“Keep your cool, Satoru. It’d be really bad if she died. It’d be even worse if you were put away for it, unable to help anyone.”
– Kenya is smart. Be like Kenya.
Do you believe in second chances? Satoru certainly believes so, and he got a second shot at changing history when he somehow willed himself back in time this week. Even amidst the intricate web of murder, arson, and pizza delivery schedules, the mystery of Satoru’s Revival ability remains Erased‘s most intriguing and unpredictable element. I predicted that his ability to jump back in time is linked to his emotional state and circumstances, but that still doesn’t answer the bigger question: how and why did Satoru gain his ability in the first place? Erased is a show that discusses the utilities of a supernatural ability, much less so with the metaphysical origins of such an ability, and Satoru’s Revival ability is essentially a plot device — a timeworn narrative tool that is being used to add a creative spin to the traditional murder mystery. This isn’t a bad thing at all — especially when Erased is killing it (ha) in the storytelling department right now — but I can’t help but wonder how much of Erased’s core themes might benefit if it managed to get to the philosophical implications of Satoru’s Revival. But I can’t be mad if Erased never got to the essence of those questions — Erased is a character-driven piece that deals with much more human concepts of regret and missed opportunities; the time travel aspect is just a manifestation of those themes.
But I digress, even before getting into the nitty-gritty of these two episodes. Erased up the ante with more clues, red herrings, and plot developments this week, and what we got was a tightly plotted weave of intrigue interlocking between the past and present. In the present, we get properly introduced to two characters: Sachiko’s former colleague Sawada, and Airi’s mother. Sawada was more prominently featured, and a lot of the episode was him and Satoru simply discussing the show’s plot in Sawada’s office. This could have gotten dry really quickly, but Erased did well at converging the different theories and injecting some urgency into its narrative, including Satoru and Sawada’s burgeoning realization of the parallels between the past exploits of the perpetrator and his current machinations to frame Satoru for his mother’s murder. Airi’s mother played a much smaller role, but her unwavering belief in Airi’s conviction and sanity spoke plenty about her character. Airi’s sanity was an important point in the episode, and it was framed most prominently by the hushed talk among the police officers and the fish-eye camera work in a scene with her nurturing but patronizing aunt and uncle.
But of course Satoru gets caught by the police when meeting up with Airi, but not before they came to the chilling realization that the murderer had been closely watching their movements for a long time. The puzzle pieces of the murderer is slowly coming together, and with some reveals as to his M.O., I’m hoping we eventually get some development regarding his motivations. Meanwhile, Satoru’s Revival at the end of the sixth episode gives me the chance to talk about Kenya, who was easily the biggest revelation of both episodes. Kenya is ridiculously observant and self-aware for an 11-year-old boy, and Satoru cluing in an increasingly suspicious Kenya on to his plans was probably the best thing he could have done, even if Kenya doesn’t seem to be completely in the know with Satoru’s ability. With his second chance at changing the past, Satoru grew bolder and more desperate, even coming within a hair of pushing Kayo’s mother down a set of stairs before Kenya stepped in. Kenya’s more prominent presence in this second scheme of things also provides a nice contrast to Satoru’s character — the adult Satoru is an idealist at heart, with his hero-inspired parting words and bold proclamations of affection, whose emotionally repressed self is audaciously spontaneous and unafraid to take action with little regard to the consequences. It makes sense that someone with childlike ideals and slight delusions of grandeur could be beaten so heavily into apathy when his childhood dreams failed to coalesce as an adult. On the other side of the spectrum is Kenya — grounded, cautious, and thoughtful, who had long noticed Kayo’s cuts and bruises but had never taken action because he felt it wasn’t his place. Kenya’s been portrayed as the smart, stoic friend, and his envy of Satoru’s reckless drive to help Kayo was a refreshingly vulnerable moment.
At this point, the identity and motivations of the perpetrator might even be murkier than what we started out with. Plenty of hints have been dropped, but the most important clue might be that the murderer is someone whom Satoru recognizes but doesn’t quite remember from his past life. Erased doesn’t skimp on cinematography and art direction, and it was all on display when in the final scene of the sixth episode — the slow motion, the unnerving shift to black-and-white, the absence of music, and jarring sounds of footsteps and falling rain, and Satoru recognizing the baleful eyes of his mother’s murderer watching him from under an umbrella. Erased also has carefully crafted imagery, most prominently with the eyes of characters that become an inky red that sell the characters’ malevolent motivations. There was a lot reveals and questions thrown at the audience during these two episodes, but Erased seems to have its twisting plot threads under rapt control so far.
Other random thoughts:
- The pizza manager comes to Satoru and Airi’s rescue and immediately tells Satoru that he would be taking credit for saving Airi, which should have set off many alarms in Satoru’s head.
- Nishizono-sensei has to be a red herring. His yet-to-be-seen face and suspicious behavior makes him far too obvious a suspect.
- But beyond Nishizono-sensei, there really isn’t a list of suspects among the current cast of characters. The only clue is that her murderer was someone whom Sachiko knew, which narrows it down to either Sawada or Yashiro-sensei.
- Yuuki’s father was brought up as a potential suspect, which seems a bit out there since we know close to nothing about him to begin with. Meanwhile, Yuuki keeps being presented as nothing more than a gangly twenty-something whose social awkwardness endeared him to trusting children.
- The circumstances of Kayo’s death is making increasingly less sense. We know that her mother presumably beat her at least unconscious, and her body was then hidden in the outdoor tool shed. But how did the murderer know that Kayo’s body was in that shed? It had to have been someone who had been closely watching the Hinazuki household that night, which would fit with our knowledge of the murderer’s M.O. Or was Kayo’s mother the actual murderer and used the other child abductions as a smokescreen for her own crimes? Was Yuuki simply at the wrong place at the wrong time with regards to Kayo’s disappearance, but was purposefully framed for Hiromi and Nakanishi Aya’s deaths?
- Satoru roping Hiromi into his plan was a nice touch; what was most notable was Hiromi telling his friends that he is usually home alone until 8 pm.
- You could see that cliffhanger at the end of the seventh episode coming from a mile away. Having Kayo camp in an empty school bus wasn’t a great idea to begin with; leaving her alone in the empty bus for through most hours of the night was just a terrible idea.