Every season seems to have that one show that tries to fill the gap and provide anime with a decent mystery show. There’ve been a few successes in the past, most notably Another, but in general mystery anime tend to fall flat due to their unwillingness to make the mystery solvable.
Well, this season’s attempt is Erased. Satoru Fujinuma is an aspiring manga artist who can’t seem to get his feelings onto the page and his career is non-existent because of it. As a result, he works at a Pizza place as a delivery boy. The twist? He has a unique gift, that he calls ‘Revival’, that sends him, against his will, back short distances in time – always just prior to something traumatic happening, giving him the opportunity to try to fix whatever seems wrong to avoid tragedy.
Note: This review will contain minor spoilers for the first episode or two of the show, as it is nearly impossible to talk about it without revealing a few key elements.
His revival has always been just a short time… until the traumatic event he’s trying to prevent is his mother’s death, for which he is the prime suspect. Suddenly he finds himself back 18 years in his early school life, days prior to a crime that had altered his life forever: a few kids his age were kidnapped and killed, the murderer never found. Believing there has to be a connection here, he sets out to prevent these killings and save the victims.
And thus begins our mystery. Over the course of the show, he goes back and forth between his future life where he is a hunted fugitive with almost nobody left to trust… and the past, where he seeks to save one of the most interesting child characters I’ve seen: Kayo Hinazuki. Kayo has a type of honesty that just makes it hard not to love her. There’s a great contrast in watching her and Satoru alongside these other children who are, more or less, relatively typical children. In fact, her relationship with Satoru contain some of the most interesting character interactions I’ve seen in a while – the adult-in-a-kid’s body and the too-old-for-her-age girl. It just makes for a strange, but very clever, dynamic.
My favourite part about this mystery is that, upon finding the truth out, my reaction was a combination of surprise and ‘a-ha’. I hadn’t quite figured it out, but I was well on the way to it. There was no missing information, no sense of ‘this only makes sense because of information you weren’t provided’… it just felt right. It put all the pieces together. Which is how a mystery should be. If you’re paying attention, you should be able to figure it out or at least not be too surprised when the solution is revealed. And the solution should make it all fit. In Erased, it did.
I was a little concerned that we’d be spending the entire show in the past with just a bunch of kids. Fortunately, I needn’t have worried. While the child scenes did make up the majority of the show, they were far from the whole series. More importantly, though… the child sequences weren’t bad. I’m not a big fan of young child characters usually, with a few exceptions. In Erased, it was never a problem. I actually enjoyed the child sequences, once I got used to them.
Overall, I can see Erased becoming one of those gems. Those anime that stand out and offer something unique and memorable. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this show. It had a great soundtrack, really good characters, and even a pretty feel-good ending, all things considered.