Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Having failed to save Kayo once in the past and getting arrested for crimes he didn't commit in the present, Satoru bets everything on one last Revival. Can he save all three potential victims and figure out the killer before it's too late? And what happens when he risks becoming a victim himself?
There are several approaches a mystery story can take to solving its central crime, but perhaps one of the most frustrating is when the viewer has things figured out long before the detective does. Unfortunately, the second half of ERASED reaches this point for some viewers. Granted, the solution is almost so easy that could be just as swiftly discarded by veteran mystery buffs, who might dismiss it initially as too simple an answer. In any case, the mystery's solution is really the biggest detriment to this otherwise excellent show.
Despite issues with the reveal – and in all fairness, this series is attempting to condense eight manga volumes into twelve episodes, which could necessitate a lot of information being presented too quickly or left out – these six episodes are more intense than their predecessors. This is partly because Satoru has already failed to save Kayo, Aya, and Hiromi, which leads to his own arrest in 2006, so we fully know the stakes should he fail again. That makes his Revival to 1988 much more fraught, since he may not have any more chances to change the past. This tension leads him to allow his school friends in on what's happening, at least much as he can. Kenya, the quiet member of the group who always seems to be hanging back, has noticed that there's something different about Satoru and asks if he can help with his mission. Kenya's help forces Satoru to understand how the killer chooses his victims – he targets kids who are alone.
It's this realization that opens the door to the show's central theme, that no one can make it alone. Once Satoru gains the help of Kenya and Hiromi in saving Kayo, along with his mother and teacher, he's able to better work toward his goal. By keeping her from both her mother's abusive clutches and being alone in general, Satoru is able to thwart the killer and orchestrate a rescue. Of course, he's so focused on this aspect of his task that he doesn't put all the pieces together until it's too late, and his mistake of going after the culprit alone has major repercussions. This could be because he's still trying to think like a twenty-nine-year-old despite being in a child's body with a child's mental capacity – when he realizes that Kayo is abused and Aya and Hiromi are latchkey kids, he doesn't see himself as being in the same danger because he sees them as kids and himself as an adult. While it is up to him to save them, remembering his limitations as a child isn't always easy.
There is a slim and strange possibility that the idea of “saving” the children is also going through the killer's mind, which could arguably be backed up by the events of episode nine. Yes, their neglected status makes them easy prey, but by killing them, the murderer is also “saving” them from their miserable lives. It's the same theory that we see in the stories of Hans Christian Andersen, where a death in childhood means a life free of later torment. Although it isn't a perfect analogy, there are enough visual similarities in ERASED to Andersen's stories to make this psychology possible, from the harsh winter landscapes to the thoughtless cruelty of Kayo's parents. Even Kayo's ultimate rescue from living with her mother can be seen as an inverted link to “The Little Match Girl;” it's just that Satoru's idea of what rescue means does not involve death, as Andersen's and the killer's do.
The English dub of the series continues to be very strong, with especially good performances from David Collins as Yashiro and Michelle Ruff as young Satoru. Both make appearances in the episode commentaries (as does Ben Diskin's dog Rex), and while the commentaries in general aren't as spirited as Funimation's, they're still interesting, especially if you're curious about how people got into voice acting or ended up with their roles in this particular show. Perhaps the most interesting extra is the interview with the director in one of the two included booklets. This is very in-depth, discussing everything from color choices to the music to the use of the blue butterfly in the final scenes of the show, and even if reading interviews isn't something you normally do, I'd highly recommend reading this one. Wait until after you've finished watching the series, however, as the booklet is rife with spoilers. The included manga, which tells part of the story from Kayo's point of view, should also wait until you're finished with the series.
ERASED is a story about changing the past, though perhaps not about actually erasing it. Even though Satoru has created two new timelines by the time the series ends, he still retains his memories of the old worlds, taking some sting out of the final timeline's results. Both the English title and the story's original one, “A Town Without Me,” are incorporated into the finale, as Satoru realizes that a town without him doesn't mean one where he no longer exists. Kayo wrote about leaving town behind, but even when it existed without her physically, she was still there in Satoru's memories. Ultimately, Satoru's actions create a world where the town don't need to lose any of his friends, where people can exist when they never got the chance to do so before. It doesn't always take the smoothest storytelling paths to get us there, but ERASED does work in the end. While it stumbles in its big reveal and finale, it still carries its message through to a satisfying conclusion, where saving one life really did end up saving an entire world.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B
Animation : B+
Art : B
Music : A-
+ Great use of shadow, carries out its themes well, extras are all very interesting, conclusion is largely satisfying, Sachiko is one of the best mothers in anime
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