I’ve said this a few times, so at the risk of annoying people with repetition, “favourite” and “best” don’t have to be the same thing. I wouldn’t describe Erased as my favourite anime television series, but I do think it is the best I have ever seen. I am not yet a sufficient expert to make any more claims than that, but it must surely be a strong contender for the greatest anime series ever made. Erased is phenomenally good, an incredibly exciting and compelling thriller.
The main character is Satoru Fujinuma, a 29 year old man who has the ability to go back in time moments before a life-threatening event. He calls this gift “revival” and uses it to save lives, often at the cost of his own wellbeing. All of this is set up very quickly, and we soon get to the main thrust of the plot for the entire series. Satoru’s mother gets murdered, and he is thrown back into the past, not mere minutes as usual, but right back to his childhood, retaining his adult memories.
The time he returns to is significant. Although he had virtually blocked it out of his memory, three children in his neighbourhood were murdered when he was a child. Their murders are somehow connected with the death of his mother, so he has a chance to put everything right: save the victims, save his mother. The first victim was a lonely girl in his class. Satoru befriends her, tries to save her… and fails. Catapulted back to the present day, he is the chief suspect in the murder of his mother, and the only person who believes in him is a work colleague who is attracted to him (it’s subtle).
Satoru has to find a way to try again.
I can’t tell you how uneasy this series makes you. The first victim is a quiet girl named Kayo, who is being violently abused by her mother. Satoru might have the mind of an adult (although the impression I got was that it is not entirely as simple as that), but he has the body of a child. How can he protect Kayo from her abusive mother and the mysterious murderer who is trying to abduct and kill her? Each time he seems to have succeeded, everything seems fine and happy, but as a viewer you can’t help but feel on edge, waiting for the next thing to go wrong. Is it enough to just keep her alive until the end of the day that history says she was murdered? No. History keeps changing around him, thwarting his every move. But, little by little, poor, abused, miserable Kayo’s life gets better. She gets to enjoy a real birthday celebration. She has friends for the first time in her life. It’s incredibly emotional, and this anime really makes you care about the characters so much. Then there are the other victims to think about.
The only slight criticisms I can level at Erased are these: firstly there is only really one possible candidate for the murderer, although (a) that in itself becomes something of a red herring – surely it can’t be him? and (b) I found one of Satoru’s school friends a major red herring as well, because he seems too good to be true, and oddly adult in his speech and intelligence. Secondly, there is a lovely little romantic thing going on with Satoru’s work colleague in the present day, but there is not time for this to really go anywhere by the end of the series, which quite rightly focusses on the fascinating strategic battle between Satoru and the killer. It’s not completely ignored, but it feels like an afterthought, despite being beautifully set up earlier in the series.
But really I can’t recommend this highly enough. It will keep you feeling on edge for 12 exciting episodes, and the artwork is beautiful, melancholy and atmospheric. If you only ever watch one anime, make it this one. It’s an incredible piece of work. RP
We will have an episode by episode detailed look at Erased starting in January 2020.