Erased is one of the best anime to come out of 2016 thus far. Released in January, the anime was so instantly popular that an English dub has already been made, debuting at Anime Expo. Anime covers many different genres from fantasy, to scifi, to comedy to romance. Instead of falling into one of these categories and only appealing to a certain niche audience, Erased is the sort of show that can be appreciated by anyone.
WARNING: Mild spoilers ahead. They’re hard to avoid when reviewing a show in its entirety.
Satoru Fujinuma, a 29 year old pizza delivery man, possesses an ability called Revival. This ability allows him to jump back in time for a few minutes in order to prevent catastrophes from occuring. This experience is involuntary however, and out of Satoru’s control. When he finds his mother murdered in his apartment and the police outside his door, Satoru realizes that her murder is related to the kidnappings and murders of three of his classmates that took place in his childhood. Satoru suddenly enters Revival in a larger time leap than ever before. He jumps back 17 years and is a child once more, trying to find a way to stop the killer before any murders take place.
Time travel and murder mysteries usually bring along their own tropes. In mystery shows the hero spends the entire time trying to figure out everyone’s dirty secrets to expose the killer, and time travel usually involves time paradoxes, time loops, or the unfortunate ending where everyone forgets everything that happened. Erased has none of these things; therein lies the brilliance of this show.
Satoru never spends time trying to theorize on who the killer is (It’s honestly rather obvious, but that doesn’t damage the plot’s integrity). Instead, he focuses on protecting the victims. Each of the children who was murdered in the original timeline was targeted because they were loners and didn’t fit in with everyone around them. Kayo, the first victim, has an especially troubled life, being constantly abused by her mother with no end in sight. Satoru’s main goal is to become Kayo’s friend and bring her and the other two victims into his social circle. Throughout the story we see not only Satoru helping others, but his mother and friends coming forward to provide a loving community for these lost children. The story doesn’t sugarcoat the serious issues it addresses, but its message is optimistic: there are people who want to help others, and together they can make a difference.
The ending of the show is satisfying and believable. We see the results of Satoru’s actions as we return to the present day. The original timeline has been altered, but change does not come without sacrifice. Satoru greatly suffers for his interference in the murderer’s schemes, yet he emerges from the trials victorious. Not only has the timeline changed for the better, but Satoru himself has matured. In his past life he had always held himself back, preferring the safety of being only partly present in his relationships rather than risk the pain that can come from opening your heart to another person. To save the victims, Satoru had to put himself out there, offering friendship not only to new people, but deepening his relationships with his mother and childhood friends. Satoru reenters his life as an adult with the courage to dream big and do something significant with his life, leading him to success and happiness.
Erased isn’t the sort of anime which you watch to kill a half hour and then get on with your day. It is a thought-provoking, heart-warming work of art. Even if anime’s not your thing, you should give this one a try. You’ll be glad you did.
You can watch Erased on Hulu or CrunchyRoll- streaming now!