Warning: In my opinion Erased is worth watching for any anime fan, and is best experienced blind. I do not give a plot synopsis or background information in this article; this article is only intended for readers who have viewed up to episode 10 of Erased.
I am not your typical anime blogger in that I have very little connection to, or ear for, the anime community as a whole. So this winter, while everybody else was experiencing the first big anime of 2016, Erased, as a week-by-week mystery, where more time was spent reading and sharing thoughts than was spent actually watching the show, I was solely in my own head about the thing. But now that it’s all over, and reviews and retrospectives are flooding the few anime channels I really do look at, there is one claim about Erased that I feel very much runs counter to my own experience. The show was supposedly predictable.
This predictability is supposedly due to two things; heavy-handed foreshadowing imagery, and the now infamous candy-filled glovebox scene. I will now try to explain why neither of these did anything to lessen my own surprise to the big episode 10 reveal.
First, the candy box. That scene in episode 9 where Satoru finds all that candy in Yashiro’s car, the obvious implication being, only a child predator would have that much candy.
There are a number of reasons this failed to tip me off. It’s not like it went right over my head. It just wasn’t definitive for me. It didn’t stand up to logical scrutiny. It was too easily written off by all the characters in the scene. It felt like a red herring. And it didn’t work with the presentation of children in the show.
First, the scrutiny. Yashiro’s excuse of using candy to help him get over cigarettes was dubious, but it seemed too unlikely for him to really be the predator. We knew from Satoru’s investigation that the predator had been moving from town to town to throw off suspicion. A smart move in acts of evil. But then why, after being so careful, would Yashiro target two different girls in his own class, and several others in his home town? It doesn’t fit with his profile, unless we’re supposed to believe his MO was changing, something that is never supported by the show.
Second, we have Satoru and his mom, Sachiko, both in the car, and we’ve been given plenty of reason up to this point to trust their intuitions. While one should not simply rely on the opinions of the protagonist in a mystery series, when even Sachiko, who’s basically always right, wasn’t suspicious about this, I took that as a cue to the audience that the whole scene was just a joke. A way to release tension and have a nice laugh at this grown man sticking three lolis lollies in his mouth while trying to quit smoking.
Third, Erased has no red herrings. The closest one is Satoru’s friend, Yuki, but we’re pretty much explicitly told near the beginning that he was falsely accused, and this is confirmed not long after. I figured that Yashiro was being set up to distract the audience. In that way I do kind of have to praise this scene, because having confidently written off Yashiro as a red herring made me that much more blind to all the warning signs in episode 10.
Fourth, the children of Erased, particularly the girls, are presented as too smart for that shit. While we don’t see much, or any, of most of the girls Yashiro targets, the two we do see, Kayo and Aya, are both pretty reclusive and fortified against others’ attempts to encroach on their lives. Neither one is shown to be particularly susceptible to bribery by candy, and Kayo in particular seems like she wouldn’t go into a strangers car. Now, we know that this isn’t actually how Yashiro gets Kayo, and, if we’re being realistic, we know these two aren’t representative of all children. But within the show they are the only two girls we have to go off of, and they make it seem like children in general in Erased are unusually clever and wary. So the idea that Yashiro would lure them in with candy just seems odd within the context of this world.
But what I really want to talk about is the foreshadowing imagery, and a major issue with well-directed, well-animated mystery shows in anime in general. I didn’t notice the now widely known fact that, in almost every scene, Yashiro’s face is cloaked in shadows. I didn’t notice this because of subtitles. When watching subtitled anime, my eyes are constantly glued to the bottom third of the screen, so anything having to do with a character’s face, way up near the top, goes completely unnoticed.
Honestly, I missed most of the imagery and clever visual cues in this show, all because of subtitles. And most of the time, that’s okay. If I like the show, I’ll eventually watch the dub, or in many cases even hold off on it until the dub comes out. But the problem with Erased is, if I had waited for the dub, I would have been spoiled on it a dozen times over already, just from reading the titles of videos and posts. The fact is, for a mystery series as prominent as Erased, there is simply no avoiding spoilers.
So, as a viewer, I have the choice of waiting for the dub and risking having the series spoiled, or accepting a viewing experience where I am going to miss a lot of the content. I don’t intend to start a subs vs. dubs debate here. Watch what you like; I don’t care. But for me, this is something that I would have vastly preferred to see dubbed because of how much great visual fidelity and artistry I overlooked by reading subs.
I probably wouldn’t rewatch Erased dubbed, regardless of what I heard about it. Because of that, if it hadn’t been for the work of more dedicated viewers, dissecting and analyzing the visual elements, I never would have had the appreciation for this series that I now do. It’s, oddly enough, things that would have been spoilers, had I not watched subbed, that let me appreciate the series despite the fact that I did watch subbed. But I’ve digressed.
How predictable Erased’s twist was is debateable. To me, it was a genuine surprise; the candy was an effective double fake out, and the foreshadowing just flew over my head. To more dedicated, observant, and maybe Japanese fluent fans, it was seen from a mile away. But I want to know what the average viewer thought. Did you see Erased’s twist coming, or was it a surprise to you? Let me know and discuss in the comments.
Don’t Lose Your Way