Keeping in line with my absolute obsession with Slice of Life anime, I couldn’t exactly pass up on ERASED, could I? No, honestly, I couldn’t.
Slice of Life, there’s something greatly cathartic about it; the relationships and often subtle romance, the down-to-earth plot lines and themes, even the humour which so often embodies a buoyant, uplifting tone.
So, we come to ERASED, I’d be wrong to think it was exactly what I was expecting: A bash-up between Steins;Gate and, erm… School Days. Sure… there are similarities. Throw in a little AnoHana, and you might be onto something… might.
Directed by Tomohiko Ito, and adapted from the manga of the same name, ERASED first aired in the Winter 2016 season.
Satoru Fujinuma is a struggling, uninspired 29-year-old manga artist. We follow him throughout the entire series as he battles with his past. (quite literally) After his mother is murdered, Satoru is sent back, with his elusive ability, to his 1988 middle-school days. There, he has to unwind the thickening plot, as he realises how his past – and the people in that past – can inconceivably change the future.
Story and Characters
Ok, so the story itself. Of course, to some degree, it’s been done before, (Steins;Gate, and no doubt many others I have yet to lay eyes on.) But, we all know it’s not the idea itself that has the potential to make something great, it’s the execution of it. There are no new ideas, just new ways to tell them; to wrap an engaging narrative around them. ERASED does this to a substantial degree. I won’t say to a great degree, because I think greatness requires a little more than what ERASED has to offer. Nonetheless, the story is good… for the most part. As anime goes, ERASED is as original as it can be.
Despite this, I found that in the second half of the show, the pace, and the plot took a nosedive. Now, not a massive one, but an affecting one regardless. It started out with such promise and momentum. I genuinely couldn’t wait for the credits and the ending song, (which is absolutely brilliant by the way) just to see what happened next. Naturally, the director has a thing for cliffhangers. And, of course, it fits into the mystery/thriller/suspense genre, so that’s hardly surprising. Certainly within those first six episodes, the edge of your seat will feel the pressure. After that… it’s not bad, not by any means. It just can’t keep up with its beginning. Don’t think this is a reason not to watch ERASED, because it holds its own in many other aspects.
From the ground up, this is a character driven story, commandeered at the helm by our protagonist Satoru Fujinuma. Being that we generally do not see many ‘older’ main characters, I particularly identified with him. Sure, he still follows well-known tropes: struggling artist, seemingly inane part-time job, a broken past filled with demons…etc. Still, we get to know him well as a real person, we see the future that is a direct product of his tumultuous past. We see how he blames himself, and his own self-proclaimed inaction on duties that he swears were bestowed upon him. This implicitly drives him on his bumpy quest to change things.
Throughout this we also get to know his classmates, most notably Kayo Hinazuki, the bullseye for the past that has come to haunt him. Kayo is an especially diverse character. Under the veil of physical abuse by her tormented mother, Kayo is quiet, distressingly down. With the naivety that comes with youth, she is ostracised, labeled as strange by those who do not grasp the gravity of the situation. Something that Satoru knows all too well. I absolutely adore the progression of her character, it’s without a question the highlight of ERASED for me; the way she develops, and the way she’s able to lower her defences and accept needed help from those around her – those people she comes to know as friends. We see her beautifully change. And this is especially apparent around Sachiko, (Satoru’s awesome mother) who embodies the polar opposite of Kayo’s abusive counterpart.
On the edge, the story is kept grounded by mature and rational Kenya Kobayashi, someone well beyond his years, providing diversity to the people Satoru finds himself surrounded by, and in no time at all, needing. Because even with Satoru’s good intentions, and his strong will, without his friends, he couldn’t accomplish very much at all. They are the backbone of his success. And, if ERASED is anything, it’s a story about the power of friendship and speaking out.
Also, Satoru’s mother is quite possibly a 10/10 as far as anime mothers go! She is quite possibly my favourite character in the show!
We become aware of how such small actions can have such dire and destructive consequences, but conversely, the possibility for those actions to have the exact opposite effect; How one moment can change everything.
Now, ERASED doesn’t go especially deep, not in the same sense that something like Welcome to the N.H.K, or Flowers of Evil do, (does anything), but neither is it devoid of morality and meaning like many ‘entertainment focused’ animes are. Ultimately, we have Satoru, a man focused on being entirely selfless – using his ‘power’ the only way he sees fit. It’s a coming of age, reversed, childhood from an adults perspective. Giving away the many things that are overlooked when so young, both the brilliant and the catastrophic, those things that only become apparent in later years. ERASED, crafts genuine, heartfelt interactions between characters, giving birth to moments that are not easily forgotten. Yes, park scene, I’m staring right at you!
Some characters you rally behind. Others you deeply resent. Others you cautiously suspect. It’s simple, but dynamic effect, adding mystery to what’s already mysterious.
Animation and Sound
Normally I would focus on the animation and art over sound design, being that this is a mostly visual medium. Although, on this occasion, the sound is so great I want to mention it from the get go. Both the opening and ending scores are terrific, not just average, not acceptable, but brilliant, surpassing most others I’ve had the pleasure to hear. Not that there aren’t good openings and endings out there, just that ERASED’s are beyond excellent. I’ll drop them here for you to marvel at:
Before I mention animation, I want to talk about the character design, which I believe to be another hugely strong area for ERASED. With many animes, I feel character design often gets overlooked. The faces look almost too similar. The emotions on those faces are often indistinguishable. Generally speaking – especially with non-character driven anime – there isn’t a whole lot to distinguish them by, but hair/eye colours. Here, ERASED excels far beyond the norm.
Satoru is intentionally rather plain, with his glasses, and his often bored and non-committal emotion (in his adult self,) This gives us insight into his past, realising the present he lives in is certainly not the one he dreamed of. The 11-year-old Satoru is wholly different. This juxtaposition can first be seen in the very first frame of the opening. He has a mission – when he returns that is, and this consumes him.
Kayo’s appearance is very relative to her character’s personality, with her heavy red coat, (we all know what red symbolises) and scarf, we gain insight into how reserved she is, as if the ‘thick’ exterior is an externalised representation of the blanket she wraps around herself – the product of the abuse she has received over the years.
The animation itself is very smooth and extremely fluid, beyond that, there isn’t too much to say. It’s at the level where it doesn’t attract attention, whichever way. There aren’t truly any action scenes of note to comment upon, which are the hardest frames to animate well, and often an indicator of the animators skill. Instead, within ERASED, everything is just very… polished, especially the character movements which are able to convey a wide array of emotion and intent; usually swinging one way or the other, with clear, meaningful distinctions.
The backgrounds and art in general are very well presented. Both colourful, and washed out in the absolute correct places; able to convey the emotion of the scene through visual storytelling – setting the mood perfectly, they are not simply redundant necessities. Recently, I’ve also being watching Sound! Euphonium, the backgrounds of which are absolutely gorgeous, but that’s from Kyoto Animation, so maybe it’s an unfair comparison. Nevertheless, anything which manages to comes close is more than respectable, and Erased does.
ERASED is a very good anime. It has a substantial deal crammed into its 12 episodes. The story is great, despite it slipping a little in the second half. The ending is as good, and as concise as any. In fact, I liked the ending very much, especially they very last scene, which I thought culminated things together in a very apt fashion; hitting home, reminding the audience that things happen, and they happen for a reason. It’s very in keeping with the story that precedes it. And unlike many occasions, I’m not left feeling empty, staring into plot holes and unresolved situations. Do I think it could have achieved more, yes, I do. But taken at face value watching ERASED was a pleasure. And by far the best thing ERASED has to offer is its exceptionally strong portrayal of its characters.
- Brilliant opening and endings.
- Character design
- Great character dynamics
- Satoru’s mother!
- Strong OST
Could Have Been Better Stuff!
- Expected more from the second half.
- ‘Revival’ could have explored a little more.
- The revelation of who the murderer was, could have been subtler
“Are you stupid?” – Kayo Hinazuki
If there are any anime’s you want me to review, drop a comment and I’ll do my best.
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If there’s something I’ve missed, something you didn’t like about what I’ve said, something wrong – by all means, speak your beautiful words! I really appreciate constructive criticism.