Boku Dake Ga Inai Machi (or Erased, just for the sake of abbreviation) was probably the most interesting anime title that came out during the Winter season of 2016. And it's not too difficult to notice why: an attractive mix of a murder mystery, a dynamic time-travel concept and a gripping thriller would move anyone out of their caves. Curiously, and despite the various shortcomings, this experimental bag of genres works pretty well during the first quarter of the series, leaving a a lot of engagement that is presented in a very organic style. However, after the show reaches its mid-point, all the positive aspects slowly vanishes as the characters grow quite stale, the pacing of the mystery starts going in circles and a conclusion that leaves a lot to be desired.
Erased story goes around the struggles of Satoru, your average part-time worker and mangaka that for a long time has had an occasional ability (which he calls 'Revival') that permits him to go back in time; normally to fix some problem present on his surroundings. Needless to say, this time-travel element can awake a lot of qualms on most viewers that actually know how inconsistent and convoluted a story can turn when said element is misused to the point of breaking the plausibility or even contradicting some logic of the time-related aspect. Fortunately, this never happens...with the time-travel aspect. Meaning, that this part of the show is simply a gimmick employed to add some attractive aesthetic, thing that works well if not over-analyzed. There is a huge amount of convenience that comes from this aspect, though.
The plot begins when the mother of the main character (Satoru) getting killed by a mysterious serial murderer, and after a lot of silly coincidences Satoru ends up escaping from the police...only to be taken back in time by the 'Revival'. But, instead of the small amount of time which he usually travels, now he moved almost 20 years backwards! Then, at that past timeline, he begins to think that his mother murderer can be related to the death of his old schoolmate Kayo, that curiously happened during the week he has just been send to.
The most positive aspect of the series during its starting episodes is obviously the achieved atmosphere. When you know the MC has to rescue a girl from an imminent death, you would expect a good amount of tension and character perseverance; two things that the show incorporates splendidly. The constant snowfalls, the silent and potentially dangerous nights, a group of children that act so innocently. All this characteristics, though seemingly details, form a very solid amount of engagement to the series. I couldn't stop watching the first 4 episodes, everything related to the presentation was extremely well-polished. Also, when you truly can't tell who the real murderer is, it all turns very gripping.
Still, problems are present on this part. Depending on how much attention you pay to the show, some flaws can be easily noticeable and thus quite annoying: like the fact that Satoru goes back in time with a body of a child but in reality he still has a mind of a mid-20s year old. To make it worse, this little problem gets a huge amount of emphasis because of the repetitive internal monologues that Satoru tells with his 20-year old mind, that also happens (mostly) during events he's in a serious or heartwarming moment with Kayo, unfortunately breaking the immersion and it even can encourage a very inappropriate romantic tension for some. Whether some other flaws (like the unnecessary victimizing) can be noticeable, it depends on what mindset you're on while watching Erased. But, generally, they're not too damaging.
An despite the various cool aspects of its first episodes, those don't endure too much. After reaching the mid-point, the time-travel aspect comes out again to produce some conveniences that ruin the enjoyable pacing the plot was having at the moment. With that, is added a disappointing amount of predictability to the mystery, just making the culprit more or less obvious before the last episodes. This happens because of a constant repetition of events that goes like a 'I have to save them all!' premise. Instead of going to the point of the matter, the show cares too much about including an incommensurable amount of stupid drama, focusing on showing pity and shame instead of actual character struggle. In other words: it goes in circles with the same basic objective, even after it is fulfilled. To take it all down, the various revelations and even the ending ended up dumb because of these flaws.
What makes the entire experience even more disappointing are the very superficial attempts to develop some themes that are mainly about the family or the loss. While having a decent mount of drama to keep you in touch with the events, the cruelty of some adults and the reasons behind the killings feel too basic and distant to actually care about them. It basically develops from an intriguing mystery to a revelation with a level of simplicity that speechlessly treats you as a child in kinder garden. For example: It's later revealed that Kayo's mother hits her child because she suffered of the same trauma before, thing that never delves into a deeper perspective or insight.
And, also, don't forget about the Drama tag on the genres description...which leads us to the characters section!
Satoru is basically, as I wrote before, an average adult male that after a lot of moving events is forced (or motivated) to save Kayo in order to also save his mom. He's not a particularly relatable character, as his often altruistic nature feels more heroic rather than human. Kayo is a kuudere girl that's often hit by her mother, thus gaining the mentioned personality. She's the only character that gains some development, as she changes her personality to a more optimistic and caring side. Kenya is the typical cool blonde-haired guy that helps the main character to fulfill his goal. And Airi is a secondary love interest of Satoru that has very little screentime to care about. As you see, the cast of characters, though generally bearable, lack of enough depth to fill the gaps made by the tremendous amount of drama that's simply too overblown and excessive.
About the production values, they're quite good. A-1 Pictures (Sword Art Online, AnoHana, Shin Sekai Yori) normally possesses good budgets, so the animation and art of Erased were certainly very nice. The color palette was leaning towards the cold, white and bright tones, well-fitting with the snowfalls and most of the characters personalities. The character design, for some reason, can be described as innocent: with different eyes drawings but the same childish and soft face design and shape. It's clearly not the kind of anime that focus on severe moments or big explosions, so the animation is just fluid for what it is. A very well presented show on this aspect.
The sound is not particularly good, though. Most tracks are just repetitions of the ED theme (which is O.K.) in different instruments and pitches. Maybe some piano solos are the only moments Erased uses some variety. The OP theme, on the other hand, is quite likable. It's yet another song with catchy one-line phrases that only change its lyrics accompanied with another catchy main chorus; but it's still nice to hear, specially once the show reaches its worst parts. The seiyuu was solid but nothing too special. Average performance on this aspect.
Erased was a show that consumed my patience after it became too dumb for me to give a crap about it. Some interesting themes were going on, like family drama and other stuff, but the approach to it is just plain superficial and forgettable. About its current popularity, it's just a ridiculous fad that will fade away in some months, after another show takes its place (shame on modern viewers, really).
To sum it up, Erased is, more or less, a mess. Nothing particularly works out because of the basic characters, the mystery that unravels in a very stupid way and the forgettable finale. The interesting themes were taken down by the awful dramatic moments, and the soundtrack feels too recycled apart from particular piano tracks. If you are searching for a truly coherent and enjoyable time-travel anime that has believable drama and an extremely likable cast, stick to Steins;Gate. 'Erased' has just as much forgettable value as its name could allude to you.