Anime Monday - Erased

Erased is another anime series that I listed in my anime of the decade post a few months back, and with good reason. Of course back then I didn't have the time to talk about what makes Erased so great, nor was I really able to dive into the story that much. So I'm glad that today I finally get a chance to fix that. It's a series I foolishly put off watching for quite some time, and today I'm going to tell you why you shouldn't make my mistake. I'll admit it won't be easy to explain things without going into too major of spoilers, but I'll do my best.

Modern Day:

The story of Erased begins in the modern day. Satoru Fujinuma is a 29 year old manga artist who is struggling to make it in life. He's talented as an artist, but he lacks originality, and no one seems to think his works are worth anything. No matter how much he tries to right this wrong he fails, and instead is forced to rely on his part time job delivering pizza to get by. He's stuck in a rut, and it really seems like there is no hope of escaping it. However there is one thing that makes Satoru a bit special compared to everyone else, and it's something he feels he must continue to act on. It's an "ability" of sorts he has dubbed "Revival."

When Revival activates Satoru gets a funny feeling. Sorta like deja vu. When this happens he must look out for anything strange around him and correct it, or else it might lead to something devastating. In the show's opening this happens during his pizza delivery route, and it leads him to discovering a truck driver passed out at the wheel. Satoru ends up risking everything to stop the truck, and in return saves countless lives in the process. Sure he gets hurt himself, but he feels as if it's worth it. It's not the first time he's witnessed Revival activate, and he still regrets his past where he failed to help someone who needed it the most.

After recovering from his injuries, Satoru returns home to his apartment to find that his mother has stopped by for a visit. Much to his dismay not only does she stop by for a visit unannounced, she decides that she'll be staying with him for awhile. She's upset that he didn't let her know he got hurt, and she plans to stick around for the time being. This is what eventually leads to Satoru's past catching up with him, and because of that he returns home to a bloody mess in his kitchen. It doesn't take long for the cops to show up to investigate the scene, and Satoru is framed for murder. So he does what any sane person would do, and runs for his life! (Yeah, don't do that). It's unclear if it's due to the stress of the situation or what, but as Satoru runs he notices things start to change, and before he knows it he's waking up in a familiar location from his past. Revival has activated once again, but this time he's gone back more than just a few seconds.

Reliving His Childhood:

At first Satoru can't believe it, but it doesn't take long for him to accept it. Due to Revival's power Satoru finds himself in his childhood home from 18 roughly years ago. Satoru himself is only 10, and he has no idea what he should do. Will he have to relive his life over again? Or has he been sent there to fix something? He's not sure at first, but upon returning to his old school he remembers. Kayo Hinazuki.

Kayo was a young girl who lived a horrible life. Her mom didn't like her, her mom's boyfriends beat her, and even all of the kids at school distanced themselves from her. She was an outcast, with no one to turn to. She was a poor lonely girl, who eventually found herself dead before her life even started. Satoru saw her right before she died, and he hesitated to speak to her. After that day he's always wondered if he could've prevented what happened, and now he finally has that chance. Kayo is now alive, but the clock is ticking. It won't be long until that fateful day arrives, but Satoru is determined to save her.

While the original manga series had multiple story arcs, each focusing on a victim of the serial killer, the Erased anime only focuses on Kayo's story. We get to see Satoru as he tries to get closer to her, and we slowly get to learn more about who she is and the kinda of life she lives. Of course this is easier said than done. Kayo has a problem with opening up to others, and she's never really had a friend before. When Satoru suddenly starts speaking to her she's not sure how to react, and even the other kids in school give her and Satoru a hard time about it. These are 10-11 year old kids, and they are just as immature as you might expect. Satoru on the other hand, doesn't let any of this bother him. He's 29 years old, and he honestly doesn't care what other dumb kids might think. Seeing this does help Kayo open up a bit more, but it's not as simple as that. The fact remains that Kayo will die if Satoru doesn't make a change, and simply being her friend might not be enough.

As the series progresses we also learn more about the supporting cast, as well as their futures. Satoru knows how specific events in the past would go on and shape their future lives, so he does what he can to help them, while also staying on the look out for possible clues as to who the killer might be. Was it someone Kayo knew? Could it be someone in her family? But what about the future cases? Why would they continue to target children even after Kayo's death? A suspect was arrested and put behind bars, but did they really get the right man? This is something Satoru has to investigate for himself, as he tries to get behind everything. Kayo is just one piece of the puzzle, but in Satoru's eyes, she is the most important piece. No matter what she has to live, and he's ready to do anything to make that a reality.

One thing that Erased does amazingly well is how it gets you invested in it's characters. You sympathize with with Satoru, and you can't help but want to see Kayo be saved. She's a sweat innocent girl, and you do not want to see anything bad happen to her. Seeing her life is heart breaking, and there's no guarantee that Satoru will actually succeed. This is a series where things can get bad fast, and every moment Kayo isn't around, you can't help but worry about her. She will die if Satoru can't change the past, but sometimes changing the past isn't possible. Fate plays a huge role in many time travel based stories, and in Erased it might not be any different.

Should You Watch It:

Sadly Erased is not a complete story. The anime focuses on the initial story centered around Kayo, and then skips ahead through most of the other cases. This does not mean the story ends prematurely however, as it does continue on to the manga's ending. Because of this Erased is quite a bit different from other manga adaptations which get cut short, because despite missing content we do get to see the conclusion of the story. In a way this is both a good and bad thing because on one hand we get to see how it ends, but on the other it makes going back to the original manga harder. Knowing the outcome of the story hinders the later story arcs, but it doesn't completely ruin what's left. So if you're someone who only cares about the anime you'll be completely fine just watching it, but if you'd rather see the entire story from start to finish, the manga is no doubt the way to go. Or at least watch Kayo's story, and then continue reading from there. (Although even this was slightly altered.)

That being said, Erased is still a great story, and one I strongly recommend checking out. The cast of characters are great, the music fits perfectly (I love that opening song), and the art style is really nice as well. Being set in the late 80s it is also filled with non stop references back to that point of time, so it may even make some older viewers nostalgic. Although the story is focused on saving a young girl, the element of getting to relive your childhood is there as well, and it feels pretty great. Satoru gets to live the dream of returning to his past, and it's fun seeing how he handles things differently the second time around. He's much smarter than everyone around him (as he's 29), and he is able to do things that are normally beyond what a 10 year old is capable of. It's a fun journey through the past, but with a dark murder mystery mixed in with it. It's one of those shows you won't want to stop watching once you've started it, and when it ends you'll wish it wasn't over. So yes, I recommend watching it despite the cut content.

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