I’ve been having a hard time writing about Erased lately. This isn’t because it’s doing its thing badly — on the contrary, it’s been consistently entertaining and suspenseful — but it seems to have settled into a formula with very little room left to grow for its characters. The big takeaway from these two episodes was that Satoru FINALLY catches a break and saves Kayo from death’s scythe, and what we’re left with is for Satoru to do the same with the other two potential victims: his childhood friend Hiromi, and Nakanishi Aya from the school next door. We’re now moving into uncharted territory, which should technically be exciting, but Erased had invested so much into Kayo’s story that her redemption felt like the actual conclusion to this story. We just don’t know enough about Hiromi or Aya to care as much about their story arcs as we did with Kayo. With only three episodes left, I’m not sure if Erased will be able to do the justice to their characters while also wrapping the many questions that linger from the past and the future.
Those are all gripes that I can live with, but what’s more worrying is the lack of clues to the identity and motivations of the would-be murderer. Probably the most compelling aspect of this time-travel murder mystery was that the perpetrator was hinted to be someone whom Sachiko knew from her past, but there are too many questions, too few answers, and too little clues that paint Erased’s primary antagonist as nothing more than a villainous trope, and I don’t know if the inevitable reveal will bear as much emotional catharsis as Erased hopes it will. Yashiro-sensei remains the only real suspect, but the guy has had so many red herrings painted on his back that I’d be disappointed if he did turn out to be the villain, though I’d be even more disappointed if the bad guy turned out to be someone whom we’d never met before. Erased has been so effective at using its cinematography, music, and animation at consistently misdirecting its audience, but its own cleverness might have backed its narrative into a corner.
Erased’s lack of emotional catharsis was also most apparent with Kayo’s mother: the reveal that she was also a victim of domestic abuse made narrative sense but did little to sympathize her character since we hadn’t seen anything other than an abusive mother over the course of the season. The sudden introduction of Kayo’s grandmother was way too convenient, and it was clear that she was there as a device to help wrap up Kayo’s character arc.
But there were some pretty great moments in these two episodes, particularly with the wrap-up of Kayo’s character arc. The flashback to Kayo’s mother past didn’t work as well as it could have, but it worked much better for Kayo; seeing a time when Kayo was once protective of her mother made her subsequent abuse much harder to stomach. Kayo’s words and actions, from her apathetic ‘nothing could make me happier’ when told that she would soon be free from her mother’s abuse, to her looking away from her mother’s pitiful sobbing, and her breakdown at seeing a home-made breakfast — Erased has made us feel for Kayo without falling to heavily into excessive melodrama. While Erased still has a lot of ground to cover before its conclusion, here’s hoping that it remembers that its characters are what keeps its story grounded and relatable.
Other random thoughts:
- Kenya and Sachiko also continue to be best friend and mother of the year respectively.
- Hiromi grabbing Satoru’s hand could be interpreted in many ways, but I’ll reserve judgment until more is revealed.
- Yashiro-sensei being revealed as a candy hoarder was a pretty great moment.
- I can’t help but wonder how much about Satoru’s life would be different if he’d ever told someone about his Revival ability.
- One of the bigger questions remaining is how this permanently altered past changes the future. Did everything we see with Airi and company from the future still happen in that new alternative timeline? Or will nothing change at all, with the murderer’s deeds averted but not completely thwarted?