While I’m still trying to get over some writer’s block (if you really want to call me a writer) with some other shows, I might as well release this one. When I was younger, I loved books (Until I found the internet and look where all my free time went), and some of my favorites were mysteries. Chet Gecko, Nate the Great, Jigsaw Jones (man I am so old) were among my favorites. Today, our first mystery anime. Today is Boku dake ga inai Machi, The Town Where Only I Don’t Exist, or, as we Westerners know it, Erased
The Story: Satoru Fujinuma seems like an ordinary 29-year-old man just trying to make a living in this world. He works a modest job as a pizza delivery boy to maintain his humble lifestyle. He even grew up humble, to a single mother in Hokkaido, in an otherwise normal home and went to an ordinary school, with an ordinary teacher and ordinary friends.
However, he also boasts a strange ability, which he calls “Revival.” It rewinds time to before a dangerous catastrophe, which Satoru can then intervene in and hopefully save a life. Everything was going pretty well for Satoru. Until his mother is murdered. Amid the chaos, Revival activates and gives Satoru one more chance to save his mother. To keep her safe, Satoru must do more than just catch the culprit. He’ll have to confront darker secrets, ones kept hidden for deades, and ones only he can solve. For Revival did not send Satoru back minutes before…..
I think, for any story to be successful, the most important component is investment. The writer(s) have to make you care about what’s going on. If you can’t care about the events, you can’t like the story. Erased, however, inherently does not have this problem. It’s able to make you care, because it’s a murder mystery show, which is a great way to connect with the audience. By leaving the story open-ended, Erased forces you to engage with the story, think, analyze, and predict. This, I think, is one of the show’s strongest points. Satoru has to find out who the killer is, why he targets who he targets (there are 3 victims, not counting his mother), and then save said targets. There’s a lot happening, and the audience naturally wants to solve the mystery too. All the drama, mystery, and plot twists help establish a link between the audience and the show. Erased gets that link and performs beautifully.
One of the problems Erased did have, however, was pacing. The first victim’s arc was brilliant. It was paced well, explored the characters, and ended strong. The other two victims were glossed over, which was a shame because there was a lot of potential for expansion. Maybe budget constraints played a role, but that was an opportunity the show missed out on. Furthermore, because it’s only 12 episodes, the ending felt very weak. There’s a major plot twist that the writers just gloss over and don’t really bother to explain. The climax itself felt lacking, like it wasn’t much of a climax at all. Although many of the flaws with this show are not so much flaws as they are missed opportunities, Erased failed to finish strong after such a great buildup.
The Characters: There are anime where the characters make the story and anime where the story makes the characters. Naruto is a good example of the former. Each character is very intricate and their development and growth explored in depth. You relate because maybe you empathize with one or see a bit of yourself in a character, and it’s the exploration of their growth that makes the story so interesting. Erased is one of the latter types. While the characters are not interesting in and of themselves, it’s how they fit into the story that makes them relatable and fun to watch. Rather than being intricate, standalone characters, they all interact and create relationships and that’s what you attach to. One of the benefits of these types of characters is that they tend to remain lovable characters even if they themselves are lacking.
Satoru Fujinuma: There’s not much to say about Satoru. As he is in the show, he’s average, a solid main character, not amazing, yet not horrendous. But he was fun to watch because he’s the detective. You want to see what happens next, and he’s the one who will experience all the developments and twists in the plot. He’s not interesting, but all the interesting stuff happens to him.
Airi Katagiri: Out of all the characters in Erased, Airi felt the weakest. She feels important only in the first few episodes only to be cut out until the very end. That wouldn’t be a problem except the show hypes her to be very important to the story mainly because she’s featured so much early on. You expect her to play a big role and that really isn’t the case. Either Erased neglected an important character or hyped one up for no reason. Fortunately, she’s the only character like this, but, her treatment was one of the show’s flaws. She is also a representative of the treatment of many of the secondary characters in the show in that their amount of screen time and plot relevance can feel a little inconsistent.
Final Verdict: Erased was one of the more hyped animes of the year. Its strongest feature is an amazing plotline. However, that’s really all it needs. Despite its flaws, some of which really do hurt its performance, fundamentally, Erased has all the makings of a great story. If you like mysteries, watch it. And even if you don’t like them, I would still encourage you to watch the show. It has a great narrative to tell
Final Grade: B