Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
[Hardcover] GN 5
In a wrap-up to the series, people involved with and affected by Satoru Fujinuma reveal what his coma meant to and for them, from his mother's attempts to carry on to his friend Kenya's motivation to become a better person.
There are plenty of reasons why a series might not use a direct translation of its title for its localization, and while titles are undoubtedly important, both as a means for the author to give a feeling for the story and as a motivating factor in picking up the book in the first place, oftentimes changes made simply serve to make a given title more appealing to an audience foreign to its originating culture. In the case of Erased, however, it's very important to remember that the original Japanese title of the series translates to “A Town Without Me,” because in this final volume (five in the English-language release and nine in the original), that's the central theme.
The main story follows Satoru Fujinuma, a young man who is adversely affected by the events of the winter he was in fifth grade. While it wouldn't be fair to say that he is outwardly haunted by the deaths of two of his classmates, the implication is that his strange power of “revival” – the ability to go back in time to correct a situation – directly stems from regrets he can't quite verbalize. This becomes apparent when his mother, Sachiko, is murdered and Satoru is accused of the crime; suddenly he finds himself back in 1988, a thirty-year-old mind in a ten-year-old body. Satoru quickly realizes that he needs to prevent the murders of Kayo Hinazuki and two other children, and that this is somehow tied with his mother's death in the early 2000s.
As the main story progresses, we're kept entirely within Satoru's perspective – he's our first-person narrator and while we occasionally get a thought-bubble from someone else, it's largely Satoru who frames our understanding of the narrative. We certainly do understand that his friend Kenya Kobayashi gains increasing respect for him or that his mother is aware that there's something inexplicably different about her son, but other characters are left entirely as Satoru sees them. This final volume changes that – it consists of short stories narrated by Kenya, Kayo, Sachiko, and Airi Katagiri, the girl with whom adult Satoru was involved before his jump through time.
Of these characters, Airi feels like the most inscrutable. In part that's because she played the smallest role in the main story – we could guess that she and Satoru had feelings for each other from the way she helped him, but she was in high school the first time around and there was a kind of creepy aspect to it. There also was some concern that Kayo was who Satoru was “supposed” to be with, so there was a bit of uncertainty as to the role Airi truly played. This makes her story, the final one in the book, in some ways the most informative, because now her meeting with Satoru is one without baggage – she's no longer in high school and she doesn't know him as the co-worker accused of killing his mother. When they meet, it's just chance, and we readers know Airi as someone who is looking for inspiration and a new person in her life. She and Satoru, in other words, are now meeting on more equal ground. For her, time in the eponymous town without [him] has given her a chance to grow up and be ready to meet him as a person who knows what she wants.
It therefore makes sense that Kayo's story opens the book, because without Satoru, the story would take place in a town lacking her. Kayo and Hiromi only continue to exist because of Satoru, and even though Kayo doesn't know the full story, she's very much aware that he saved her and that she owes him her life. This makes her conflicted – initially she feels that she must stay by his side as he sleeps because she is indebted to him. Kenya and Sachiko help her to understand that the best way for her to pay Satoru back is to live her life, because that's ultimately what he wanted, although no one simply comes out and says as much. This may make readers who felt that Kayo and Satoru ought to have ended up together feel better in a way that Kenya's and Sachiko's observations that Satoru doesn't like Kayo romantically can't – without Satoru, neither Kayo nor Hiromi would exist, so their romance would never have happened and their daughter, Mirai, would not have been born. Satoru may have initially set out to solve the mystery out of selfishness (to redeem himself), but ultimately he just didn't want a town (world) without them. When Kayo realizes that she has to keep moving forward, Satoru has truly succeeded.
Both Kenya's two-chapter tale and Sachiko's diary-format story are, however, the most striking. For them more than Kayo and Airi, they are never living in a town without Satoru – he directs their thoughts and actions in the shadows of his past actions. Kenya specifically could have gone down a very different road without Satoru coming back in time and helping him to see that people are more important than grades and helping him to learn empathy, which interestingly enough is part of what never happened for the series' villain. Sachiko, meanwhile, recognizes that there's something different about her son, and although she never says it aloud, it wouldn't be surprising to find out that she had suspected all along that he had somehow traveled back through time. It's the newly compassionate Satoru that motivates both of them, helping to soothe Sachiko's fears for her son and giving Kenya solid goals to work towards in his life. We don't know what happened to Kenya in the first world, the one where Kayo died, but we can guess that he and Satoru lost touch and that much as Satoru lead an unfulfilled life, Kenya did the same.
Erased as a series is both a meditation on the affects people and their actions have on others' lives and a time-travel mystery. This final volume focuses more on the former than the latter, exploring Satoru through the eyes of those close to him. It's an excellent epilogue to the larger story, and if Kei Sanbe's art isn't always adept, it more than conveys what it needs to here. The book reminds us that a town without the Satoru he grows into over the course of the main story would be just as lacking as one without Kayo or Hiromi or Aya Nakanishi. Like John Donne said, no one is an island – and even if he is, little bridges still connect us to each other.
Overall : A-
Story : A
Art : B
+ Nicely wraps things up and provides other perspectives on Satoru.
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