Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Erased Vol. #01 Manga Review

The town without me.

Creative Staff:
Story & Art: Kei Sanbe
Translation: Sheldon Drzka
Lettering: Abigail Blackman

What They Say:
Twenty-nine-year-old Satoru Fujinuma is floundering through life. Amid his daily drudgery, he finds himself in the grip of an incredible, inexplicable, and uncontrollable phenomenon that rewinds time, a condition that seems to only make his drab life worse. But then, one day, everything changes. A terrible incident forever changes Satoru's life as he knows it and with it, comes a "Revival" that sends Satoru eighteen years into the past!

In the body of his boyhood self, Satoru encounters sights he never imagined he would see again the smile of his mother, alive and well, his old friends, and Kayo Hinazuki, the girl who was kidnapped and murdered when he was a boy the first time around. To return to the present and prevent the tragedy that brought him back to his childhood in the first place, Satoru begins plotting a way to change Hinazuki's fate. But up against the clock and a faceless evil, does eleven-year-old Satoru even stand a chance?

The Review:
Content: (Please note that the content portion will contain minor spoilers)
When Erased first hit Crunchyroll in Spring of 2016, it blindsided everyone. Out of seemingly nowhere came this murder mystery that took the anime community by storm, leaving almost every other series of the year in its wake. With a story so nostalgic yet so fresh and suspenseful, the amount of critical acclaim for Kei Sanbe's isn't surprising in the least. However, despite the success of the animation, the manga remained untouched by much of the American fanbase. Sporting the completely different title of Boku Dake Ga Inai Machi or The Town Where Only I Don't Exist, the source material seemed relatively hard to obtain. That is until the saviors of manga (Also known as Yen Press) showed up and unleashed one of the most beautiful, hardcover manga volumes out there, essentially beckoning out the wallets of those who have watched the series. And, after finishing the first volume, I can safely say that Erased has not lost its allure.

The story starts with Satoru Fujinuma, a struggling mangaka, simply fighting his way through life. Considering he can't land a publishing deal, Satoru has taken up a job as pizza delivery boy as a means of staying financially afloat. It is at this point, just several pages in, that we get our first glimpse of Satoru's more...interesting side. You see, Satoru is somehow able to rewind time. He doesn't know how he attained this ability, nor can he control when it happens, but each time he goes through 'revival' (Which is what he named the power), he's sent back the moment right before something terrible happens. I know, 'something terrible' does sound pretty vague, but that's really the best way to describe it. Our first example is that of an unconscious bus driver speeding toward a young boy crossing the street. Of course, this is far too early in the series for such a tragic fatality, so Satoru is able to steer the bus away at the cost of his own well-being. He then awakes in a hospital bed with an adorable (And much younger) co-worker by his side.

All of this is just exposition, though. The real story doesn't start until the halfway point of this first volume when Satoru's revival somehow sends him back to when he was ten years old. It is at this point that Sanbe figures it is time to show off some tragic fatality and the backstory and foundation of Erased is revealed. When Satoru was still in grade school, there was a series of killings amongst his age group. Several of his classmates, three to be exact, were kidnapped and murdered by the alleged serial killer, Jun Shiratori. This series of murders began with a quiet, little girl named Kayo Hinazuki. Satoru, still possessing memories from later on in his life, figures he has been sent back by revival to save Kayo. This is easier said than done, however, considering Kayo isn't exactly the type to open up to people. And while I won't reveal the reason for that just yet, I will say that the book has a subtle, yet remarkably powerful way of getting it across.

Through menial tasks like walking home with her or sticking up for her in class, Satoru is somehow able to break down Kayo's shell, albeit little by little. And as more of Kayo's story is unveiled, Erased begins to consume you. The world becomes eerily relatable and, even if we can't pinpoint our connection, we can all feel something. Maybe it's just that fantasy we all have of being a kid again, but maybe it's something a little more than that. The fact is, there is a sort of 'white noise' in the back of Erased that speaks to us in more ways than one could imagine. And if you don't understand now, go back and watch/read the scene where Satoru returns to his childhood home for the first time. The look on his face gets across more than most series do after full circulations.

In Summary:
At the end of the day, this manga speaks volumes (Pun not intended) in terms of growing up. With an onslaught of different themes and meanings that all manage to make you feel a little bit different from one page to the next, there is not a single dull moment this book has to offer. There is a slight drop in artistic quality (Though one can say that could just be chalked up to my tastes) but the story remains raw and unblemished -- which is to be expected considering this is the source material. Erased latches on to you very early on and refuses to let go. This is one of the most intimate and interesting mysteries out there, fully equipped with hard-hitting undertones and harsh reminders that, sometimes, this world can be much darker than we believe it to be.

Content Grade: A+
Art Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: A+
Text/Translation Grade: A

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: February 21, 2017
MSRP: $29.99

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