Here’s another 1000-word post about this season’s anime… don’t worry, I’ll get to all of them eventually. And luckily, it seems that I’ve found at least one show to follow earnestly this season.
No. No. This won’t do. The world-building is non-existent, the active part of the narrative doesn’t happen till two-thirds of the episode is practically over, and the special WillWear suits do nothing for the imagination. Absolutely nothing. There isn’t anything here that you haven’t seen before — no special twist, no ironic jab, no insightful commentary even. Worst of all, it’s one of those shows where constant chatter rains down from some command center. Mediocre anime loves this kind of thing, because it makes up for good writing. Good writing — one that tries to show and not tell — is difficult. So instead, individuals sit in some room and relay every ounce of pertinent information to the audience. Sprinkle in a bunch of jargon — Unlock the Sublimation Mode! — and there you have it: a perfectly forgettable anime for the winter season. What a great way to start off the day!
Boku dake ga Inai Machi
At least Satoru’s not a high schooler, right? Nah, he’s a fifth grader instead. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Our hero has a special ability: if something horrible is about to occur, he gets sent back in time to try and save the day. Early in the opening episode, he prevents a truck from flattening some kid on the road. But why? Who or what is making this happen? Can it be Fujinuma himself? Maybe. It feels like Satoru is mired in depression, so it should come to no surprise that our hero also happens to be a reluctant one. His movement and speech are lethargic. He has a low sense of worth. His coworker Katagiri observes that he opens up to no one and rarely ever smiles. He thinks to himself that there’s no use in getting involved with strangers, because it’ll only make things worse. One of the first things we see is Satoru ripping up one of his works and dumping the remains in a river. Why? Just because one magazine rejected him? In any case, these are all signs of a man who is deeply ashamed of himself.
That explains why he has to force himself to be the hero. Guilt and shame are two very different things. Guilt says that you screwed up, and while that may hurt to admit, you’ll still get through the day. After all, when you admit that you’ve screwed up, you can also adapt: “I won’t screw up again.” That’s the theory, anyway. Shame, on the other hand, says that you are the screw up. That’s a little harder. You can’t be as adaptive when you believe that you yourself are the source of your own problems. In any case, Satoru says over and over that he doesn’t like to get involved, but nevertheless, he always does. And isn’t it what we do that defines us? It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t want to be a hero. As long as he continues to do heroic things, he is a hero. But that’s where shame comes in; shame prevents Satoru from being proud of his accomplishments. He takes almost no pride at the fact that he just saved some little kid. Instead, he breaks out a smile only because he didn’t lose his job.
“I’m not good enough.” “I’m not worth loving.” These are some of the things we tell ourselves when we are ashamed. But what is Satoru ashamed of? When he was in fifth grade, he befriended Yuuki, some older guy in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, Yuuki is really Jun Shiratori, and he was later arrested for serial kidnapping and murder. It is said that Satoru’s classmates were Jun’s latest and final victims. Worst of all, Satoru blames himself for not doing more. He honestly believed he could’ve saved Kayo, the little girl in red who haunts his dreams. He deeply regrets not calling out to her on the night of her abduction, and he is ashamed of that. And it seems all but certain that his supernatural abilities stem from this trauma. His self-dubbed “Revival” abilities typically only sends him one to five minutes into the past. He can’t prevent Kayo’s death, but he can at least save others. At least he won’t have to regret not saving others. But there’s more.
There’s an interesting bit of characterization in one of Satoru’s memories. Yuuki gave him a bit of advice on how to be more popular. The advice itself isn’t important. Rather, this conversation tells you what Satoru’s life as a kid must’ve been like. He wasn’t one of the more popular kids. Connecting with most of his classmates didn’t necessarily come naturally to him. He was different. So imagine being a little kid, not the most popular kid, and finding out that you had befriended a murderer… yes, we later find out near the end of the episode that Yuuki wasn’t responsible for the deaths of countless children, but Satoru doesn’t know that yet. And he’s had to live with this fact for the past 18 years. “I’m the fucked up kid who became friends with a kidnapper and murderer. What is wrong with me?” Shame is linked to destructive behavior. Shame is also linked to depression. It explains a lot about what Satoru has become: an aimless 29-year-old delivery guy with no friends or career prospects.
Luckily, Satoru gets another chance when his mom gets “fridged” like all comic book women are wont to do. I jest, but even so, she is brutally stabbed in the back by the real killer, and this trauma becomes the catalyst that sends Satoru’s Revival ability into overdrive. Instead of going back at most five minutes in time to hopefully prevent the death of his dear (why is she so goddamn young-looking and slim at 52 years of age?) mother, our hero wakes up to find himself back in… fifth grade. Thanks to Revival, I can’t help but imagine that Satoru has been doing the right thing all his life. But now, he gets to save himself most of all. And it’s funny… Satoru can’t make it as a mangaka, but his current story would be perfect for some series. It’s only been one episode, but it’s got potential to be a suspenseful thriller, and as a manga, a real page-turner. In any case, I will keep my eye on this A-1 Pictures production and how it develops. Now, if only we can do away with Katagiri as a potential wife prospect…
Yeah, I only wrote about two shows this time around, but I didn’t expect Erased (I’m just gonna call it that from now on) to take up so much of my time. I’ll do more later today… hopefully.