Review: ERASED

Murder mystery, the butterfly effect and the bonds between people = a really unique show.

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The Lowdown:

Show: ERASED

Studio/years aired: A-1 Pictures, 2016

AniB’s thoughts: Once again, a recommendation was made to pick up a show, and so, laden with high expectations of a promising watch, this critic is happy to report that it was indeed an excellent watch. ERASED, or Boku dake ga Inai Machi as it is known in Japan, is a thriller of a ride, with an unusual time-travel/butterfly effect mechanic and a murder mystery that is 15 years in the making at the time the story begins.

ERASED has a character driven narrative that is matched by a superbly paced story that keeps flowing at an appreciable rate with the constantly shifting turn of events in the show. You don’t sense that a moment is wasted, something that is further reflected in Satoru- the main protagonist- as he seeks to unravel the mystery of a horrific string of murders from his childhood and discover the true killer behind them. The desperation in this case, adds to the narrative tension in a very positive way that keeps the viewer engaged in the story that unfolds.

The most unique mechanic about this show, and Satoru though, is something called “Revival,” where he is able to somehow jump back in time, but under only very specific conditions to prevent a fatal incident. According to the character, these normally had been short incidences between 1-5 minutes back, but for the main story of ERASED, Satoru is sent all the way back to 1988 as a 10 year old, which sounds conceptually crazy (and it is), but is just works. This show is probably the second or third time that any sort of time travel plot worked for me in animation, the first being Steins;Gate (which I have a review of here). What’s most curious is that upon being reverted to being a kid again, Satoru retains all of his memories and knowledge from his lived life up to the point of his Revival leap, meaning that he actually has the mind of a late 20 year old man when he makes said jump, which make for both some funny and insightful banter, plus a sleuthing mind that no normal 10 year old could hope to have.

Saying more on this mechanic or the reasons for Satoru’s large Revival jump would be tantamount to spoilers, but both his adult and kid versions play major roles in this tale. This fact is reflected in the OP’s visuals, where it opens in on a movie theater, which both the adult Satoru and his kid self enter. This theater in turn turns out to be the “film reel” of his life- and so, memories are held inside his mind like a constantly flowing movie, which is also represented visually in the show as well. In this way, he is also able to tell what changed from the original timeline or event if something shifted as a result of his actions…

The level of detail in this show is very good, as you’d hope from a solid mystery. Both real and false leads are planted for the viewer to decide on, and even if the answer for certain questions may come quickly, there is often a nagging doubt about whether one’s suspicions are right in this show up until the moment of truth for so many ideas and theories. Accompanying the intriguing setups is the cast to match, which is delved into below in the grading section, and a lot of key lines that often have mirrors in the narrative if you pay attention closely enough.

Overall, ERASED was simply flat-out enjoyable in the way a great story should be, with excellent execution, interesting characters and a story that lives up to the hype and the best of its genre. It’s a bit of a crazy ride, but this is a good crazy, and I suspect plenty of people, not just the murder mystery crowd, will love it if they haven’t seen it already. As far as I see it, this is a great representation of what modern anime can be capable of, and by extension, an adaptation.


Animation Quality: Modern 2-D animation, computer-shaded, with slight bits of 3-D thrown in.ย ERASED is a story that understands its medium well, and uses it in its storytelling to great effect.ย  4.75/5 points.

Characterization: As talked about, Satoru Fujinuma is the main protagonist of this tale. A struggling mangaka, or manga artist, his uneventful existence in the present (which is 2006 in this show) is interrupted by a series of unexpected and tragic events that reopen the wounds of a brutal crime spree that erupted around him 15 years ago. As a result, the Revival Satoru experiences is in response to try and fix those events long ago, and so alter the course of history.

Within that path for Satoru, there are several important characters between the past and present that have implications within ERASED’s storyline.

Kayo Hinazuki is one of the victims of a mysterious serial killer on the loose in 1988. Shown as a loner and an introvert, Kayo’s off-putting demeanor is actually in part the product of an abusive mother and by extension, an unstable home life. (SPOILER): She is the character young Satoru attempts to change the fate of when Revival sends him back to 1988, and in the process, attempts to give a young girl hope for a future and happiness. (She’s also the girl in the picture for this review.)

In the present, Airi Katagiri is Satoru’s co-worker at a part time job he holds at a pizza place. Bright, curious and inquisitive, she takes an interest to the introverted protagonist and ultimately proves to be a reliable friend, even believing in Satoru when no one else would as events unfolded. A high school girl with long brown hair and a slim figure, Satoru’s mom “believes he has a chance with her” though her son isn’t buying it.

Speaking of which, Sachiko Fujinuma was an ace reporter and also an ace mother for her only son. Sharp on her feet with a quick wit but also an unwavering dedication to help her son in life, she proves to be a smart, unflappable woman with big hopes for Satoru no matter what. Her ability to find the truth is something that was passed onto her son, and so for her, she notices all the little details around her, good or bad.

Also of note in the past is Kenya, Satoru’s best friend from childhood (who in the dub at least shares the same VA that did dubbed Gon Freecss and Ryuko Matoi, Erica Hernandez). He’s a smart kid who’s quick on the uptake and mature beyond his years in many aspects, though noticeably flustered if he perceives anyone to be ahead of him at something complex.

There is also the main villain of this show, but those who have seen Erased know what a spoiler that is, and those who haven’t seen it ought to discover the big bad. This individual is definitely a solid antagonist no doubt- a hitman who leaves no trace of their misdeeds if it can be helped.

Finally, there is a solid supporting cast around these characters as the show unfolds, both past and present. Everyone fits in nicely, and the character development is superb, and right at the center of the narrative. Strong characters always lend themselves to a great production, and this is very much the case in this show. 5/5 points.

Story: A strong character base lends itself to the actual narrative ofย ERASED, which is a thrilling case of murder mystery meets corrective time travel. Indeed, this anime blends two genre aspects together seamlessly and in doing so, creates a thoroughly engaging experience from start to finish that leaves you guessing the details at each turn and always intrigued as to what the next move and eventually the endgame shapes up to be. Truly superb. 5/5 points.

Themes: There’s a lot to unpack here, but the central theme of ERASED in a word, is “relationships.” There’s a lot placed into the worth of good family and friends, and always having someone who will be there at your side, even when the chips are down. There’s also a powerful message about having the courage and confidence of doing what is right even in the fact of fear and the uncertainty of damning failure if things go awry, and the persistence to dig into one’s own self to go beyond what they thought possible in a pressure-filled situation. 4.25/5 points.

Don’t Insult the Viewer: A show that knows how to maximize its shocking impacts when they happen. This isn’t a show that has “excesses” when it comes to its use of any sort of violence, which in turn maximizes the effect on the viewer. A lot of credit as well to a well conceived opening and ending themes and the graphics to match. 5/5 points.

Total: 23.5/25 (94%): A gripping tale that combines high drama, compelling characters, a well paced and interesting narrative, along with a good application of a difficult concept in time travel makes for an amazing show in this case. A high recommendation from this writer!


Like what you see? Are you a fan of ERASED or totally new to this series? Leave a comment!

Author: anibproductions

I am the founder and writer of AniB Productions, currently a blog with a focus on animated shows from both the East and the West. Love Buffalo sports, good political discussion, and an interesting conversation wherever I go.

22 thoughts on “Review: ERASED”

  1. I really enjoyed Erased as a character story, less so as a mystery. There just weren’t enough options as to who the culprit could be so it was fairly easily figured out but the characters took their time getting to it. That said it didn’t make this any less enjoyable to watch. It was well paced, had some great character moments, and even after you figure out who did it you still need to watch to find out how they end the story.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Hey Karandi- you’re welcome! I think I enjoyed the mystery more in the sense that I was curious of “how it gets there” rather than figuring out the culprit, who isn’t too hard to get, but leaves just the tiniest amount of doubt until the moment of truth from what I experienced. No doubt this was an enjoyable watch, and a great character story as you said! Thank you for your insight in return!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. And I just wrote about how I don’t understand why someone would say this show is great…
    I guess comas just happen to have a way of totally triggering me! Uninteresting characters didn’t help much either. Mixing time travelling with murder mysteries just immediately puts it up against Higurashi and Umineko… so there was no hope for a basic series like this to compete. Satoru was a boring protagonist, who just had the plot fall into his lap for no reason- at least in my opinion.
    At least we can agree that the OP and ED were well done!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey edgyanimeteen! I guess we’ve found a show where we agree to disagree, haha. I actually enjoyed how everything unfolded here, and perhaps this would answer your question as well…I actually enjoy it when someone’s got a different view on the same show based also on their own experiences, so I’m intrigued. I think Satoru started out boring…but then grew into his role in a way that just worked, from my perspective. I can’t speak on Higurashi, but I think I recall seeing parts of Umineko years back and stylistically, this show worked better, though I’d want to revisit the former to garner a more accurate opinion. And yes, it was a nice OP/ED pair! No complaints there. Always good to hear from you!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I guess since you don’t know, I’ll mention that Higurashi is predecessor of Umineko. The former had a flawed, but generally successful anime adaptation, while the latter was a trainwreck of an adaptation. (Umineko is an unadaptable meta-story)
        I really care a lot about perspective, so I think that Satoru’s bit with time travel actually took away from my enjoyment of the story. I kept thinking, well, why did there have to be time travel? Why couldn’t he just be a kid if he’s going to act like one for the most part? I think I would’ve enjoyed it more if they could just remove that small detail… since all the suspense was lost on me as I predicted all of the twists. Then again, that’s probably my fault. (though I hold that a good story should be enjoyable regardless of one’s knowledge)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks for the input on Higurashi/Umineko! While I usually find time travel a clunky mechanic, it’s my professional opinion that Erased set it up in a such a way that a) the suspension of disbelief wasn’t too bad, since the opening episode sets up an exciting sequence to introduce the idea and b) it wasn’t overused. (To not spoil it for other people, I’ll say that the Revivals all serve a purpose, but they are not overused, nor are they a cheap deus ex machina. Our main man still has to figure out the problem once he gets there.) In this sense, Satoru’s time traveling is much more like that of Rintaro Okabe of Steins;Gate fame; namely that he needed to force a change in the timeline just enough so that history would be changed…

        I think about Satoru “being a kid” as you put it, would have worked if this was a more standard murder mystery where the original events play out in 1988 and then things get crazy in the present, but it’s not, and the twist is that he can in fact change things because of this unique mechanic that they introduced. In turn, it provides a unique opportunity for Satoru’s character to grow, because while he’s an introvert naturally, his mission actually lets him replay his childhood to become a much more assertive young man in return. To me, it was interesting to see where the story would keep going, not because I couldn’t predict certain events, but the “how” of why things happened. In a strong character-driven narrative, this becomes the impetus to drive everything else, which I think was the case in ERASED, but this was my experience.

        Finally…this is also the reason I tend to avoid comparing shows in my reviews. Unless there’s an almost 1:1 correlation to be made, I tend to take each pick on its own merits and grade it that way. I figured an in-depth response was merited to some great points and an interesting question, so I hope this satisfies you! It’s always a pleasure ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Well… that’s a response!
        I suppose I can see how Satoru’s character growth is more significant because of the reset. I just think that it would have been more interesting if he lived out the life in between the last few episodes, rather than have a coma bridge the complicated narrative consequences that the Revivals naturally imply. (Imagine living through puberty twice. Imagine not being rewarded with the typical hero’s journey despite doing so much good)
        I guess my preferences trend towards non-traditional narratives, and Erased is traditional to a fault.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Fair enough! I can see where you’re coming from. I must say, this was a fun conversation. Do I think Erased is a perfect show? No, nothing is, but I was relatively impressed just based on what was in front of me. Part of the fun of what we do in blogging is seeing the same things and coming up with different conclusions as it is, so I almost tend to think this would have been perfect for a podcast-type thing actually!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. You finally reviewed a show I’ve seen…and loved! As a lifelong fan of time travel, Erased was a no-brainer for me, and it definitely ranks in my top 10 anime. You gave a nice breakdown of all of its strengths; I especially loved the genre blending of time travel, murder mystery (the culprit of which was admittedly guessable but still tense), and the drama of Satoru trying to save Kayo. I know Erased gets a lot of flack over its final episodes, and while they’re flawed, they didn’t detract from the story as a whole and even took some unconventional directions.
    In reference to the previous commenter’s mention of Higurashi, I will say that that show blows away Erased in the twisty mystery aspect, constantly keeping the viewer guessing. But it’s also highly inconsistent at times (and much more graphic in content), whereas the characters and plot of Erased were compelling from beginning to end. I wish there were more anime shows in this genre, especially if they could be done this well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. S.G.! I’m glad I covered a favorite of yours in this show. Indeed, this was a superb watch in the area of time travel and genre blending as you said, and while I’ve heard of people complaining over Erased’s final episodes, I will say a) I was completely unaware of it prior to finishing this watch and b) my thoughts were 100% my own. The overall product was very good and worthy of praise, from my perspective.

      Based on your comment on Higurashi, along with the other commenter (edgyanimeteen) that you alluded to, I might just have to bump it up the “to see” list. I do love this genre as you do, and when you get it done well, like this show, it’s hard not to get really excited. Great to hear from you as always!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s always a good idea to not have other people’s bias affect your first viewing, something I don’t always abide by unfortunately, but it didn’t affect my enjoyment of this series at least.
        As for Higurashi, I liked it a lot, but I will warn you that there are a few scenes I still wish I could unsee. If you do check it out, stick with the subbed version, not only because the dub isn’t very good but because the second season never got a dub at all. Would love to hear your thoughts on it!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks for the feedback! Looks like I’ll have to give Higurashi a go at some point then. And yes, I was fortunate to not have bias affect this viewing. It’s a tricky thing to get a “clean” watch, but in this case, everything worked out great!

        Like

  4. Derek sent me your way. I wouldn’t really classify this show as a mystery series, it is fairly obvious who the villain is, even without /that/ scene. Still, the ride was wonderful and I agree that Erased had a lot to offer ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. …Oh, silly me. I forgot to mention this despite making a note of it while I read. When you discuss the animation, did you happen to catch any of the rotoscoping? There was some if you didn’t catch it is because it was really well done!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Great! I just saw that you were calling those things out and thought it a bit odd you hadn’t mentioned it. No worries though ๐Ÿ™‚

        Haha, well if you knew me a bit more I think you would recoil a bit in some things I’ve rated well XD I agree though, fluid animation is fantastic.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’ll give you a hint: Hand Shakers.

        Sounds great! I did a lot of looking at your site yesterday but I’ll of course do more when I have time. Please enjoy your time at my site as well ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Hi Jon! Thanks for stopping by, I’m reading through all your comments ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ll agree that it is fairly obvious about the villain, but I did consider if someone was more inexperienced with the genre, they might in fact find it a surprise, wheras the “how” is more interesting to me (and probably to you as well!) I really did enjoy Erased.

      Liked by 1 person

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