The Winter 2016 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
What is this?
Can one little mistake really doom the course of a person's entire life? That question has been on Satoru's mind for almost 20 years. Ever since a man he trusted as a child was captured and convicted of multiple child abductions and murders, Satoru has been supernaturally cursed, derailing his promising manga artist career and landing him in a dead-end pizza delivery job instead. He made another mistake by humoring the idea that he could have saved a girl named Kayo from that mysterious killer as a child, and now he is beholden to a phenomenon he calls "The Revival." Any time something bad is about to happen near him, he's cast a few minutes back in time to prevent it, as if some almighty being is forcing him to forever pay for his childhood mistake. But even though his life has become a series of averting others' mistakes, he still can't do anything about his own past, until his future takes a fatal twist and throws his entire life into chaos. ERASED is based on a manga and can be found streaming on Crunchyroll, Thursdays at 12:30 PM EST, and TBA on Funimation and Daisuki.
How was the first episode?
No point in burying the lede on this one, ERASED had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish, and you should go watch it right now to wake your brain up in this chilly and dismal winter season. This is a steaming hot plate of tension served with class.
That's not to say this episode is thrill-a-minute, because it isn't. That's not really how you build tension, not the kind that sits in your gut and freezes solid before suddenly exploding and making you jump out of your chair. ERASED spends a lot of quality time marinating in the nascent fears of its pitiable protagonist. We all have things about our past we wish we could change, but ERASED is one of the few stories I've seen that addresses that regret as a delicate thing we might feel afraid to touch, even inside their own heads. Actually dwelling on the big bad thing that almost destroyed your life tends to drive people crazy, so sometimes we shut it away and try to go on with our lives while it sits like a numb lump in our hearts, weighing us down and making us miserable until we've forgotten how those feelings started. Of course, it wouldn't be a good story if something didn't come along to force us awake again, and when that happens to our hero, the show jumps from a captivating slow burn to an extremely exciting cliffhanger.
That's the kind of tension ERASED trades in, all while the little plot points and character revelations that drive a captivating mystery keep trickling in on the regular. Satoru's mom is caught off-guard by the last name of her son's co-worker, but she keeps it to herself. The killer that threw Satoru's life into turmoil probably isn't who Satoru thought it was, but it does look like it's someone else Satoru knew personally. The "Revival" that haunts his life is less like a superpower and more like a sentient spirit, chasing Satoru down and jumping on him in pursuit of some long-term goal. After a few seasons of mystery shows flying by the seat of their pants, it's nice to just lay back and enjoy a story that feels like it's been planned with patience. All the answers seem like they're just out of reach, but the author hasn't given us the okay to see them yet.
ERASED's first episode is crafty and captivating from start to finish, with that rare combination of high ambition matched with skillful execution, wrapped up in rich layers of subtle characterization. I can't wait to see where ERASED goes both as a puzzlebox mystery and a thoughtful character piece. If you've been waiting for a psychological thriller with less talk and more bite, the wait is definitely over.
Review: From its first scene Erased makes it clear that it is not going to be your stereotypical throwaway anime. Its heavy, morose tone implies that a serious, mature murder-mystery is going to be afoot, and making the protagonist a 29-year-old man whose every action and word suggests a man who has been beaten down by life is a bold move. Or at least that's what it seems to be at first, but the ending of the episode shows us instead that the bulk of the story is going to be happening in the man's past. In other words, this is looking to be one of those stories where a person is able to travel back in time in an effort to fix his biggest regret. In this case, though, the regret is a bit weightier than in most such cases: that he didn't try to walk home a girl who would later be abducted and killed. And in so doing, the story implies, he might find a way to prevent a tragic event in his present from happening.
It's an interesting premise, but I actually found the part of the episode before he goes back in time more intriguing. Satoru is such a drag as a character that he should be hard to like, and yet he is also easy to sympathize with and even root for in what could have been a building fledgling romance with a teenage coworker. A dejected, unenthusiastic vocal performance by an anime newcomer (Shinnosuke Mitsushima, who has made a name for himself as a live-action actor) hits the mark perfectly here. His mother, who is a little too sharply intuitive for her own good, makes for a nice complement, as does the vivacious coworker who, unlike him, still has her dreams. All of this is set aside, though, for the time shift to the past, and frankly, I'm more curious about how things would have played out in the present than what dark thing did happen in the past that he has to try to correct. The title of the series is presumably a reference to eliminating an undesirable future that way, but it's not going to be easy to make the elements in the past as compelling as the elements in the present.
From a technical and writing standpoint, the series is constructed quite well. Especially noteworthy is a superb musical score offered by Yuki Kujiara – but this is definitely not the same style of sound that we have come to expect from her. Although I am a huge Kajiura fan, I have sometimes questioned how much range she actually has, and this work decidedly puts that concern to rest.
Ultimately this is a first episode that I more respect than actually like. The other series which most came to mind as I watched this is Boogiepop Phantom, and that's not such a bad comparison.
I knew sitting through the mystery show duds of the last year would finally pay off. I would like to thank A-1 Pictures for finally delivering a mystery anime with some meat and the patience to keep its secrets in the bag.
We've got our disillusioned 29-year-old Satoru who has suffered through tremendous loss. In his brief life he's seen the disappearance of two classmates as a child, betrayal by an adult friend, a dad that isn't in the picture, a mom that seems more than a little selfish, and acquired the unnerving ability to not only detect when something bad is about to happen but the moral obligation to prevent it by traveling briefly back in time. He doesn't have much interest in getting close to the people around him as a result, but Satoru isn't a bad person. Otherwise he'd have given up on saving those around him by now.
This need to rescue people around him is really pulled to the forefront when his mother figures out the man who killed her son's classmates is still free, but is killed by him as a result. The crime is pinned on Satoru and he suddenly travels back in time, not a few minutes like usual, but 18 years. If he can prevent the death of his classmates and catch the right killer this time, they might not die. And neither will his mother.
The year focused on this story has a connection that would be immediately recognizable to most Japanese viewers. 1988-1989 were the years that Tsutomu Miyazaki (“The Otaku Murderer”) was active in kidnapping and murdering young girls. ERASED's real killer, who we get a few glimpses of in this episode, bears physical resemblance to Miyazaki. Both have longer hair and glasses. Not coincidentally, Miyazaki was executed in 2008 for his crimes, a few years after the current time in the show.
This reference adds another sense of urgency as Miyazaki's crimes were particularly horrific. The only one who can prevent multiple kidnappings and murders is now a 10-year-old child, but it's unknown if he'll have access to his power to turn back time when he's already “back in time.” Other instances when his power was used showed time continue on, so it also seems unlikely that he'll just return to his adult self when the mystery is solved. Utilizing a child protagonist in a show like this is risky. Most entertainment won't stoop to hurting and torturing children so it can strip away tension.
ERASED has the foundation laid for a thriller that plays on not long ago real horrors that once caused moral panic through out Japan. As long as the show continues to play its cards close to its chest while leaving out enough breadcrumbs for audiences to follow along, it looks to be the the most engaging show this season.
Here we go. After a couple days of lukewarm-to-bad releases, Erased offers us the season's first legitimately great premier. Everything about this premier just breathes confidence, and I'm already eagerly anticipating the next episode.
Based on a generally acclaimed manga and adapted by a very talented director (Tomohiko Ito, whose clear gifts have so far largely been shackled to Sword Art Online), Erased was already one of the titles I was most anticipating this season, and the show certainly didn't disappoint. The execution of this apparent mystery-thriller was strong, from the writing to the direction to even the voice acting and sound design. In fact, the voice acting deserves special mention; main character Satoru Fujinuma appears to be Shinnosuke Mitsushima's only anime role, but he absolutely nailed the multifaceted ennui of Satoru's existence, bringing a much more grounded take to the material than you usually get in anime leads.
And Mitsushima certainly had plenty of strong material to work with. Not only do Satoru's personal regrets and dissatisfaction with his life seem to already reflect the overarching narrative themes of the work, but Satoru is also brought to life through some of the most believable personal banter I've seen recently. The relationship between Satoru and his coworker, or (in particular) Satoru and his mother, felt far more true-to-life and engaging than most similar anime relationships, making it easy to both get invested in these relationships and trust in the considered richness underlying these characters. Erased works very well as a smartly constructed thriller, but that narrative strength is substantially buoyed by the show's fundamentally excellent character writing and thematic wholeness.
The show's success as a thriller seems to come down to a combination of the well-constructed base material and Ito's excellent direction. On the narrative side, the mechanics of Satoru's one power are described gracefully, in such a way that the drama feels believable even as the story takes some fantastical turns. Satoru's power also feels natural because it seems so fitting for him specifically; it's no surprise that a character who's essentially failed in his life goal, and fears truly engaging with his own identity, would possess a power that promises to redo failure and erase regret. The actual plot beats don't waste time belaboring that narrative grace, though; they jump quickly through a series of hoops, offering multiple hooks and a strong cliffhanger even within this first episode. And on the execution side, Erased's characters possess a wonderfully understated expressiveness, and the show's shot framing does great work in establishing tension in key moments. This whole episode was essentially a prologue, but if its fundamental quality can be trusted, Erased is looking to be one of those rare thrillers that captivates as a narrative even as it demonstrates equally strong character and thematic work. Definitely a show to look out for.
Don't you ever wish you could go back just five minutes to change one small detail? One little thing that could make a huge impact on either your life or someone else's? Of course, it's never quite as easy as all that, because that would make for a really dull show; the reality for Satoru, our non-teenage protagonist, is that it works more like a “what's different about these two pictures?” game. And I don't know about you, but I am terrible at those things.
I initially wasn't going to rate this episode so highly – it has a slow start, some very clunky eposition when Satoru first does his thing, and quite frankly the sparkly butterfly imagery (see screencap) is pretty overdone at this point. But a little over halfway through the episode Satoru doesn't figure out what's different about this picture, and that sends events hurtling towards a terrible eventuality. Somehow this triggers what really hooked me – Satoru has the chance to go back to the previous major regret that he has, the kidnapping (and killing) of a classmate he was the last person to see. I know how those things can haunt you – if I could, I would go back and tell a man I knew not to go on the trip he died on. Hindsight is sometimes more than twenty-twenty, and it looks like that's what Satoru is going to find out.
We've certainly seen the device of an older person in a child's body before – Detective Conan is the go-to title – but Satoru as a twenty-nine-year-old sent back to his eight-year-old self to prevent his classmate's abduction and murder in 1988 is a bigger deal. How this will play out is something that I very much want to see, with both the setting and the character's personal challenge, to say nothing of the whole Stephan King abduction and murder plot in the rural north thing, being very intriguing. Erased has a slow start and doesn't play its hand for a little too long, but keep watching – it's worth it.
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