I hope that everyone is having a good day, no matter how you are spending it.
Things are still going fairly well over here, now that I got caught up on things, and I can still do what I like.
Last year, I thought I would get myself into the habit of doing series reviews, because I was having troubles writing a review for an author that, with the first one being a review of Spice & Wolf, as I had completed all the books in the main storyline, and because I finished dealing with the main storyline of another series recently, I thought that I would do another, as I would not being making any progress if I only did it once.
Today, I will be reviewing that series, which is called Erased.
As I have given two different series synopsis for this series, one for the anime adaptation in my review of the pilot and one in my review of the first volume, with the former sounding better to me than the latter, I will forego providing a synopsis, so you guys can decide which you prefer.
When I first came across this series, and started reading it, which was before both A-1 Pictures anime adaptation and Yen Press brought the volumes over to where I live, it had a hard time grabbing my attention, because the whole feeling I got from the beginning was both slow and gave me vibes that it was going to be yet another title like Bakuman, seeing how Satoru was trying to get into the manga industry, and his idea was rejected.
Yes, this was not exactly how Bakuman started off, because how manga is made and only one protagonist seemed to have the desire to get into that industry, from what I could remember from reading some of the scans, but that does not change the fact that the beginning just gave off the vibe, and was one reason why A-1 Pictures’s anime adaptation seemed to come across better, with its faster paced pilot.
However, one day, I decided to give the series another chance, and after getting through the pages that originally gave me vibes of it being a Bakuman rip off, I found myself in an interesting world, with characters that were not like many of the other characters found in the world of anime, manga, and light novels, along with a mystery that seemed to be interesting premise that could span a whole series, which made it easy for me to get into both back then, and now, when I decided to revisit this series.
In the world of fiction, standalone works have an advantage in attracting people, because the goal is to have the audience be engrossed enough within its pages that they want to see how everything ends and it only needs to be that book, but with a series, at least a good one, not only does it need to draw in the reader to its world, but there must be something that keeps people coming back for more, as well as something that connects each installment, which is why series tend to be so risky.
This series provides that, by giving the audience an impression that this is some sort of mystery that fans of detective, mystery, and crime fiction feel like they want to solve, and even clue them in that they might be in for a ride, with how Satoru tried and fail to capture his mother’s killer.
If the beginning had stopped right where I was left wondering who the killer was, I probably would have been okay with it, though with what happened in the seven volumes that came after the initial first volume, I would have felt like things were just being dragged on, because the mystery was already over and the culprit was found, which is usually where works of belonging to the detective, mystery, and crime fiction genres end, regardless of whether or not the criminal gets away.
Luckily, it went beyond that the culprit’s murder of Sachiko and there is some other incentive to stick around with the series than just the mystery that was introduced to get things going and show Satoru’s motivations for doing what he does.
I also liked how mystery that seemed to be established in the beginning lasted for quite a while, and even used a misdirection technique that many people are not really that familiar with.
When the anime adaptation from A-1 Pictures was airing, one of the things that I hated was how the person responsible for killing kind of made himself known as early as episode 3 and there was nothing to really dissuade me from suspecting him, though I did find it interesting at the time I initially watched the 3rd episode because it did make a viable suspect, and the whole mystery at that point was finding who killed Sachiko and was also responsible for the serial kidnappings and murders in 1988, not a mystery where one knew the culprit immediately and their airtight alibi had to be broken or their guilt had to be proved.
For something to be considered a good mystery, at least these days, where there have been standards established by Agatha Christie and so many other writers known for their works in the detective, mystery, and crime fiction genres, there needs to be some sort of misdirection, which is why red herrings exist in the first place.
In many instances, typically in what is called the whodunnit, the writer usually creates the misdirection by making each person they have as suspects seem suspicious enough that the audience would believe them to be guilty because they did something that the audience thinks signifies their guilt, while the people in the various law enforcement agencies in the world and those familiar with the detective, mystery, and crime fiction genres would all acknowledge that these suspicious moments do not necessarily indicate guilt.
However, such things can only be successfully done if there are multiple suspects or multiple explanations, which is why the whodunnit is not the only type of mystery that exists in the realm of detective and crime fiction, and really limits the ways things can be written.
Thankfully, this series takes a different avenue than that one, by making it so that even though there is only one suspect, we, as readers, are left with the impression that there are multiple, because what we see the suspect do makes it seem like Kei intended him to be a red herring because he would just be too obvious, just like how we ignore a solution to our problems because it seems to be so simple.
By going this route, it not only created a surprised for those reading it because they believed it to be a mystery series, rather than what it really was, but it also helped to bring out what was truly expected out of this series, which was feelings of excitement, surprise, suspense, anticipation, and anxiety, as it was revealed that the person Satoru was looking for was right beside him all along.
If things were handled in a way that were similar to a typical whodunnit, like how the anime went, I would have been disappointed enough to say that I was completely and utterly wrong about this series, instead of being able to confidently say that this manga was far superior to the anime adaptation, as it would have been a waste of time.
Fortunately, that did not happen, and let the mystery aspect of this series remain as just the element of mystery that good works of thriller need, which helps to make the series stand out a bit.
Another thing that I liked about this series was the humor in it.
One of the things that plague a lot of manga and anime, especially those meant for adolescent males or younger, is that it relies so much on the slapstick comedy that everyone has come to expect, such as women beating men to bloody pulps or others things that have been done to death, and while it does help to create an interesting and lively atmosphere, it can also turn people off because it has been done one too many times.
Here, however, even though there are some instances that the humor could be par for the course, it did not rely as much on them, instead having the humor be around how Satoru cannot hide the fact that he is an adult in a child’s body, yet nobody seems to really question how he comes across, instead remarking that what he remembered did not happen, or he questions how he is feeling because of his real age, as well as some of his bouts about how he said something he did not mean to say.
Seeing all this happen, I found myself chuckling quite a bit, such as how he and Kayo Hinazuki put their hands together in a park, helping me to not feel bored at all while reading this.
It was also nice to see how the children in this series acted very much like actual children.
While fiction, regardless of medium, does present a nice opportunity for people to escape reality, children tend to be presented as either too smart and mature to be a child, which is a frequent problem with many anime and manga, or they just come off as annoying pests that should not be there, or even not really have much too them.
Here, however, this is at least the second series that comes off the top of my head, with the first one being Barakamon, where most, if not all, of the children that appeared really felt like children, who can be annoying to be around, yet at the same time, seem make things more interesting and fun, in addition to how observant they are of others.
In this series, the children are at the forefront of the investigation that starts up when Satoru goes into the past, and in situations like this, writers and other creators fictional work, would make these children come off as highly intelligent, which Satoru is, though he is just average, compared to other adults, and way too mature that it would be hard to think of these characters as children.
However, Kei Sanbe made these children feel like every other child on planet, which could be thanks to the fact that he actually does have a child, according to the little comics that could be considered the afterword.
If he had these children be the children that are typically present in manga and anime as protagonists, I do not think that I would have been able to find much enjoyment beyond the plot and a few other elements, and it would not really be able to stand out.
Thankfully, that did not happen here, and it added to the series, by helping it feel a bit more believable and realistic, though not to quite the extent that Spice & Wolf was able to deliver.
There were two things that I liked the most though, and really helped to make the series stand out.
First, it showed child abuse for it what it was, and it did not glorify it.
While I was growing up, and much more in line with how my elders, church leaders, and peers wanted me to believe, I was told to stay away from things with mature content, like sexual situations and other things considered immoral, because it would desensitize me and make those immoral acts look okay, all because the entertainment industry is glorifying the stuff.
However, what they did not tell me, and what I had to learn on my own is that mature content can be handled maturely and shown for what it was, thereby helping me learn new things and see how people suffer through things like this, or even gain a better understanding of why they may act certain ways.
Child abuse is considered one of those mature topics, along with suicide and depression, and when I saw Kayo Hinazuki’s mother beat her, I was not mesmerized by seeing the ill treatment to the point where I wanted to see other children be abused. I felt disgusted, and I understood why she was acting so distant towards others, before she befriended Satoru and the others, and made me want to see how Kayo would not only be saved from the kidnapper’s clutches, but also be saved from her own mother, whose past did not justify her actions.
Kayo was noted early on as being the first victim, so her role upon initial introduction was to help establish the criminal’s modus operandi, as well as one of the people Satoru regretted not saving, so seeing what she was going through was absolutely important, in seeing why she was so important to Satoru, other than seeing her just standing alone in a park, and when I walked away from the series, I actually ended up feeling happy for how her life turned out after her hardship.
If the abuse Kayo suffered had not been shown, I do not think that I could have really understood her as a character and her happy life that was shown later on in the series would not have really made much sense, not to mention the fact that why Satoru would try to focus on her, beyond being the first victim would not be something that I could really understand, beyond the flawed method of trying to empathize with others.
Fortunately, Kei Sanbe did show the abuse in a way that did glorify it, and it helped to make the happy ending that feel much happier, as well as helped me to understand who Kayo was.
The second thing, and the thing that really impressed me though was how the final confrontation felt like one.
While I did admit in my review of the 8th volume that the final encounter was not the best final encounter I have ever seen, it had practically everything that it needed, from the tension of everything being on the line for both parties, especially Satoru, to making me wonder just who would come out on top.
If I had to say why this was the case, other than the fact that things needed for a good conclusion were still present, unlike what happened with the anime adaptation, it was because the antagonist actually seemed like the person he was said to be and the way things played out did not feel like it was set in stone that either person would win, which is an important ingredient needed in a final showdown.
The way the final showdown or obstacle in a story is very important, because it determine whether or not the protagonist really got the ending they deserved or not, and if the audience is so sure that something is going to happen, like somebody other than those directly involved was going to save the day, it would degrade all of the hard work and struggles the protagonist or protagonists went through, thereby making the happy ending be there just for the sake of a happy ending.
Now, some of you would be seeing that things like a deus ex machina could happen in real life, so it is realistically possible for outside forces to intervene upon somebody’s behalf, but that would not work out here, unless one is referring to the placebo effect, because the human will and how it sometimes defies what science tells us was talked about on at least two separate occasions in this series, so the ending needs to be achieved by Satoru and his friends and mother.
For example, at the end of A-1 Pictures’ anime adaptation, Satoru was stuck in a wheelchair, and when Yashiro reappears in his life, he immediately takes Satoru to the roof, and Satoru throws himself off the roof.
When Yashiro thinks Satoru is dead, he prepares to jump off the roof as well and finds out that Satoru is lying in a cushion that just so happened to be there, along with people who Satoru thought were important.
This was such a horrible end, because not only did Yashiro practically let Satoru do whatever he wanted, but made Satoru’s victory seem to come from luck, more than him struggling up to the end.
Here, however, though Satoru’s survival was still kind of dependent on luck, there was clear effort on his part to succeed in coming out on top, and that helped to make everything that happened after seem to be so much more satisfying, because we see him struggle to thwart Yashiro’s plans and there is much more buildup to the grand finale.
If Kei Sanbe had Satoru and Yashiro settle things once and for all immediately after Satoru returned to the present, this would have gone down as one of the worst series that I have ever read, thereby breaking my heart completely.
Thankfully, that did not occur, and that allowed me to walk away from this series with a satisfied feeling.
Outside of those things, I cannot think of anything else that I particularly liked, at least that could not be shoehorned into what I already talked about or I did not explain well enough in the reviews of the individual volumes.
Because my interest was captured quite well, at least after I got beyond the pages that made me feel like this series was going to be another manga series about making manga, by providing a good inductor mystery and hinting to be that the mystery is not the big focus of the series, the mystery itself did seem to be present for an adequate amount time, the humor seemed different and unique, the children felt like children, it was able to depict child abuse without glorifying it, and the final confrontation truly felt like a final confrontation, which helped to make the ending much more satisfying, this series was a great read for the time I put into it.
Although I liked the series, there are some issues.
However, aside from things that are too minor to talk about, such as typos, things that would only affect some of the volumes, and some things that I initially had on my mind, but did not really hurt the series as badly as I thought, now that I have time to think about it, nothing really seemed to bother me too much.
As a result, I will have to say that there is nothing worth mentioning.
Considering that there was quite a bit to like, and nothing to really hate, unless one really wanted to be nitpicky, this series was definitely worth reading.
I mainly recommend this to fans of the Boku Dake ga Inai Machi anime that are interested in checking out the original source and fans of the thriller genre, as those groups will be able to like this the most.
As for everyone else, it might be worth giving a try, but if you are coming in expecting a great mystery series, I would recommend looking elsewhere, because the series continues on beyond the initial mystery that gets the story going and might feel dragged out because of it.
If you liked this review and would like to see more, please consider supporting me on Patreon or, if you want to check out the Erased for yourself, buy the four compilations that Yen Press released from the links provided below, so I can find more worthwhile reads for you guys to read.