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 originally released in December 2017 over on Netflix as an Original Series with twelve total episodes. It follows a 28-year-old guy named Satoru Fujinuma who is an aspiring mangaka that works as a pizza delivery dude to make ends meet. He has a unique ability that he refers to as “Revival” that allows him to go back into time by a handful of minutes in order to prevent an immediate tragedy from occurring. One day, Satoru ends up experiencing a personal tragedy of his own and he wishes wholeheartedly for a chance at fixing things. When his wish is granted, he quickly realises that instead of being transported back to mere moments before the incident, he is taken back eighteen years into the past from when he was in elementary school.
I first became acquainted with the series when I watched the anime adaptation a few years ago. Crime thrillers are my one of my favourite genres and I don’t see it too often in anime. Then Netflix made their live-action version, which I semi-binged over the course of a week close to end of last year. After that, I sought out the manga because I was keen on reading the source material, and I loved every bit of it! Truth be told, I am writing this review after my second run-through with the live-action and even though it’s not nearly as perfect to me as it initially was, I feel that this adaption is quite excellent and perfect for anyone who likes the crime thriller genre, or has an interest in trying out Japanese serials.
Now, I feel I should mention that this is my first time watching a Japanese drama. I’ve only recently began my dive into the hole of Asian television serials, mostly with Korean shows, and I think this is a good place to begin for other newbies to the medium for various reasons.
Most Japanese artistic mediums have an elegance to them that is all about being basic and unpretentious. Traditional Japanese music usually consists of a single instrument with soft accompaniment of others. This is done to highlight the sounds and technique behind that specific instrument. In literature, there are vast themes that are developed via a single story, but the main overarching motif is blatant and (similarly to music) the key to all else that follows suit. Everything is there to support the one motif; to illustrate the dimension of simplicity. The plot for Erased falls into the same category, thus making it an excellent title for first-time J-Drama watchers.
At its core, the narrative is a pretty simple and straight-forward story about a crime that has been committed and the various ripple effects of that crime that spans a couple decades. It’s very much a classic whodunnit type mystery story. If the subject matter wasn’t so serious and, at times, a bit disturbing, I would compare it to the cosy mystery genre, just without any furry sidekicks. The simplicity of the plot allows the watcher to focus on other facets, such as the acting and the characters, with more care and interest. There were tons of symbolism that subtly foreshadows what is about to happen, or who may be responsible that I would have missed if the story was far more convoluted and complex. Nevertheless, each of these supporting elements are there to show the watcher that even a basic whodunnit can make for a phenomenal thought-provoking chronicle.
The second aspect that was amazing was the acting, especially the little kid who plays the child version of Satoru (Reo Uchikawa). When I first watched through Erased, I remember feeling that the woman who played Airi (Mio Yūki) was super creepy and probably exaggerated the role. However, after reading the manga, I’ve realised that that’s just the nature of Airi’s character and the acting was, in fact, pretty on point. She smiles a lot and has very bright eyes that are wonderfully expressive, even if slightly discomforting. Erased is filled with headstrong women and that’s what Airi is, along with the Satoru’s mother (Tomoka Kurotani). Now, she’s a fierce lady who I would never want to piss off. 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.
All of the actors really do a marvellous job at being expressive to fit the emotions and responses necessary for the relative scenes without coming off as unnecessarily dramatic, or indifferent and bored, and they all have spectacular chemistry with their exchanges that feel natural and smooth. It helped me to get further drawn into the story and to formulate personal connections with each of them.
The third thing that makes this more appealing for newbie watchers are the shorter episodes. I’m not sure if all Japanese dramas have half-an-hour episodes, or if this was a special case, but sitting through 30-minutes is much easier to consume and commit to it than sitting through an hour’s worth of content, which is common in Korean dramas (I haven’t seen Taiwanese or Chinese dramas yet, so I can’t comment on that comparison and it varies with Indian and Pakistani dramas). Regardless of the shorter times, I still felt like I had watched a good fifty to sixty minutes’ worth of stuff due to the level of information shared in each episode and the well balance of suspense, tension, and emotions.
Some of the subtler elements to take note of includes the use of scenery—specifically snow and the colour white—to indicate the death and fragility of childhood innocence and trust. It plays into the foreshadowing that I mentioned earlier on in such a lovely way. The backdrop of winter is as charming as it is haunting, and I love that it also shows you a different side to Japan. We see a small town that isn’t vibrant with green leaves and pink cherry blossoms and beaming, bright sunlight. The atmosphere just wraps you up in feelings of apprehensive disposition, fitting the tone of the narrative superbly.
The only flaw or shortcoming that stands out more apparently others is the culprit. Their identity becomes a bit more obvious early on in the series. At first, I don’t think this was done intentionally, however, halfway through, if you pay attention to the minute details, I get the vibe that the insinuation of who’s behind everything is done on purpose in a way to help build even more tension and suspense. If you haven’t seen or read the series before, you may react as intended, but if you’re already acquainted with the finale, then it can take a bit of the thrill out of the chase.
All in all, Erased is a fabulous Japanese crime thriller drama that I highly recommend to fans of the genre or people who find pleasure in watching Asian dramas. If you’ve always been interested in watching a Japanese drama, yet didn’t know where to begin, then I strongly believe this is a perfect place to kick-start that journey, or at the very least to see if it’s a medium for you. For my first time J-drama experience, I would say it was an immense success and I eagerly anticipate the next one that will fit my fancy. If you have recommendations of serials that you enjoyed, please share with me in the comments! I’m always on the look-out for suggestions.
8 mittens outta 10!
TRIGGERS: Child abuse.