Now this is how a thriller should start. The groundwork has been laid, the first victim has been claimed and now our protagonist is out to try and save them from their fate. Okay, so that last part doesn’t really apply to most thrillers, but in the case of ERASED, it is highly relevant and leads to the greatest conceit so far; the 29-year-old protagonist is given a chance to change everything in his 10-year-old body.
An adaptation of the manga by the same name, animated excellently by A-1Pictures, and directed by Tomohiko Itou – of Sword Art Online, Silver Spoon and Death Note fame – ERASED has been treating itself less like a typical anime production and far more like a live action drama. Fanservice sequences are non-existent and character interactions take centre stage; so much so that each scene in the first three episodes has been loaded with either superb amounts of characterization, particularly for our lead Satoru Fujinuma, or hints towards the mystery at hand. It is honestly quite reminiscent of western films like Prisoners, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or Zodiac, as well as anime series like Death Note.
The fact that in such a short amount of time, there are already plenty of characters to care for and real stakes is a testament to the quality of the storytelling. I’m especially fond of how they’ve handled Satoru’s return to his 10-year-old self, and the different views he holds as a 29-year-old inhabiting this body. It’s believable, but awkward at the same time and is handled so well that it makes the underlying mystery all the more intriguing.
While there have been plenty of, literal, red herrings delivered throughout the run so far – the director’s biggest issue is that he draws too much upon his time working on Death Note and tends to go for the “red-eyed” look for anyone who could potentially be a suspect – Satoru himself comes across as just as suspicious due to his unorthodox presence in the time period. His best intentions could also be the damning action that leads to the disappearance of his classmate Kayo Hinazuki as well as the future death of his mother.
Now, I need to talk about Kayo as well. The 10-year-old girl who disappeared, and Satoru is desperately trying to save in an attempt to change his future and prevent his mother’s murder, is a victim of child abuse, and the anime does not glorify it in the slightest. Instead the utter disturbing nature of what a parent could do to their children is put on full display and I have to give major props to Aoi Yuki, the woman who voices Kayo, for her performance. She portrays Kayo much the same way as she did Fremy in Rokka of the Six Braves; as both a dispassionate and desperate for salvation girl who has had enough with the lot she has been given in life. And every time she speaks you can feel the weight that rests upon her character’s small shoulders. It makes all of Satoru’s attempts to reach out to her all the more powerful.
Actually, all of the sound in these episodes is stand out. Whether it’s the performances given by the cast, or the sound effects that provide life to the world, the audio work is astounding. In particular, Yuki Kajiura’s understated score has been used so expertly that there are times where this show doesn’t feel like a television series anymore, and instead reminds me of the greatest of thriller films that I watch. Scenes can go by without any noticeable music playing, but when Kajiura’s score is utilized, it can bring emotion to the entire scene; changing it immensely.
The final scene between Satoru and Kayo at the end of episode three is just one example of this excellent usage. As they stand beneath an icy tree, the music is used to enhance the mood wonderfully and provides an astounding sense of the emotions being felt, and not necessarily shown, in the scene.
So far, ERASED is probably the best anime airing this season. It’s an easy to recommend start to what could be one of the best thriller anime to air since Death Note, and is currently making up for the two lackluster mystery series that we were presented with in 2015.
Episode 1-3 Rating: 9.5/10