Series Review: Erased (Boku Dake ga inai Machi)

Boku Dake ga inai Machi, better known in the West as Erased, is a thriller/murder mystery anime that surprises, chills, and humors – sometimes all in the same episode. Based on the manga series by Kei Sanbe, Erased is the story of 29 year old Satoru Fujinuma, a down-on-his-luck manga artist who also works part time at a pizza parlor. He lives a pretty mundane life, except…he has a special ability he calls “Revival”, where he is suddenly transported back in time to just before a tragedy occurs so he can attempt to prevent it from happening.

Erased immediately sets the stage for its thrill-a-minute pace in the first episode when Satoru’s mother Sachiko, a prominent former journalist, is murdered by a mystery assassin in Satoru’s apartment. When Satoru returns home and finds her on the ground, he screams and a neighbor rushes over to see what the problem is…and just like that, he becomes the prime suspect in his own mother’s death. Shellshocked, full of questions and on the run from the police, he finds himself transported back in time to 1988 – when he was an 11 year old elementary school student.

29 year old Satoru travels back in time to 1988, when he was 11.

Why 1988? That’s the same year when three students – two of Satoru’s classmates and a girl from a nearby school – were murdered in a brutal killing spree. The major focus of these is on Kayo Hinazuki, whom Satoru always regretted not being able to save. An older teenage friend of Satoru’s named Jun Shinatori was convicted of the murders and sentenced to death, but Satoru and Sachiko were among those who always suspected he had been framed. Can Satoru change all of their futures by uncovering the killer and his/her motives? The numerous twists and turns, remarkably frequent for a 12-episode run, will keep you guessing right up until the dramatic reveal.

But Erased is much more than a murder mystery. It’s also a journey of discovery, the power of family and the importance of friendship. By re-living parts of his childhood with the emotions and understanding of an adult – a sensation I think many of us wish we could experience – Satoru comes to appreciate much more the sacrifices his mother made for him, and their bond grows stronger than ever as a result. It’s a heartfelt part of the story that greatly aids Satoru in his quest.

The English dub from Aniplex of America casts many talented and well-known voice actors. Ben Diskin (Naruto Shippuden, Kill La Kill) does a very nice job in the lead role, conveying the struggles and personality of adult Satoru while giving him a subtle charm and likability, ensuring you root for him all the way. Diskin also frequently narrates during his time in the past, and this is where he shines brightest, expertly delivering the shock and tension of highly intense moments while providing sudden laugh-out-loud humor at other points.

Michelle Ruff (Sword Art Online, Code Geass) is outstanding as young Satoru, especially considering the fact that she’s not just voicing an 11 year old boy – she’s voicing an 11 year old boy who knows he is actually 29. Ruff has to simultaneously convey the natural maturity of an adult while still coming off as an enthusiastic, positive-thinking young boy enjoying his childhood, and she pulls it off magnificently.

Stephanie Sheh (Bleach, Sailor Moon) voices Kayo, Satoru’s childhood friend and the most prominent of the three murdered children. While she’s done many excellent roles in other anime, I’m not sure Sheh was the best fit for Kayo in Erased. Kayo often comes off as stiff in the dub and her exceptionally soft voice never quite gels with her often dour and serious expressions. That said, she delivers several heartwarming moments and you can’t help but smile every time Kayo lovingly calls Satoru an idiot.

The soundtrack is highly enjoyable throughout, memorable enough to keep itself out of the background while never overshadowing the on-screen action. Whether it’s an atmosphere-setting xylophone, a smoothly flowing piano or a dark intense violin, each piece feels perfectly suited to its scene. The emotionally charged pop/rock outro song is a real treat.

If you’re wondering whether 12 episodes is truly enough to grow emotionally attached to a full cast of characters, the answer is an emphatic yes. There is no filler here and episodes focus on character interaction and increasing bonds while also providing plenty of action and always moving the plot forward. Erased takes you on an emotional rollercoaster, with many episodes ending with “Oh my gosh I can’t wait to see what happens next!” cliffhangers. I wholeheartedly recommend checking out Erased no matter what your preferred genres of anime are. And if you have a friend who’s never watched anime before, this show – fast-paced, easily accessible and with gorgeous animation – would be a great place to start.

Both the dubbed and subbed versions of Erased are available to stream now on Hulu and the physical blu-ray release can be purchased over at Right Stuf Anime. Check out the Aniplex trailer for the English dub below! 

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Author: Joe Ballard View all posts by

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