Manga Written By: Kei Sanbe
Anime Directed By: Tomohiko Itō
Studio: A-1 Pictures
Licensed By: Madman Entertainment, Aniplex, Anime Limited
Manga Run: June 4th, 2012 – March 4th, 2016
Anime Run: January 8th, 2016 – March 25th, 2016
Available On: Crunchyroll
Warning: spoilers ahead. If you still haven’t seen this show (which you really should have at this point), proceed with caution.
This show is weird. I love it to death, but it’s really strange. It’s also one of my favorites that no one talks about anymore.
Erased, for those who haven’t seen it, goes a little something like this. Satoru Fujinuma is a manga artist who is down on his luck and stuck working as a delivery guy in a pizza place. For reasons never explained because who cares, he has an ability called Revival, which sends him back in time to moments before a tragedy occurs.
One day, after his mother returns to his life and is quickly murdered, Satoru is sent further back in time than ever to eighteen years ago, right before the murder of a young girl named Kayo Hinazuki. Realizing that the killer may be the same in both cases, Satoru decides to attempt to alter history by saving Hinazuki and the other victims in an effort to save his mother in the future. But can he get Hinazuki to trust him and then alter history all in three days?
In terms of a murder mystery, this is an incredibly original premise. We have the first and last murders in the career of a serial killer, a mysterious young girl who is in need of saving, and our hero is crippled by the simple fact that he is currently a powerless child. And a lot of creative things are done with this premise! Satoru goes about achieving his goal in the ways only a child could, and he slowly becomes more extreme in his methods in order to get the job done.
This story also deals with some incredibly intense themes of the psychological effects of child abuse and growing up in a dysfunctional family. As the mystery of Hinazuki begins to unravel, we learn that she’s being abused by her mother, and her father used to abuse both her and her mother back in the day. And this show does not back away from showing you what that looks like.
Spoiler alert: it’s not pretty. Watching a poor young girl get dunked in ice cold water for prolonged periods of time by her own mother while her mother’s boyfriend watches TV in the back is pretty fucked up! You’d think that the serial murders of children would be enough, but this show has to go above and beyond!
This origin has made Hinazuki a broken child. She dreams of leaving to an isolated island where she can live by herself, and she’s convinced that no one would miss her or care if she were gone. She’s so used to being attacked by everyone, both her parents and her classmates, that she responds to any kindness with suspicion and fear. Hell, she breaks down in tears when she’s given a warm home-cooked meal! It’s genuinely heart breaking, and I’m tearing up myself just remembering that scene!
Few stories have such grounded and powerful moments as this one. And they’re only made all the more powerful thanks to this show’s stunning visuals. The OP and ED in particular are spectacular, featuring some of the strongest animation and direction I’ve ever seen in an anime. Even if I don’t revisit the show super often (I make a habit of watching it every year or two) I’ve made a habit of watching those two to remind myself what quality looks like.
I especially watched them after watching Berserk 2016/17. In fact, I paused each episode every minute or so to do so.
So what’s the deal? If the story is solid, with some powerful and grounded themes, and the show looks really fucking good, then how come no one talks about it anymore? Well, there’s one reason for it. Most people agree on one major criticism in regards to this series.
The ending is unsatisfying.
See, the series spent basically the entire run building up a romance between Satoru and Hinazuki. Everyone expected them to get together after Satoru finally stopped the killer. Naturally then, when Satoru awakes from a coma to see that she’s already married and has a child with someone else, the fan base immediately turned on the series and labeled the ending as terrible garbage.
Honestly? I don’t mind this ending. It is incredibly frustrating, as I was also in the Satoru-Hinazuki camp (I’m trash, I know) but I thought the rest was pretty good and interesting. My real issue is the pacing; all in all, we get roughly an episode and a half spent in the final act. This is way too fast, and it doesn’t leave many elements of the plot the necessary time to develop. If they slowed things down and gave it an extra episode or two, then I’d be far more okay with it.
I feel that the main reason the ending fell apart like it did was with the release of the anime adaptation. The final episode came out only three weeks after the manga ended! Given production times, it’s only natural that the anime team had to write their own original ending for the show, and they likely didn’t have much time to do it. If the anime went into production after the final chapter of the manga was released, I feel it could have been a much stronger product.
Or maybe it would’ve been worse. Or the same. I haven’t actually read the manga yet, so I’m completely spit balling with that statement. After all, I did think the same thing about Akame ga Kill, and then the manga decided to rip all the worst things from the anime’s ending. So take that last point with a grain of salt.
Still, ending aside, I don’t see why more people don’t still talk about this show. It’s an incredibly strong and emotional murder mystery with some incredible animation and direction. This is easily within my top ten anime of all time, and I’d recommend it for anyone who can handle some dark themes.
But if you want a show that will make you feel good, then I’d give this one a pass. It has those moments, yes, but they’re outnumbered by all the depressing shit. Go watch Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun or Kaguya-sama: Love is War if you want something that will make you feel happy inside.
Huh. That makes two anime related posts in a row where I talk about Kaguya-sama. It’s like it’s a great show you should totally be watching or something.
This closing statement has gone off the rails, hasn’t it? But considering the show we’re talking about, I feel like it’s kind of fitting.