Sunday, January 10, 2016

Review: Erased, Ep 1: Flashing Before My Eyes

Erased is one of the many new shows this winter premiering on Crunchyroll. Usually I pass over several because I simply don’t have the time to watch them all. This show intrigued me as I do have a special place in my heart for the psychological thriller, however I went in with a below average expectation because the show, from the description, sounded like a typical anime trope (from Crunchyroll):

Satoru Fujinuma is a young manga artist struggling to make a name for himself following his debut. But, that was not the only thing in his life that Satoru was feeling frustrated about…he was also living with a strange condition only he was able to experience. - REVIVAL A strange phenomenon where one is transferred back to the moment right before something life-threatening occurs. This continues to happen until the cause of the threat is erased. It is as if somebody is forcing Satoru to stop it from happening

Sounds kind of “eh” right? The descriptions never really do the show justice I’ve found. Let’s dive into it shall we?

Minor spoilers ahead!

“I’m scared to get to the heart of my own mind.”
The show opens with Satoru stating this internally as his editor in chief tells him that he must put more of himself in his work if he ever wants to become a better manga artist. As he walks back to his dead-end job at a pizza parlor I notice that the character design of Satoru is very specific: He’s tall and lanky, he has glasses, and a sort of “woe is me” look on his face all the time. He’s immediately portrayed as someone who is more of a reactive force in his life rather than a proactive one. Strangely enough, I found myself being able to relate to him. Depending on what age you are, we’ve all had moments in our lives where we’re working at a dead-end job just to keep the lights on and the fridge somewhat full. It’s not what we want to do for the rest of our lives, no that dream we proclaim to the world and hope that through our talent and will it’ll come to fruition. Satoru has sort of reached the more stoic, dead part of the journey: the loss of hope that his dream will ever come true. He has sort of become his own worst enemy and has become a self-defeating, hopeless person.

We get a feel for how Satoru uses his “powers” within the first ten minutes or so of the show. He’s out on a delivery and the scene sort of interrupts with this flash and brief change of color, suddenly we’re presented with the same information that we just saw only there’s a more urgent feel to the situation. Satoru is looking around for anything out of place, and we’re placed in that same frantic situation as our protagonist. The pacing of the scene was fast and progressive, like everyday life; you really had to pay attention to find what was out of sorts. Satoru finds what was out of place and he, while complaining the entire time, fixes the problem and tragedy is averted. He doesn’t necessarily “embrace” his powers, he’s more like “I guess I’ll do this because I’m here.” The show really does focus on Satoru’s lack of ambition for his own life, again being more reactive than proactive.

Luckily, we’re not just faced with Satoru’s less than enthusiastic view all the time; we get a refreshing counter to his character in Airi Katagiri. Katagiri is not only spunky and adorable (waifu material guys), she’s also presented as very driven and smart for her age. She’s a high school student that works in the pizza parlor with Satoru, Satoru just doesn’t understand her (surprise) but after she witnesses what he does to avert the tragic situation as previously mentioned; she seems to be much more interested in him. She flat out tells him that he doesn’t really open up to people and she, unlike him, has hope in her dreams—which she didn’t tell him what they were because she said “It’s not like we’re close or anything.” The show presents us with tantalizing cliffhangers as we don’t really know what her dream is, we have to earn it like Satoru.

Another cliffhanger that is presented is the case of the “abductions” that we hear about throughout the show. When Satoru was in fifth grade, two of his classmates were abducted and brutally murdered. His mother, Sachiko, did her best to try and make Satoru forget what happened. Surprisingly, I didn’t fault her for this. Fifth graders aren’t really supposed to deal with adult situations so she did what she thought was best for her son. Sachiko is a wonderful character, you wouldn’t think that she was Satoru’s mother as she is presented relatively younger (not that 52 is old mind you) and not showing signs of aging. But that’s not what makes her wonderful, it is suggested that she knows about her son’s supposed “powers” even if she doesn’t understand it she still accepts him and listens to him.
This is presented very well in a scene where Satoru has another “revival” as they are leaving the supermarket. She doesn’t shun him or say “oh you’re just imagining things,” she actually stops and looks around with him. In a surprising turn of events, she’s the one that prevents the event from conspiring so I’m left to wonder if maybe she has some sort of higher than average observation skill or a similar power to Satoru’s.

What’s always on the back of the viewer’s mind is the fact that Sachiko knows more than what she is letting on about the abductions. She drops hints throughout the episode but nothing proves it more than the scenes following the supermarket. She’s torn about telling Satoru the truth about the abductions, it shows in her face and in her demeanor. She feels guilty about not believing a young Satoru about something that deals with the abductions, what that is I won’t say as it will spoil the story. She attempts to reconcile this, to tell Satoru the truth about everything. She attempts anyway
It’s not until Satoru is faced with an impossible situation that we really see if he’s going to start to become a proactive force in his life. The episode ends on a tantalizing cliffhanger that left me wanting more. Will Satoru finally stop being reactive and play a part in his own life? It’ll be interesting to see how this character develops.

Overall the show starts off strong and ends strong, one could find a trope or two but it’s not an episode breaking thing. I’m very curious to see how the character of Satoru develops and learn more about Katagiri. The universe is very appealing, and the pacing definitely fits the show—not slow and explanatory, but fast and unforgiving like life is. All in all, I give this a four out of five stars, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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