Erased is a thrilling, time-travelling tale that you cannot stop watching.
Fans of the anime Erased will love the Netflix live-action production of the series. A time-travelling, melodramatic thriller, Erased is the kind of show you will binge in one day. It is gripping, exciting and full of twists and turns that will have you desperate for the next episode. If you loved Netflix’s Dark, this show is definitely for you.
1 – Curveballs
As someone who hadn’t read the original manga, or seen the much-loved anime adaptation, I had absolutely no idea what to expect while watching Erased. It made the viewing experience that much better for me because everything was a surprise.
We follow Satoru Fujinuma (Yûki Furukawa), an aspiring manga writer who makes a living delivering pizza. Satoru could be a regular guy except for his unusual ability – he can sometimes turn back time. Satoru calls it the Revival. If something really bad is about to happen, Satoru can go back in time. The only catch is that he usually ends up getting hurt by doing so.
On a routine delivery, Satoru goes through the Revival and saves a child, ending up in an accident himself. His mother, Sachiko (Tomoka Kurotani) comes to stay with him but ends up being murdered. Satoru is desperate to find the killer but the answers he needs may lie in unsolved kidnappings from when he was ten years old.
Satoru begins to travel back and forth in time, not always off his own volition. Subsequently, he doesn’t have the necessary information required to find either the kidnapper from his childhood or the killer from his present. If he is to solve the mystery, he must do so through a painful, and heart-breaking, process of elimination.
As viewers, we get to discover the clues along with Satoru, which is an essential part of any murder mystery. I also love that the show has you guessing who the killer is till the very end. It does so by including some deliberate visual red herrings to throw you off track, making the final reveal that much more surprising.
2 – Cool characters
Admittedly, Satoru starts off a bit bland. Furukawa emotes little in the first episode and it isn’t until the unexpected death of Satoru’s mother that the character comes alive. As the series progresses, we realise that this blandness was a character trait.
The Satoru we meet at the start of the show was closed-off, had no friends, was annoyed with his life and everyone in it. Once he gets thrown into his past self, he realises the mistake he made with his first run through life.
The show is very much about two Satorus – the 29-year-old in present day and the ten-year-old from 19 years ago. Where present-day Satoru is surly and cynical, ten-year-old Satoru is bubbly and intelligent. Played impressively by 12-year-old Reo Uchikawa, the child Satoru spends his second chance at life becoming a better person and earning some friends. Satoru’s arc, especially considering it is centred on his love of manga, is poignant for anyone who has suffered through life as a lonely geek.
It is actually a bit surprising that Satoru grew up to be so cynical, and actively disliked his mother – he describes her as “annoying” when she comes to see him following his accident.
The Sachiko we see when Satoru is thrust into his ten-year-old self is a single mum, working hard to support her son. She is always smiling, unwaveringly optimistic and, considering how many times she has to save her son and his friends, the hero of the show. As far as I’m concerned, Kurotani stole the show and Sachiko ended up being my favourite character.
Erased is nothing short of optimists. Airi Katagiri (Mio Yûki) works with Satoru delivering pizzas. Airi’s kindness helps Satoru realise his need for including others in his mission. She is only 17, as was the actor while shooting the series, but works incredibly hard to pursue her dream of becoming a photographer. Yet, when Satoru is in desperate need, she is willing to give up the money she has made to help him solve his mother’s murder.
Airi is potentially Satoru’s love interest, but considering their age difference, I hope they do not follow through on this particular plot point for the live action show.
Around young Satoru are equally fascinating characters. Mr. Yashiro, Satoru’s teacher, is full of wise words and is one of the rare adults, alongside Sachiko, who seems to want to do the best for the children.
Satoru’s classmate, and the first child to be kidnapped, Kayo Hinazuki, has a depressing but relevant backstory. Though painted as a damsel in distress, she has much more depth and is given enough agency to subvert that trope.
3 – Gorgeous visuals
Erased uses settings to convey the ethos of the characters. It is quite subtle how the past and present are contrasted. The show was shot in Hokkaido, Japan, and it is stunning. From the snow-covered past to the grassy present of the third act, every shot is breath-taking.
Snow is generally meant to signify darkness and loss of happiness in western films. But, for children, snow can be incredibly enjoyable. Erased sets the past during winter when child Satoru works towards solving the kidnappings. Snow covers every inch of the rural landscape and it is undoubtedly beautiful. There’s a touching scene where Satoru shows the still-distant Hinazuki a ‘Christmas’ tree, which, visually, is the highlight of the show. But it also shows the bond between the characters and the optimistic direction the plot is heading towards.
In contrast, the present of the first and second acts is set in a darkened city setting. Cramped housing and vehicular congestion denote the oppressive and dangerous circumstances that our protagonist finds himself in.
As life perks up for our protagonist, the congested city is replaced by bright outdoor scenes, green lawns and mountain ranges. Plus, a showdown against the backdrop of fireworks! Honestly, you could screenshot any frame of this show and turn it into a postcard.
4 – Faithful to the manga
Nobody liked Netflix’s Death Note adaptation. When Erased was announced, fans were up in arms, terrified of their beloved manga/anime being mutilated the way Death Note was.
Fortunately, Erased is nothing like the Death Note adaptation. It is more faithful to the Kei Sanbe manga, in fact, than the anime was. The ending of the manga has been recreated in this show, and though it may not be to everyone’s liking, it certainly cannot be accused of not doing the source material justice.
But what I like even more is that the show is faithful to where the source material is from – Japan. Whereas Death Note alienated its fanbase by choosing American actors and making the entire show in English, Erased stays true to its origins. The actors are Japanese, as are the settings. The show is completely in Japanese and has English subtitles for non-Japanese speakers. I wouldn’t have minded English dubbing but, in hindsight, I realise this would have done a disservice to the actors.
5 – Powerful message
In a year when geeks have had the joy of watching a great crossover on the CW’s DC shows, and the sorrow of a rather terrible Justice League film, one message is clear – heroes need allies.
Erased quietly makes this point through the three acts of the show. When Satoru starts off on his mission, he is alone and thus many of his well-laid plans fail to work. It is only when he starts to trust others and open up to them that he manages to make a real difference to history. Even though he is touted as the hero, it is his friends who give him impetus and purpose.
We see the effect of friendship not only on 10-year-old Satoru but also on present-day Satoru. Whereas in the first act Satoru barely ever cracked a smile, we see a much happier Satoru as the show progresses. The more friends Satoru makes, the happier he becomes, and more successful.
In a world of technological isolation, this is a simple yet powerful message for viewers.
Erased is the kind of gripping watch that one is getting used to seeing on Netflix. With characters that immediately engage you, stunning landscapes and a story that is both epic and personal, this is a show that deserves its praise. Here’s hoping it gets a second season.