By Erin Caine
Elm Staff Writer
The concept of travelling through time has long been a part of storytelling in cultures all throughout the world. It is a topic prevalent in ancient folktales and modern science-fiction novels alike. One of the most recent contributions to the literary tradition of time-travel is author Kei Sanbe’s manga series “Boku Dake ga Inai Machi” (in English, “The Town Where Only I am Missing”) published in January of 2013. Three years after its release, A-1 Studios adapted the manga into what has quickly become the most talked-about winter 2016 anime: ”ERASED.”
”ERASED” follows the life of a 29 year old manga artist named Satoru Fujinuma who possesses an ability he calls “Revival,” which enables him to travel back in time and prevent life-threatening incidents around him from occurring. Satoru finds himself constantly at the mercy of his own power as he is unable to control when this “Revival” will occur or how far back it will take him. After an unidentified killer murders his mother in her home, Satoru is inexplicably thrust back 18 years in time, where he finds himself trapped in his 11-year-old body. It’s no coincidence that during this time a serial kidnapper appears, murdering three of Satoru’s classmates. One of the victims is Kayo Hinazuki, a quiet loner with a troubled home life, and Satoru realizes that preventing her death may be the key to returning to the present and setting everything right.
The show’s appeal is not only in its compelling sci-fi murder-mystery plot but also in the sheer amount of attention Sanbe has devoted to his characters. Satoru Fujinuma is not your “usual” anime main protagonist in that he does not quite fit into any of the typical character tropes of the genre. Most male leads endowed with awesome power are generally younger than 20 and demonstrate a certain streak of heroism and overzealousness (e.g. “Attack on Titan’s” Eren Yeager) that Satoru does not. In her review of the show’s first episode, Emily Auten from Nerd Much said, “[Satoru] is an adult who is facing the realities of life, going through the motions day by day. It is evident that Satoru is experiencing some sort of depression, devoid of emotion from his hopes being crushed almost daily.” While it’s Satoru’s time-bending exploits that get our attention, it is his failures in the real world that invest us in our hero’s story. His emotions and concerns feel genuine, and both his rigorous normalcy and his developing self-assurance allow us to deeply identify with his character. In the first episode, he thinks to himself, “I’m scared to get to the heart of my own mind,” when confronted about the quality of his creative work. This line alone establishes a critical element of humanity within fiction or rather the underlying fear Satoru experiences in dealing with the unknown and the unpredictable.
Much could be said about many of the supporting characters as well, whether it concerns Satoru’s smart, no-nonsense mother, or the endearing and trusting Airi Katagiri, Satoru’s coworker. Kayo Hinazuki, the female lead and arguably one of the most compelling characters on the show, is the victim of a physically abusive mother, and the depiction of her maltreatment and its consequences feels real enough to make even the most callous viewer wince during certain scenes. Her trials do not feel forced on the audience or engineered to garner sympathy but rather function to create a web of tension within the story. A co-dependence begins to form between the main characters, as Satoru, Kayo, Airi, and other key characters must come to rely on each other in the face of overwhelming cruelty.
“ERASED” is a series that seems worth the investment, poised to plunge its viewership even deeper into its unfurling mystery.