Hi, this is your favorite MANGA.TOKYO writer, Mokugyo. It’s great to welcome May. Being sensitive to cold, I’m so relieved to see that it’s finally getting warmer here in Tokyo. Spring this year has been relatively colder than usual.
Some areas in Japan are still experiencing chilly weather and snow even in May. Hokkaido is one of them. Today I’d like to introduce anime Boku Dake ga Inai Machi, also known as ERASED, an anime series set in Hokkaido. The story is about this young man with an ability called ‘Revival’ that forces him to go back in time to prevent a certain event that happened in his boyhood days. I wish I could ‘revive’ the days to enjoy this series fresh anew as someone who doesn’t know the story!
What is ‘ERASED’ like?
ERASED is a manga series created by Kei Sanbe and its original Japanese title, Boku Dake ga Inai Machi means ‘the town where only I’m missing.’ It was serialized between 2012 and 2016 in the magazine Young Ace, a relatively new but popular monthly seinen manga magazine that started in 2009. This magazine is also known for serializing Bungou Stray Dogs. ERASED was adapted into a TV anime series in 2016, and a live action film was also released. It was one of the most popular series among all the TV anime series aired in 2016.
The protagonist is a 29-year-old manga artist, Satoru Fujinuma. He has a special ability he calls ‘Revival.’ This ability can bring him back to a time before a critical incident would happen, regardless of his will, to allow him to prevent it. One day, when a certain incident happens, he jumps from 2006 to 1988. What happened in his childhood days? How was the year of 1988 related to the incident in the present time? Who is involved with the incident? The series is a mysterious thriller with some flavors of fantasy sci-fi and romance. Just check out the first episode and you won’t be able to stop!
‘Time loop’ as a Popular Plot Device
Stories with time loops have been very popular in recent years and ERASED is one of them. A protagonist keeps repeating certain periods of time, and in order to break out of the cycle he must find the best solution somehow in the end. Many anime series lately use time loops as an effective plot device.
One of the best known anime classics with a time loop is Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer, released in 1984. In the story, the main characters are repeating the same day before their school festival starts. It’s a film adaptation from a very popular comedy series called Urusei Yatsura, and it was directed by Mamoru Oshii, who is known for Ghost in the Shell. This film is often regarded as a masterpiece and I’m sure most anime fans have seen it at least once.
Another famous anime film with time loops is The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, released in 2006. It is a science fiction romance film about a high school girl with the power of time traveling at her will. It is loosely based on a Japanese novel published in the 1960s. The film was released to only a small number of theaters in 2006 but became a long-running hit and was very popular.
Edge of Tomorrow, a 2014 Hollywood film, is another famous story with time loops. It is based on a Japanese light novel series called All You Need Is Kill. The film is a military science fiction where the protagonist fights hordes of aliens in the battlefield. Every time he gets killed by aliens in combat, he finds himself in a time loop that sends him back to the day before he dies. It’s interesting to see how he gradually learns a way to defeat the enemies.
All You Need Is Killは短いけどめちゃくちゃよかったぞ！！まどまぎのほむほむの設定とか、あと僕だけがいない町すきならめっちゃすきだとおもうぜ！漫画はデスノートの小畑先生だから安定の絵のうつくしさ pic.twitter.com/Yb1Ysg7CF0
One of the most recent and popular series with time loops is Re: Zero – Starting Life in Another World. Originally released as a web novel and published as a light novel series, it was adapted into a TV anime series in 2016. It is a fantasy adventure about a high school boy suddenly summoned to another world. He gains an ability to go back in time every time he dies, and uses it to challenge various crises in the fantasy world he now lives in.
Some series with time loops are better left unmentioned, since mentioning having a ‘time loop’ can only spoil your fun. Anyhow, many recent series use time loops as a plot device to earn popularity.
The Great Theme Song
Anime series ERASED The second PV | airing from January 7, 2016
Another great thing about ERASED is its opening theme, ‘Re: Re:.’ Its official PV also uses the song very effectively and leaves an impression on you. Needless to say its title implies ‘repeating,’ and the lyrics are about regrets and reflecting the past. It is performed by a 4-member Japanese rock group, Asian Kung-Fu Generation, also known as Ajikan. They are very popular and have been performing various anime theme songs.
One of the best known tracks of theirs is ‘Rewrite’, released in 2004. It was chosen as the final opening theme of the anime series Fullmetal Alchemist and earned immense popularity. It is one of those tracks that often gets performed in many music festivals to please fans. Other popular tracks known to anime fans include ‘Haruka Kanata (faraway)’ the opening theme for Naruto in 2003; ‘Aru Machi no Gunjou’, the opening theme for 2006 anime film Tekkon Kinkreet; ‘Maigoinu to Ame no Beat,’ the opening theme for 2010 TV anime series The Tatami Galaxy and so on.
The opening theme of ERASED, ‘Re: Re:,’ was originally released in their 2004 album. It was re-recorded as a new version for the anime series and was sold as a lead single later. That is to say, the song itself was also ‘revived.’ It’s a 10-year-old song, but it doesn’t sound old. It fits with the story so well that it almost makes you believe that the song was particularly written for the anime. It’s no exaggeration to say that this theme song made the series even more attractive. It’s also great to see how the opening animation changes as the story advances.
Story set in Hokkaido
Satoru, the protagonist, lives in Tokyo, the capital city of Japan, when the story starts. However, once he is brought back to 1988, the setting changes to the place he spent his childhood, Hokkaido. Hokkaido is the largest and northernmost prefecture in Japan. Just take a look at a map of Japan, and you’ll see one big island on top at the north end. That large island is Hokkaido. Its winter is very cold with a lot of snow and it celebrates a major snow festival every year. Hokkaido always reminds you of snow, and the series effectively uses a lot of snow scenes for cinematography. The location of Hokkaido as its setting made it possible to use interesting elements as important factors to add to the story, from footprints in the snow to vivid depiction of characters freezing.
It also introduces the local Hokkaido dialect. People say ‘Shitakke!,’ a casual greeting used there meaning ‘Bye!’ and ‘See you!,’ and you can hear Satoru and his classmates using it. Surprisingly, many Japanese people are often not aware that Hokkaido has some local dialects. Hearing this different greeting they use reminds us that the story is indeed set in Hokkaido.
As Hokkaido is Japan’s coldest climate with a lot of snow and wide land, it is often used for various manga and anime settings. Gin no Saji: Silver Spoon, for example, is a recent popular series. It is a comedy and slice of life story set in an agricultural high school in Hokkaido. It’s interesting to find that ERASED uses Hokkaido as the region with a lot of snow to its best advantage.
Erased and the Charms of Time-Loop Anime
Mentioning even a bit of the story could be a huge spoiler, so I tried my best to introduce the series without talking about the plot itself. It’s best to watch it without knowing much in order to enjoy the series. You can enjoy this mystery thriller better by guessing what’s happening next or who the perpetrator is. And then, when you have seen it once and fell in love with it, I hope you too enjoy ‘reviving’ this series like I do.