Also known as Boku Dake ga Inai Machi (僕だけがいない街) this time-travelling suspense thriller movie is based on a highly acclaimed manga of the same name. 

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The story follows Satoru Fujinuma (Tatsuya Fujiwara 藤原竜也), a struggling manga artist and part-time pizza delivery man who has the ability to relive a period in time until he can prevent a particular tragedy from happening. Satoru cannot control this power, he is simply aware of it.

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Following a major incident which involves the death of his mother (Yuriko Ishida), Satoru is thrown back into his childhood where he has to solve a murder mystery in order to prevent his mother’s death in the future.

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The adaptation follows the source fairly closely for most of the movie and starts by introducing us to a flat, emotionless Satoru played Tatsuya Fujiwara of Deathnote fame. Fujiwara does come across as a little bland and, unfortunately, not very likeable as a hero character even after the plot twist and character redemption point. Fortunately for him, his mini me (Tsubasa Nakagawa) does more than make up for it.

Kasumi Arimura plays Airi, Satoru’s could-have-been, should-have-been, would-have-been love interest who is intrigued by his heroics at the start of the show. Aimura carries off Airi’s well-intentioned, harmless curiosity quite well but isn’t really given much of an opportunity to further develop her character. To be fair, the movie isn’t about her but the importance of her role in the lead character’s growth.

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The movie is carried by mostly by its child cast Tsubasa Nakagawa (young Satoru) and Rio Suzuki (Hinazuki Kayo). They are both incredibly expressive, share natural chemistry and stand strong along side, if not above, the adult cast.

They share a sweet puppy love and are the emotional core that drives most of Erased’s story. They are especially enjoyable to watch and play off each other very well.

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Nakagawa is a believable young Satoru, managing to carry off the fine balance between Fujiwara’s adult Satoru and his young self well. He throws adult-like looks of scorn – almost as if there’s a little Fujiwara in him – while still maintaining his childish innocence. He does a fantastic job channelling the kind of good faith you’ll only find in children. It endears him to you and you will root for him as he goes on his adventure to save his damsel in distress. He’s so good at making himself lovable that it makes giant reveal toward the end heartbreaking.

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As Kayo, Suzuki will bring you on an emotional roller coaster throughout the movie. Your heart will really feel for this tough, lonely little girl who wants nothing more than a loving family. Suzuki with her wide-eyed look manages to capture the authentic expressions of love, despair, hope and hopelessness you’d expect to see from a child with her background.

There’s one particular breakfast scene that is extremely moving and will make you really appreciate having a warm meal at home.

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Ishida plays a warm, understanding single mom who is a stark contrast against Kayo’s abusive mother. You’ll only feel the impact of her character’s death as you get to know her throughout the film.

The rest of the characters are fairly one-dimensional and quite easily forgettable. It is unfortunate that unlike the source material, the movie does not spend anytime delving into what drives the killer in the story. It turns him into a simple, flat murder instead.

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Erased is hardly a cinematic masterpiece. The scenes look like they come from a big-budget TV series and there is nothing particularly artistic or stylish to look out for. But that’s rather typical of not-so-big budget manga/anime to big screen adaptations. The film isn’t a visual stand out like Rurouni Kenshin and wouldn’t look too odd as a 2-hour television special.

The score and soundtrack are equally forgettable and there are awkward flashback cuts through the film but that’s the least of the film’s problem.

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The biggest flaw this movie has is its over-dramatic, cliched ending.

*SPOILER START* highlight to see text

After waking up from his coma, Satoru dies a useless, meaningless death in the movie after a confrontation with the killer.  

He could have set the killer up with the help of the police and his lawyer friend but he chose to futilely sacrifice himself instead.

*SPOILER END*

In March, the series saw the end of its manga series, anime series and the premier of the movie (in Japan). While fans were relieved to finally have closure, it also inevitably led fans and viewers to draw comparisons between the film and the source material and the movie falls very, very, very short for the ending in contrast to the manga.

Otherwise the plot is followed relatively closely and does get you emotionally involved with the plight of the children, although the adults are just a tad less engaging. Boku ga inai no machi has a twisty plot and the movie does justice to cutting between “then” and “now” even if the effort is a touch choppy.

While the movie did admirably to squeeze 5 hours of plot into just 2 hours, the ending really did mar the storytelling experience.

If you enjoy a good mystery movie, Erased is not too bad a choice to pass some time just be wary of that cruddy ending. We give this one 3 out of 5 WAs.

 

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