Ever since a string of kidnappings when he was in elementary school, Satoru has had moments where he “revived” right before a moment of danger and could save someone. While he normally only goes back one to five minutes, he goes back eighteen years one day. To the time right before the kidnappings.
Satoru needs to dig deeper. He knows it, he hears it, but can’t seem to take the first steps until he transports into his past. We watch Satoru change from someone who hides their thoughts to someone who takes action, speaks their mind, and values the people around him. I don’t find Satoru exceptional in any particular way, but watching someone dig deeper is always inspiring and I wish that the level of appreciation he has for people was a universal thing. Time travel shows have a way of defining a character as some sort of time facilitator. This is both interesting and confining. What I liked about Satoru is that he had to learn and grow in order to use the opportunity given to him. It felt human and normal, and human is good.
Hinazuki is our lovely victim. I wish that I could point to something about her and say, “Wow she has these really interesting personality traits that I love sharing with you.” But she didn’t. I can understand why though. Hinazuki is closed off. She sees the words that people leave unspoken and she would love nothing more than to run far, far, away. Satoru was the warmth that she needed to snap her out of a life so determined to give her the cold shoulder and while her journey felt a little sidelined at times, I really enjoyed watching her grow.
Sachiko is arguably the anime mom with the highest clutch factor. While most anime parents are distant, absent, or… well… dead… Sachiko is none of these. She takes an active role in her son’s life and uses her impeccable motherly powers to sniff out anything that Satoru is trying to hide. While I love that she is more present than most parents, she really does try to hide her involvement from Satoru. I think her generosity and compassion comes through even stronger when she makes sure that those actions are not on people’s radar. Potential mom of 1988 and I can say that because my mom wasn’t a mother yet. Love you, mom!
Yashiro is Satoru’s six grade teacher. He is a single guy who spends his time teaching and becomes instrumental in the search for the killer of the three kids. While Satoru occasionally asks for Yashiro’s advice, Yashiro often inserts himself into the situation by playing his part in the background. I imagine that most students have had experiences dealing with a teacher that, for some reason or another, really doesn’t take that final step to help you with your problems. They tend to hide behind the red tape or the wall of responsibility or procedure and I couldn’t help but get this sort of feeling from Yashiro. It never really felt like he wanted to help Satoru but the amount of energy and momentum that Satoru created forced his hand to start working towards his goal.
Kenya is wise beyond his years. He sees things before others do. He intuits people’s feelings before they say anything. While I do think that kids are deceptively perceptive, the fact that he out-thinks a twenty-nine year old is surprising on more than one occasion. We see Kenya reading most of the time and it is easy to peg him as the standoffish kid who comes in with quick jabs, but he seems to be compassionate beyond that quick analysis. He is a pretty straightforward character that has an air around him that just draws you in and makes you pay attention.
A couple years ago there was this weird special on TV where a guy was tightrope walking between two highrises. At the time I thought those kinds of events only happened on bizarre specials in the 1960’s, but there we were, in the early two-thousands. I feel like Erased put the viewer in a similar position. It felt like the lives of Satoru and his helpers were the counter weight for these three kids and if the weight wasn’t equal, then someone would die. Now, instead of carefully measured weights and lots of practice, we had some network intern throw on random amounts of weight and we could only hope that Satoru could figure it out before we sent three children to the street, hundreds of feet below. This felt like a complete shift from In/Spectre, the last mystery show that I reviewed, in such a refreshing way. Where In/Spectre struggled to generate consequences, Erased flirted with the consequences of Satoru’s actions constantly. On more than one occasion we paid for what he did and that is what made the show have an emotional impact.
So Randy and I had a chat the other day about where we were in life. I wanted to check in with him and know how he was doing and share how I was with someone. Partially because I care and partially because I like to know how everyone in my life is actually doing. It seemed like we were in a similar place where either fear or motivation was preventing us from taking the first step. For me, it is intimidation. I am intimidated to start playing my violin because I know I will be bad. I am intimidated to talk to this beautiful girl at church because I get nervous. Satoru is in the same rut. He lived most of his first life never taking the step that leads anywhere. But when the opportunity to redo his life and potentially impact the way things shake out is presented, he places that first foot down. I don’t see this as a trivial matter. It is easy to grow older, get complacent, and meander down the lazy river of life. Perhaps I am just hyper sensitive to this idea because the last two dates I went on were with a girl who had no passion and lived what felt like a stagnant life, but I appreciated the nod towards an adult issue through the lens of children. A nod feels like the best way to describe it too, given it was presented in such a manageable amount.
Once you take the first step, you often serve as inspiration for people around you to take the step that they need in their life. I will die on the hill that the “wanting to be a superhero” is the cheesiest trope in anime, but I will always credit Satoru for being not only compassionate, but self-sacrificing in a human way that inspires others to be as compassionate as he is. If any idea was overstated however, it was this one. When we first were introduced to Satoru wanting to be a hero, I started to roll my eyes, but what didn’t leave me was the impact he had on others. Kenya, in particular, was affected most by this. He seemed to see the issues of the world but lacked that ability to take the first step until Satoru showed him how it was done.
Switching gears, the pandemic has taught us painful lessons in the importance of life and company. In both the show and the recent months, we see struggling people completely ignored for no other reason than we often don’t look for those who are struggling or we don’t know how to start helping. Erased shows us some of the potential that looking out for the people around us has. Satoru doesn’t know Kayo when he starts meddling in her business, but he sees someone who is vulnerable and has compassion to care for them. If the health and wellbeing of the people around us, regardless of how close we are with them, was taken as our business, we might see the world in a better place than it is right now.
Unlike our experience with In/Spectre, Erased is building up to a single event with a single solution to the mystery. We start off with the premise, the sudden introduction of the problem, and the ability to solve it. Immediately we have the essentials established, and all by episode two. At this point I am captured. I got the action to attract my attention, I know what the goal is, and I have a cause to care about over the shoulder of a decent character. We needed to save the three kids who were abducted and that was our focus. Honestly, we weren’t always successful either. There was a fantastic balance of success and failure in the show that kept it really engaging. No identity crisis, no slow part, no filler. Just a cohesive story with a fantastic timeline… or two.
I feel bad right now, I really do. My first reaction was that the character’s heads and the adult women’s lips were really weird. That opinion never changed. The animation was clean. The wider shots were better than most but still a little fuzzy sometimes. The scenery was a little dreary, but not terrible. But I could never get over the heads and the lips. I get into a zone when watching, it is a place I really enjoy being during solid shows. But I was knocked out of my zone so many times because of the style of animation and it really annoyed me throughout the show. It felt like someone crossbred an eggplant and a cantaloupe and used that as a head shape reference. For any aspiring anime artists, please don’t do this. It does not work. You will not get high marks from me.
When I started writing this section, I wanted to talk about how the show starts to fall into the bland trap. The world has a couple things going against it. The first is that it is not very visually impressive. Kayo looks like she lives in converted military barracks. School and park scenes look like they could be part of pretty much any anime. The hideout that was eluded to during most of the show turned out to be a glorified utility shack. But, on the other hand, this is one of the few shows that highlights kids going to science centers, gymnasiums, or a hockey arena. These areas were interesting, although we only saw them once or twice each. So while the majority of the world seems to lack a little bit of character, we were also given some interesting points of interest, evening it out a bit. But, ultimately, leaving the world a little bland for my taste.
Mystery shows live and die by the tension that they are able to create. Erased could build up the characters as much as they want, teter on the edge of life and death, and have the characters monolog whatever they needed to and it would not come close to the tension created by the sounds and music. Some of the best moments had no music either. The tension could come from sounds as crisp as the tapping of a finger. It could come from the opening of a glove compartment, or a subtle wind blowing in the background. I am a huge fan of using music specifically and Erased does that fantastically. Silence can build tension more intentionally than music can in certain situations and sometimes you just need to cut the power to achieve your goal.
|Category||Points Given||Points Possible|
|I am interested in the characters in the story||2||6|
|I liked the emotion the story made me feel||3||6|
|The story brings up interesting ideas||2||6|
|I felt the pacing of the show was appropriate||2||4|
|The animation in the show is beautiful||3||4|
|I am interested in the world that the story takes place in||3||3|
|I felt that the music added to the story in a meaningful way||2||3|
Erased had some high expectations this month. It was coming off the back of some middle rated anime and the anticipation created on Tiktok set a bar. Fantastic tension building, admirable compassion, and a masterful air of mystery helped Erased become the best mystery show I have watched to date. I really enjoyed the show and would recommend it to anyone who likes mysteries or thrillers.