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.
- 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.