Anime Review: Erased Part 1 (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Drew Hurley 16.08.2017

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Erased Part 1 (UK Rating: 15)

Anyone who religiously watches each new season of anime as it's produced knows that amongst the chaff there are always a few gems that will stand the test of time. In Winter 2016, dark supernatural series Ajin got its first anime season, Assassination Classroom got its second season and Boku Dake ga Inai Machi - or Erased - hit television screens across Japan. This adaptation of Kei Sanbe's hit Seinen Time Travelling story is now hitting the UK on DVD and Blu-ray in two parts, the first of which, containing episodes 1-6 of 12, hit on 7th August courtesy of All the Anime.

Satoru has a special ability - he sometimes gets a strange feeling and sees a glimpse of a blue butterfly. When this happens, he finds himself experience something of a déjà-vu style moment where he is transported back in time between one and five minutes. Satoru dubs this pattern revival and there's a pattern for when it occurs. Whenever anything terrible is about to happen in Satoru's vicinity, it happens and he is given an opportunity to set things right. He has used this ability numerous times to save people, and this is demonstrated in the first episode where he pulls over a truck where the driver has had a heart attack and almost ploughs into a very young boy trying to cross the road.

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This latest accident saved the little boy but landed Satoru in hospital, resulting in his mother visiting and staying with him for a while. His ability is mostly triggered around blameless accidents and twists of fate, but one day, while out shopping with his mother, his revival flashes on something much more sinister. Satoru looks around and around but nothing seems out of the ordinary; there's a woman giving balloons away, some people heading into the store, and a man walking a little girl to his van… After mentioning to his mother, she picks up a feeling from the man with the young girl, watches him carefully, and even snaps a picture.

It's not the first time children have been put at risk in Satoru's life. His mother reminds him of a string of kidnappings that resulted in the death of three children when he was younger. At the time, a man who Satoru had befriended was blamed. In recollecting this time, Satoru's mother realises she made a terrible mistake and just who the man was that she snapped the photo of. She's just about to put matters right when disaster strikes and Satoru's ability triggers not for an accident, but for something much more sinister, and it doesn't send him a few moments back, but 18 years - back to the time of the original kidnappings and into his ten-year-old body. If he hopes to change the horrors in his present, he has to solve the murders of his childhood.

The story is insanely gripping; this isn't one to watch a single episode or two - the storytelling style, the tense moments, and the pacing of each episode makes for compulsive binge watching, which makes this a difficult watch because of the split of the season. It's painful to see a twelve episode series split in half, but such are the woes of anime licensing. It ends at a fitting point, at least, delivering a suitable cliffhanger to leave viewers desperate for the second part.

Often the best stories are those that are character-focused, ones with characters that are truly three-dimensional, that the audience can connect to, to understand and to grow to care about. Satoru is exactly that. The story told over this first half paints a character that many will identify with. A nervous and unconfident child who acted how he thought he should act to get friends and never showed his real self. This way of living affected his whole adult life, too, as he tries to become a mangaka but fails to give his creations a unique voice as he's still pandering to what he thinks others want. He lives alone, then, works at a ramen shop and has no real friends. He's even oblivious to the romantic interest of his teenage co-worker. This chance to go back and make something right, though, lets him re-examine those choices with the benefit of the wisdom of his adult self.

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This release contains the usual bonus features of a promo video, opening and closing clean animations, and also a pair of episode commentaries. This release also contains dual audio and the English dub is great and continues to show that the age-old issues with English dubs are very much becoming a thing of the past. There are some major VAs taking part, like Michelle Ruff who has played such major female roles as Yoko Littner, Rukia Kuchiki, Saber, and even Luna of Sailor Moon. There's also Stephanie Sheh and Cherami Leigh. As good as this English cast is, though, the Japanese is even better.

The overall production has a cohesiveness and level of quality that makes it obvious some very talented people were involved here. Coming from A-1 Pictures, the studio that has previously produced massive hits like Your Lie in April and Sword Art Online, amongst many others, there are some huge names here, like Tomohiko Ito as Director and Yuki Kaijura on the composition side.

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10
Erased Part 1 manages to nail both the murder mystery and the time travelling elements of its story, while also being so insanely engrossing that it grips its audience and refuses to let go. That audience is now left suffering on a cliffhanger ending until All the Anime releases Part 2, which hopefully will be very, very soon.

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