Heartwarming and discomforting don’t usually fit together, but in this case, they do, trust me.
I first heard of Erased when I was perusing the new sets of animes coming out for the Winter season. Honestly, the premise didn’t intrigue me at first – but the high ratings told me it’s probably a series I should watch, one that did it’s high concept proud. Erased, in Japanese known as Boku Dake ga Inai Machi is based off a manga series of the same name that started in June 2012 and is ending just next month (in about a week or so, actually).
There hasn’t been another anime series that had me feeling this precise way since Steins;Gate (which among the many anime series I’ve ever watched is easily in the top five), which is funny enough since there’s almost a near premise here, through the use of time manipulation (done right and not in convoluted fashion), the principal character goes back in time to prevent someone’s death.
Satoru Fujinuma is the main character here, he’s your average ‘starving artist’ type, works at a dead end job (pizza delivery), he’s about to cross the big 30 years old threshold, and is hoping to breakout with a manga series. That said, he’s just a tad bit extraordinary than that. He’s got a supernatural ability he calls “Revival” essentially he has a sort of deja vu moment and goes back in time of about 1-5 minutes. He doesn’t control it, it just happens. When such thing happens (with usually a vibrant blue butterfly to indicate it’s happening), he looks around for something that feels off – see, Revival usually means something bad’s about to happen. In one case, a truck driver with a mid-drive heartattack has to be stopped at risk of the obvious impending accident. Sometimes changing the future has negative effects, particularly for him, but that doesn’t stop Satoru from doing it.
It almost all stems back from when he was a kid, and a girl he saw often standing alone at night in the park (a classmate to be more precise) disappeared one day and was found dead not too long later. An older kid who used to be kind to him was arrested for the abduction and subsequent murder though Satoru is convinced it wasn’t him. He’s further convinced it’s his fault for not having the courage to ask the girl to walk back home with him the fateful night she disappeared.
One day, when a tragic accident occurs around him, Revival activates, but instead of sending him back early enough to stop it, he’s sent back to when he was in 6th grade (that is, as a kid), shortly before the girl disappeared. Satoru Fujinuma makes it his mission to stop the girl’s abduction and death under the belief that it’ll also stop the tragic accident that happens far off into his future.
Okay, well, that’s the long and short of it while avoiding any spoilers. Erased, as you might expect from the premise, keeps you focused, while I tend to have animes (and shows in general) play in the background while I’m doing other stuff, it just isn’t possible with this one, you want to focus. The discomforting part is just about obvious right now, and that might be reason alone to watch it. You’re automatically suspicious of whoever might be the abductor/serial killer (including maybe the one that got arrested), you’re worried on if he’ll be able to succeed or if he’ll fail (it’s easier said than done), and because Satoru’s memory is a bit foggy, he has to struggle to not make the same mistakes of the past, and those just aren’t quite so apparent to us immediately until he realizes it.
The heartwarming part is what made Steins;Gate so great too, the characters. You immediately come to feel bad for Kayo Hinazuki, the girl he’s trying to save. She doesn’t have the best of childhoods. Satoru has to break through that in order to become friends with her and it isn’t easy due to obvious past traumas. But Satoru becomes to Kayo the sort of friend that wills you keep moving forward despite all the bad stuff you go through. Satoru’s got an awesome cast of friends too (earned through the aforementioned arrested mentor’s guidance) all with relatively diverse personalities despite the small bit of attention we get with them, and both a loving mother despite the modest living and a caring teacher (who I’m ever-suspicious of). The way they all interact with Satoru makes the show heartwarming with the ever tense knowledge that Satoru has to save this girl.
Look, there’s no way I’m ever going to give this show justice telling you to watch it, but you should, you really should watch it, it’s one of the best series I’ve watched in a long while and I think by the end of it all I might have to take a good step back and decide who to take out of my top 5 to make room for this.
Editor’s Notes: You may notice the lack of images, I’m desperately avoiding spoiling stuff for myself, sorry. And for you too.