Boku dake ga Inai Machi (2016)

After countless questions pertaining to whether I had seen or was then currently watching ‘Boku dake ga Inai Machi’ (also known as Erased) by most of the people I know who watch anime I had finally decided to give to this show a shot.

You see, I have a rule of not watching on-going shows and recently released stuff so I can focus on my backlog. But, my friends’ nagging and the synopsis of Erased compelled to me watch it. “It’s gotta be good, right?” I comforted myself. Apparently it was the most hyped anime out at the time of the barrage of questions (and judgement among peers).

And, Erased just pretty much blew me away. I was expecting some deeply contrived time-travel extravaganza pulling a huge number of strings and providing tons of dark imagery. What I got was a rather simple story that had seen such a great execution that I was hooked from beginning till end.

Synopsis from MyAnimeList: When tragedy is about to strike, Satoru Fujinuma finds himself sent back several minutes before the accident occurs. The detached, 29-year-old manga artist has taken advantage of this powerful yet mysterious phenomenon, which he calls “Revival,” to save many lives.

However, when he is wrongfully accused of murdering someone close to him, Satoru is sent back to the past once again, but this time to 1988, 18 years in the past. Soon, he realizes that the murder may be connected to the abduction and killing of one of his classmates, the solitary and mysterious Kayo Hinazuki, that took place when he was a child. This is his chance to make things right.

Boku dake ga Inai Machi follows Satoru in his mission to uncover what truly transpired 18 years ago and prevent the death of his classmate while protecting those he cares about in the present.

The synopsis pretty much sums up the plot of Erased. It’s a mystery show. There are no detective, wannabe vigilantes, beefed-up revenge fueled psycho/sociopaths to be seen anywhere. It’s just Satoru. A guy who’s lost his way in life working at a pizza store to ensure he doesn’t die from his fruitless attempt at being a manga artist. He has no friends and is a closed person. He’s still slightly unusual, though. He has this weird ability, called ‘Revival’, where his consciousness can go back in time right before anything bad happens so he prevent it from ever occurring. One day his mother is murdered and Satoru panics and leaps back 18 years in time… to prevent his mother’s death along with saving the very first victim, Kayo, which is what starts a whole range of serial killings leading to his mom’s murder.

It’s a very simple premise. What caught me was that Satoru isn’t an adult in the past – he’s a kid. And he has to prevent shit from hitting the fan as a kid. A somewhat fresh narrative, hooray!

Since I greatly recommend this show, I’m trying my best not to spoil it so I can’t talk about the later specifics of the story. I’ll still describe it’s execution, though.

The story unfolds at a comfy pace. Not too fast nor too slow and rarely crossing the set limits it has placed for itself. It’s sufficient for easily understanding all the dialogue while enjoying the scenery and the emotions of the characters even at an increased playback speed (I watch shows at 1.5x speed).

The letterbox view along with crisp cutting and transitioning of scenes makes you feel like you’re sitting through a narrative that has no brakes and is loudly telling you it doesn’t require any. What I mean is that it’s a perfect show to watch in one sitting. All ends are knotted tightly and everything that needs to be explained is easily done so both through dialogue and subtle visual exposition.

A fair warning with the mystery aspect of this Erased has to addressed, though. Erased is classified as a ‘mystery’ anime. But the culprit and his motive are too obvious to actually call this a mystery show. This is mostly because the culprit is illogically hinted at by visual means. I don’t know if this was to create some tension or was just done on purpose for increased impact in the finale – whatever it was for, I don’t have a problem. This is because I don’t believe that Erased is about ‘find killer, apprehend him, WIN!’. Well, it kind of was at first. I believe that it’s a show about regrets and redemption. Satoru’s goal isn’t just to save his mom – deep within, it’s about changing himself and his surroundings (literally) from a piece of shit life to a better one.

Sadly, though, a lot of viewers (as I have derived from other reviews and discussions with people) seemed to have missed this very crucial point and passed Erased off as another run of the mill time travel mystery anime which is, quite truly, a shame. It’s like watching ‘Ping Pong the Animation’ and saying, “Wow! What a load of shit. They barely played a single match or used Ping Pong lingo.”

And to that effect, I see that Erased has been getting some hate for some of the stupidest reasons I’ve ever seen in comparison to criticism of any other show. I don’t know if the average anime watcher has become dumber or if people are intentionally doing this out of spite for the shows initial hype all I’m seeing is nitpicking of negatives which aren’t even there.

Prime examples include:
1) ‘Why didn’t he suspect the same person as us? It’s so obvious.” We know what’s going on behind the scenes and the MC and his friends do not. Also, the MC himself admits he should have suspected him but believing in betrayal of trust is very human matter which people don’t seem to understand, I guess.
2) ‘Why doesn’t the MC just go around boom bam and tell everyone he’s a fucking time traveler?’ First, of all he is a kid. Who would believe him? This isn’t a shonen shitfest like Sword Art Online. Also, that would raise flags for murderer (spoiler – not going to explain this). Caution is key.
3) ‘The story is so simple. Steins; Gate did it better.’ Erased and Steins; Gate are two entirely different shows. Even saying something stupid like this shows biased tomfoolery. Also, don’t fix what ain’t broke. Making a story convoluted for no reason has no benefits and just adds more plots. Erased wraps up everything neatly.

Time to talk a bit about the characters. There isn’t much character development until late show. To be honest, it’s not even much of a deal. Half the cast is 11 year old kids. Character development in a serious story for characters other than the two mains is just asking for plot-holes and killing of the believable atmosphere. Seeing Satoru and Kayo gradually change over the course of the show is a delight. Especially Kayo who is a victim of child abuse. As someone who knows someone who went through that shit, the abusive dynamic between Kayo and her mother are quite tense and believable to the bone.

The animation is smooth and clean. The filmroll thing they do with flashbacks and the whole ‘Revival’ thing is sort of neat. Though, the ultra oval head of most of the characters might irk some viewers.

The voice acting is phenomenal. Satoru’s takes the cake. His serious tone grabs your attention just like how your grandfather would when he used to tell you about his war crimes. His change in tone and the delivery of dialogue in emotional scenes is just superb.

The music suitably fits the show. The background music isn’t anything exceptional but, it works well with the whole theme of the show. The Opening is currently on download and fated to be on loop on my phone for the next few weeks. Man, it’s been a long time since I last heard Asian Kung-Fu Generation in an anime. The Ending is a surreal kind of good. I had to grow into it.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed Erased and I hope you will too. It has a few flaws of sometimes being over-dramatic and I didn’t like one scene in particular as I think it was handled very poorly (it’s in episode 8, I guess?). Also, there’s no explanation for why Satoru has the ‘Revival’ ability but seeing as the killer has an ability himself, supernatural powers are not MC-only so that kind of solves this flaw for me.

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Grab some popcorn.

Anyways, 10 out of 10. Watch this.

 

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