If I could turn back time.
What’s the Story?
Satoru is a 29 year old Pizza delivery boy with a very special ability which he calls ‘Revival’. When something bad happens nearby, he can travel back in time by a few minutes and prevent whatever it is from happening. Satoru has no idea where this power comes from, but it could be linked to his frustration at failing to save a fellow classmate when he was 10. Things take a turn for the dramatic when Satoru finds his mother murdered and Revival activates, but instead of sending himself back a few minutes, he ends up going back 18 years. Now Satoru finally has a chance to save his classmate, Kayo, and just maybe his mum in the future too, as the cases appear to be linked.
All aboard the hype train! NO! Stop it! Stop it. No hype train, the hype train has ruined too many good shows, I must give a balanced and fair assessment of this series, but I love this series so much! Ok, ok we can do this. I really like Erased (if you can’t tell), I enjoyed it from beginning to end and there’s hardly anything that I want to gripe about, but then I started to notice that there was some backlash going on in small corners of the internet and I have to admit that a few points have merit. This isn’t a perfect series, and if I overhype it people are going to watch it expecting a masterpiece and come away disappointed, which I don’t want. Now these flaws don’t destroy the anime, they hardly even dent my glowing opinion of this anime, but they are there.
The first real flaw is with Satoru’s power, Revival. We never get a proper explanation of what it is, how it works or where it came from. We learn absolutely nothing about it, which is kind of a problem when it’s such a key element of the plot. The reason for this is that Revival may be needed to kick start the plot, but it’s not what the plot is really about, not in my opinion anyway. This isn’t a supernatural story about a boy with time travel powers, it’s a thriller about a boy trying to find a way to save the girl he loves and finding himself along the way.
Satoru is a very detached person. As a kid he was shy and acted the way he thought others wanted him to act, as a result of this he had hardly any real friends or even emotions. When the 29 year old Satoru takes over his 10 year old self it begins a process of awakening as his true feelings start to show, and his mental chess match with a serial killer allows him to forge genuine friendships with his classmates. This is the story of Satoru dealing with the frustration and guilt of being unable to save someone he cared about, and finally becoming the hero he always wanted to be.
I mentioned that this anime does have a pretty big mystery element, and that’s where another flaw comes in. There isn’t really an overabundance of suspects. Even I managed to guess at the killer’s identity fairly early on, but I didn’t think that was really the killer because usually in a story like this it’s never the first person you suspect, unless the writers were going for some kind of double bluff, but then they never really give us anyone else to suspect, which is weird. The killer’s reasoning for what he does is also a little unclear, but that ties into another flaw, the pacing.
Now for the first handful of episodes the pacing on this show is pretty much as close to perfection as it gets. It’s tense, it’s thrilling, it’s so good and this is where the hype train for this anime first left the station. The problem comes in the latter half of the anime where things aren’t exactly rushed, but you can feel them being squeezed in. The writers are trying to get 8 volumes of content into a 12 episode anime, so that can be expected. There isn’t as much breathing room for the developments that get thrown at us towards the end, not to mention that the end sinks a pretty powerful ship. A lot of this can be felt after Kayo has been saved. The series puts so much emotional weight on Kayo and Satoru’s attempts to save her, that once that’s accomplished the rest of the anime just feels like it’s only carrying on to tidy things up. It never quite reaches the same level of emotional gut punch that it had before. Also there’s the fact that a lot of the other victims of the serial killer never get as much build up as Kayo, but then that can be said of pretty much the entire cast outside of Satoru and his mum.
The animation for the series is fairly standard for A-1 Pictures, which is still good on any day, the designs are all nice, it moves well and does occasionally get to stretch its legs, but there’s something special about the way everything is presented. This anime has a movie feel to each episode, it’s the way the shots are framed and scenes are shown. There is some really beautiful imagery in this series, kudos to the Director.
No series is perfect. Every single person has a different version of ‘perfect’ in their heads and you’re never going to make something that matches up with all those different versions. People can interpret the same thing a thousand different ways, so some members of the audience will spot a plot hole that the author never saw, or a character, theme or emotion won’t resonate as the creator intended. The art of good story-telling is to mask the flaws so that the audience doesn’t recognise them until after the show is over, and then to have been enjoyable enough a ride that the audience don’t mind. For me, Erased was a series just like that. It has its flaws sure, but I didn’t notice until it was over and I had enough fun that I’ll gladly watch it again. That is how you tell a good story.
In the end, I recommend that everyone gives Erased a try. It’s a beautiful little anime that uses a supernatural premise to tell a very human and very emotional story of a boy’s fight to save those he loves and make a little self-discovery along the way. It has its flaws sure, but none of them are enough for me to think any less of this anime. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to rewind time and watch this series again.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.