I waited for you, and then I went back.
Title: Erased (Boku dake ga Inai Machi)
Publisher: Kadokawa Shoten (JP), Yen Press(US)
Artist/Writer: Kei Sanbe
Serialized in: Young Ace
Translation: Sheldon Drzka
Original Release Date: February 21, 2017
A review copy was provided by Yen Press.
Erased is the manga that inspired the anime of the same name early in 2016, a tense thriller which garnered quite a bit of buzz and compressed 8 volumes of manga down into just 12 episodes. Yen Press has chosen to release this series in omnibus, hardcover editions and considering the fast pace of the story this seems like a good choice.
As of these first two volumes, the anime does not appear to have deviated from the manga that much. Satoru is a 29 year old struggling manga-ka with one published work to his name and wondering if that’ll be his only published work. He feels out of place everywhere: in his cheap apartment, in the offices of magazine editors, and working as a delivery driver at a local pizza place where he’s far older than many of his coworkers. Then there are the times when Satoru is literally out of place, as ever since elementary school he’s found himself going through a phenomenon he’s dubbed “revival” where he’s briefly sent back into the past and will get stuck in the time loop unless he averts a tragedy in progress.
This actually marks the only notable omission in the anime; in the anime Satoru goes through revival twice in the current day but here in the manga there is a third incident. Nothing is lost by cutting out this revival but it makes the pattern of revival clearer: every time Satoru goes back it’s to save the life of a child, something that isn’t quite as obvious in the anime. This was something I suspected but could never confirm via the anime but in the manga it’s clear that this revival is fueled in part due to some grief that Satoru has held since elementary school, something he doesn’t fully remember — until he’s hurled back into 1988, just weeks before his first classmate is abducted and killed in a set of serial kidnappings.
In the anime this all happens in the first episode, but in the manga this takes the entire first volume and it’s a testament to how gripping the story still is, even spread out over a longer bit of time. It’s an interesting example of how pacing for a manga versus pacing for an anime can vary wildly, even as they both produce the same tone of unsettling fear. The anime clips along quickly, keeping the viewer on their toes and unsure of what will come next, while the manga draws some moments out and keeps the reader hooked on that sense of dread.
I had also forgotten that Satoru’s manga work has just been rejected again at the beginning of the story and I feel as if the manga is really rubbing in just how bleak Satoru’s future prospects look. I don’t think this part is meant to be a reflection on Kei Sanbe’s own life, he had about nine series published before Erased, but there’s an unflinching flatness to Satoru’s assessments and thoughts about his situation that feels awfully realistic and familiar.
For those who are curious, the volumes for Erased end in very dramatic places and coincide with the first and fourth episodes in the TV series. To date, if you’ve seen the anime you already know the impending tragedy that’s here. There’s very little, if any, new information here and honestly the art isn’t that great. Character designs in particular look more ugly than stylized. I much prefer the more polished anime designs and reading this story reminded me of some of Erased‘s cinematic highlights which weren’t as spectacular here in the manga.
But I still like the story, as it starts off with an incredibly gripping premise of regret, mystery, and an opportunity that the universe itself gives Satoru to set things right. Ever since the anime ended I’ve been curious how closely the anime followed the original, given that the material had to be compressed, and I intend to keep reading and find out.