Erased (僕だけがいない街) is the Japanese live-action TV series adaptation of the original seinen, crime thriller manga series written by Kei Sanbe. It was released back in December 2017 over on Netflix as an Original Series. I initially watched the show between December and January, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Then shortly afterwards, while riding that hangover of missing it, I picked-up and read through the entire manga series. Now that I have read the source material, I really wanted to re-watch the live-action so I can get a better understanding and more meaningful experience from it.
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 ends meet. He has an ability that he refers to as “Revival” that takes him back into time by a handful of 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.
This is the first Japanese series, or film, aside from anime, that I have ever seen. I’ve only recently begun diving into Asian cinema with South Korean dramas, so it was a tad bit difficult not to make some minor comparisons here. Since this is my first J-Drama, I’m not sure if these traits I discovered are unique to Japanese cinema, or just specific to this series. But I wanted to briefly touch on them because I found them fascinating.
Firstly, the music is far more subdued here than in Korean dramas. In the latter, the music is used as quite a big factor in driving narratives forward, usually where evoking emotions or suspense is concerned. However, with Erased, everything is quite minimalist, allowing the interaction between the characters and the happenings in the respective scenes to tell the story and create the ambiance necessary for it. In this sense, it came off far more intellective to me; one that requires a bit of focus to really get into to. The second difference that I noticed was the length. K-drama shows tend to be approximately an hour long and run for an average of sixteen episodes, however, this show was the standard length of an anime episode, roughly twenty four minutes, with only twelve total segments.
So far, those are the biggest differences that have caught my attention. I’m sure that as I keep watching, more may sprout up. As I mentioned earlier, I found them to be quite intriguing and thought to share it here. Now moving on to the first episode of the show, which I shall be comparing to the manga a bit.
The pilot was pretty standard across the board. We are introduced to Satoru’s special ability and motivator behind the journey that he has to take, as well as a couple of minor characters. The beginning is a bit paced as we learn about the mundane life that Satoru has as a struggling mangaka. I appreciated the gradual rise of intensity during the progression, which is heightened further with the lack of musical score (when it does sprout up, it’s very subtle and more ambient) and the muted, kind of colourless tinge to the settings. The way it’s shot and edited does a phenomenal job of inciting a sort of unease that helps prepare you for some of the more shocking events that take place towards the end.
Even though it’s only half-an-hour long, with the way that everything is crafted and presented, I felt like I had consumed an hour’s worth of content. This may be largely due to the slow start and soft attention to detail that made my brain pay very close attention to everything that was going on. That effort exerted to stay as alert as Satoru helped me to get involved and gave me a distorted sense of time, so to speak. Either way, I loved that experience. For me, it’s quite akin to reading an intelligent thriller.
The casting is amazing. I recall from my original watching that I didn’t quite like the woman they cast to play the character of Airi (the actress is Brenda Joan Wong) because on some level she creeped me out, yet after having read the manga, I must say she captures that role perfectly. Airi smiles a lot and she has these bright eyes that get so excited when she’s happily discussing something. She’s also a headstrong individual, similarly to Satoru’s mum, and that’s another reason she can be a bit discomforting. Ms Wong encapsulates the essence of that personality so marvellously that it shocked me a bit.
The same thing can be said about Tomoka Kurotani, who plays Satoru’s mum, Sachiko. She does an excellent job of getting the obstinate part of Sachiko’s personality down. The only flaw that I’ve gathered so far with her acting is that Sachiko also has an air of sarcasm and amusement to her that isn’t quite portrayed correctly. Since that is a big part of her charm, it does make her feel slightly inauthentic to the role.
Lastly, Yūki Furukawa is the ultimate adult Satoru. That combination of apathy and broodiness is spot on. I honestly can’t think of anyone else who would’ve been such a brilliant match to the original character, not just in personality, but also in appearance.
Anyhoo, I am super excited to be re-watching Erased, especially with my newly acquired insight from the manga. I can’t seem to get tired of the series even though I’ve experienced it numerous times in various formats, so I know that I don’t have to worry about getting bored during this second run. If you are in the market for an incredible crime thriller series, I recommend that you watch Erased. It’s on Netflix and can be seen without having read the manga or viewed the anime.