ERASED Review — Save The Little Girl, Save The World.

Time to review Life is Strange…er…I mean ERASED.

Let me tell you about A-1 Pictures. It’s a studio that was established back in 2005 by Aniplex in order to oversee some of their productions, but eventually grew into its own big thing. And boy did it grow big, because every time I look at an anime chart, there’s always three or four shows being made by them each season, and not a single one of them is good. They have some talented animators, but they have a tendency to put all their eggs into one basket whilst churning out a bunch of barely animated garbage in order to cover costs (or because they’re oblivious to the fact that churning out so many shows at once is never a good idea for your schedule). They have some neat concepts, but their desire to cater to the mainstream ends up causing them to spread the execution too thin to the point that their shows succeed at nothing. They’re the studio that’s most attached to the noitamina timeslot. And they’re pretty much the main reason why that slot has lost all dignity.

Nevertheless, ever since 2015 became the year of the “surprise hits”, I’ve been trying to keep a more open mind regarding studios and people that I’ve lambasted in the past as long as they’re not adapting a light/visual novel. As such, whilst I had my reservations, I was willing to move on from A-1’s last disastrous attempt at making a mystery anime for the noitamina slot as well as their entire resume in general given how ERASED looked a lot better in terms of source material, and directors seem to be a lot more motivated when they themselves think the source is good. At least, that’s the only reason I can think of why this show looks so much better than either Silver Spoon or Sword Art Online. And it seemed that the rest of the world was just as willing to move on as well, because there is absolutely zero chance of ERASED getting dethroned from its current position as #1 anime of the year for better or worse. It’s getting critically acclaimed everywhere in the community, it’s one of the highest rated shows on MAL and APR, and most of all it’s watchable – which is something I can’t say for the majority of A-1’s stuff.

But as is usual for A-1, this show tries too hard to cater to what the mainstream wants to the point that what should have been excellent ends up being “not bad” at best and “downright ludicrous” at worst. Here’s the premise of this series in case you’re one of the few anime fans that didn’t jump in on this the moment it blew people away: a young man named Satoru with the ability to randomly travel through time and prevent deaths with it at times is suffering from regrets in life due to some people he knew being serial killer victims in elementary school. When his mother ends up getting killed by the same killer and he’s framed for it (somehow), his powers end up sending him back in time to when he was still a kid and the victims were still alive. Determined to prevent their deaths and save his mother, Satoru decides to cut the killer off at the source by protecting his first victim, a little girl named Kayo Hinazuki. How does he choose to do this? By being the cutest little defender of justice that girl has ever seen of course.

ERASED’s combination of time travel, mystery thriller, and school children trying to be adults has the unfortunate problem of being immediately comparable to the hit French video game, Life is Strange, and it doesn’t help that it borrows some of Steins;Gate’s execution as well even if it doesn’t use its time travel premise quite the same way. Whilst the show isn’t written by a visual novel author, it might as well have been, because it’s pretty much a melodramatic “save the girl” story under the pretense of a thriller. You have your male lead who doesn’t have much of a personality and does whatever the plot requires him to do. You’ve got a lot of exposition. You’ve got multiple girls he needs to save – including one trap – but he only focuses on one at a time. You’ve got time-travel. You’ve got multiple set pieces that don’t come together very well. Really, the only thing it doesn’t have in common with a visual novel adaptation is the fact that it actually has decent pacing for the most part. Kudos to the director since his previous stuff moved slower than a mule carrying Paul Bunyan up a canyon.

Where it differs from Steins;Gate and more into Life is Strange territory is that the story treats the time travel thing as an unexplained ability the protagonist actually has because it’s ultimately nothing more than a convenient plot device to get on with the real story, and it goes even further in that it’s never brought up in the narrative at all after the first episode. However, whilst Life is Strange tackled multiple aspects of what it means to be a teenager through Max’s dramatics attempts to save her friend Chloe whilst outwitting a serial killer and averting a giant tornado that threatens to wreck her town, ERASED doesn’t have much to support its drama other than raw emotion. Although the plot involves Satoru saving the victims of a serial killer because somehow that’ll keep his mother alive in his own timeline on paper, in reality, large sections of the series are devoted towards the twenty-something year old stuck in an elementary-school body getting friendly with one of the girls whilst the others are mostly just an afterthought. And to make matters worse, there’s nothing much to draw from the relationship between the two besides acknowledging that parental abuse exists and it’s hard to gain support to avert it – which wasn’t even really an intriguing story when Higurashi did it ten years ago.

To be fair, I did enjoy the relationship parts quite a bit because they did a decent job of capturing what it means to be young and in love, even if they weren’t doing anything all that interesting with it. But mostly, I liked them because they were a hell of a lot better than the actual mystery elements. Now in Life is Strange, the mystery/time travel stuff were kind of meh, especially next to all the teenage social issue stuff. But they were definitely easier to swallow than ERASED’s thriller elements, which are so by-the-books and so divorced from the majority of the show that you can see the writer struggling to mesh the two in the background before giving up altogether after Kayo’s arc ends.

For starters, it is incredibly obvious who the killer is by the halfway point – not helped by the fact that the credits show he has the same voice actor as a major established character – and yet the show persists on dragging the reveal out for another few episodes. Secondly, by the time it comes to reveal the dude, there’s only one possible suspect it could be and no amount of denial from Satoru’s side of things change the fact that the foreshadowing was so obvious the guy might as well have been wearing a T-shirt saying “I am the murderer” the entire time. Whilst I was spoiled the identity of the murderer in Life is Strange beforehand, at least the game had the decency to distract us from figuring out his identity with genuine red herrings. And whilst they both turned kind of cartoon-y upon the reveal, ERASED really overdoes the theatrics in regards to him – and that’s saying a lot considering the show’s overall direction is about as unsubtle as a giant dog playing bagpipes in the middle of an ice-skating competition.

Now both series do have things that happen after the reveal of the murderer, and this is where ERASED really falls apart by comparison. Of course, Life is Strange’s ending is controversial in of itself and I stand by that the decision to let Tampa Bay die should have been excluded from the narrative entirely, but you can’t deny that both final choices focus on the characterization and how the chase affected Max. ERASED decides to give closure to the characters that Satoru grew up with, which is fine in of itself, but then it tries to give closure to Satoru and that’s when it fully hits that he never really had a character arc. He never had any interesting flaws. His time-travel powers are so arbitrary they might as well not exist, despite needing to in order for the plot to work. So even if you ignore how silly the final confrontation is by nature, Satoru just isn’t strong enough to support his end of the bargain, nor the epilogue where he makes it big in the manga world. I understand he’s supposed to be a guy who inspires others to develop, but when he’s left to carry things on his own, he’s basically as interesting as Robert Zemeckis’ current career.

If ERASED had ditched all of its mystery thriller aspects and just been a story about a guy trapped in the past falling in love with a girl he knew long ago, only to lose her again and moving on from his life after realizing that changing the past is just not feasible, this show might have been the Shinkai-esque series I’d really support. If it had actually tackled mature topics in a morally ambiguous way through its EMOTIONAL moments and lackluster thriller elements, it might have been the anime equivalent of Life is Strange except more “visual novel-y”. If its main character wasn’t such a reactionary putz who does whatever is most dramatic according to the convenience of the plot, I might have had as much hope for the show’s future as everyone else did when that first episode aired. Seriously guys, the premiere was fine, but I don’t understand what puts it on the same level as the premieres to either of Shinichiro Watanabe’s noitamina anime or Ping Pong or The Tatami Galaxy. Last I remembered, it was mostly prettily-told exposition that set up the concepts and plot, but didn’t establish what the actual story would be about, nor did it do a satisfactory job of making the main lead interesting.

So, final grade?

Want to watch Araki’s new thing?

Minor Quips

  • Anyone want to take bets on how far ERASED’s MAL ranking will fall until it stops?
  • For those of you who don’t have Amazon Prime and thus can’t watch Kabenari without (assumingly) really bad subs, I feel sorry for you.
  • Although I guess ripping off Amazon isn’t really a new thing.

23 responses to “ERASED Review — Save The Little Girl, Save The World.

  1. IMO this series was a failure as a mystery anime. There was only one suspect. It also kind of reminded of Detective Conan (Case Closed) because the premise is that the protagonist gets turned into a elementary school kid who has to solve mysteries.

  2. It’s actually quite refreshing to watch a show with a shaky foundation yet was executed really well given at what it’s got. Usually, it’s the latter for me so I give props to ERASED for that. Obviously, the handling of emotion expressed by the characters is the show’s greatest strength.

    I think my main problem with the show is all relating to the “present” timeline. I feel like the ending focused too much on giving a “feel-good” closure to the “alternate timeline” and ignored any implications or consequences of the present period. Where was the resolution of Satoru’s mother dying in the present? It felt odd to me because the 1st episode seemed to emphasize on this situation (to set-up the series) yet it seemed like the show just “forgot” about it as it went on. Yes, we know the moral and lessons to be learnt behind the murder when we relate back to Satoru’s character. But for me, it’s only relevant and compelling when we see the perspective of Satoru’s adult mind inside his child body. As a result, it gave me an incentive to care even less about the present timeline. Only Airi made that period interesting since her motive is relevant to the values Satoru is trying to “own up” by going back to the past. But one character isn’t enough to fix this problem either.

    Talking again about the ending, I feel like it should’ve been more “realistic” and less sentimental by cutting it back at the present time-line. I wanted the show to take into the direction of the main character to stop “living in the past” and have Satoru to move on with his life as a “better” person in an organic manner; from the things he learnt as a result of re-living his childhood again. Only that way, where I could relate better to the main character and find Satoru actually interesting. Even more importantly, it would tie up better between the present and past timeline (relating back to my point about Sachiko’s death). But instead, the show ditched any notion that might lead up to this (even vaguely would’ve been enough for me) and appealed to the masses by going for the convenient “wish-fufillment” route with the “Airi shipping”.

    I felt every other problem concerning with ERASED regarding to its sub-par execution as a mystery/thriller was all due to the series being 12 episodes. If it was longer, then the creators would’ve had the luxury to flesh out that aspect a bit better. But even then, it wouldn’t been that amazing (remember when I said about shaky foundations?) since the show is fundamentally set-up in a way that there would’ve been logically only one serial killer suspect. If it was anyone else, then I bet everyone would’ve call out on its contrived BS. It’s a lose-lose situation either way if you think about it. Hence, why I felt the show didn’t have a strong foundation.

  3. Once again I learned to not trust source material fans. Seriously, look at F/Sn, Mahouka, Gate, OPM, Parasyte,… and now Erased. Everytime fanboys said it will get better later on, it actually get worse. And mind you, with the case of Parasyte and Erased, it is reliable bloggers that guaranteed me how good it will be. Seems like fanboyism has the ability to make even critics shut down their brains.

    I also doubt Erased will be the #1 anime of the year. There is Rakugo already. Hell, even the top 10 is not guaranteed, since a shit ton of sequels and other fan favourites are going to air this year.

    • Rakugo is number one in our circles, but in the anime communities outside APR, even Ajin has gotten more attention. Nowhere near as underground as Concrete, but at the cons and stuff, it’s all about ERASED.

    • Well, you need to understand WHAT exactly the fans enjoy in that work in the first place… for example I didn’t expect much from F/SN or Mahouka either way, because I realized I didn’t enjoy the core stuff the fans liked about those things. On the other hand, OPM is more up my alley and I DID feel it got better – because I was looking forward to a not-too-serious shounen experience that still provided some great eye candy, and that’s about it.

      Also, Flawfinder, if you think #1 anime in critic circles, most people already consider Rakugo better. If you think #1 anime in DVD/Blu Ray sales, Osomatsu-san just shattered all records and is unlikely to be surpassed any soon (it literally performed somewhere amongst the 10 best selling shows ever, threatening freakin’ Madoka). And if you think everyone else… just wait until Boku no Hero Academia before you proclaim ERASED sensation of the year. Just sayin’.

      • If I had to bet my money, I’d say that’s going to be a winner. Anyway we also know little about the next two seasons, so yeah. I think ERASED will be a relatively temporary sensation.

  4. Well, this is one of the best done reviews/impressions on ERASED. Thank you for that.
    However, despite all its flaws, I think the good parts outshine the bad ones. Many people make the mistake of watching the series as a mystery when, really, it is not. I’d rather not believe that they were this bad at hiding the killer and building up mystery, but more that it went as they wanted. Idk, maybe I’m too positive and optimistic, but, if you don’t watch it expecting a mystery that would sweep you off your feet, you can get something more than decent.
    Also, nice comparison with Life is Strange. I would’ve never thought of it this way.

  5. Great review. I really liked how you actually said Erased could have been a better show if it had focused on the emotional side and not the ‘thrilling’ serial killer stuff. While watching Erased, I rarely felt any thrill or tension, and whatever thrill was gone once I knew who the killer was. I’m quite surprised to see that people found it ‘thrilling’. Maybe they just haven’t seen any non-anime thriller movies to compare it to.

    I am really looking forward to Kabaneri. Unfortunately, the people on MAL are already pissing me off by calling it ‘stupid’, ‘unoriginal’, ‘money grab’ and ‘just a copy of THAT show’. Anyway, I’m glad you’re looking forward to it.

  6. Thankfully a good review (as usual) and a justifiable final grade of ERASED.

    Yes – Higurashi did this thing 10 years ago with more poignancy and urgency as regards to ‘saving this stuff thing’. However, given this season is just about Rakugo or ERASED as the best shows, the latter will be remembered enough for 2016. The best 2016 show? Uhm.. Too early to tell and my Rakugo bias is too strong. One of the defining animes of 2016? Yes – and we are off to a good start.

      • You saved yourself by dropping Dimension W because it went reaaaalllly ugly after the third episode.

        And by dreck.. are you referring to Active Raid? It remains partly entertaining and mostly dumb – which I wished it didn’t watch since shows like KonoSuba and Grimgar are better (yet… both have some issues I can’t ignore)

      • Every season ever drops its contribution in that ocean. No biggie. And frankly I wouldn’t say there’s such major shitfuckery going on either. I mean, remember that season when we had the one with the ghost possessing the MC’s sister and trying to jump his bones? Remember the one with the lesbo racist dragon-fighting princess who got anally raped in episode 1? When the worst you can say of the worst anime of the season is “it was stupid and boring”, that’s a good season. Next one we’re already up to “Super Lovers”, the tender love story between a man who’s 25 years old and a kid that looks something like 12. Can’t wait, eh?

    • What entertainment? The last few episodes have been nothing but talking, shitty mecha action, and one of the most anticlimactic endings I’ve seen since…well…Durarara. Also, its story amounted to nothing more than “government is corrupt”, and it’s not even a specific government the show attacks. I sat there stone-faced the entire time.

  7. Your Shinkai reference is appropriate, as this show felt like a longer 5 Centimeters, with ‘romance’ between 11-12 year olds. That gives Erased too much credit, though, since the protagonist of this show is a 30 year old in a 11 year old’s body…

    Then, it gets even better when you realize, in the 2nd half, that Erased is more of a lolicon harem than just a relationship between two people. Still not a bad watch…there are some good moments here and there in the first half.

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