Erased (僕だけがいない街) by Kei Sanbe is a seinen, mystery, crime thriller manga series that I decided to pick up after watching both the anime and Japanese live-action adaptations. There are eight total volumes, or four omnibus volumes, which are the editions that I read. I was quite surprised by the quality of the manga when I initially picked it up in June, and after having read the series in its entirety, I can safely say that it has turned into one of my favourite seinen manga to date.
Erased is about a twenty-eight-year-old dude named Satoru Fujinuma who is an aspiring mangaka that works as a pizza delivery boy to make end’s meet. He has an ability that he refers to as “Revival” that takes him back into time by a handful a moments so that he can detect the calamity or tragedy that is about to occur as a means of preventing it from happening again. When one of these “Revivals” inevitably leads to a terrible tragedy of his own, Satoru wishes wholeheartedly for a chance at fixing whatever went wrong. His wish is granted, however, instead of going back into time by minutes or hours, he is taken back eighteen years into the past from when he was in grade school. Satoru recognises that the biggest event during his childhood were the abductions and murders of children he went to school with, and in order to save his future, he must solve the case and find the culprit before the kidnappings have a chance to occur.
For this review, I’ll elaborate on or address a lot of the points that I made in my First Impressions, and then focus more on the narrative as whole.
Honestly, there are tons of facets to adore about Erased, and you can tell that a lot of care and attention to details went into the creation of this story. Some of the key things that I admired are the progression, the tension and suspense, the artwork, the omnibus editions, and overall narrative style.
While the events and intricacy of the mystery retain their slow-burn essence, the intensity of everything that is going on propelled me forward, making it wonderfully fast-paced without sacrificing the integrity of the build-up and tension. Not once during my readings did I get the feeling that the plot was getting ahead of itself or moving too quickly without development.
Speaking of the tension, it is wound so tightly that I felt myself being tugged to the edge of my seat with anticipation in wanting to know more and more of the details, whereas I also felt nervous about the next jaw-dropping revelations. What makes these reactions so much more profound is that I already knew what to expect having seen the anime and live action TV serial. Anything that has the power to make me forget my familiarity enough to make me experience the story as anew is pretty damn amazing, and the mark of fantastic writing.
The exploration of cause-and-effect, as mentioned in my First Impressions, continued to be one of the better contemplative aspects. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. It was fascinating to see how it affected the advancement of the case that Satoru is trying to solve, particularly where the characters are concerned. I think one of the things that we as humans tend to do is ponder “what if” quite regularly in an attempt to gauge how the choices we make will impact our futures, wishing for positive results but always wary of those pesky little negative ones. The literal version of that applies with the Revival capability that Satoru has and its implementation to unravel a critical case of this nature. The theme of cause-and-effect becomes a vital portion of Erased and is what makes it such a phenomenal thriller.
Even though I was thoroughly pleased with everything, I recognise that the writing style will not be for everyone. The flashbacks and occasional scene jumps associated with the Revival ability, as well as Satoru’s natural means of contemplating facts and reality versus fantasy and hypotheses, can come off as a bit too convenient depending on the scene and plot mechanics, at least in the grand scheme of it all. Regardless, all the details are covered, with loose ends tied up with precise fluidity, bringing the narrative to a very comfortable conclusion.
The artwork, as also previously mentioned, is beautiful. Surface level impression comes off basic and simple, yet the use of sharp angles and occasional drastic designs of the characters helps to set it apart from the work of other mangaka. The characters’ eyes specifically are very large and quite expressive, a bit akin to watching anime. The only people who this trait seems to feel a bit roguish and ridiculous with are the women as they are cartoony as heck. The environments and scenery are meticulously detailed and sweeping and fit the atmosphere for the manga incredibly well.
The omnibus editions are hardback volumes that are fricking huge! They are thick, spanning over 4oo pages apiece, with coarse, rough pages and vibrant contrast of black, shading, and white to help the illustrations pop. The panels are also enlarged to fit the bigger edition format, but don’t compromise textual quality in the process. My only complaint about the omnibus editions is that if you have smaller hands (like mine) then they can start to make your fingers sore after a bit of holding them and holding them can be slightly awkward.
All in all, I highly recommend Erased to fans of the seinen genre, more so if you like mystery thrillers, a bit of originality in the medium, and breath-taking illustrations. The fact that it only spans eight volumes (or four omnibuses) is also appealing as it won’t require a huge time investment, making it ideal for busy people. I don’t recommend the series to people who have a difficult time reading stories pertaining to harming children (i.e.: child abuse, murder, etc.), or if you don’t like narratives that tend to skip around a bit.