ERASED Eps. 4 & 5

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It really shows how well Erased has crafted its characters that I’ve to care so much about what happens to them. I wasn’t Satoru’s biggest fan in the first episode, but those sentiments have changed after watching him struggle to alter a seemingly unchangeable past. Erased continues to raise even more questions and answer even less of them, so I’m going to follow last week’s format and run down the questions that stuck in my mind after getting my heart shattered several times over these two episodes.

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What else could Satoru have done to save Kayo’s life?

For about fifteen minutes into the fourth episode, it seemed that Satoru had accomplished the impossible. The fourth episode was the most upbeat Erased had ever been — Satoru slowly but surely breaking down Kayo’s emotional walls, their heartwarming date to the science museum, their unaffected happiness at their shared birthday party— but there was a dark sense of foreboding and déjà vu underlying that innocent optimism. Most tellingly, Kayo’s mother appeared less as a violent figure, but more of a silent, malefic presence. Kayo’s mother, sitting stolidly in a corner, watching her daughter’s battered, lifeless body on the kitchen floor, was the most distressing scene Erased has dared to animate so far.

But did the abuse on the night of Kayo’s birthday lead to her death? That seems to be what Erased was trying to present, but the circumstances don’t add up — Kayo’s mother was unlikely to have anything to do with Nakanishi Aya or Sugito Hiromi’s disappearances, and we know have no information on what happened to Kayo after that disquieting scene. We can only go on that unsettling smile as she threw out her daughter’s gift to Satoru in the trash. Neither have there been any scenes that imply that the serial killer was in any way affiliated with Kayo’s mother.

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There’s a bigger theme at work here, one that’s well-trodden in the realm of science fiction but yet to be explicitly conferred in Erased: is the past set in stone, or can it be changed? No matter what he changed, Satoru could never permanently diverge from the original path that led to Kayo’s death. Satoru wasn’t preventing Kayo’s death as much as he was delaying it. I’d be a little disappointed if this turns out to be Erased’s thematic resolution; I’d really need quite a bit of emotional payoff if I had to sit through that many episodes of emotional trauma.

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What about the other murders?

Following Kayo’s death, Nakanishi Aya also met her demise, and we can also assume that Hiromi was also murdered, and his death presumably came after Satoru transported himself back to the present day. The abductions abruptly stopped after Yuuki was taken into custody, and in the present day, Satoru reads about a more recent child abduction where the accused refused to plead guilty. Satoru notices an emerging pattern — an extremely calculative and observant individual who scouts out both victim and scapegoat to carry out his heinous crimes, which fits with the vigilant individual who didn’t hesitate to dispose of Sachiko after she caught on to him . Of course, this is all speculative — we don’t even know the manner in which the children were killed, in which case we’d know if those children had been murdered by the same person — but the signs are there that this person may have had a very specific M.O. in carrying out these horrible deeds over many years.

Are Yashiro-sensei, Kenya, or Sachiko hiding anything else?

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So Erased actually provided some answers to questions this week! Yashiro-sensei’s after-hours conversation with Kenya turned out to be nothing more than a party-planning consultation (the reveal was so subtly done that it didn’t hit me until the episode was over), and Satoru’s missing memories were the result of the adults deliberately concealing the details of the crimes from the then 11-year-olds. Yashiro-sensei still fits the role of the perfect teacher way too snugly, and that alone makes me suspicious of his every action. Sachiko continued to prove that she was a pretty awesome mother, which continues to beg the question of how her relationship with her son deteriorated. But Kenya intrigued me the most these two episodes — he was smart enough to realize that the truth was being concealed, and I continually got a feeling that Kenya knew more about Satoru’s motives than he let on. Or it could be Erased using its smart direction to plant red herrings in my already paranoid mind. I do wonder if grown-up Kenya will make an appearance —  Satoru could definitely use another canny ally at this point in the series.

What’s with the pizza place manager and Nishizono-sensei? Who’s trying to murder kill Airi? Does she survive?!

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Back in the present day, Airi remains the only person who believes that Satoru is innocent of matricide. Airi’s reasons for believing Satoru are a little contrived — chocolate theft from a grocery store just doesn’t have the same heft as matricide by stabbing. Hiding Satoru in her room at her uncle’s house was also rather implausible — is her uncle’s family also out of the country? In any case, Satoru finally had a much-needed ally, at least until the final scene of fifth episode. I’m willing to bet that Airi survives the arson attempt, if only because she seems too important a character to be knocked off this quickly. The text message she received from the killer right before smoke started filling her room was much more worrying. The purpose behind this text is a chillingly crafty move — if Airi is indeed killed, and her final text from Satoru, sent from his dead mother’s phone, telling her to stay where she was, further incriminates Satoru for crimes he didn’t commit. Whoever this invisible puppeteer is, he knows exactly what he is doing.

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Meanwhile, the pizza place manager (whose name I don’t know and whom I shall call “the Manager” until I find out his actual name) has vaulted into most-suspicious-character territory. Him amiably keeping Satoru occupied in his home so he could call the police seemed very planned out, but became very flustered when Airi told him that she was getting takeout pizza for a friend. It also didn’t make sense that he didn’t call the police on Airi (notwithstanding Airi’s full-on punch to his nose), not to mention his blushing reaction to Airi’s takeout order might hint at a more perverse nature. The Manager certainly didn’t kill Sachiko (Satoru would have recognized him outside his apartment immediately), but it’s very possible that he’s working with the murderer, either out of money, blackmail, or something more twisted. On the other hand, Nishizono-sensei practically reeks of suspicion, and not only because his face was kept deliberately hidden the entire episode. Nishizono-sensei seems to be some kind of politician, and while his conversation with the Manager mainly seemed to be about business, it might have been a guise for something more sinister. Either way, the way the camera lingered on Nishizono-sensei watching Airi walk away has some significance; whether that significance is malevolent is up for debate.

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Other random thoughts:

  • Satoru seems to activate his Revival ability in times of great emotional distress. The sooner he realizes this, the quicker he’ll be to changing the past.
  • I genuinely believed Yashiro-sensei’s lie when he told the class that Kayo had transferred schools. That’s how much I was invested in Satoru and Kayo.
  • I know I said that Airi is definitely not going to die, but I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if she did. Her death would definitely up the stakes, not that it wasn’t high enough already.
  • How was Satoru able to walk into a public library amidst his own public manhunt?
  • The Manager has a pretty fancy apartment despite his profession as a pizza place manager.
  • Sachiko’s old co-worker at the TV station made a brief but important appearance, and I think he might play a significant role in future episodes.
  • Speaking of Sachiko, her profession certainly helps explain her street smarts and guile.
  • Will Kayo’s mother make a reappearance in the present day?
  • Flip phones were all the rage in 2006.
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