The Emotional Manipulation of ERASED — An ERASED Post

Rain rain, go away. We don’t need any more indication that this situation is sad.

ERASED is emotionally pandering. That’s not a criticism in of itself because we knew this from the very beginning and liked the show anyways. As I said back in my Clannad: The Movie review, all drama tries to tug at our emotions, and ERASED can’t avoid drama to begin with because its entire premise is based on a guy trying to rewrite history and removing any dramatic aspects would make watching the show really fucking boring. Lack of drama is pretty much the main reason why everything that’s not ERASED and/or Rakugo has been sucking balls this season. Well okay, that’s not entirely true. Grimgar – the other pretty A-1 Pictures show this season – has drama. It’s just a pity that it’s so dryly executed to the point of cheapness, and ERASED hasn’t fared much better lately. Although I think I know the exact reason why ERASED (and I think Grimgar too, but I can’t be bothered to check its ranking) is so high up on MAL’s top anime list now. If Your Lie In April wasn’t any indication before, the crowd there just can’t resist getting their heart strings tugged, even when said tugging is thin and doesn’t carry a whole lot of substance.

Anyways, ERASED hasn’t lost me yet, but these last few episodes haven’t been very good. And it’s not like I ever thought the show was great to begin with, given how it’s mostly just gotten by on non-retarded execution of familiar elements – which never excites me as much as it does other people. In fact, the way the show plays out reminds me of Makoto Shinkai’s films. Y’know, the way he always focuses on a small set of characters who talk about their feelings whilst using pretty environments to build atmosphere as well as please the eyes? The difference though is that Shinkai’s drama happens as a combination of circumstance and character flaws whereas ERASED has a lot of the former and not much of the latter. While it’s true that initially, Takaki and Akari couldn’t be together because the latter’s parents had to move away and their reunion as kids hit a bit of a snag when the train got snowed in for a few hours, by the time they grew up and cell phones became a thing, they had no one to blame but themselves for their inability to either meet again or move on. Or at least Takaki did. I still find it a bit of a missed opportunity that we don’t seem much on Akari’s end in that film.

One big problem with ERASED, as I mentioned the last time I wrote about it, is that Satoru is not very engaging as a protagonist. After six episodes aka twice the length of 5 Centimeters Per Second, that problem still hasn’t been fixed. All his proactive decisions are entirely circumstance-driven and he has no personal faults that are important to the story in any way. Having him be a fugitive and killing off those he cares about hasn’t helped. Okay, he gets some funny lines once in a while due to his habit of talking out loud at times, but I don’t see him being played by anyone other than Orlando Bloom in the live-action adaptation.

I was tolerating him when he was a kid because everyone and everything around him was interesting enough. Okay fine, Kayo’s story is no different from one of those visual novel routes where a guy has to save the girl from her emotional troubles when you look at it closely, and having to avert the actions of a serial killer as the main reason doesn’t change that. But even by my strict standards, I have to give a pass to some of anime’s dumber moments if I’m going to enjoy this medium and as long as Satoru didn’t do the same thing for Kayo as he does for the other two victims – who incidentally have been mostly ignored even when one of them is a member of his group of friends – then I could just chalk it up as long as Kayo herself was fun to watch. And yeah, her character type isn’t much different from a reclusive female from one of those melodramatic visual novel adaptations either when you get down to it. But even if Satoru was the catalyst, what I liked about her was her desire to become more friendly even with all the odds stacked against her, and that she did contribute to her own change into a more open person. It may not have been enough of a twist on her archetype to make her a great character, but it was enough for me to give a pass to that one episode that was just a date between kids whilst basically spelling out “BAD END” the entire way through.

More importantly though, Kayo’s story/fate was tying into the part of the show’s premise that interests me: the pros and consequences of trying to correct mistakes from the past. I thought after the BAD END occurred, we’d get some more insight on that – but no, the story conveniently activated Satoru’s power to make him go back to the present time. Which wouldn’t have been too terrible by itself, except by doing so, it stripped Satoru of everything that made his journey interesting aka the feeling of being trapped in the past and anything having to do with Kayo apart from one token nod that his actions did change the future a bit. And it hasn’t been able to replace that with an equally interesting approach into getting from Point A to Point B, or to make me care about following Satoru in the first place. Airi is nowhere near as sympathetic as Kayo since most of her character is based on supporting Satoru (not to mention, the drama revolving around her father and chocolates was stupid), so when she gets injured by making the stupid decision of opening the door during a fire, I don’t care. The constant exposition/explaining of the mystery is dull to watch, visual tricks or no, if there’s not something else going on in the background. And when you’re doing a dramatic reveal of the villain, make sure you don’t give him the same voice actor as an established character.

Also, is it me, or has the drama become more contrived lately? I was already having my suspension of disbelief tested with the abusive parents and Satoru’s complete lack of sympathy towards Hiromi despite fully knowing he was a victim (as the latest episode reaffirms), and I know the cops in this show are stupid. But Jesus Christ, the amount of incompetence they displayed in the latest episode just to have the villain frame our lead is ludicrously dumb. And I don’t get why the villain is trying so hard to frame Satoru in the first place. You risk more suspicion on yourself when you do something like that, so what’s the point?

My main concern at this point is that the show won’t ever explore what it really means to change the past. And if that was never its intention all along, then it sure isn’t replacing what I wanted with something I didn’t know I want. I’ve long since written off the show as rewatch-worthy due to how typical the plot and characters were, but being eligible for my top six of the year isn’t bad. Now ERASED might not even get that. It just looks to be another drama about a boy saving a girl with all the time travel and stuff being a convenient excuse in order to accomplish that when it’s supposed to be the other way around. Sure MAL will continue to eat it up and I’m sure this anime is going to sell well, but the really tragic thing is that I thought this show would be the surprise studio hit – in a period when pretty mediocre yet extremely popular anime studios (Deen, PA Works, KyoAni, Bones) are pulling them out no less – that A-1 Pictures needed. Now all I seem to have at this point are more reasons to hate the studio.

Just goes to show back when I was being cautiously optimistic about Concrete Revolutio: you should NEVER assume a good show will stay good until the very end.

Minor Quips

  • How much longer is this present-day arc going to last anyways?
  • For the record, I don’t think Grimgar and Phantom World are that bad as of late. They’re just too light in content for what they’re trying to achieve.
  • Three more seasons of Game of Thrones to go before I catch up to the thing. Not relevant to this post, but I just wanted to say that.
  • FYI, Satoru’s loud thoughts in the latest episode was nowhere near as funny as they are when he’s a kid.
  • Takaki and Akari had more personality flaws in six minutes than Satoru has had in six episodes.

15 responses to “The Emotional Manipulation of ERASED — An ERASED Post

  1. I’m beginning to think that most MAL users don’t watch Western TV. Unlike you, I think Erased is still good, but I’m unable to understand what makes it special. There are tons of Western TV series with similar quality. While it’s true that anime don’t normally do this type of drama, this fact does not suddenly make Erased amazing. Moreover, it’s not what I seek from anime anyway.

    I unfortunately can’t comment about other anime this season. Because of Lunar New Year, I only managed to keep up with Erased and Rakugo. I will try to catch up next week.

    • I never said Erased was bad and I still don’t think it’ll ever get to that level given what I know of future events and such (thanks Wikipedia). It’s just kinda disappointing.

      I’m beginning to think that most MAL users don’t watch Western TV.

      Pretty sure they all watch Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones (and nothing else).

      In all seriousness, I can’t really speak b/c I haven’t watched much western TV myself until recently. But that’s mostly due to how long they are and it took a while for me to adjust to their pacing given how live-action drama was never a part of my childhood (I never watched stuff like Gilmore Girls or Smallville when they aired).

      • I don’t watch much US Tv either. Mostly I stick to miniseries or Uk shows like The thick of It due to how short it is. Despite being a sci fi fan, I don’t even finish Babylon 5 until recently ( well, also because the first season is atrocious).

      • I love the Brits’ intolerance for filler personally. Makes me wonder why I’ve only seen as few of their stuff as I have.

        I haven’t seen The Thick of It yet despite owning the DVDs, but I do keep up with the creator’s American show, Veep. Decent show, but it doesn’t make me laugh out loud.

    • I have to say, I watch western TV too but I guess what I appreciate in a good anime is a few things that just wouldn’t work as well in live action. For example certain forms of visual creativity or sound design (to mention a basic example: most insert songs in live action TV end up coming off as lame IMHO, in anime they often work much better) or some directorial techniques. Obviously part of this is also related to how anime can contrive pretty spectacular scenarios without the visual SFX budget constraints a live action series would have, but that of course does not apply to ERASED.

      Also, there’s a higher amount of anime that DO end in a satisfying manner imho. Dissatisfying or incomplete endings are abundant too, of course, but the trend in most western TV seems to be to just go on season after season until creative energy is dried out and the series ends either with a terrible tacked on ending or just midway through the story. This is also something that happens with anime occasionally but there’s also a LOT of perfectly satisfying, self-contained endings – more than I could mention in western TV for sure.

      • Never watched that show. I have developed a sort of diffidence towards most western comedic TV series, especially sit-coms. Part of that might simply be my utter loathing of laughing tracks. Though I DO have some stuff I enjoyed – Scrubs (dropped it midway through season 2, though, when the whole relationships/love triangles angle became annoyingly prevalent over the medical shenanigans), Blackadder, recently Galavant and its brand of Monty Python-esque musical comedy.

      • Never did like Scrubs tbh. I don’t think I ever watched the first season, but the later ones got too wacky to the point I couldn’t take ’em seriously.

        And I’m not big on laugh track shows either. Only ones I like are Cheers, Seinfeld, and some of the British stuff like Fawlty Towers and Blackadder/Black Books.

      • I think the first season of Scrubs had a nice quality in its ability to strike a perfect bittersweet balance between comedy and the dramatic implications of hospital work – in a sense it was much more realistic than House or ER because it showed you people being sad over a patient who died but also having to go on with their routine, and sometimes being detached to the point of insensitivity because that’s the only way they had to avoid going mad in the face of ever present death and suffering.
        But then by mid season 2 as I said it devolved into stupid romcom shenanigans so yeah. I just decided I’d rather keep my memory of the good bits than spoil it any further.

  2. What’s going on with this show at this point? My brain imploded by trying to absorb what’s happening for the last two episodes. Well, it’s not bad but… maybe I expected too much given how it presented itself from episodes 1-4.

    Yes. The emotional manipulation is high at this episode. I like Airi and all but.. that was overdone.

  3. “How much longer is this present-day arc going to last anyways?”
    A vlue butterfly appeared at the end of episode 6. You know what that means (and if you don’t, look back at episode 1)

  4. I don’t feel emotionally manipulated. I’m just interested in the plot – everything else is nice, sometimes amazing, ornamentation, but not the forefront of the show. We had the tearful farewell from Airi, but straight after the /real/ issue was thrown at us for the cliffhanger. This is a thriller, and it reeks of the genre far more than it reeks of Your Boring Anime In April or some other feelsy drama.

    I think this buzzword of ’emotional manipulation’ is dragging some viewers into overstating for themselves the importance of the show’s dramatic moments. It’s the usual bout of confirmation bias.

    I also think Boku Machi is continuing to explore the implications of changing the past in these episodes – we looked at it from the perspective of the past, and now characters are musing on it from the perspective of the present. Satoru’s parallel to Yuuki is one great example of this.

      • The term itself is really a moot point; art’s job is always to manipulate the mind in some way. People only call it out when they’re not immersed in it and notice it without being moved by it. ‘Forced drama’ is another often poorly-used term.

        To be fair, I wasn’t that moved by the farewell to Airi either. But why do I have to pay so much attention to that? My mind while watching is far more concerned for Satoru’s future in jail than his relationship with Airi. I’m scared, rather than sad, for him, and the ending note of the episode confirmed that that was the primary focus of the scene. More of Airi’s tears were out of fear than anime’s usual mode of sadness.

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