ERASED, or Boku Dake ga Inai Machi in Japanese, was, by far, the most talked and recommended anime of the winter anime season. While the series wasn’t perfect and started going downhill from Episode 10 on, I still believe it’s going to end up in the Top 10 list of anime of the year.
DISCLAIMER: I have not read the source material, therefore I am going to be reviewing ERASED as an anime series, not as an adaptation.
WARNING: This review contains HEAVY spoilers for the series
Interestingly enough, when I first wrote my first-impressions/why-the-hype article on ERASED, I said that we should be cautious because anime fans tend to overhype series that have great beginnings and because the series could still have a poor ending. Unfortunately, I was right.
ERASED actually had a very solid first half. The first six episodes are what made so many viewers jump on the bandwagon and talk wonders of the series, and it was justified: the setting, the narrative, the constant tension of having to save Kayo, the use of ‘Revival’… No matter how the series ended, nothing can deny the fact that Kayo’s arc was really good. Shipping debates aside, the series started going downhill as soon as she left the picture. In fact, a lot of characters that were crucial in the first episodes like Kayo, Yuki or even Airi, barely had any screen time or even closure in the latest episodes, which is a real shame.
And now for the big problem I had with its final episode: Satoru should have died. Any anime that dares to kill its main character already gets a bonus point from me. The thing is, Satoru didn’t become a hero because he was strong or because he had a super power (although it did help), but because he was smart and he learned to have courage. Satoru sacrificed himself to save everyone else, and he did so in many ways. The title “Boku dake ga Inai Machi” literally means “the town without me”, which signifies that he lost 15 years of his life. From many perspectives, Satoru’s role in this story was ultimately about sacrifice, so having him die to end with Yashiro would have fit perfectly. The fact that there was a big cushion to catch him did not only cheapen the scene (which was beautifully animated), but also raised problematic questions like: how did Satoru know that the Yashiro would take him to the roof? How did the others know where exactly Satoru would fall? Etc, etc…
This is also a mystery story, but the identity of the killer was pretty obvious since the beginning. So much that I guess the author was just tricking us into falling for the typical “it’s too obvious so it can’t be him”. That doesn’t mean that it didn’t make any sense or that it didn’t surprise me. In fact, the two scenes we got with Satoru and Yashiro in the car are some of the most intense we got in the entire series, and they were way more exciting than the final scene on the roof.
Many of these things could be blamed on the fact that the anime didn’t have enough time. It could have gotten 13 episodes or, even better, 24-26. In fact, I’m very surprised that it didn’t a 2-cour season considering how successful the manga was in Japan. However, there is one thing that can’t be blamed on the number of episodes, and that is the fact that they never explained where Satoru’s power, ‘Revival’, came from. I would have been OK with it being a plot device, but the fact that it wasn’t explained at all really bugged me. Are we supposed to assume that the story takes place in a world where such supernatural powers exist? Are there more people who can use ‘Revival’ as well? When the power wasn’t explained in the first episodes, I kept assuming that the villain had similar powers or that he would give us some explanation (especially since he was shown with those red eyes, but apparently they were only there for aesthetic). Yashiro did ask the question that was in our minds: “how can you see the future?”, but we never got an answer. Satoru also mentions that he didn’t get more Revivals since he saved Kayo, but it would have been nice to at least have him wondering about the origin of the power. ‘Revival’ was a very cool power and they could have done a very fun series with it, especially with the whole “having to look around to see what’s wrong” mechanic, but the power seemed to fade as the episodes went on.
I don’t want this review to sound too harsh or like I didn’t enjoy the anime. On the contrary, this was actually my favorite anime of the season, which is probably why I’m being so critical with it. ERASED told a very original story and it told it beautifully. Satoru’s actions did not only save others around him, but they also ultimately saved himself. It wasn’t until I watched the last episode that I remembered that Satoru was previously an unsuccessful manga artist with a part-time job and a quite cynical, asocial personality. This is when we realize how much Satoru has changed through his experience and, while some of the inner dialogues about friendship were a bit cheesy, they still managed to bring the message across in a very touching way (the fact that they played the amazing ending helped a lot too). Satoru is now able to put his heart into his work, he has a group of friends and he is able to see Airi in a new light. Satoru’s journey was worth it, and so was watching this series. It’s not an absolute masterpiece, but it’s a wonderful story that I would recommend to anyone who asked me for a good mystery series.