Erased (Anime 2016): A Timeless Thriller

I’ve been fascinated by the concept of time travel ever since I watched Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who series and the movies, Time Machine and Deja Vu. Of course, those weren’t the first time I was exposed to the concept. Being an 80s kid, I have watched the Back to the Future series of movies and loved them. But the concept really stuck with me after Doctor Who.

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After that, I have watched documentaries on time travel and the realities of it, and read relevant topics on it, including the arguments of temporal paradoxes and the butterfly effect. So, when I found out about Erased this week, I not only gorged it down in a single night, but it also revived my enthusiasm and nostalgia for the concept.

Erased is a 2016 fantasy thriller anime based on the manga (Boku dake ga Inai Machi in Japanese or The Town Without Me). It combines two of my favorite themes, concept of time travel and a mystery-thriller storyline.

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The plot revolves around 29-year-old Satoru Fujinuma, a struggling manga artist working part-time in pizza delivery. He has a mysterious power called the revival which allows him to travel back in time anywhere between 1 to 5 minutes. It’s not something he controls and it occurs without warning. But when it does occur, it’s usually a sign of something wrong about to happen. It’s around this time that a serial child kidnapper is out on the loose.

During one such moment of Satoru’s revival, his mother recognizes someone who she realizes is the serial kidnapper and who is connected to Satoru’s childhood. His mother gets murdered and Satoru becomes the prime suspect. However, immediately after his mother’s death, Satoru’s power sends him back in time to his childhood in 1988 when the first kidnappings began, starting with his classmate. Now, he has to find out who the kidnapper is and stop him from killing his victims, thus stopping the cycle from ever beginning and saving his mother in the future.

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Essentially, the story is not so much about time travel itself, even though it plays an integral part of the plot. It is more focused on the murder mystery. The plot is seamless despite its back and forth in the timeline and tells an engaging story without wasting too much time (pun intended) getting to the crux of the matter. It maintains this pace throughout the series which holds your interest, leaving you yearning for the next episode. It’s a suspenseful whodunnit and there’s a visible arc in the character development that ties up the series with a feel-good moral ending.

One of the issues with the plot was that once Satoru goes back in time, his efforts are more focused on changing the timeline of events and protecting the victims rather than finding the killer and stopping him. Having said that, it can be justified that he’s not a detective-type protagonist but more introvertive so it would be out of character for him to follow that line of thinking. The character focuses on what he controls in his immediate vicinity which plays in line with the plot.

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The suspense of the show keeps you on the edge. It’s not a highly unpredictable mystery when it comes to who the killer is. However, the suspense is still maintained in the form of a sort of butterfly effect as the question of whether or not the character’s actions to change the timeline of events leads to changing the future, and what happens after that.

All in all, the show is quite entertaining, time efficient with a well-paced plot, suspenseful and engaging. This definitely ranks high up on my list of high-quality animes to watch.

And, here’s a bonus of something interesting I came across after watching this anime but not related to it.

Ever wonder why movies, TV shows and books using the time travel concept generally avoid killing Hitler? I mean it would be the most obvious thing to do for a time-traveling protagonist, isn’t it? Well, maybe not… check out Hitler’s Time Travel Exemption Act. Also, to see the analysis of Hitler’s exemption concept in real life, read this.

Have you already watched Erased? What did you think about it? Let me know in the comments below.

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