When tragedy strikes, we can’t help but want to go back in time to see if there’s anything we can do to prevent it. In “Erased”, 29-year-old Satoru Fujinuma (voiced by Ben Diskin as an adult, and Michelle Ruff as a child), literally has the power to do this, but he can’t control it.
His power works simply: When there is a tragedy near him, he is usually sent back in time a few minutes to prevent it. When he was a kid, some children were kidnapped and murdered by an unknown killer, and he’s always regretted being passive and not saving them. Satoru is a struggling manga writer who works full time at a pizza place, who has pretty much wasted his youth. His world turns upside down, however, when his mother (Sara Cravens) visits after he gets into an accident, which leads to her finding out who the killer of those children was all those years ago. Worried about being found out, the killer murders her, which sends Satoru back further than he has ever been sent back before — to primary school — to stop the killer in the past.
The series switches between segments in Satoru’s adult life, and scenes in which he’s sent to the past as a child. While we never find out the exact nature of his power, it’s alluded to that he’s sent back to the past repeatedly until he gets it right.
In his adult life, his main friend is his coworker, Airi Katagiri (Cherami Leigh), and while as a child, he has a lively cast of friends, none of whom really stand out. Kayo Hinazuki (Stephanie Sheh), who originally is the first girl to be kidnapped before being killed, is his primary objective, as Satoru believes that if he’s able to protect her, he’ll be able to stop the killings altogether.
This isn’t an easy task, and it involves him constantly putting himself out there socially, encouraging their friendship. This isn’t easy, as Kayo is being abused at home, and acts out because of it.
In the original timeline, their teacher, Gaku Yashiro (David Collins), is aware of Kayo’s abuse, but is unable to do anything about it, as her mother knows how to exploit child protective services. One day during winter, Kayo disappears, and her body isn’t found until spring, and the killer ends up getting away with it.
It takes all of Satoru’s efforts and the help of his friends to change Kayo’s fate, and it involves outsmarting both her mother and her killer. Their efforts aren’t always successful, but thanks to Satoru’s power, they try until they get it right. What we get by the end is a beautiful tale about an entire community coming together for the sake of Kayo, which is much different from the story’s original timeline, where she was ignored and forgotten.
I’m not going to spoil the show’s ending — it’s worth watching for yourself. But I will say that when the killer is found, the scenes in which Satoru confronts him are remarkable and serves to bring about a satisfying ending to the series.
In a nutshell, “Erased” is not only about righting the wrongs of the past, but it’s also about coming forth as your best self and not letting opportunities to do good or forge important relationships slide by. Satoru starts the anime nearing his 30s, having let most of his youth pass away without accomplishing much, regretting Kayo’s death and his inability to stop it. He ends it by rectifying it, and in the process creates a whole new timeline where he’s allowed a second chance to live the life he wants.
“Erased” is a great tale economically told, perfect for one season of television, and it’s one of those shows that’s hard to stop watching until you’ve finished it.
“Erased” Season 1 gets a 9/10