Erased, Vol. 1

By Kei Sanbe. Released in Japan in two separate volumes as “Boku Dake ga Inai Machi” by Kadokawa Shoten, serialized in the magazine Young Ace. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Sheldon Drzka.

I didn’t really know much about this going into it at all. The author is known for dark psychological stuff, and this title certainly qualifies. It also had an anime, which I also haven’t seen. I was thus unprepared for what a good, solid mystery series this would be, with several surprising fake-outs, both plot and character based, and a likeable but very flawed lead hero. It also seems to be examining child abuse, something I’m always pleased to see in Japanese manga, though sometimes I feel it only glosses over the root issues. That doesn’t seem to be the case here, though, and Erased is not only well-written but emotionally raw – it took me a while to finish the volume as it was hard to read in one sitting.

Our hero is Satoru, a wannabe manga artist who unfortunately is somewhat withdrawn and reserved – his manga fails because he doesn’t put enough of himself into his work. We gradually discover this is partly due to a tragedy that happened to him as a child, which he has been repressing memories of. His non-manga job is pizza delivery boy, where he has somewhat stilted conversations with his cute co-worker, who he feels is too young for him and in any case isn’t interested in him anyway. He also has a strange ability to “fix” things that are about to happen, which may or may not be tied into the past tragedy he had. When a tragedy is about to occur, he times loops for a few minutes till he can identify and fix what’s going to happen. Of course, sometimes he’s not there to fix things. And when his mother is murdered, partly as a result of something he thought he’d fixed, he collapses and finds himself back in elementary school, reliving his childhood to try to erase the original tragedy.

Satoru is not all that likeable a hero, but in a character development sort of way rather than an aggravating way. He’s our POV character, so for a time we tend to agree with him – in the early pages, his mother comes across as rather pushy and annoying, and it’s only as the series goes on that we see how smart and together she really is. As a kid he still has the memories of his 29-year-old self, but manages to act like a child most of the time anyway – I particularly liked his thinking something blunt and saying it aloud without realizing it at the same time. We also meet the truculent and reserved Kayo, who was the girl whose murder was the start of the tragedy he’s now trying to prevent. His attempts to stop the murder, save her from an abusive household and bring her out of her shell are awkward yet heartfelt, and seem true to life – or at least as true to life as a Peggy Sue time travel mystery can be.

This is being released here, I believe, in four omnibuses, and I’ll definitely be picking up the second one. It makes for unnerving and difficult reading at times, but it does what you want a new series to do – it makes me want to read on to find out what’s happening next.

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