WARNING: As if the tag in the title of this post isn’t already enough, this article contains major spoilers for the entire Erased show. If you haven’t finished the anime and plan on doing so, stay the hell away from this article!
It was a massive pain in the ass trying to talk about Erased in my recent Anime Spotlight without spoiling anything major, holy crap was it ever. So it made me come to the decision I needed to write a spoiler specific article about the show, much like I did with Firewatch.
Now this article isn’t really going to have any structure to it, I’m just going to talk and gush about things in the show that I loved, hated and was downright confused by. I’ll try to keep it in some sort of episodic order, but I ain’t making any guarantees. Also, I’m probably not going to end up covering everything in the show, it has been a few weeks now since the show ended so some details will be somewhat fuzzy to me, or I may have just plain forgotten about a few things. What I talk about in this article will be the things that A, I remembered and B, are pertinent to me, so forgive me if I miss anything you really wanted to hear a second opinion on.
The first episode is one of the best opening episodes to a show I’ve ever watched. Others include Anohana and School-Live for being shows that seems so normal and then get flipped upside down on you. Erased starts off more like a show with a neat concept, Satoru for some reason has a power that has him travel back in time and continues to do so until he fixes a problem in the timeline. This concept on its own would be super cool for a show, probably more of a sci-fi element maybe would need to be involved, but I think the whole power/curse is an interesting concept for a plot.
Speaking of Satoru’s time leap power, I’m really disappointed that there’s never an explanation to why and how he ever got the power in the first place, or even why it decides to activate when it does. The only visual aspect of the power we ever see is that shining blue butterfly and that’s it, no information of the origins of the power, who actually gave it to him and why suddenly fixing this one (albeit major) change in history just has the power fade away. It makes you wonder if maybe this show could have a second season, but I’m not sure I’d want that, given how well everything’s pretty much been closed up.
Back to the first episode, the show comes off kinda cool, maybe a tiny bit of mystery in there, but it’s not until Sachiko becomes involved with this person she remembers seeing and that’s when the anime shows its true colours. The moment I saw the knife jabbed into her back, my eyes widened and the “Oh fuck…” reaction began. I’m normally distant from the more serious shows out there, especially when they get like this and obviously this wouldn’t be the last time I felt uncomfortable watching the show. But I was already hooked from the first half of the episode, I had no logical reason to turn back now. So I had another 11 episodes to go…
The relationship between Satoru and Kayo over the course of the series is a truly wonderful evolution of their characters. And it’s a damn shame because other than saving Kayo’s life which we all anticipated, there’s no secondary payoff to the story, which for a lot of people made us a bit disappointed. After Satoru wakes up from his coma (we’ll get to that stuff later), he sees Kayo again, though taking a moment to remember. And she’s a mother already, married to Hiromi, which I don’t think anyone called the entire series, I honestly figured he would end up being gay or maybe even taking a real risk and having him surgically changed to a girl and yes I’m basing this solely on the fact he looked like a girl as a child.
The way Kayo and Satoru were built up as kids, you almost felt like there was some feelings being added into the mix. By the time she was briefly living with Sachiko and Satoru (and Sachiko even suggested they might be a couple!), it seemed almost a sure thing in my head that the series would end with the two of them together. But obviously they played the Satoru/Airi relationship as the true ending of the show, which I can accept, but given the changes to the timeline, I don’t agree with it. Yeah it sucks for Airi that she doesn’t get Satoru in the end, but as we see in the ending of the series, she only meets him for the first time under that bridge. If Kayo became Satoru’s love interest at the end, I don’t think anyone would bat an eyelash, it makes sense because in that timeline, Airi even could have never existed, considering how major the timeline change actually is when you think about it.
It may not seem like much, but conceptually the changes in the timeline could certainly have major implications to a lot of different people when you think about it. Three lives were saved in Kayo, Aya and Hiromi, that’s already three more bodies still alive and able to affect/change even the smallest things in the now brand new timeline. This also means that no report ever comes out of the missing children and later abductions/murders, so no one’s daily lives are affected by using up time looking for the children, meaning more free time for a lot of people. Jun also never gets arrested and charged with the murders, that’s now four key people with a completely different future now. With four people now roaming the world who wouldn’t have, had the original timeline existed, they now have the ability to affect and change so many events in time, even just by being present. Remember the whole concept of even killing a single insect in the past could affect the future drastically? This isn’t a fly we’re talking about, this is four human lives. The possibilities are endless.
And that’s the one real issue I have with the ending of the series is that we don’t feel like anything really changed in the timeline other than four lives being saved. There’s no point in the show where anyone, not just including Satoru notes anything that seems different from the “present day” we saw in Episode 1 and a few more after that when Satoru failed to change the past the first time. So we’re left to believe that even though four characters are now alive and well, that nothing actually changed except those lives and a marriage with a new kid brought into the world. It’s a little nitpick, but man it would’ve been really cool to see a notable change in the future.
When you really think about it, the revelation of Gaku Yashiro being the killer in the end, it really shouldn’t have been much of a surprise. The show pretty much goes out of its way to label him as such. He’s got similar eye colours as the “present day” killer had, the mass amounts of candy in his glove box and honestly, because he’s the only conceivable person that could be the killer unless the show pulled some M. Night. Shyamalan bullshit out of their asses. There’s really no one else of any note that could’ve been the killer, except really two people: Sachiko’s reporter friend, or if the series wanted to pull a huge shocker on us, Jun actually commits at least one of these murders and there’s a second killer, either being the copycat or the original killer. But when it all came down to it, Yashiro was the only killer that made sense. And I still didn’t suspect him.
Why? Because it was so obvious. That’s how good the show is, it made me believe in an impossible possibility solely because they’d kept me guessing the rest of the time. So I never assumed the obvious choice as the killer, as we’re already being trained to never assume the obvious. Whenever we think the show is zigging, it zagged and vice-versa. So when it finally got revealed, I was shocked and later pissed at myself for being so foolish to believe anyone else could’ve been the villain at the end. I normally always trust my gut instincts when calling plot points in shows and I didn’t trust it on this occasion. You got me, Erased! You got me!
A minor disappointment I have in this story, is that they never fully explain, nor show how Satoru manages to live through this attempted murder on Yashiro’s part. Yes we are to assume that after yelling “I know your future!”, Yashiro freaked out after all the times this child successfully guessed his every move and decided to keep him alive, almost as an insurance policy. I even went as far as saying Yashiro almost looks at him like a god for the knowledge and in a way control Satoru actually has over him. But in the end, Satoru just survives and is left in a long coma so we have an excuse to be back in the present. It’s very convenient that Satoru wakes up from his coma around the same time that he went back to the past from. But my real issue with this moment is just never getting a visual representation of Satoru surviving his potential drowning, considering it already looked like he was dead in the riverbank when Episode 10 ended.
The last plot point I wanted to discuss was another “gotcha!” level of moment with the show and that’s the closing moments of the story between Satoru and Yashiro, specifically the murder/suicide that was averted by Kenya and Hiromi somehow organizing a fire safety net at the bottom for Satoru to land on. Before getting into the story aspect of it, it’s still very possible Satoru could’ve died or been seriously injured. It’s very likely he would’ve fallen out of the wheelchair during the fall and landed on it at the bottom. If I remember correctly, you don’t even see the wheelchair at all when it’s revealed he’s safe in the net. It’s very possible he could’ve landed on it and broken his neck, it seemed like too risky a fall that really gets chalked up to dumb luck.
But most importantly is how I actually believed at that very moment that this was going to be the end of the entire show, the biggest swerve of all, that’s there’s no happy ending for Satoru, even after somehow surviving what should’ve been his watery grave, he still ends up dying in the end. Given how constantly reverting back to dark times the show was running, when Satoru fell from the building, I was sure of it. Wow, what balls to have such a dark ending. But sure enough the net existed and everything’s fine in the end. Of course I’m not upset about a happy ending, but man what a way for a series to end if it did that!
There’s a lot of little things I could certainly nitpick about Erased and I’ve touched on all the major points I wanted to talk about. I could talk about how Hiromi gets a decent end while Kenya as the best friend of Satoru really gets nothing but the courage role. We don’t see any resolution to Kayo’s mother, if they ever connected again or if she even is still alive as I pretty much assumed she was going to be a suicide case. We don’t see how Jun’s life is changed after not being framed, arrested and on death row. Here’s a really little thing that never comes up, Satoru’s father. That’s all I’ll say there, cause there’s nothing to talk about on that front. And like I said earlier, there’s just not enough tangible evidence of change in the world except a few lives still existing. This anime does suffer from the same bullshit a lot of other anime shows suffer from, the can’t fully end a series with a fair amount of resolutions.
I think I found a new article to write…
Regardless, I may have spent over 2000 words here taking potshots and nitpicking various plot points in the show, but at the end of the day this may be the best overall anime I’ve ever watched, not my favourite, but certainly one of the best overall, in terms of art quality, story, characters, and honestly keeping me interested and dying for the next episode a week later. And given the reactions from everyone and how my local convention specifically wanted a community panel on the show only, not just the entire 2016 list of shows, it’s a clear sign that I’m not the only one who shares this opinion.
So tell me what you thought in the comments below. Do you agree with my perceptions and opinions? Did I miss a few things? What moments do you remember most? Leave ’em below!