Playing catch-up: ERASED Eps. 2 & 3

It’s a testimony to Erased’s careful storytelling and artful cinematography that I watched both these episodes with my senses acutely heightened. Episodes 2 and 3 introduced new characters, dug up buried memories, and prefaced more questions than I can answer. Given the mystery nature of this anime, I’m going to try something a bit different with my write-up — I’ll ask questions that cropped up in my mind while watching these episodes try to provide a coherent theory/review hybrid for each of them.

What does Hinazuki Kayo’s abuse have to do with her eventual murder?

So we finally meet the object of this mystery: the stoic and unemotional Hinazuki Kayo. But Kayo is suppressing her feelings for a reason — she is being physically abused by her mother, who in turn might also be the victim of an abusive lover. Satoru catching on to Kayo’s abuse felt very gradual and realistic; he sees bruises all about Kayo’s body that she tries to hide, and read an essay that she submitted for the class’s student composition collection that was practically a plea for help. The abuse scenes were painful to watch — the shadows of Kayo being assaulted by her mother behind a sliding door, Kayo’s mother dunking her head in icy water while her sleazy boyfriend loitered in a room next door — it sold the gravity of Kayo’s tragedy without steering too far into melodrama.

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The bigger question is how Kayo’s abuse ties into her eventual murder. Satoru is adamant that both tragedies are related, and if he is right, that would mean someone with intimate knowledge of Kayo’s family problems had to have been involved with her abduction. But a more plausible theory would be that the kidnapper was someone who knew nothing of Kayo’s home situation; after all, Kayo would avoid returning home by always lingering in the local playground until dark, making her an easy kidnapping target just by watching her daily routine. But there was someone who had definitely been watching both Kayo and Satoru — Yuuki, whose actions only made him look guiltier in the aftermath of the murders.

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Erased spend a fair amount of time developing the relationship between Satoru and Kayo, but what’s interesting is that they seemed nothing more than classroom acquaintances during the pre-Revival sequence of events. This time around, Satoru makes a conscious decision to become Kayo’s friend, and seeing Satoru body struggle to knock down the emotional wall Kayo had built around herself was both endearing and heartbreaking. Kayo’s current life is built around a lie — a mask made to hide the marks of abuse. That degree of emotional trauma on a mere ten-year-old had caused her to doubt the happy faces that surround her, and those concepts of honesty and deceit forced Satoru to contemplate his own ideas of authenticity, realizing that his disconsolate twenty-nine-year-old self wasn’t much different from Kayo’s disenchantment with life. But Satoru manages to go beyond what his old self would have done, and he manages to make some important steps forward toward possibly saving Kayo’s life. Inviting Kayo to his birthday party and bringing Kayo to the Christmas tree on the hill are two things that did not occur in the pre-Revival sequence of events; how much has Satoru already changed of the future, or is Kayo’s death already an inevitability?

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What happened between him and his mother?

Satoru seeing his mother for the first time since finding her lifeless body was one of the more emotional moments of the series. There aren’t any hints to an absent father, but Satoru and Sachiko seemed to share a pretty loving mother-son relationship, even if they weren’t terribly affluent and lived in tiny one-bedroom apartment. From the first episode, we know something had changed drastically between them, and the obvious reason was probably emotional fallout from the murders. But I keep getting a feeling that there’s something else going on that isn’t being discussed in the open; I think it seems pretty likely the murders and its aftermath further drove an already-present wedge between mother and son and pushing them permanently apart.

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How will the other potential victims fit into the story?

So we know that Kayo is potentially the first of three victims in the story. What we didn’t know was that one of the other victims, Sugita Hiromi, was a member of the group of friends that Satoru used to hang out with. It makes sense that Satoru has been focusing exclusively on Kayo, but the potential murder someone who was actually much closer to Satoru adds an intriguing dimension to the story. Hiromi was only passingly mentioned in the first episode; were future Satoru’s hazy memories, hinted at by Sachiko, somehow related to Hiromi’s disappearance? If Satoru manages to prevent Kayo’s death, will Hiromi and Aya also be saved?

The future Satoru in ten-year-old Satoru’s body seemed quite unaffected to see his old friend alive and well, and it doesn’t make much sense that Satoru doesn’t any kind of emotional reaction. Erased’s storytelling has been too tight to allow for such an obvious incongruity, so I’m certain there’s something more to Hiromi’s story that hasn’t been told. We know from Sachiko that Satoru suffered some kind of memory loss, and I have a feeling that Hiromi’s story might have something to do with Satoru’s amnesia, and even his Revival ability.

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Who framed Yuuki, and is he truly as innocent as he claims?

Yuuki is definitely not being portrayed as an innocent man. He watches Satoru and Kayo from afar, invites young children into his bedroom, and keeps porn hidden behind a drape on his bookshelf (which, for a twenty-three-year-old man, is probably the least suspicious thing). We already know, from future events, that he is innocent of the crime that he would eventually be accused of, but I don’t think he is as innocent as he claims to be. Maybe he really was at the wrong place at the wrong time, but his character seems far too convenient to make for the perfect scapegoat. Maybe he was an accomplice, or at unwittingly complicit to those crimes, but the murderer threw Yuuki under the bus so he could make his escape. Satoru does seem convinced of Yuuki’s innocence, and his biased conviction certainly warrants some suspicion — why is he so adamant when his other memories of the murders are so ambivalent?

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What is Yashiro-sensei hiding?

On the other hand, Erased is giving the opposite treatment to Yashiro Gaku, Satoru’s homeroom teacher. Yashiro-sensei seems nothing if not a kind and conscientious teacher, but the cinematography (and I haven’t talked much about the cinematography, which is really what makes Erased such a thrill to watch) paints Yashiro-sensei in a less benevolent light. The slow, deliberate way the camera pans up to Yashiro-sensei when he first walks into Satoru’s classroom, the acute, discomfiting angle at which the camera abruptly focuses to Yashiro-sensei when he catches Satoru at his desk — it goes about in portraying Yashiro-sensei as a sinister, imposing figure that contrasts with his apparent persona of a friendly, affable teacher. And then there’s that sinister final scene with Kenya with Yashiro-sensei in the staffroom after hours, which could mean a dozen different things.

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Satoru also finds out that Yashiro-sensei had long known that Kayo was abused by her mother, and I feel very distrustful of the fact that Yashiro-sensei was quite willing to fully disclose the facts of the case to an eleven-year-old boy. We also know that the real murderer was a man whom Sachiko knew personally and someone whom Satoru might have recognized, but that doesn’t necessarily point to Yashiro-sensei. It could all be smoke and mirrors — Yashiro-sensei could just be a good teacher and a really great judge of character, but I’m keeping my eye on him.

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What does Kenya know that Satoru doesn’t?

Kenya is the smart one in Satoru’s group of friends because he reads a lot and wears turtlenecks and peacoat jackets. But beyond his sartorial choices, Kenya definitely has a sharp mind — he was the first to lead Satoru to Kayo’s distressing essay, and is the only one among his group of friends who suspects something beyond a crush is motivating Satoru to befriend Kayo. I’m pretty certain that Kenya has also noticed Kayo’s bruises, and like Satoru, probably went to Yashiro-sensei to voice his suspicious. I’m guessing that’s what went down in that after-hours meeting with Yashiro-sensei — it’s the one explanation that’s the most mundane and therefore makes the most sense. Kenya being involved in any kind of leery activity is quite unlikely — he is only eleven years old — so I’m willing to chance that Kenya is nothing more than prodigiously astute kid.

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How long will Satoru be stuck in his Revival state?

Every time Satoru has experienced a Revival, he went back five seconds in time and relived those five seconds with his memories intact. So does this mean that Satoru will relive the next eighteen years of his life with his twenty-nine-year-old self making cynical remarks in his head? I doubt that this will be the case, mainly because we know absolutely nothing about the nature of Satoru’s Revival ability. As an adult, his Revivals seemingly happened at random, and the exception was when Satoru essentially willed himself eighteen years back in time when his present day was looking dire. There could be easily be loopholes and tricks to his Revival ability that Satoru just hasn’t learned to harness yet.

Meanwhile, Katagiri Airi — Satoru’s teenaged coworker — is still being hinted at as a major character, and we can safely bet that she won’t be appearing anywhere in Satoru’s past since she hadn’t even been born yet. Satoru will, at some point, probably be transported back to present day, and Airi will become his only ally and confidante. I’ll be slightly disappointed, though not annoyed, if that happens — right now that seems to be the most logical assumption, but I have a feeling that Erased won’t be doing something that predictable with its story.

Other random thoughts:

  • I will say that the animation is solid but unexceptional. BUT. That cinematography. That deliberate camera work and art direction. Those sharp, shifting angles, those wide view shots, those facial close-ups. The use of symmetry and empty space. Erased has created an immersive and cinematic experience that perfectly complements the story it’s trying to tell.
  • I’m loving the continued use of the film roll metaphor.
  • Satoru had also never asked for a birthday party before, which says something about what he was like as a kid.
  • Adult Satoru and Kid Satoru thinking things out loud has provided Erased some of its funniest and most genuine moments so far.
  • Sachiko’s assailant was wearing a suit when he killed her. Who is the only notable person in Satoru’s past who wears a suit on a regular basis? Yashiro-sensei.
  • Satoru’s missing gloves seem totally innocuous, but it was mentioned enough times to spark my curiosity.
  • Also mentioned multiple times: the boys’ hideout.
  • I have my eyes and ears peeled for any discussion of Dragon Quest — it’s all we hear everyone talking about whenever we enter that classroom.

 

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