Based on the manga of the same name, Erased (or Bokudake ga Inai Machi in Japanese) is a character driven story about a boy who has the ability to travel back through time. Erased could so easily have become just another time travel story but the emotionally charged narrative that jumps across the 2 time periods keeps the primary focus on the mystery rather than the time travel. Erased is dark and methodically paced and as it slowly uncovers the true events of what happened in Satoru’s past, it progressively gets better and better.
The story focuses on struggling manga artist Satoru (Yûki Furukawa) whose unique ability of rewinding time allows him to stop accidents from occurring in front of him. After witnessing the murder of his mother and haunted by the ghosts of his missing classmates as a child, Satoru uses his gift to go back to prevent his mother’s death. In doing so Satoru mistakenly jumps back 18 years to his childhood in the days leading up to his classmates going missing. As Satoru unwittingly jumps between the alternate present and past, Erased’s mystery absorbs every aspect of the show and timelines making it impossible not to be drawn into the narrative.
Erased’s message of friendship and strength in numbers is thematically strong; woven through the episodes with enough nuance to prevent it from overpowering the effect it has on the story. Although the middle portion of the show does feel like it drags at times, the gripping mystery is strong enough to look past this, helped by the relatively short run time of 30 minutes an episode. The show finishes strongly too with a beautifully written, satisfying conclusion that highlights the strength of the writing throughout.
Some of the characters do fall into familiar Japanese stereotypes though and although the dialogue doesn’t feature anything of note, the acting is solid and it helps to disguise some of the obviousness inherent with the character tropes. Having not read the manga myself I can’t comment on how good of an adaptation this show is compared to the source material, Erased’s plot is certainly endearing enough to keep you watching and the time jumps never feel unnecessarily complicated, considering the alternate versions of the present and past explored. The ending helps in this respect too, wrapping up all the loose ends whilst showing via flashbacks key pieces of dialogue and scenes that lead up to the finale. It’s a nice touch and one that really emphasises the strength and cohesiveness of the writing.
Erased is a unique time travel story that focuses on the dark mystery at work helping it stand out from the mass of science fiction out there. Although the middle episodes are a little overlong and the characters feel too stereotypical at times, the strong story and excellent writing help to elevate what’s otherwise a respectable slice of entertainment. Coupled with a brilliant finale and enough here to interest anyone who’s a fan of science fiction or mysteries, Erased is well worth investing the time to watch.