This is full of spoilers.
I’m not going to fuck around with this one and slowly get to how I feel about this; Erased is a show that started out as something that should have been one of the more memorable and powerful shows in the medium. “Should” being the key word, as it decided to quickly swap that out for the most dumb fucking shit imaginable in a constant downward spiral from the moment episode 5 released until the very end of the final episode. This is a shameful show, a fucking tragedy, a mess with absolutely no excuse for why it ended up the way it did aside from unbelievably shitty writing in the source material that disregarded all of it’s own potential.
It’s a show that undoubtedly had one of the very best first episodes of the year, and honestly is one of the more memorable and powerful ones I can think of in the medium – not quite the very best start of all time or anything, but it’s definitely high on the list of show starters. The tense atmosphere, the great pacing right off the bat and getting to know Satoru and his mother so well within such a short period of time, and ultimately the murder that sets the entire story in motion as the twist in the final moments of the episode. It was truly gripping and something I, and many others, hailed as an early contender for anime of the year and easily the anime of the season. However right at episode 5 it all starts falling apart very quickly and each episode progressively gets worse and makes the story more and more stupid with every step along while also adding in a lot more plotholes and retarded shit before landing at the dumbest fucking shit possible for the climax and conclusion. The biggest drop in the writing quality happens at a very specific point in the story as well – the moment Satoru returns to the present for the first time after making the backwards leap at the end of episode 1, once this happens the entire rest of the show is just a total fucking mess.
Don’t dare try pinning this on A-1’s adaptation either, I looked into the manga, both content that’s in the show and absolutely all of the cut chapters and scenes and absolutely NONE of them had any content that added to the story in a meaningful way (the only even semi-worth-noting thing would be that Kayo returns later on, which explains how she ended up banging Satoru’s best friend). It was all essentially filler content and so it makes sense it was missing, it being in the show would not have changed a thing. The entire plot and every story-relevant event was adapted near identically to the way it was presented in the manga.
I’ll admit this series does have some things about it that kept me watching and a couple that are worthy of praise even while surrounded by shit. The premise is something that stands out to me – not the time traveling, that’s been done plenty since the beginning of science fiction novels even, but the fact that this story isn’t about what it seemed to be. Everyone came into this expecting a story about saving a little girl, the one in all the promo art, the one in all the trailers, the one that’s treated as the main subject of the show even within the show, Kayo. Yet the reality is that this is a story about saving Sachiko Fujinuma, Satoru’s mom, from being murdered. Everything else is simply a means to that end, sure they become things he wants to do as well but the end goal is always the same: save mom. The emotions for both the character and the viewer are far stronger because of that relationship over one of a lover or friend, the only thing worse than his mom would be if it was his child. It changes the entire dynamic and emotion of the show as well as the motivations and strength of will for the main character.
Another thing I really loved about this show, also very closely tied to the mother, would be the way this series can manage to make genuinely emotional and moving scenes. However, this is something that only really happens two times in the entire show, and they both happen from the same exact thing. When Satoru first goes back in time, and when he does again later, he meets his still living mom for the first time in that ‘loop’ after just leaving a time where her body has long since bled out from the stabbing. They managed the feeling of seeing her alive again after seeing her dead just prior perfectly and it makes you sincerely empathize with him, especially because they did such a good job of making this woman great and lovable in episode 1 and establishing this playful relationship between the two of them. Suddenly she’s dead, and then just as suddenly he’s a child again and seeing her doing fine. It’s a powerful moment even the second time around, both in concept and in presentation and I can’t pretend those two moments weren’t incredible. Oh, right, there was a third between the mom (what a surprise) and Kayo when she takes her in for a night and the show does a great job getting across this wonderful feeling of happiness for her for a brief bit and of course more admiration towards this woman who is essentially a perfect mother.
The directing is typically great as well, the show manages to be incredibly tense at every turn; provoking non-stop anxiety even in episode 1 before you know how things are going to go at all. It does an unbelievably good job at drawing you in and connecting you with the main characters and story immediately, with said connections growing exponentially every episode – just making that anxiety even stronger. Sadly, as great as the directing is, the writing he’s working with is far lower quality and it ends up making for an almost hilarious atmosphere even during some serious scenes because the expert directing mixed with the dumb shit being said or done turns into a fucking mess. The cinematography is also really good…though I can’t say the same for the animation and art overall, just the “camera work” itself, as it’s very cinematic and the constant letterboxing really helps that as well.
The good and even mediocre ends there though. Everything else about this series is just depressing to watch because it takes some really potentially fantastic scenarios and story beats and ends up making them fucking stupid, wasting all the much better options that aren’t even that hard to think of and instead picking the dumbest thing imaginable at every turn. So stupid that I have to praise the creator for having an imagination that could think up dumber shit than most people.
Disclaimer; no, I won’t sit here going through ABSOLUTELY every plothole, ABSOLUTELY every problem, ABSOLUTELY every contradictory or just plain fucking stupid event in the show. Why? Because this would be goddamn massive, a thesis paper of a review that would make my on-average 5000 word reviews look like cliffs notes. I’m aware this leaves things I say up to more interpretation or simply holes for people to poke through, but that’s why I’m bringing it up now. I am not trying to analyze this show or prove a point with this review, I’m reviewing it, maybe some day I will go through and make a multi-entry look at this show and all of it’s problems, but for now I don’t care if you want to pretend me not mentioning or explaining something enough to think that means said thing doesn’t exist or that I can’t back up what I’m saying. Disagreeing is different from claiming anything I say is based on nothing or impossible to back up.
Let’s start with something I saw a shit ton of once the killer was revealed: “This isn’t a whodunnit, you’re missing the point, it’s about WHY he does this not WHO is doing it! That’s why it’s so obvious who the killer is, it’s not meant to be a mystery like that!“. Well, first off, that’s just fucking wrong, this is literally a mystery and the main mystery without any doubt was meant to be “who is the killer?” because both the anime and manga treat you like a fucking dumbass until the massively melodramatic reveal of who it is wherein it clearly expects you to be shocked and awed by this incredible revelation you never saw coming. You CANNOT defend the hilarious misunderstanding of what subtlety is with “NO IT WAS OBVIOUS ON PURPOSE BECAUSE THAT ISN’T THE POINT” when that’s the result – especially not when the “why” is…well, I’ll get to that now.
The idea that this series is about the “WHY” actually makes the show EVEN WORSE, ironically given how hard the fans pushed this as a way to defend it. His motives, his goals, his reason and logic behind the terrible deeds he’s committed – kidnapping and killing a bunch of children for decades and at least one adult. Why? Why would he do this? If this is truly the point of the story it is possibly one of the worst stories ever written. I’m not exaggerating. The entire motivation of the teacher to do all this is told to us, and it is very literally the most hilariously lazy and generic cliche of “I was always a psychopath because this time as a kid I did this mean thing to animals and so now I’m evil and crazy and a serial killer”. That’s it. There is ABSOLUTELY nothing else to his character, that is the ENTIRE “why”. May as well have just had him say “because I’m the antagonist” at that point for his entire reasoning. No, that may have actually come off better, a lot cooler, and less fucking edgy. So, for your own sake – those of you who run around saying this – I truly hope you’re wrong, because the why is even more appallingly stupid than the who.
On the note of the serial killer, the show has absolutely no sense of how much it treats you like a fucking idiot at every turn, which contradicts my praise of the director, but fuck it. The teacher is constantly a very suspicious character from episode 2 and on and this just gets worse and worse to the point that he has 300 fucking candies stashed in his glove box for some reason – which honestly I still don’t get because unless he’s chasing after some real fat fucks then why wouldn’t he just have a more normal amount? What kids are getting in this car for 100 pieces of candy that wouldn’t for 2? Hell, he uses his teaching job as the way to make them trust him anyway, so what kids is he using this candy with anyway – and what kids that he doesn’t teach are that fucking stupid, that cute girl who seems smarter than she should be for her age? I’m meant to believe she was lured into a strange man’s car by him having a gallon of Reese’s Pieces shoved in a corner? Anyway, he’s super obvious, which leads anyone with half a brain to figure he must be a red herring.
Problem is there are absolutely no other adult male characters in the entire show that it could possibly be. The author clearly fucked up and just FORGOT to make anyone else that could be a possible suspect and forgot that to make it mysterious he’d have to actually have more than ONE FUCKING POSSIBILITY. It’s a little worse in the anime (at least for the early portions), as the OP shows the killer outright, making it obvious who it is NOT – and showcasing that MAYBE it’s the only black haired adult male in the entirety of Satoru’s past that exists. Not that this matters because in both versions of the story the killer is shown when Satoru returns to the present and we see that it has to be an adult male with black hair…and we, yet again, return to a world with only one of those. I cannot imagine any scenario where this was all on purpose, and with the stupidity of the reveal and the HILARIOUS “why” of his actions, that this wasn’t something the author just completely missed when he was writing this and, after most of it was published and he was still writing the last third of the chapters, realized he didn’t actually give himself options and just threw some shit together last second with the teacher because he cornered himself with nothing other than that as a possibility aside an option of making it a total ass pull with a character that never existed up to then being the killer.
Hilariously enough, and this is just completely perplexing, the police never really looked into the teacher when somehow both his real name and his fake identity after are on the suspect list. A man they already suspected, apparently two times over. A man who taught the only kids who disappeared or were found dead with literally one exception. A man who right after these children went missing happened to move out of town, change his name, and change his profession – all on record and not even illegally and who, clearly as we see in episode 1, continues killing children and so clearly the missing kids list has followed him in his move, and oh right he’s the only person in town who owns this model of car and several other models of this exact same car were stolen aside his but there’s no way that’s relevant. WELP, must be this manchild who sometimes talked with the kids because these mass produced boots were the same brand he owns, there’s no way it’s that teacher guy. Did even the police think this was too fucking obvious and just not bother?
It gets worse too, every reveal or big moment in the story is handled in such an over the top up-it’s-own-ass way and the huge “twist” when you learn the killer is the teacher and Satoru is stuck with him? We go full fucking Scooby Doo, with the teacher practically giving the AND I WOULD HAVE GOTTEN AWAY WITH IT TOO IF IT WEREN’T FOR YOU MEDDLING KIDS speech to Satoru. He even rambles on and on about it for like 10 fucking minutes and it’s amazingly dumb yet the scene, as I mentioned before, feels like it’s trying so hard to be this serious incredible and horrifying moment where you and Satoru feel so betrayed and tricked by this man – another clash of the atmosphere, cinematography, and directing against the writing.
There’s also no reason for him to have ratted himself out to Satoru when he does exactly that. Satoru never pieces it together even WHILE THE TEACHER IS TELLING HIM IT WAS HIM he’s going “no way! Really?! OH MY GOD!!!!” and is genuinely amazed at this turn of events. Why does he undo his own secrecy? Well, instead of candy, there were laxative pills…which apparently the teacher thought “WELP HE KNOWS EVERYTHING NOW” instead of just saying “I’ve been constipated, how embarrassing. Sorry you saw those, please don’t bring it up to the other kids”. In fact the teacher has to go on and on about his plans and how evil he is and all that, actively having to work to convince Satoru who STILL DOESN’T GET IT, and it’s fucking retarded.
Along those same lines it has way over the top attempts to rub “this is a bad person” in your face for all the bad people in the show, including in the “big reveal” – they always change entirely who they are, but it’s especially bad in that part. It’s terrible, it’s a big fucking joke in an otherwise completely serious show. Suddenly during the reveal the teacher’s entire face changes into this contorted mess of “I AM EVIL” and he starts cackling and explaining his entire evil plan while whining about Satoru getting in the way every time. It’s such a fucking cartoon villain reaction and it just destroys every bit of anything in this show because so much of this series relies on at least trying to be realistic and attempting to make you see these characters as real people, but then it turns into a fairy tale story where the bad person becomes a mutated crazy alien to make sure you don’t miss that he’s bad. This happens with Kayo’s mom a couple times as well.
There is plenty aside the teacher to complain about too, don’t get me wrong, he’s just the most important story element is all. However, there was another really shittily done thing in the show that was borderline offensive, to be completely honest, and I’m not one who usually would care – especially with a show this bad. Kayo’s mother in the final episode of Kayo’s main story-arc goes from this evil bad thing to suddenly someone they are trying their best to make the viewer sympathize with – it tries so incredibly hard to humanize her and justify her actions. The thing is, that doesn’t work when just before this she was not only shown trying to murder a woman and beat her child, both things that would be written off with “B-B-B-BUT SHE WAS ABUSED BY A MAN SO IT’S OKAY” as far as the story is concerned – but, worse, she LITERALLY SMILED AND LAUGHED ON MULTIPLE OCCASIONS IN TIMELINES WHERE KAYO HAD BEEN MURDERED – in fact she does so in a timeline where she literally is the one who kills her even. She was joyous over the death of Kayo CANONICALLY multiple times even after murdering her herself, yet now we’re meant to believe she’s a loving real mother who just was broken and became a terrible person but one who still loves her daughter. If they had peppered in bits of humanizing her prior and VERY IMPORTANTLY if she only BEAT Kayo and was an awful mother? I’d be LESS upset about this, still fucking annoyed because it’s retarded, but far less.
However, what we got was “this woman who was overjoyed at the news that her daughter had been murdered (and even when she did the murdering with her own hands) is actually just mean to her kid because she was beaten and abandoned by her mother she’s not EVIL she’s just a broken person!”. I can’t buy that when she was so happy that her kid got slaughtered in other timelines/realities, there’s no humanity there and nothing to empathize or sympathize with and the fact the story tries making you care just comes off as the most out of touch thing possible. It’s also just another case where the author forgot shit until too late, “oops, I forgot to make this character anything but completely horrible and I want this to show that all people have good in them…better shove some shit in last second even if it’s completely fucking retarded. T-that’ll make it more realistic, right because ‘bad people’ don’t exist aside the teacher!”
There’s also just plain stupid shit, like the pizza girl’s entire fucking existence. First off, what fucking purpose does she serve AT ALL in this ENTIRE SHOW? Oh, none. She has absolutely no value to the story on any level whatsoever aside at one point driving Satoru on a scooter away from police. We even have to sit through a retarded story that apparently defines her character about how her dad had a chocolate bar in his pocket when he was in a store so her mother divorced him and he was forced to leave town. I’m not making that up. Real gripping and sensible backstory. Somehow they thought she was a great and important part of the show though, because the VERY FINAL SCENE OF THE ENTIRE SERIES is Satoru “meeting” her and realizing he’s thirsty for an underage high school girl who delivers pizza which is at least a step up from his sometimes creepy feelings for Kayo who he’s given up on because she decided to fuck his best friend’s brains out instead of his own because cuckadoodle doo.
This might sound harsh right now but this honestly may be one of the very worst anime I’ve ever seen in my life. How can I say that when there’s so much “clearly worse” out there? Because, even those clearly worse shows come off as terrible to begin with, they also tend to – no matter how fucking dumb – make a coherent story. All Erased has going for it is cute and sexy female designs (the moms for the latter), some (sadly often missing) great directing, and a very well cast seiyuu team. Outside of that everything ranges from terrible to mediocre with a shit ton of animation errors, poor “QUALITY” shots, and one of the laziest phoned-in Kajiura OSTs ever made tailing very closely behind SAO’s. The story is one of the most just fucking shamefully shitty things I’ve ever seen unfold, and what makes it worse is it started out as something so goddamn fantastic and even by the end the show continually inserts these moments that, had the writer any skill, could have made things so much better. Add on top of that the thing I mentioned earlier, where if the “why” indeed was a relevant point of this series that it’s possibly one of THE WORST things ever written.
Even the finale is just complete garbage, with literally nothing happening and even the teacher getting essentially a “good ending” where he finds self retribution in some ways and simply goes to prison but loses nothing and still even has Satoru who apparently he can’t live without because he’s the antagonist so he needs the protagonist in order to feel anything (that’s literally the real reason). Satoru manages to outrun – in a wheelchair – a middle aged seemingly in-shape man without a problem and pulls off an incredible stunt without any practice before falling and taking no injury (albeit having a very weakened body) by falling onto a giant emergency rescue bouncy pad thing firemen use that the teacher also completely didn’t see somehow which is held by absolutely no professionals and we just borrowed somehow, all of this happening after a long speech about nothing but retarded shit and of course possibilities that could have been good. Had Satoru killed himself, the teacher would have suffered horribly from losing that – it’s even stated outright to the point he ATTEMPTS TO KILL HIMSELF IMMEDIATELY AFTER THINKING SATORU DIED. This would have been a real ending, instead the teacher feels no remorse and simply finds this amusing and will probably just change his name on the way to the police station and never be held accountable because magic. B-b-b-b-but you’re missing the point, you might be thinking, but I’m not – it’s just goddamn stupid because the “point” is as cliched and poorly done as his “why”, a barebones undeveloped completely nonsensical pulled-directly-from-the-anus excuse for his need for his victim who was able to hold his own against him, a Joker who obsesses over having his Batman. The teacher is literally a comic book villain, and it’s somehow worse than any comics have ever done this.
There is so much potential here, and somehow at every single branch off point where that potential lies, the creator chose to go out of his way and avoid it, substituting in the stupidest shit he could think of and the most just easily guessed at episode 2 stuff imaginable that even if it was subtle and hard to figure out (it wasn’t either of those) would STILL BE FULL OF PLOTHOLES AND DUMB SHIT. The fact this had such an incredible start and all those moments of potentially getting back to being that amazingly engrossing and powerful story – that’s what makes this so fucking terrible. It’s a perfect example of squandering something in the worst ways possible, and again, it’s not the fault of the adaptation. This is a story written by a fucking idiot who kept fumbling around and tripping onto fantastic ideas that he then fucked up in stellar ways because he didn’t have the talent or even a basic fucking idea of how to handle things even in a mediocre fashion.
However, this is the type of show people are going to keep rated high and pretend it was amazing purely because they’re ashamed of selling it so hard early on to everyone they could, a feeling similar to buyer’s remorse yet mixed with guilt. I refuse to be one of those people. This show is fucking bad, it’s still entertaining, I’ll give it that, but it’s a form of entertainment that’s incredibly retarded and doesn’t have anything to make up for it like action scenes or worthwhile character development or something. It’s a suspense-thriller with nothing but that sense of urgency and anxiety, yet no actual substance to really make that meaningful and a reveal that makes you feel stupid for ever feeling anything in the first place. I wouldn’t say it’s not watchable, but if you do choose to start it you’ll be wishing it was over already throughout every episode from the 5th on and you’ll be upset at yourself by the end for sitting through this shit and I wholeheartedly recommend never touching it if you haven’t already. It’s a prime example of why people love to claim Japan can’t produce good stories at all and also just as perfect a display of people’s fear of being okay with changing their opinions on something they’ve stated to be amazing.
Why does Slain seem to know everything from the very start to the very end, yet that never goes anywhere? How did Satoru get magical time travel abilities and how come he knows “this is the last time it’ll work” randomly at one point? How does the teacher force Satoru to magically survive drowning and come out comatose and with amnesia, and how did he stalk him for 15 years after without suspicion when he was found drowning in an identical-to-his-own-car car with no fingerprints on the steering wheel after leaving town and changing his name and the murders in town stopping at the same time and also having just left a sports arena at the same time as another child seemingly disappeared from it? Why did the teacher go to an abandoned bus out in the snow and somehow not realize “these curtains and other things weren’t here last time I came, maybe I should check behind them?” and miss Kayo being 2 feet away from him in HIS OWN COMPLETELY CHANGED WHILE HE WAS GONE HIDEOUT which he’s canonically shown to use regularly and would definitely notice such drastic changes to it? Why are the police so fucking stupid in the past? Why are the police so stupid in the present where the coroner couldn’t tell within 30 seconds that it was impossible for Satoru to have killed his mother? Why is Satoru running from the cops when any normal human being would know he’d be lowest on the suspects and written off of it within half an hour of talking with a detective? Why does the cute kid grow up to be a chubby ugly loser? Why was the teacher’s boot print so perfectly imprinted yet wrongly colored, not crunched up with the material it was ‘printed’ on, and not nearly big enough for a human being to stand with? Why was the teacher an edgelord? Why did they decide to end the show on a fucking retarded monologue about sentai heroes?
Why is this show just a really awful poor man’s Life Is Strange fanfic?