Stories about time travel often have a certain appeal people like to come back to again and again. The idea of either moving backwards or forwards in time, either to redo something you’ve done in your past or knowing where you’ll end up ten years into the future, is an ability all of us at one point or another would love to have. We all make mistakes we wish we could go back in time and fix or the curiosity of knowing how your life will turn out if you choose one path over another may make you better equipped at making tough decisions easier if you knew what the possible outcome would be. In the anime Erased, Satoru Fujinuma has a chance to go back to the past to prevent a series of tragic events from happening, while also altering his personal life and future in ways he never thought he needed changing and sometimes for the better.
Satoru is a 29-year-old struggling manga artist who works part-time as a pizza deliveryman. He has the unique ability to go back just a few minutes into the past, an ability he calls Revival, to prevent a possible catastrophic event from happening, such as avoiding a truck from hitting a young kid crossing the street. When Satoru’s mother gets murdered at his apartment by a mysterious figure and Satoru is wrongfully accused of being the prime murder suspect, Satoru’s Revival power triggers and somehow sends him 18 years into the past to when he was a 10-year-old kid attending elementary school. A trip into the past presents Satoru the opportunity to prevent the serial murder of three kids from his hometown, two of which are his classmates, and unravel the mystery of who the murderer is and why the murderer has a close connection to Satoru in the future as well.
Erased, or Boku Dake ga Inai Machi, is a 12-episode anime with a solid story and a strong cast of characters who grow and change in each episode. The plot and character development unfold organically and the murder mystery aspect of the show keeps you really interested in finding out the identity of the murderer along with a 10-year-old Satoru. This anime was brought to my attention when Michaela of At the Buzzer did an anime mini-review roundup of shows she has seen. It came highly recommended and I owe it to her for leading me to another great show to watch.
Most of the anime takes place in the past with a 29-year-old Satoru stuck in the body of his 10-year-old self. Watching Satoru handle this strange predicament and reliving his elementary school days to prevent the three murders from happening is one of the best parts about the anime. His classmates and his teacher Yashiro can tell there’s something different about this Satoru, but they can’t quite figure out what it is. It’s also funny to hear the adult Satoru voicing his personal thoughts about his classmates or a situation inside of his 10-year-old self. One scene I find really funny and charming is when the adult Satoru scolds his 10-year-old self for blushing when he holds hands with classmate Kayo Hinazuki, one of the murder victims he’s trying to save, reminding himself that, “You’re 29 for God’s sake.” Scenes like this one help lighten the mood on what can be a pretty dark and bleak anime sometimes. The other best part about Erased are the close friendships Satoru forms with his classmates.
Before Satoru’s Revival sends him back as his 10-year-old self, the viewer sees what Satoru’s life is really like. He’s kind of a loner and he struggles with writing characters who readers can connect with on an emotional level, an observation his own editor points out to him. While reliving his past childhood and elementary school days is meant to prevent the murders of those kids, figure out who the murderer is, and ultimately prevent the death of his mother in the future, Satoru also kind of gets the rare opportunity of a do-over. As a kid, Satoru largely kept to himself and never really forms any meaningful friendships with his classmates. Because Kayo is the first murder victim to set off a chain reaction of events that lead to the other two murders in his town, Satoru has to make more of an effort to get close to Kayo by becoming friends with her and tracing the event leading to her death so he can stop it from happening. Satoru’s determination to get Kayo to open up to him ultimately pushes himself to open up more with his other classmates. The blossoming friendships and bonds Satoru creates with each and everyone of them gives Satoru something he lacked in his own adult life––a strong support system of good friends who are fiercely loyal and will stand by him until the very end.
Without these friendships Satoru’s adult life before the Revival has been mostly melancholic, going through the motions of life and not exactly living it as he should be. There’s a sense of Satoru feeling and believing he has to take on the world on his own, to do everything by himself, until he learns through his mission to save all three murder victims in the past that he doesn’t have to be alone. There are people out there who want to help and believe in the person he is––a selfless guy who will risk his own life to save those he cares about.
The identity of the murderer is a twist I never saw coming and it literally blew my mind when I watched the episode. The surprise enhances the great writing in Erased and it succeeds in making you want to go back and rewatch the entire series again to see if there are clues scattered throughout each episode that would tip you off about the murderer’s identity. The reveal certainly made me rethink everything I knew about this character and how skillfully he hid in plain sight to fool both Satoru and a viewer like me. There’s nothing predictable about Erased and I’d say I was caught off guard on more than one occasion. It’s a show that’s an edge of your seat thrill ride and it’s one you’re willing to strap in for.
Erased strikes the right balance between lighthearted sweetness with shades of darkness and violence lurking around every corner. The show manages to weave surprises and revelations without ever being in danger of having predictable plot threads or one-note motivations. While the show never goes into how Satoru ended up with his Revival power in the first place, it isn’t really important enough to warrant much thought about it. He time travels back to the past and we get to see Satoru literally rewrite his future and the futures of other people who are never really meant to have one. It’s a great show and a perfect addition to any anime watch list if you like stories about time travel, murder mystery thrillers, and well-paced character development.
Reviewer Rating: 10/10