the manga, before she died, Satoru got into an argument with her first. In the show as well, Satoru is hinted to be a problem child keen of picking fights with her mother. Imagine fighting like that with your mother, and then suddenly realizing she’s no longer with us. It’s an incredible part of the Seinen aspect of the story, but something that got completely lost in the fold.
The first chapter ends with Satoru returning back in the present time. Whether he saved Kayo or not is something I refuse to spoil. Either way, he is back in the previous time but it looks like his problems are far from over. In the second chapter, we are finally introduced to the killer. Actually, that doesn’t happen but the murder mystery angle is finally back. Satoru is being targeted by his mother’s killer, and the guy is a really cunning individual. He planned on Satoru walking in on her mother, and making sure he got pinned for the crime. You see, this killer is a meticulous bastard that makes sure his crimes are blamed on someone else. In this second chapter, it’s revealed that this is his M.O. ever since the day he killed Kayo. Yes, the bastard has been killing for so long and he has escaped blame for all of his crimes. It means that he’s a really scary individual that Satoru has no chance of catching. The game is on. The killer makes the first move by threatening the life of not only Satoru but everyone he cares for as well. The killer got the police to chase after him, and Satoru is really cornered rather easily. This is a guy that clearly knows what he is doing, and Satoru is up against someone that he may not truly beat. The second chapter also finally revealed how Kayo died. Apparently, Kayo is sprayed with a freezing agent that made her freeze to death faster. She was dumped in a shed afterwards. That’s it. The suspect list is brought up, and the time to speculate the murderer is finally commencing.
If I am certain about one thing though, then it’s the fact that the teacher isn’t the killer. Some of you are laughing at this statement of mine. When I saw him in the second episode though, he looks the most suspicious and I always thought that this was just an intentional lure by the mangaka. He wants us to think that the teacher is the murderer, because he obviously isn’t. Right? If this is Detective Conan, then the teacher would be the most obvious suspect given that he has access to children and knows that Kayo is always alone. Conan would spend the better half of the episode proving this theory wrong though. My mind is honestly racing trying to come up with a more convincing suspect. The show claimed that Yuuki, the guy imprisoned for the killer’s crime, is the most obvious suspect but his father is also suspicious. When you rewind the end of the first chapter though, there are other people close to Kayo that might’ve off her. I was honestly waiting for the dots to connect that’ll finally lead the suspicions away from the teacher. I say this with the utmost seriousness though that having the teacher as the killer is most stupidest thing you can ever do, because it’s so lazily done that you should’ve never focused on a murder mystery in the first place. He’s the only credible killer in the audience’s eyes, and he’s been a suspect since the second episode. For gawdsakes, don’t let it be him. You might as well just spit in a plate and call it appetizer, because surely you think so lowly of us. Anyways, the second chapter ends with Satoru doing a final rewind. After the intense debut of the killer, the show has now finally setup a crazy showdown between him and Satoru. The only logical step is to feature the two knocking heads in an intense psychological chess game where Satoru prevents a death but the killer follows it up by polishing his plans and moving in to kill Satoru’s King. After all, the second chapter is about the killer establishing his presence. It’s only natural to let these two fight in a big stakes game where winner takes all, right?
Nope. The third chapter focuses on more relationships. This time, Satoru’s relationships with his friends are heavily featured. The same individuals that served as plot devices in the first chapter are now part of the Seinen crap. Instead of just having the psychological chess game, the anime decided that Satoru should confide in his friends instead. The mission is still the same. Keeping Kayo alive is still the number one goal, because Satoru believes that the killer will not change his victims. With that in mind, he now asks help from his friends to finally change the past for good. It’s an exciting turn of events, except the story is still unevenly one sided. We are still following Satoru’s attempts at preventing the murder even though we could’ve focused on more things. We could’ve gradually revealed the identity of the killer here, but the show is still hung up on making sure Satoru has meaningful relationships with people. Being friends with Kayo makes sense, because she dies afterwards. It’s yet another emotional anchor on the poor 29 year old. Having him befriend his friends just feels so forced that it really ruins the story. The story is also clearly being rushed here, because the other girls that are supposed to be killed are also introduced here. Satoru is now trying to make sure they don’t die as well, and that doesn’t make lick of sense. He is hung up on Kayo’s death because he knows he is the only person that could’ve prevented it. If he planned on saving the other girls, then he shouldn’t be doing it with three episodes left because there’s just no time for that kind of exposition to unfold here. The whole thing with the murder mystery is starting to crumble here, and the whole thing about Satoru’s personal growth by desperately saving Kayo makes no sense when he also plans on saving the others. If he is, then clearly there is a threat forcing him to act. Clearly the killer is making his move, right? Nope. The story is stuck on Satoru, and he’s only saving the girls because he apparently thinks he’s a hero now.
This is another element of the show that doesn’t make sense. The anime constantly shows us this scene of Satoru meeting up with a tokusatsu hero. It’s apparently an important scene for the anime, because the hero’s mask is something used as a device to resemble Satoru’s motivation to save the girls. Apparently, he wants to be as strong as a superhero that can save people. He soon inspires others to think like him as well, and he never would’ve become an inspiring individual if it wasn’t for the hero mask he got that day. If this was his main reason for saving Kayo, then why isn’t this prominently featured in the first chapter? Why spend a whole ton of exposition fleshing out their relationship if his true motive is to be the same hero he looks up to? I’m guessing this makes a lot more sense in the manga, because this felt like something definitely rushed in the anime. Things gets a lot more convoluted from here though, because we actually get a showdown between Satoru and the killer, but the result is far from an exciting head to head between the protagonist and the antagonist. The events that transpired after their confrontation seemingly destroyed any progress the story has done up until that point. Episode f*ckng eleven feels like a massive stab in the back when Satoru’s progress as both a hero and a guy making things right with his second chance is eventually disregarded by the anime. It’s simply tossed in the garbage, and the anime forced an ending so upsetting that it ultimately ruins the anime experience you’ll have with this show.
So many things happened in the final two episodes of the show that really made me hate it. First of all, look at the f*cking title poster. It features Kayo and Satoru in a cute romantic scene, because the f*cking anime does feature their emotional growth throughout these troubling times It’s adorable and the payoff should be adorable. THE PAYOFF SHOULD BE JUST AS ADORABLE. Good f*cking gawd, what in the hell happened here? Now I do understand that the entire thing makes sense though. In the first episode, Satoru tried to save a child from getting killed by a truck and he prevented it by crashing the truck elsewhere. The only casualties are the driver and Satoru himself, and this scene is basically the greek tragedy to whatever the f*ck happened in the story. By trying to save people with his powers, Satoru is the one that ends up hurt the most. He sacrifices himself for others, and letting Kayo live has the same gawd damn implications. Holy motherofgawd, saving Kayo’s life also ends up with him getting hurt the most. It’s actually pretty gawd damn poignant, but it’s a swerve so f*cking bad that I wished the show never let us see it in the first place. *sigh* It’s all too f*cking much. Don’t mind me though, because I was just really caught up in the story.
Anyways, the ending is a big bust. The Seinen aspect really only got in the way of the murder mystery. When it was time to finally confront the killer, the whole thing just feels so anti-climactic. The revelation of the killer felt so anti-climactic as well. It was also a bit insulting, because the author painted himself in a corner. He didn’t really build up the murder mystery elements, so there is really only one suspect to think of. I heard that it was concealed better in the manga though, and I bet he tried to bulk up the story with needless dialogue to make sure the killer’s identity is the last thing people would speculate about. But, remember, it is not the teacher. After all, why waste time on a murder mystery if you’re going to make it that obvious. So, remember, it is not the teacher. To be fair, the ending does have potential to be good. In the anime, the killer and Satoru squared off in the rooftop of the hospital he is in. In the manga, the killer abducts another girl first and then forced Satoru to drag his ass to a suspension bridge where they plan to end things once and for all. The dialogue between them feels incredible, and I bet it looked better dangling on a giant rickety bridge.
The characters are all pretty great. They made the show intense and fun to watch, but the story clearly betrayed them. Satoru is interesting, because he’s a guy who hates his life and given a second chance to do something about it. He is introduced as a detached guy that fakes his personality to blend with others, and he is now given another chance to be more real to people. He started being a much better individual by befriending a damaged girl like Kayo. Their relationship is fun to see unfold overtime, and they really play off each other. The more mature Satoru is discovering new things about himself while the closed off girl is slowly opening up thanks to someone that truly gives a damn about her. They really made the story worthwhile, because the story clearly abandoned them towards the final chapter. It’s a shame too, because I bet it would’ve been cool to see a fleshed out Kayo and Satoru hand in hand facing off against the killer. Speaking of, this guy is disappointing. As a calculating snake that can get away with murder, he never really impacts the story. Focusing on the Seinen side gave him no chance to really spread his wings and he mostly just stayed in the shadows doing random things. In their final showdown at the rooftop, he explains that he was frustrated that Satoru is able to be ahead of him. If the show featured him actually getting frustrated in the second chapter, then we could’ve had a really compelling story here. We also never understood why he kills little girls, and the only thing we were told is that he drowned hamsters once. It’s a red flag for a psychopath, but I can’t believe the show had time to tell us how Satoru thinks yet gave no chance for the killer to explain himself. I’m guessing the reason is something really disturbing, and that would’ve been a wonderful addition to the story.
Satoru’s mother is also an interesting character. She’s a good example of a really effective supporting character. She doesn’t do much, but you also know that she’s doing her best for her son. The supporting characters are actually really impressive in this anime. Kayo’s mother, Satoru’s workmates, his supposed leading lady, his teacher, and even the reporter that handed him the files about the abduction are all compelling characters. They had one specific role, and the played it very well. The only characters I didn’t care for are Satoru’s friends. They never really felt important, and it ruined the show when they were suddenly featured in the third chapter after having no real involvement in the story as of now. The only decent guy is the blonde guy, but he didn’t really mattered in the long run. He was teased as an important character, but he’s as important as that trap character that scored big in the end.
A-1 Pictures had something special here, but they really dropped by the ball by cramming the entire manga in one season. While I do think they did a great adaptation up until the third chapter, I still think that the story would’ve worked better if it had another season. The anime apparently cutout all the unnecessary padding the manga did to lengthen the story, and I think it was consistent except during the last three episodes, which is sadly the most crucial part of the story. As someone that has never read the manga though, I think the show is good but also very bad. It demands your attention and you’ll be invested in the story, but then it stabs you in the back with a knife. For A-1 Pictures, this is a very strong showing for them. It really displays how competent of a studio they are, because they really captured the original source and even improved upon it. They crippled the ending, but that’s a small matter. I’m two years late on current anime, but I’m glad this studio is still consistently giving us solid anime. This anime is directed by Tomohiko Itou, and he clearly knew what direction the story is headed to. He directed Silver Spoon as well, and it has the same balanced pacing as this anime. He knows how to make dialogue interesting, and he knows how to make a Seinen shine. This guy also directed Ano Hana, so the whole relationship of Kayo and Satoru does feel familiar. In fact, Satoru’s circle of friends reminds me of Ano Hana very much and I think the director wants that sentiment to carry through in the anime.
Sight and Sound
Character design is very different from the manga. In a sense, the original design is passed through the A-1 Pictures filter. The color palette and the subtle design of most characters resembles typical A-1 designs like in Silver Spoon or Ao no Exorcist. Kei Sanbe’s design is a lot more rough looking in the manga. The characters have a rounder head, bigger eyes and very little detail to them. Kei’s design is meant to look a bit amateurish, because the mood of the story changes through the design. In the anime, the killer has red eyes, but the killer has a more demonic face in the manga. He distorts the faces to his liking to suit the story, and this is something the anime wanted out of the story. It doesn’t really impact the story that much, but it’s clearly the one thing that makes the manga unique. The creepy mood of the manga is captured through the inking and the negative spaces Kei utilizes in each panel. In a sense, it makes the manga a bit more thrilling but it’s something that’ll clearly hold the anime back. Anyways, the designs are pretty great. It feels familiar and also really inviting. I would’ve loved to see the distorted scary designs, but A-1 clearly has a different vision in mind.
The animation is pretty great. It’s not something that standout in the anime, but it does effectively tell the story. Don’t expect high quality animation from the anime, but it’s enough to capture the feel of the manga. The movements are still pretty well done though. Facial reactions are nicely animated, eating scenes are wonderfully presented and dialogue heavy scenes are still interesting to watch despite the lack of meaningful movements. The director makes sure every scene is interesting though, and he utilizes dynamic camera angles for certain scenes. I love those shots where a character would walk right into the shot. He uses pans and zooms smartly to establish mood, and he paints a vivid atmosphere with the background design before belting out the long dialogues. Tomohiko is an incredible director to be able to capture Kei’s vision nicely.
The anime’s OP is “Re:Re:” by Asian Kung-Fu Generation. I love this song, and it feels very personal. The song is about a relationship that no longer works and I think it works perfectly for the show. It captures Satoru’s state of mind and all that. The song is very catchy, and the lead’s voice certainly makes the song a lot more special. The OP sequence features a quick summary of the story. It does mislead a bit by focusing on the children first even though they have no real relation to the story. Things get interesting when the important characters are flashed through the screen and their eyes are crossed out. It blows up when the murder mystery aspect is featured with the heavy inking style reminiscent of the author’s style. It’s a really cool OP coupled by a really wonderful song. The anime’s ED is “Sore wa Chiisana Hikari no Youna” by Sayuri. It’s basically a song about Satoru’s view on Kayo. It’s a song about someone admiring another from a far. It’s a cute song, but it’s also very sad with how Sayuri delivers the song. She puts a lot of conviction in it, and it does make the song feel a lot more special especially towards the chorus. The visuals add to this impact with the murder mystery aspect present in the most disturbing way. I like it, since it features the element the anime clearly mishandled.
6/10 “Someone died, but the personal growth of someone else is heavily on focus. Makes sense, right?”
The show’s potential is still undeniably great, but the flaws are too much that it does ruin the positives. The balancing of the two genres is also a bit off, and it delivers a pretty disappointing payoff in the end. I do think the anime is still pretty good. Things go downhill from the last three episodes, so just buckle up for the ride. If you like cute romantic shows, then you’ll like Kayo and Satoru’s relationship. If you like a good murder mystery, then let your imagination run wild with this one even though the entire thing is really disappointing. Just remember, the teacher is too obvious to be the killer so clearly he is not. The individual elements make up for a meaningful anime experience, but they clearly clashed when combined into one big story.