The view from Igirisu:
If this series is going to follow the usual rules of a whodunit we have to have been introduced to the murderer by now. There are slim pickings. We know the murderer is male, and we know it’s not “Yuuki”, because he’s sitting on death row at the time of Sachiko’s death. That leaves the teacher Gaku Yoskiro, or one of Satoru’s school friends. But fortunately the whodunit aspect of the plot isn’t really the one that matters. The drama isn’t coming from that. The point of the exercise is how Satoru can save Kayo and the other murder victims.
Very quietly and subtly this week a new layer is added to that problem: we now know the identity of the other two murder victims. One of them is a girl we are not familiar with, but the other is another of Satoru’s group of friends, the boy who looks like a girl (and is voiced by women in sub and dub): Hiromi. This must surely be significant. Firstly, Satoru is focusing on the danger to Kayo and ignoring Hiromi. Secondly, are the killings gender-specific or not? Does the killer think Hiromi is female?
Satoru figures out “Day X” this week. Due to the month of Kayo’s death and the date of her birthday, she has to have been killed on 1st March. Satoru has to befriend her sufficiently to keep her alive until she turns 11. And that’s working well. Our first piece of evidence for that is the skating competition.
“You’d better not suck.”
Kayo actually shows amazing maturity by being able to wish Satoru luck in her own quirky way, having just been teased about being his girlfriend. Most ten-year-olds wouldn’t be willing to say anything to even remotely confirm any fondness between them in front of the other children. Afterwards she calls him out on being dishonest, because he said he would do his best and instead he let the other guy win, but it isn’t a deal breaker for their friendship. There’s another point to showing us that race as well. Afterwards Satoru realises that his decision to throw the race is history repeating itself. Does that mean he can’t change the past sufficiently? Is he stuck in a fatalistic universe? Surely not.
We learn a lot more about the major players in this drama during the third episode. Satoru gets caught by the teacher trying to find the date of Kayo’s birthday, and the teacher is clearly very perceptive, or “sharp”, as Satoru says. He appears to identify Satoru as an ally in the fight against Kayo’s mother and the inept social services and confides in him about Kayo, perhaps inappropriately for a teacher, but these are extreme circumstances and a life is at stake.
“I’ve noticed you two have gotten friendly.”
He’s keeping his eye on Kayo. Then we have Yuuki, who we know isn’t the killer, but it’s interesting to see why he was convicted. Satoru gets a quick glimpse of his porn collection, and among the usual kinds of things there’s a book called “High School Girl’s Uniform Reference Guide”. It’s in amongst the porn so he clearly equates that to something sexual. That doesn’t make him a criminal (it’s a common fetish), but it’s easy to see how the police could have taken the lazy route and not looked beyond the obvious. 18 years later they were about to do the same thing, assuming Satoru’s guilt for the circumstantial reason that he had blood on his hands, after finding his mother’s body, as if he could be expected to show inhuman restraint in that moment and not see if she was still alive. As per many dramas that don’t revolve around a detective, the police in Erased are idiots.
Then we get our proper introduction to Kayo’s mother, and she’s a monster. Kayo gets a beating every week, and is “too scared to tell the truth”. When Satoru finds her it’s a shocking moment and very sad indeed.
“I was too scared to say anything.”
This brings us back to the main source of the drama in Erased: how can Satoru prevent the murders. After all, last week we had our first hints that Revival is more than a possession of his younger body. He is merging with his younger self, and that is bound to lead to moments like this, where he feels powerless. How can a little boy possibly take a stand against somebody like Kayo’s sadistic mother?
But he’s doing what he can, and that means making sure Kayo isn’t friendless. He sticks up for her when she is accused of stealing by a “brat”, and then they go together to see “our Christmas tree”, another opportunity for Kayo to tell him “you’re an idiot”, which is her way of saying “I like you”. It’s a beautiful moment, and the animation is stunning, showing how much beauty can be found in a story set in winter. Finally we get a shot of our two main suspects talking to each other: Kenya and the teacher. What can they be chatting about? I smell a herring, and it’s red. RP
The view from Amerika:
While my preferred genre is science fiction, a good mystery is up there on my top list of fantastic genres. Mixing the two is a bonus because it scratches an itch that usually needs two different viewings. It’s why I loved Doctor Who’s Robots of Death; it was Agatha Christie in the Doctor Who universe. By episode one of Erased, I was aware that we were dealing with a science fiction/mystery story very similar in idea to the superb Brit cop drama, Life on Mars. Like Life, our hero finds himself back in time and trying to prevent a tragedy. Unlike Life, he’s back in his own personal timeline whereas John Simm’s character is his own age just displaced in 1973. But the mystery of Kayo is just as interesting and Satoru is working on finding out when Kayo’s birthday is. By knowing that, he will learn how many days he has to save her life and change the future.
The nature of the show is one that we have to assume he will succeed and the series will wrap up with him going back to the future to save his mom, but just because that’s what we expect, doesn’t make it true. Satoru’s ice skating challenge is proof of that. We think he’ll win the race for Kayo, but after he gives in to let his fellow racer win instead, he remembers that this was the same outcome that occurred 18 years ago. Is he destined to do the same things over and over again? Can he really change what happened or will we be surprised by an unhappy ending? With only 11 days to go to save her, that doesn’t give us a lot of time.
Curiously lacking from this episode is the science fiction element of time travel, known as “revival” in this series. At no point does Satoru get a moment to relive, because everything we’re seeing now is from that revisited perspective. What we have instead is an utterly horrifying scene where we see Kayo in her shed, bruised from her mother’s beatings. Sadly, I believe this is depicted all too realistically, with Kayo even saying her injuries are the result of a fall. Her mother’s subsequent icing of the wounds by nearly drowning her is an almost unwatchable moment, compounded by the jackass boyfriend in the other room complaining about wasting ice. It’s amazing to me that a cartoon, for that is ultimately what I’m watching, can illicit such fury in me! This is then exacerbated by the classroom full of accusatory kids blaming Kayo for taking the class lunch money. (Although I do love when the situation resolves, one kid can be heard mumbling, “I knew she didn’t take it!” Yeah, sure you did!) I’m glad to have been introduced to this series, but I hope the payoff is worth it!
The story wraps with Satoru taking Kayo to see a Christmas tree. It starts with an image of two foxes circling them. Foxes appear often in literature and Japanese anime is known for them. They often represent wisdom. (Neil Gaiman’s excellent series, Sandman, has one story where the lord of Dreams is depicted as a fox… More on that some other time!) Showing the two foxes circling Kayo and Satoru may represent nothing more than an awareness that kindred spirits are out for an evening stroll. Or it may be that they were offering protection to the two wanderers. Whatever the reason, the image is lovely and Satoru realizes that he was there 18 years ago, but something has changed now; he is no longer alone. Perhaps the past can be changed after all. As if to celebrate this, we get an utterly gorgeous shot of the Christmas tree, in all it’s artistic magnificence. And wow. Just… wow. Let’s hope this series culminates with something as beautiful, eh? ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Erased Episode 4