Some Major Problems With Winter 2016’s Best Anime — An ERASED Post

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.

Minor Quips

  • 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.

44 responses to “Some Major Problems With Winter 2016’s Best Anime — An ERASED Post

  1. It might not be the best thing out there considering we’re comparing it with True Detective and Daredevil which are two of the greatest TV Shows I have ever seen. I still think it’s pretty darn good compared to a lot of anime we’ve been getting recently and I like the mystery in the plot as it gives my mind something to think about even after the episode is over. I can’t ask for much more when it comes to anime. Hardly any anime does that for you anymore.

    I agree, the main character is boring but he’s relatable because most people see themselves as boring and I for one can put myself in his position and see myself acting in a similar way. It explores the whole fake personality in front of people to get by things and to do so, the main character has to have the bland personality otherwise there would be no need to ‘perform’. Well that’s my opinion anyway.

    Great post by the way. I enjoyed the read.

    http://sleepinggeeks.com

    • Can’t say I’m pondering about much in regards to the show so far aside from how Satoru is going to help Kayo. And that’s not really something I dwell on too much.

      It explores the whole fake personality in front of people to get by things

      I don’t think ERASED is doing anything all that unique with the fake personality stuff so far.

  2. I think my biggest issue here is how loosely defined and arbitrary the time travel mechanics. Whilst I’m happy that there’s only enough explanation given to make sense of the story, there’s still a risk that these mechanics will be abused down the road. It’ll be all good so long as Satoru’s revivals don’t give him too many second chances to fix things, otherwise the time travel might cheapen the story.

    “and there’s no guarantee A-1 will stick with the manga even though the chances they’ll deviate are very unlikely”

    The director confirmed that the anime will have the same ending as the manga (which hasn’t actually ended, but the author probably slipped the staff his ideas) for what it’s worth. Sure everything in between is still up for grabs, but I imagine the anime will still hit the same big notes.

    • Stupid Wikipedia search telling me what happened to the characters so far in the manga when I just wanted to look up the characters’ names.

      Personally, considering how Satoru’s time travel stuff is something he doesn’t have full control over, I don’t see him getting many second chances.

  3. One thing you need to get clear, which is a huge mistake me and everyone has made is that A.1 Pictures (Animation Studios, unless head or top in the production committee) has no hand in the decisions of this show other than the fact that they paint, illustrate and animate this show.

    It`s all up to the companies that produce this show for the major decisions like episode length, marketing, adaption and etc.

    The director handles the script and presents it visually and sonically. As the writer will do his job in adapting the original work into the animation.

    I also agree that aside from the cinematic presentation in visual scale.

    The characters are okay, the voice acting is great in the lead, Yuuki & Kayo Hinadzuki. They capture the essence of the characters so very well.

    But yes back on characters: his friends are you`re average anime friends just scaled down to 10-11 year olds, Kayo is just that kind of emotionless quiet girl (But the writer really do a good job with taking into account of her adolescence by having her mix up Japanese honorifics around. When referring to Satoru`s mother.)

    Well I hope for the best for this show.

    Thanks for pointing somethings out, others aren`t at the moment.

    – Chrissy.C of https://saechaocirculation.wordpress.com/

  4. It’s definitely the best anime of the season (so far). I’m really liking the mystery/suspense and it’s kept me guessing about what’s going to happen next. Like you, I’m also liking the fast pace. I do agree that the main isn’t that interesting but that isn’t taking away much of my enjoyment of the show.

    I also heard that the show’s ending will be the same as the manga ending so it hopefully won’t be bad like the ending to Flowers of Evil.

  5. “And if he’s supposed to be [boring] on purpose in order to act as a metaphor for something grander”

    He is supposed to represent the average person in the sense that he regrets certain decisions in his life and wishes he could change things.

    The fact that he’s a cipher is also a plot-important point. In the first episode, we’re told that the readers of his manga can’t see his “face”. Crucially, Kayo says the exact same thing about him in episode 2.

    One more interesting/relatable thing about him as a character is the contrast between his older and younger self. In some ways, it’s shown that the adult “mind” of Satoru is still childlike at heart, like when he blushes about building a connection with Kayo. It makes sense when you remember how in the first episode, it’s shown that he has trouble making connections with others.

    Overall, I think he’s a genuinely interesting character. He definitely feels like a main character in the sense that his actions drive the plot, and that the themes of the story revolve around his personal feelings of regret.

    • I’ll keep that in mind when I watch future episodes, but the show’s going to need to push the positive aspects you see in Satoru a little harder for me to warm up to him. I don’t want him to be the same as the Tatami Galaxy dude because I could just watch that show again if I wanted that, but so far I can’t really see him as a character anymore than I can Batman.

  6. Well, I quite like this one (I like the rakugo even better though) but my main beef in this series is it relies on shock to get attention. Not that it’s bad but that can only take you in a certain distance. I didn’t mind the reactionary main lead nor his time travel thing…. but I hope the side characters are also interesting as well. In this case not so much.

    Enough for my nitpicking. Am I dreaming? A good A-1 Pictures show that is poising itself to be the best this season, heck even visually?! Wow.

    • You jinxed it. Nooooooooo!

      I like the rakugo even better though

      I tried that show last week, but it drew a blank from me. I just can’t laugh at (or care about) Japanese comedy.

      • So at least it will be tolerable this time in terms of pacing. What’s left to be afraid of is the brain cell-killing plot twist that The Perfect Insider showed last season that Erased may also have.

        Uhm… As for Rakugo, I don’t know. I view it as a drama show similar to soap operas that’s why I appreciate it. The pacing is kinda slow though but it is very even in my opinion.

  7. Without spoiling, I’d say the main character of this show kind of reminds me of the guy from Barry Lyndon in the sense that he goes against his own nature because of external factors (though the external factors in Barry Lyndon are different from the ones in this). Also I’ve read the manga and I’d say it’s as much about the inherent risk in trusting people as much as it’s about the mystery.

    The only place I’d disagree with you on a fundamental level is that using time travel as a plot device makes the show responsible for examining the ups and downs of time travel.

    • Well the very basis of the story is what you’d do if you had the ability to fix your past mistakes. And I’d really like the show to delve into that aspect more than just a plot device considering it’s a little to important to the story to exist just for that.

  8. Geez, just admit you don’t like anime any more Flaw. Comparing this show to Daredevil is unfair – yeah, it may not have the same writing chops (though arguably, in DD, Murdock was hardly that great a main character… it was Fisk who stole the show) but that’s not all there is to it. For example something I greatly appreciate in animation is its capacity for visual creativity and the use of directorial tricks that often would look cheesy/fake in live action (a lot of the sequence of Satoru’s first revival, the one with the truck, wouldn’t play as well in live action IMHO). So yeah, it might not be *the greatest thing* but it’s pretty good. Also, I think you really attribute too much weight to the name “A-1 Pictures”. A-1 is a big ass studio with lots of different teams and that can cover a range of projects from dirt cheap to high budget and from generic otaku tripe to artsy niche stuff. There’s little to nothing in common between Shin Sekai Yori, Sword Art Online, Silver Spoon and this. If anything they admittedly sin of being sometimes *too* generic – they very much seem to just get the job done competently enough, and that’s about it. Anyway, the buzz around this mostly comes from what is known about the manga, not so much the team working on it. It’s a popular manga (and I DO understand if people complains about changes because that does not usually happen in a vacuum – it generally means that material written by a competent writer gets replaced by some shit slapped together by an hack script-writer at A-1, which almost invariably results in loss of quality), so people were looking forward to it.

    I don’t see why they ought to explore the consequences of time travel either. I mean, in this case I’d say time travel is merely a plot device to enable the exploration of the idea of regret. It’s not a sci-fi show focusing on potential technologies and their consequences, so what’s the problem? It’s like complaining that A Christmas Carol didn’t explain the effects on the space-time continuum of Scrooge seeing his own future and deciding to change it, thus splicing the timeline to create a parallel universe where he became good and generous.

    • I don’t see why they ought to explore the consequences of time travel either. I mean, in this case I’d say time travel is merely a plot device to enable the exploration of the idea of regret.

      I think you misunderstand me. I don’t need the show to explore the consequences of time travel specifically. However, a large part of the regret themes ERASED deals with is questioning what you would do if you had the ability to fix the events that led to said regrets. That’s something I’d like to see the show play with on multiple sides.

      It’s a popular manga…so people were looking forward to it.

      I know it had a decent reputation, but it never got the same amount of coverage that Parasyte or One-Punch Man had. At least not from the circles I saw.

      • Parasyte is very old and had a long fame, and OPM is more “mainstream popular”. Boku Dake instead was apparently very popular in the seinen circles, which of course are a bit more restricted but also usually have also the most interesting stuff on their radars. Depends on your demographic and tastes of course.

        As for time travel… we still don’t know how it’s going to evolve, it’s only episode 2. But I don’t think we necessarily need it to go down the “he tries to fix X but fucks Y up” route. I’m perfectly fine with the power used as a means to explore a thriller story from a shifting, unusual perspective. We’ve seen that whole thing where time travelling is hybris and never ends well a lot of times anyway (I believe “The Butterfly Effect” had a near identical concept at its core as this show’s Revival).

      • (let’s say that for now I see it as a sort of a twist on a “cold case” story. But let’s see where it goes)

      • I don’t think he needs to fuck up anything in particular. Just run into a few snags along the way. I haven’t played Life is Strange yet, but I’m sure it has a few ideas I’d like to see in this show before its controversial ending.

  9. Let’s just say I’m impressed enough by Boku Machi (especially by its protagonist and his shifting narrator/character dynamic, I should add) that I’m holding off on considering anything negative about it until either the show strikes me with something too hard as I watch or the show ends. I want to enjoy this as much as possible. It’s rare that this happens.

    Regardless, I think your ‘major’ flaws are prematurely stated for the sake of opinion. Are we really, in two episodes, going to have what you want out of the time-travel mechanic sorted? That’s something the whole show will either handle or not, so criticising it now is effectively stating interest in that potential development, which is the opposite of a flaw in the show. The lack of problems with time travel so far have made you want to see some. That’s a /good/ thing. It’s maintaining interest; it’s one of many carrots on many sticks, one I want to take a bite out of too, ever since Charlotte. Argue otherwise and you’re as bad as one of those wish-fulfilment manga readers who want a panel-for-panel representation of the source material. Or can you not think positively about not having something?

    Also, to say ‘the only thing that makes [Satoru] 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’ involves giving no credit to the dynamic of character and narrator being separated, the adult in the child, and thus no thoughts on the relation between this and his ‘pretending’, and Kayo’s ‘pretending’, and the killer’s ‘pretending’. He’s no ‘normal bloke’ – he’s a self-considered failure, and yet humbly and willingly saves people’s lives; he now needs to save his mothers and, first, Kayo’s.

    You’re ignoring the characterisation of the show rather than evaluating it, and it’s again making little argument for the character being boring, and much for the thought of you boring yourself as a critic.

    • I want to enjoy this as much as possible. It’s rare that this happens.

      Regardless, I think your ‘major’ flaws are prematurely stated for the sake of opinion.

      Or can you not think positively about not having something?

      Negative stuff is more fun to write about and more kinder to a show in the long run, especially when no one else is doing it in regards to ERASED. I don’t see why just because I like the show so far means I can’t criticize it. And two episodes is a perfect length to get major grievances out the way since most anime don’t get better after that amount of time. It’s sad to admit, but it’s the truth.

      he’s a self-considered failure, and yet humbly and willingly saves people’s lives

      You’re ignoring the characterisation of the show rather than evaluating it

      I thought I cleared this up to you on the DC post that I don’t consider this sort of characterization interesting, because it’s the same characterization as Batman. And this sort of characterization has been done to death, thus it’s not worth evaluating.

      • ‘Done to death, so not worth evaluating’

        So you’re in your job as long as you keep yourself uneducated about just how much everything you watch has already been done thousands of times. ‘kay.

        ‘two episodes is a perfect length to get major grievances out the way since most anime don’t get better after that amount of time. It’s sad to admit, but it’s the truth’

        I guess it is on your blog, when you’re this judgemental early on.

        I’m already done here.

      • So you’re in your job as long as you keep yourself uneducated about just how much everything you watch has already been done thousands of times. ‘kay.

        You’ve obviously never read any of my posts where I acknowledge that there’s nothing new under the sun and originality is overrated (which I even have a tag for).

      • I have. You know there’s nothing new under the sun, but you don’t know what the sun is, nor what we do with everything being familiar beneath it.

        If I ever pointed out that a 12 episode show’s major flaw is that after two episodes one of the many elements of the protagonist is Batman-esque, I’d resign my stance as a critic.

      • Maybe, but not everyone sees Batman-esque protagonists the same way you do. Just because someone disagrees with your point of view doesn’t mean they don’t get it.

        Plus, I think saying the show’s major flaw is that the protagonist is Batman-esque is a compliment as long as it’s assured that it’s “the” major flaw rather than “a” major flaw (like that godawful Thief reboot). Because that generally means good things for the rest of the show.

      • You’re free to do what you want, but one important thing about being a critic is recognizing when one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. I mean I think most porn – especially the modern stuff – sucks, but it’s a multi-billion dollar industry.

      • It’s target market acknowledges it as artistically trash because most of it obviously lacks artistic metit. It sells because of base appeal. Those two things are very different currencies in art.

        Here we are, however, discussing under the same currency of enjoyability of character.

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