There Is usually that one incident in our childhood that defines who we become as adults.
Unfortunately, that defining moment is sometimes a tragedy. Although there is no working time machine (yet), we can’t help but wonder – if we could go back in time and relive that particular moment, would things turn out different?
Erased answers that question by showing the outcome for better and for worse. The 12-episode anime introduces us to Satoru Fujinuma, a 29-year-old pizza delivery “boy” and a failed manga artist. He has to quit the manga scene after the editor informs him that he isn’t digging deep enough to tell his readers heartfelt stories. The reason why Satoru prefers not to look to his past is because he’s haunted by the murder of one of his female classmates when he was 10 years old.
The last time Satoru saw the girl, Kayo Hinazuki, she was standing alone in a park on a cold day in her red jacket and flowing scarf. Although any adult could have told him that what happened is not his fault, Satoru believes he could’ve saved Kayo if only he had accompanied her home that dark night. To make matters worse for young Satoru, the man caught for Kayo’s murder was none other than an older friend of his.
Choosing to carry this blame from that point onwards, Satoru grows apart from his mother and friends, becoming a loner with a glum outlook and personality.
Being haunted by the past isn’t his only problem. From time to time, Satoru experiences an unexplainable phenomenon which he calls “revival”. In this moment, Satoru relives the past few minutes. His theory about revival is that the universe wants him to correct a wrong that just occurred – a van hitting a small boy, for example, which could have been prevented if someone stopped the driver. This is what Satoru does in one scene … and never mind if he gets hurt in the process; his hero complex can handle the injuries.
In all his revivals, Satoru has never gone back more than five minutes. But one day, an event triggers a revival that takes him back to when Kayo is still alive and Satoru is still 10 going on 11.
All that is covered in just the first episode of Erased. This anime guarantees quick devotion, not only because it has only 12 episodes but because of its fast pacing, strong storyline and a couple of interesting hooks.
The biggest hook is, of course, the murder mystery blended with a time-travel element. The thing is, the audience can more or less guess the identity of the murderer even when the show throws a red herring or two our way. However, what keeps us watching is to see whether or not this determined little boy does change the course of history, saving his classmate as well as the killer’s next victims and catching the killer, too.
Also, time travel is always something of a head-scratcher. But with Erased, we can’t be bothered with all the nitty-gritty about time-travel paradoxes because we are just as invested as the young hero who is on the cusp of changing the future – so much so, we want to banish the fear in Satoru when doubt creeps into him.
We want to root for this boy because his personality is so different from the adult we meet at the beginning. In this alternate past, young Satoru is friendlier and more mature – someone who is loved by his mother and friends, with a bright future ahead of him. It’s only right that Satoru should get another chance to grow up to be a happy adult.
It is with this more mature insight that Satoru comes to realise there is more to the story than Kayo being the victim of a crime of opportunity. For one thing, Satoru notices that Kayo is a victim of child abuse – which opens up a different can of worms leading to her death. And some scenes of abuse here are quite stark, and rightfully so as the act itself is not something to be glossed over.
But not everything is bleak in Erased – there are moments of triumph too, when our young hero believes that childhood ambition is not all that childish. There are also hilarious consequences from placing an adult mind in a boy’s body.
In the span of these 12 episodes – each one less than 30 minutes in length – the audience becomes privy to the Japanese way of life. (iflix offers Erased in its original Japanese language with subtitles, which I think is a better option than a dubbed version.)
In most TV shows, the parents are always depicted in one way – not really there. Here, it’s sweet to see Satoru’s mother portrayed as an especially caring woman who knows just what her son needs even before he asks her. Then there are all those adults who wear different masks without realising what important roles they play in a child’s life.
These qualities easily erase the show’s few faults. One of the yuckiest aspects is 29-year-old Satoru’s relationship with a 17-year-old girl. Although it’s platonic, the whole thing just feels very wrong.
Satoru’s school friends are present only as glorified props – it would have been nice to learn something about them too, especially a boy named Kenya, who is far too observant and way too mature for a 10-year-old. What is his story? However, we do get some satisfaction of sorts in seeing how their lives are changed forever because of Satoru’s brave act.
In the real world we’ve come to accept to leave our past in the past forever, but sometimes it’s nice to watch shows like Erased to remind us that blasts from the past are not all that bad.
All 12 episodes of Erased are available on iflix.