Thematic Disparity: In Defense of ERASED Post

Seems like the crowd darling this season is receiving some serious unjustified flak from the anime community. Hence, I was compelled to write this post.

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I never saw ERASED as the best airing right now but I do not deny its quality as the show that defined Winter 2016. I still think Shirayuki-hime and the new Lupin III are much better than this and do not even begin on comparing it with the mythical Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu. However, this show did what the other three cannot do – capture a very large audience with its premise. As of this writing, you can add the total MyAnimeList members of these three other shows and ERASED still trampled them big time. This is also the most interesting title to ever grace the screen this season for all the right reasons. Time travel thriller, family issues, serious feels and cat and mouse chase were presented in earlier episodes which are the baits for entering the Top 100 of MAL.  In its heyday, it was one of the highest ranked series in the site (it still is but a steep fall is expected for the next days). What happened after its run?

Let us start with the complaints first. ERASED is a show with two segments having disproportionate quality. The mystery and thriller component of this anime bombed so staunch detractors can pinpoint any plot holes they can ever think of and come up with compelling reasons. Episodes 5 and 6 showed the weakness of this series when it tackled the main plot. ERASED cannot properly show a layout to the mystery in the present time as it lacked subtlety and intellect to sway the viewers into thinking who the culprit is and how did he execute these crimes. Red herrings were not executed properly as these were just shown for the sake of deceiving the audience in finding the murderer without a good basis. We also witnessed that it has unhealthy dependence on cliffhangers to keep the audience hooked with the next episodes. Character wise, Satoru as an adult is just dull and Airi’s backstory is so bad it’s funny because of the chocolate incident. Yashiro’s motives were never explained in full as well as his fixation on Satoru. ERASED ended with lots of questions related to this aspect. The show scraped the bottom of the barrel in its tenth episode when Yashiro revealed that he is the culprit in a manner that even Nobuyuki Sogou of Sword Art Online’s Alfheim Arc blushed with his blatant declaration.

What I do not understand at this point is why many fumed when we saw Kayo holding her child from Hiromi and people cried over the community as their ship sank. This is where ERASED’s rating fell from 9.13 to the present. Probably people always wanted an ending where the two main leads in the series end up together given the hardship they encountered. Yet – they seemed to forgot something important that Satoru was in a coma for 15 years. Kayo is forever thankful for having her life saved but waiting for that long period of time will surely leave her behind. They were eleven when the events in the 1988 occurred. Satoru and her were both young back then – at least in their physical state. Puppy love does not always work in the end as it is fueled by infatuation more than anything else. Kayo must have found someone along the way and the anime adaptation does not have to present her meet up with Hiromi as this isn’t their story. The direction ERASED took at this option is far more realistic and logical. It will be really melodramatic to see Kayo patiently waiting all along for Satoru to wake up. Remember that people under coma may not wake up again so she might have wasted her life if Satoru died in his sleep.

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Moroever, a lot of manga readers were unhappy with the adaptation in the final episodes of ERASED. Airi, who served as Satoru’s love interest was cut off until the last moments of this adaptation and Yashiro’s motives were omitted so we got a hilarious speech about drowning hamsters. The latter is a real complaint because Yashiro was reduced to your psychopathic and archetypal villain but the former can be forgiven. Remember how happy we are when we were fed with Kayo? Yes, She is the heart of this series and the most of its run were focused on her development. Sure – we can present Airi and her romance with Satoru but for what expense? ERASED is only slated to run for 12 episodes. They can opt to give this a Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches treatment if they wanted to adapt everything but thankfully they did not. The staff did whatever they can do to have a neat resolution while adapting 15 plus chapters in a span of three episodes. Most important events were presented and anime only moments were inserted to connect the scenes. We can cut some of Kayo’s moments to focus in the present but it will hurt more than it could benefit. As stated earlier, the present day Satoru is not the best lead we can have in this otherwise good show. On a less rational remark, the shoujo demographic offers a heck of romance titles you can enjoy if that is the case.

Lastly, even these people who said ERASED is bad thoroughly enjoyed the first few episodes of this series. Except for the magical moving knife, the magical list (I have to thank a Nihon Review commenter for this) and the hamsters, an anime only viewer will not notice anything rushed in this series. Satoru and his friends (Kayo included) elevated ERASED to something special. This show might have done poorly in its genre but its drama and slice of life component is nothing short of excellent. Family issues were handled gracefully in this show but is brave enough to present child abuse in anime – which is a pretty rare one if you ask.  Who was not moved when Kayo ate a normal breakfast for the first time? Who was not wowed in the Christmas Tree scene in this series? There might be few but a substantial amount of watchers (even those who are manga readers) are unanimously happy that it climbed the ranks of MAL’s Top 100 anime. There is also a lingering thought in me that we might have given it some weird expectation that it could not fulfill in the end given the constraints. Nonetheless, it is good as a stand alone offering. Isn’t that enough to be a merit in judging anime series?

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12 thoughts on “Thematic Disparity: In Defense of ERASED Post

  1. I think fans were salty that the coma was there to begin with, acting as both an end to KayoXSatoru dreams and Satoru being in a position of even more obliviousness to the villain. Both effects contributed to the various themes of ERASED I was loving, though.

    The plot got stale and overworked towards the end, but anyone who says the show doesn’t handle a vast number of interesting themes, *cough*Digi*cough*, in the space of one cour, must be actively refusing to think of anything in the story in any detail.

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    1. I still think the coma scene was something I don’t wished to happen in this series but I was fine with the two not being a thing because I view Satoru’s affection over Kayo a result of his frantic efforts to save her. I am one of those who wished this series had an episode more to properly explain the villain’s side. I still can’t forget the hamsters in this series. Seriously?! Haha.

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      1. That micro-narrative was nice on its own, but terrible in the context of the whole series. Peppering the series with hints about his motive would have been so much better.

        Not having KayoXSatoru really supported the massive theme of being alone/ostracised for doing the right thing (Yuuki suspected, Airi called a liar, Sachiko still husband-less??). Satoru lost both Kayo and Airi because of his coma, but he still filled the gap in his heart.

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  2. I wouldn’t say the abuse part was handled good at all. Like the show did not have any message regarding it really, it was just there as a plot point, and the resolution to the issue was rushed and pretty cliche, it felt like “all right time to wrap up this plot point so that we don’t have to worry about it in the future, back to the playing detectives bit”.

    An anime with better treatment of this would be Higurashi S2 imo, with the whole Satoko debacle.

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    1. I agree with the Higurashi debacle since it was tackled thoughtfully there (It’s a rare gem to be fair). I still stand that aside from the melodramatic ninth episode, Kayo’s case was handled with subtlety and horror which is almost at par with the aforementioned show.

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      1. I wouldn’t say the scene where they show the beating behind a red curtain, while overlaid with prison bars is subtle, and I don’t even have to mention the red eye thing as well. I won’t say it’s entirely unrealistic, since most abuse cases are similar to this to some extent, but that just won’t cut it.

        Honestly, the only thing I can really get behind is the SoL moments. I do not know whether I actually liked them more because they were such a contrast to the rest of the show’s flaws, or whether they’re just good on their own (although I would not watch a show just about these moments), but at least I found these moments to be more fitting, since in most of them all the characters were more natural, and the shows direction appeared to be more “honest” with itself, if that makes any sense.

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      2. I think we both agree that Erased excelled in SoL moments and disagree with Kayo’s case.

        In my view, I am pleased (no, not happy with child abuse) at the presentation of her abuse because of the staff’s guts to present that in anime. Her birthday with Satoru is nothing but elegant and so with her first normal breakfast if we are asked something subtle in her arc. Don’t ask the resolution as I am also busy rolling my eyes in disinterest with the ham-fisted melodrama.

        Higurashi is the only other show I can think of in producing this kind of horror – and it’s something we expect to see in that kind of show. So it felt refreshing to see that in a mystery (?) show like ERASED.

        Lastly, my memory might fail me but are these red eyes present in Kayo’s home? I am sure the sensei has one and so with Satoru but I cannot remember a moment with Kayo’s mom (with her before the fourth episode or when she was abused at home).

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      3. When Kayo’s mother goes to get her at the tool shed in one of the first few eps, she sports an evil grin and red eyes.

        And I get the sentiment of “having guts”, but honestly anime is not that conservative when you think about it. The reason why many people like anime is because it goes out of its way to do stuff other medium, and especially other cartoons, would never do, especially in a serious manner (I say this because sitcoms like Family Guy obviously try to cross the line, but solely for comedic purposes). In that sense, when an anime does something just to bring attention to itself, rather than actually explore and develop it, more often than not when it comes to violence, it just comes across as shock factor.

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      4. I am not referring solely to anime but in Japan as a whole because that country is really conservative to be fair – and it is the major audience for ERASED. We normally see series being grotesque and such but how many famous shows dealt with case similar to Kayo’s or child abuse handled with some realism? I think ERASED did a good job on exploring her predicament – which may be as extensive as Satoko’s situation in Higurashi S2 sans the massive body count. I say Kayo’s situation was developed to an extent (her situation, Satoru’s intervention, her doomed end if they fail and the rescue) that I am worried what will happen to ERASED since I felt it ended right after she was brought to her grandma. If you are referring to the archetype that is her mom, I think I can agree with you on some points because she never really comes across with me as a good character. Setting her out in the equation leaves Kayo’s abuse and Satoru’s desperation to save her which is quite rewarding in this case.

        Outside the kids, that leaves the main plot hanging because it was never a good mystery series to begin with. By the way, thanks for reminding me about that red eye thing. As regards to shocks, I addressed and highlighted that flaw in my weekly reviews and I do not feel the need to restate what I told before too many times.

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