Erased: a delightful thriller

I’ve become a lot more selective about what anime I can commit to as I’ve gotten older. A lot of times I will watch one or two episodes of something that really seems like a good concept and just can’t get into it. And at first, I thought Erased was going to be one of those experiences. The first episode had some things that usually turn me off — it was bulky with lots of exposition and slightly wonky pacing, there was an assumed romance between a girl who was much younger than the main character, Satoru, that kind of skeeved me out a little bit, and at the end of the first episode Satoru’s mom, the most interesting person in the show, was stabbed to death in what looked like a classic case of fridging. I nearly stopped watching it.

But by the end of the second episode I was absolutely, irrevocably hooked.

Mild spoilers for Erased here, but nothing that (I hope) will take away from your enjoyment.

This anime does time travel in a way that I haven’t seen before, and it does it so very well. The cost of Satoru’s time travel is evocative of the costs of time travel in Looper — changes he makes in the past very much affect his future, to the point where his future self is very likely to be erased. And in case the stakes of his own life were not enough, Satoru travels back in time to save not only his mother, dead in the future, but the lives of three children who were his classmates when he was a child. The catch? Though for Satoru all of these people are dead, grieved and gone, he must interact with them, at least in part, as if he doesn’t know their fate. He must overwrite the actions of his past self, give up pieces of himself, in order to save others. And he must do all of this while he tries to solve those very crimes.

The show also bypasses some of the normal concerns of fridging by giving agency and personality to each of the characters Satoru is trying to save. His mother and his friends all play key roles in the plot. Satoru knows that they are slated to die, but they don’t, so sometimes they work against him and sometimes he is able to convince them to follow him. While the deaths of the predominantly female victims do inspire Satoru to his acts, ultimately those deaths are not the only inspiration. It’s life that ultimately drives Satoru — not vengeance, but love.

Ultimately, Erased is fast-paced, smart, and kept me on the edge of my seat. It’s available on Netflix in the U.S. Go give it a watch.

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