During the spring anime season, one of the most highly regarded shows was “Boku Dake ga Inai Machi,” also known as “Erased,” a 12-episode thriller series where the main character Satoru Fujinuma possesses the peculiar ability to travel back in time to prevent disasters from occurring. With this ability, the main plotline consists of Fujinuma traveling back in time 18 years to when he was in elementary school, in an attempt to prevent the kidnapping of several classmates. Now, time travel and intertwined timelines are pretty common elements in some popular anime like “Steins Gate” and “The Girl who Leapt Through Time.” So how solid of an entry is “Erased?”
Well, the series doesn’t waste any time getting going, as even the first episode is full of action and shocking events, though it doesn’t throw you into the mix so much as it eases you in and then accelerates smoothly from there. For instance, in the first episode, Fujinuma gets put into the hospital, is accused murdering his mother, and already has travelled back in time 18 years. One thing that is very helpful and apparent from the first episode is that not only does Fujinuma communicate with his active voice as a character, but he also narrates the story with a passive voice, so one can watch his thought process and explanation of his abilities. This makes the series very easy to follow and extremely approachable, though doesn’t water it down too much so veteran anime fans become bored. In fact, it is difficult to become bored here, as the producers have managed to keep the suspense and tension on full boil by keeping the plot slow and displaying the vulnerabilities and limitations that are imposed on Fujinuma, who is only 11 years old physically, but 29 years old mentally, and has removed most of the traumatic events of his 11-year-old childhood from his memory. The last time I saw this level of analysis and thoroughness in fleshing out a character’s thought process was when Light and L were squaring each other off in “Death Note.” Not only does the plot manage to keep one’s interest in the main characters and wanting to know what occurs next, but the show also manages to elicit large amounts of sympathy for the main female character Kayo Hinazuki, who is severely abused by her mother. Fujinuma, despite an apathetic outward appearance and plainspoken voice, also elicits large amounts of sympathy due to his inherent altruism towards others and the fact that he utilizes his power for good despite the scars and injuries it also carries. Fujinuma’s side character friends take a bit more time to develop, but nonetheless are allowed their opportunity to play key roles in the story.
“Erased” manages to end each episode at excellent cliffhanger points, and each episode builds upon the suspense created in the prior episode along with using the previously revealed new facts to increase the stakes of Fujinuma’s task. The suspense buildup is done with a large sense of believability, as there are elements of surprise but nothing too bizarre used to make the plot more “interesting” as these elements are inputted with a large degree of intelligence and tact. While moments of relief are incorporated into the series, they are usually done in the middle of an episode, leaving time to build up the suspense again for the episode’s end and leaving the viewer wanting more. There’s also a sense of questioning whether plans will work as stated, since it is soon revealed that the perpetrator of the kidnappings has a certain degree of intelligence and proves to be a match for the protagonists.
Whilst the story and plotline are well developed and approachable, there is more to “Erased.” The animation is very crisp, despite the series having little action and being mostly plot and character driven. There is no sense of the animators skimping on this budget, as when Fujinuma explains his thought and analytical process, the visuals switch to symbolic animated flashbacks, gears, and visuals of the dates, oftentimes done in grayscale, rather than a static image of one’s face. The matte, grungy, and cloudy color palate used in the scenes when Fujinuma goes back into the past manages to capture the mood perfectly, as there is always a sense of tension and uneasiness even in happier scenes. This is contrasted with the brighter and more vibrant colors used in the scenes when Fujinuma is in the 21st century, where the tension occasionally ebbs and Fujinuma has more control with his actions. The lighting and shading are excellent in both timelines, and combined with the color palate greatly enhance and amplify the feeling being portrayed- it’s so skillfully done that one feels like he or she is in each character’s skin and can relate immediately to the dialogue and action on the screen. Character chemistry needs time to develop and can seem awkward at times, but the sense is that each relationship is genuine, each character does things for logical reasons, stays on track, and develops said relationships for the long-term, all of which enhance the everlasting value for this series. The pacing is perfect, as it keeps the tension in a sweet spot, and proper management of time and resources means the ending arrives right on target and with no rush or slowdown towards the end to align things up properly. Loose ends are tied up well, and the ending feels conclusive in the sense that the producers didn’t try to make the viewers think too hard or try to do something so clever that most viewers would be confused over their intentions.
So is there anything wrong with “Erased?” It’s hard to say, but perhaps no, since there isn’t much to criticize about it. Complaints about the show’s inherent elements or things that it lacks can easily be refuted by saying that said missing items are unnecessary or changing said elements would make the show worse. The show doesn’t need more episodes to wind up the story, it does perfectly well with the number of characters it possesses, and the plot moves at the perfect pace. There is little music here, but adding more in seems unnecessary, and putting music into the series at its most likely time (when Fujinuma performs analytical work) would be distracting. In fact, what the producers have made here is an absolute sensation, not only in the technical sense but also in the appeal sense, in that they have created something that is extremely likable and approachable for a large audience. So based on my prior opinions, is it worth watching? A resounding yes yes yes. In fact, until the series arrives in North America either on television or disc, do try the trailers as seen below: