Erased has gained a lot of popularity this season and for good reason. It is one of the very few shows that are a step up in quality this anime season. No doubt this show has impressed people with the way it has been handling it's presentation of the story. Even when the set rules of the world involved time travel powers all in a realistic simple story. But does that mean the show will be great until the very end?
A-1 Pictures is the studio behind this anime and if you know this studio, you know that they have also made Sword Art Online. A very successful and arguably overrated anime that caught the attention of many modern anime viewers.
How does this show relate to Erased? Well at the time of this post we are only about 7 episodes in and I have noticed minor comparisons and growth with each episode of Erased to Sword Art Online. While Erased and Sword Art Online are different both in plot and tones, the overall structure in which the writers & directors of the show have similar aspect to them based on the quality of the story telling. Erased presents various themes that if dived in further, could be something really interesting. The same could've been said for Sword Art Online in the way the premise is established, but that discussion is for another time.
The two shows share the same director, so of course you can expect some similarities whether is be from the visual style to the way the story is told. Unfortunately some of the negative aspect from Sword Art Online is transferring over to Erased subtly but surely. From the themes not reaching their full potential to some of the bad writing choices that affect the story the worse that both could be from one reason & problem. Its the same director.
Idea Has Potential, But Does It Live Up To It?
Similar to SAO, the idea and concept of Erased is a really good idea and if portrayed correctly, could be something worth while.
In episode 2, 3, & 4, there was great opportunity to explore a theme that was subtle and possibly unintentionally introduced in the story. The theme about appreciation of what you have before its gone to taking interest in others to learning that not everyone can be saved. Which would fit with the superhero inspiration that the main character has. All these themes would focus on primarily the relationship between Satoru and Hinazuki. The first half of the series, the main goal for Satoru was for him to befriend Hinazuki in hopes of preventing her disappearance. That is why all the themes began to show up, because the this was a completely different action on Satoru that he never had a chance nor did he take notice to even do before.
Even more, Hinazuki has the completely opposite personality and life to Satoru's. She doesn't talk a lot, she has no friends, her mother abuses her and she never really has a chance to break away from that. The contrast works because we have a person having to makes changes in his own life in order to save someone else who he knew nothing about. What is better is that Hinazuki isn't the more open person, in the beginning we kinda begin to question why Satoru is so focused on trying to get to know her. But as he gets to know and we as the audience get to know her we begin to take just a peak at what kind of life this girl has. This leads to some very emotional and touching moments that really point to the show being at another level than the standard anime.
Everything changes when we get to Episode 5, 6 and forward from there where the story takes a new and simpler direction just focusing on stopping this mysterious killer that haunts Satoru. The first problem begins when the show shifts gears once again returning to the present time of older Satoru. That action alone is fine, as it would make sense for him to return to the future because at that point he should have fixed everything. Except, he didn't fix everything. He didn't fix anything at all! Everything is the exact same way as it was before! There are minor changes from dates and what not but that is all.
The show could've easily have taken the Back to the Future approach of having him return to the present only to find that his actions have made the future much worse than before. That would at least show that his actions have consequences! Now that the future is the exact same all the work of establishing the themes the goals for the characters and the story are now useless. They might as well not have existed! This was such a notable problem because it just throws everything away in order to delay the story and restart the gears over again. Instead of taking a new approach further developing the characters or exploring the rules of this world from the time travel to the murders being so well covered up, we just follow Satoru look for places to hid. I mean he does talk to a friend of his mothers who knows more about the murders that happened after Hinazuki's but even he didn't know that much.
Just like this topic, that show has completely derailed all its focus into something else entirely. Instead of taking a simple idea, theme, premise and expanding that to make up the core of the show, everything it tossed out to make room for, PLOT.
This happens so this can happen so this can happen so he can do this so she can do that. Rinse & Repeat.
What's worse is that the 2nd attempt at trying to save Hinazuki works and that leads to some very well done emotional moments that feel weightless now because we already know this was done before and failed. We can only assume that this time it will work because there are only so many episodes this series can have.
One movie that comes to mind is Edge of Tomorrow. In one scene of the movie, Tom Cruise's character is trying to find a way to make it to the location of the alien base safely and at the same time protect Emily Blunt's character from dying. You would think that there would be no tension here because in the movie he has the ability to just restart the day over again if he were to be killed to just retry once again and fix his mistakes. But what makes it interesting in this one scene is the fact it is heavily implied that he has done this route HUNDREDS of times (with the possibly of more) and each time has not been able to save or protect her from dying. See how it turned a situation from being tensionless to one of the more tense scenes in the film because at this point we don't know what is going to happen and we do know that it ended bad based on what was implied.
Its not about the show not reaching my own expectations, I didn't have any going in. Its about the show introducing the ideas and themes and not doing anything with them. Its like having five people in a race and only one of them run when the whistle is blown. You can't just have five people show up to just stand there, its a waste of time! Sword Art Online had this exact problem, expect in that show they take it to a whole other level that I hope Erased doesn't follow.
Same Director, Same Problem
Now that were are in the second half of the series, there has been a noticeable downgrade in the overall plot. Its no where near the dropoff of Sword Art Online but it to is spiraling down. What keeps me still watching the show is just the overall presentation it has and because there is always a cliffhanger that makes me ask the question of "how are they going to get out of this situation?". I have accepted that this will not be a show that has any sort of deep message or even something to say at all. Just another entertaining show with not much substance to it.
It begins at episode 5 when Satoru returns to his present self only to be in the EXACT SAME SITUATION he was in from the first episode! Nothing changed, all the work he went through to go back in time, learn to be a better person and, know that there is a killer that will mess with his life in about 18 years and all that character development from that, wasted! Whats even worse is that all the actions of Satoru in the past doesn't at all affect his actions in his own life from that point on. Yes, he runs away from the police thinking he is guilty when he, once again, knows he is innocent!
I know that part of this complaint does boil down to most inconsistencies in time travel stories but I feel that this aspect shouldn't be a distraction if the story you are telling it strong enough to hide it.
Sword Art Online had a similar situation in its first series. At around the episode 9 mark when the love story of Kirito and Asuna begins, the entire show not only took a complete stop, but also became an entire different show from that point. You can make the argument that it was good character development for the two but you can't excuse the second half of the show, which becomes something else entirely!
How does this relate to Erased? Well both shows have the exact same director behind them, Tomohiko Itō. Who has worked on other anime from Death Note to one of my favorite films, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. His most notable works being Sword Art Online and Sword Art Online II. While I don't want to dive too much into the problem of this similar trend as I already have planned to make a video about it. But I will sum up the main and obvious problem here.
Its the SAME DIRECTOR, having the SAME TREND from his last shows. Its as simple as that.
The series is still going so many of these problems can be fixed, but it is unlikely. There are only so many episodes left until the end and taking the time to go back and repair a lot of the damage is to hard to do. Erased will continue to be a popular show and will continue to be entertaining. I would hope that the ending at least delivers on the entire plot, this story has set up.