Granted, Ajin still isn’t out yet and we’ve yet to see what the reaction to the rakugo show will be after initial hype dies down with its second episode, but I somehow doubt any of them will be hitting the top 50 on MAL the way ERASED (not using the weeaboo name) has after only two episodes, so I think “best” is accurate in the above title’s case.
I’m still technically on break, but it turns out that I’m kind of lousy at separating my life from anime to the point that I’ve been sacrificing time that could be spent finishing Phantom Pain or getting into XCOM in time for the sequel sampling stuff just like everyone else has. Now I’m not going to do a first impressions post because I don’t want to make my announcement more invalid than it already is, but suffice to say, it looks like the only thing I’ll be taking a break from this season are the bad shows like Active Raid and Phantom World. I’m most likely going to keep up with the shows I enjoy weekly like everyone else does and pseudo-marathon the ones I don’t like sometime before Winter ends, which works out well for my schedule because I never find more than 2-3 shows a season watchable anyways, and that’s a rare occurrence in of itself. Plus, I need something to write about on this blog whilst waiting for my Monday review deadline, so why don’t I talk about the community’s current biggest hit?
I’ll admit it guys, ERASED isn’t bad. It’s the first time in a season that I’ve found an A-1 Pictures show to be far ahead of the pack – if only because the rest of the pack is a big fuckball of lackluster substance and tonal dissonance with the one other exception being about rakugo, a Japanese cultural thing I have never had any interest in. The visual style is creative, the premise interests the mystery-loving side of me, and the execution is spot-on for the most part. There’s no shitty anime comedy ruining the tone and the pacing isn’t super slow for once, probably on account of the fact that A-1 only has twelve episodes to cover the entire manga (which, according to some of my colleagues, is ending soon and the anime will have the same ending as well). It feels more like a live-action drama in the vein of something like Mr. Robot rather than…well…A-1’s other shows this season, which I think really resonates with fans. So whilst I think the praise is overhyped, I’m liking what I see so far.
Having said that, there are some noticeable problems with the show that make me question why people are calling it great to begin with. I know getting this sort of thing is rare in anime, but as my readers should be fully aware of by now, I don’t just interact with anime. I watch live-action TV as well, and compared to what I’ve seen in the field, ERASED doesn’t come close to matching Daredevil or True Detective. It’s not even on the same level as Boardwalk Empire – a show I only think is decent despite all the acclaim it gets (I’ve only seen the first two seasons though). And even if I hadn’t seen them, there’s no getting around the fact that the main dude – whose name I don’t even remember – really bores me as protagonist.
Even if I swallowed that he’s supposed to be the same sort of audience cipher that the main dude in The Tatami Galaxy was, Satoru (yes, I just looked his name up on Wikipedia and accidentally spoiled a good chunk of the story in the process, but whatever. Stories aren’t supposed to rely on the twists and reveals to be good anyways and there’s no guarantee A-1 will stick with the manga even though the chances they’ll deviate are very unlikely) is just not very interesting to follow. The only thing that makes him special are his situation and powers, but otherwise he’s just a very reactionary character with no personal story beyond being a normal bloke who is required to be a proactive plot device when lives are being threatened in front of him. Some people may find his status easy to relate to, but I could replace him with Keanu Reeves and there’d be no difference – apart from the fact that Keanu Reeves would probably kick the murderer’s butt if he showed up in front of him. And if he’s supposed to be one on purpose in order to act as a metaphor for something grander like how Tenma from Monster was meant to symbolize the ultimate good in people, then the show isn’t making it clear to me what said grander purpose is.
Of course, as I said in my last two posts, a boring main character can be made tolerable if the story and other characters bounce off him well enough. With that said, let’s talk about the story first. As well-presented as it is, it’s also been kinda predictable and unchallenging so far, partly due to the first problem with the show I just mentioned. Obviously, time-travel in order to stop crime has been done long before Van Damme did it, let alone this show and Steins;Gate. However, when Steins;Gate was at its best, it was using the time travel story to explore Okabe’s hypocrisy and the mental breakdown caused by his inability to save the girls in his life, and Satoru hasn’t experienced anything close to that so far. In fact, ERASED hasn’t even questioned the downsides of using time travel at all, nor does it push Satoru’s revisiting of his childhood far enough. Right now, the show is getting by on the tension generated from our main dude’s struggle against what seems to be a hopeless situation rather than something mind-racing. I’m not seeing the Japanese shinto metaphors that elevated Noragami above the rest of the shonen action stuff is all I’m saying.
As for the other characters, the few we get to know haven’t exactly done much to stand out yet, but they’re okay. Satoru’s mother is about as likable as these sort of anime mother characters are when they bother to show up. And whilst we don’t know much about Kayo, she seems fine so far. Okay, the fact that she’s a lonely girl is a bit of a cliche, but at least it’s a personal flaw important to the story, even if we don’t know the reason for said loneliness as of yet. And the show doesn’t deal with that issue cheaply like Haruchika did with its latest episode (you can tell that show is being directed by the Tari Tari guy because dear god that second episode was emotionally shallow as fuck), nor do I see it going to that level anytime soon. You could make the argument that the show seems to be going the “boy saves girl” route and that the serial killer stuff is just a convenient excuse for said route to happen, but I think wish-fulfillment like that is something we’re always going to have to put up with in regards to these kinds of stories. Of course, if Satoru ends up saving more girls down the road without a single boy being targeted by the serial killer in sight, then I’ll be very disappointed. I don’t care if the show later explains that said killer has a thing for putting a knife into females. It’s just too cliche for me.
Still though, I thought this scene was kinda cute.
Those are pretty much all my grievances with the one Winter show I’m kinda liking so far, but they are major. More major than any “minor change to the source material” will ever be (seriously, shut up manga fans). Hopefully ERASED will fix one or two of them in the coming months – I think it’s clear at this point that Satoru getting more interesting isn’t going to happen – because as of right now, whilst I can see myself enjoying how the story unfolds from here on out, I don’t see myself rewatching this thing anytime in the future. Anyone who’s familiar with my preferences will know that I like my anime (and fiction in general) to either make me think or make me laugh. And I very much doubt the latter is going to happen anytime soon.
- FYI, the other shows I’m keeping up with on a weekly basis are the new Lupin (thank god for the official subs) and the new Garo (latest episode revived some of my interest). Neither of them are very rewatchable either.
- Personally, I’d be fine with the show just saying Kayo has never had a good time making friends. I think giving a tragic reason for it would be too overdramatic.
- You have no idea how antsy I get on the train ride to work when I don’t have something to watch on my laptop.
- Actually, the first Ajin movie just got subbed a few hours ago. I just haven’t taken the time to watch it yet.