Have you ever watched an anime that has gone beyond the TV screen? Something that has impacted you so deeply in your heart that you cannot let it escape your mind, almost like you want the emotions to stay so that you can experience the story again? When this happens, I feel that this is when an anime achieves its true purpose: to inspire its audience. Most series aim to make quick money by feeding viewers thoughtless plot with shows containing large episode counts, but real inspiration comes from the power that the animators give their shows. For me, ERASED has been that anime, and I never want what I felt to ever be erased.
As you may already be aware of, ERASED has been receiving high praise from the anime community since its original debut in December 2015, and has been given the title by many as the best anime of 2015. Hearing all of this news buzzing around the internet, I knew that ERASED was one of those shows that I had to watch, and had extremely high expectations for the series. Being initially doubtful about the quality of the anime, I can now say with confidence, having only finished the masterpiece freshly an hour ago, that ERASED does meet my highest criteria and more (although there are a few minor flaws that will be discussed).
The story follows twenty-nine year old Satoru Fujinuma across time as he attempts to prevent the murders of his mother in present day and fellow classmates from the past. He also works to unveil the killer behind these crimes, and bring him to justice. From my personal experience with other anime, one major problem that I have found is that, usually, shows do not understand how to properly introduce the setting, conflicts, and characters in a special way that has meaning to the future events of the story. It almost feels like producers are rushing the pre-climax plot in order to captivate its audience, and this essentially is watering down great potential. None of it has purpose and it’s the equivalent of making a batch of cookies without a cook book; you are measuring every ingredient by hand. Luckily, ERASED does not have this issue, and everything opens up to these splendidly in episode one, giving the audience an idea for the intense, mystery story that continues throughout the show.
As the events progress, time travel gives the plot of ERASED new definition; you cannot simply get through this anime by watching it with half of your attention. Every action and decision has a specific purpose, and has an important part to play in the final outcome of the series. These are collected across four different timelines and the future of each has an impact on another. I really enjoyed this kind of deep analysis, yet I never felt overwhelmed by it all. It never was a school assignment to remember the names and events of ERASED, and instead has a mellow balance that still keeps the viewers entertained.
While on the subject of the story, it is my displeasure to admit one major fault that ERASED has, which I did not notice previously when watching it for the first time until I did some outside research from others. Apparently, the murderer’s identity has been blatantly revealed in the opening of the series near the end, and can ruin crucial spoilers to the complicated plot. Like I said, I never payed much attention to any of the openings because I was so excited to see the next episode. However, I wanted to save anyone who has interest in watching ERASED any heartache, and suggest to either listen to the opening or skip it entirely. The entire story hinges on this pivotal person, and it would be a shame for anyone to have this ruined for them.
Because a majority of events take place eighteen years in Satoru Fujinuma’s past, most of the characters in ERASED are friends of his elementary school. Like other anime, characterization is weaker for people who do not have a lasting impact on the outcome of the story and is stronger for those who do. For example, some less-important characters that I found among Satoru’s friends were Kazu, the loud-mouthed fifth grader who loves to hangout in his hideout, and Osamu, a shy student who is absolutely obsessed with Dragon Quest. This structure has been used for many years in different shows, and I have no problems with it.
Our influential protagonists have much more attention, some more than others, and allows for a better storytelling experience. One issue that I do have is that I wish that the audience could have learned more about certain characters that did end up making an impact towards the end of the series. Like these people are sprinkled throughout the series, having the appearance of secondary characters, and are surprisingly thrown in completely at the climax for little to no reason. I feel like this is another one of ERASED‘s shortcomings, and is something that I am very disappointed about. Luckily, this only created a longing to learn more once I had finished watching the series, and took little away from my overall enjoyment.
Within the characterization that the show uses, one of the most obvious elements that you will find when watching ERASED is romance, and this is initially bloomed from desperation. When Satoru traveled back into his fifth grade year, he became radical with his intentions to befriend Kayo Hinazuki in order to prevent her death, which was partially a result of relieving the guilt that he feels in the future for not saving her. Many classmates took this as romance rather than swift friendship, and naturally the two became an instant couple. I am not usually a fan of this kind of shipping, but the way in which it developed across the entire anime is what I do appreciate. Instead of having a immature relationship that they are both clearly too young for or the cliché boyfriend/girlfriend hookup that is almost always based on what the partner can receive sexually, ERASED decides to allow them to be completely selfless towards one another.
If you have ever read the book of Ephesians in the Bible, you know that this kind of relationship is exactly how a husband and wife were designed to be. Although these two were not married yet, Satoru treated Kayo as though she were a princess, always placing her needs above his own. As said before, he traveled back in time twice and relived his past events solely for the purpose of saving her from death. Husbands are to be selfless in a similar way, but are to imitate the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for everyone at the cross, a kind of love that has no boundaries. The Bible says that men are to have this kind of selflessness towards their wives in order to better them and bring the family as a whole closer to Christ. Isn’t this completely counter-culture to what society says, how we get into relationships for what we can benefit from them?
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” (Ephesians 5:25-30, ESV)
Even though the two never actually got together in the end, he showed true selflessness by allowing his best friend to cherish and love her while he wasn’t able to. And this is where my heart is still sore from watching ERASED. Because of these Biblical implications in the show that were discussed, I have been shipping the two since the very beginning, seeing their relationship grow stronger and stronger, and to see Kayo Hinazuki marry someone else was very hard for me to swallow.
In the end, I am glad that I had the opportunity and pleasure to watch ERASED for its strong story, characters, Christian themes, and many other positive elements. I would highly recommend for any reader to buy this anime on Blueray when the set does get released, and read the manga as well. There are plot points in there as well as the spin-off visual novel that do not exist in the anime that would only enhance your experience.