Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 12 (Fin)

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Well, have egg on my face. Just when I thought the show had already reached its main resolution, just when I wasn’t in love with the direction I thought it was taking with Satoru’s new future, and just when I was a little impatient that last week seemingly ended in the same place as the week before, ERASED didn’t just ignore and then subvert my expectations; it pushed them off a school roof with gusto.

It all starts with a little necessary backtracking. Satoru isn’t calm and cool up on that roof alone with Yashiro because he’s content with the life he’s lived and the good he’s done for those around him. It’s because he has a plan. It’s a plan that we can only speculate about until it happens, but it was made with the help of Kenta and Hiromi, who are committed to helping Satoru again, if that’s what he wants.

They feel that way because when he, the superhero, needed help, he believed in them, and so they believed right back. Without that mutual belief in one another, the amazing things he achieved wouldn’t have happened…and Satoru would have likely been murdered up on the roof.

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Call it “One Last Job” for Satoru & Friends: the job that even their nemesis doesn’t see coming, because he’s so consumed with putting Satoru in a box with either jail or death as the escape routes, like a rat in a maze. He uses a fatal muscle relaxant IV on Kumi (with Satoru’s fingerprints on the bag) to create that awful choice, and keeps grinning with glee about finally besting the one who ruined all his plans.

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This is as superhero-y as you can get: the Villain thinking he has the Hero, his Nemesis, in his clutches and at his mercy, and just when victory as he sees it is in sight, the hero wiggles out. The hero wins, with a move way out of left field and yet deliciously awesome in its precision and timing.

Satoru says Yashiro the one who has lost, not only because he was able to save all those victims from him (including his mother in the future) and thwart all his attempts to frame him (including this one), but because for fifteen years—only an instant for him, but an agonizing crawl for Yashiro—while he slept, Yashiro didn’t kill him.

He couldn’t, because Satoru was the only one who knew who he was; that something that fills the void everyone has and needs to have filled. He can’t kill him because of that.

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And Satoru means that quite literally. Sure, Yashiro could let go, which he does, but if Satoru dies then, so does the one thing in his life that’s made him feel anything. The void returns. But Yashiro doesn’t die even when Yashiro decides to let go, because his friends arranged a cushion for him to land safely on, and they also serve as witnesses for Yashiro’s attempted murder.

Yashiro lost because he was alone; because the only person that could fill his void was someone he was committed to ruining; tormenting; erasing. And yet, Yashiro, who truly took fifteen years of Satoru’s life away from him, may have actually been doing him a favor, for the life Satoru lived when we met him was one of dark repressed memories, dead classmates and friends, and most importantly, a life where he had ceased “taking the bull by the horns”.

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It took more struggle to get there, but Satoru was, with his mom and his buddies, finally able to bring Yashiro to true justice. He was able to live on once his deep sleep had ended, and both his memories of heroic deeds, and the dramatic one he performed on the roof to put Yashiro away, filled a void in him that was present in the original timeline, before any Revivals.

This older Satoru keeps taking the bull by the horns. After being a real hero, he became able to write about heroes, compellingly enough to have anime made about them. He’s by all rights a great success, but when he returns back to the city after visiting all his old friends in Hokkaido (and I liked how they teased Misato as a possible love interest), a void still remains in him: one shaped like Kitagiri Airi, the wonderful soul who got lost in all the time-shifting…

…Or so we and Satoru thought. Or maybe he didn’t think that. Why else would he return to the bridge where he and Airi parted, with him in handcuffs and she in tears? Kayo was never meant to be the girl Satoru ended up with after all. When Airi appears, asking brightly if she could share some shelter from the snow with him, everything comes full circle.

It’s a bit cliche, but it’s true: believing in people leads them to believe in you; that’s how you gain allies and friends. It’s one big loop of believing and void-filling. And there you have it: a very nifty and moving ending to my favorite anime of the Winter! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

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Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 06

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The events of this episode reveal that the antagonist of BokuMachi doesn’t have any particular desire to erase everyone in Satoru’s life before erasing him. If he did, he’d have made sure Airi was killed. Instead, Satoru manages to rescue her, only to find he’s too weak to carry her out. But he only foils the enemy temporarily.

Enter the pizzeria manager to take over (and claim the credit), though this time he lets Satoru leave rather than screw him over again. But in a crucial moment of consciousness, Airi sees who really saved her – Satoru – and slips her phone into his pocket.

So begins the first episode of BokuMachi that didn’t totally bowl me over in rapt awe (hence the 8), but did begin the necessary work of establishing the basics of what’s going on, who’s doing it, and why – much like a detective starts piecing photos together on a cork-board.

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The phone shows that the arsonist meant to frame Satoru for the crime. When he contacts his mother’s colleague Sawada, a bigger picture takes shape than a simple comprehensive destruction of Satoru. He’s only the latest in a string of innocent men framed for the crimes of the criminal who killed Kayo and the other two youths.

His M.O. is to manipulate the crimes in order to divert police suspicion on those innocent men. The more they investigate, the further from the truth – and from the actual culprit – they get. This is a very intriguing crime story, though I did feel the show lag a bit as a lot of information was dispensed in very straightforward fashion.

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When talk moves to Airi, who is in the hospital under somewhat incompetent guard, Satoru suspects she wasn’t targeted just to strengthen the case for his guilt in his mother’s murder. Instead, the culprit was someone who know both his and Airi’s schedules – someone who was at the pizzeria. Obviously, not the manager, but the suited fellow whose face we didn’t see is the obvious choice.

Meanwhile, Airi is upset about how things have turned out, and wastes no time breaking out of the hospital to continue helping Satoru. It’s clear she’s being watched, and when a hand comes down on her shoulder from behind, we expect nothing good. But then Sawada visits Airi in the hospital, only to find her mother, who was the one who grabbed her.

Her mom, still inspired by her daughters faith in her dad, is willing to believe in Airi here as well, and takes her place in the hospital bed to allow her to move freely. What a cool, nice mom!

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Airi meets Satoru, and Satoru says his embarrassing thoughts aloud not once but twice. I liked this little detail because it shows that even if he’s not a 29 in a 10-year-old’s body, he’s still an introverted guy whose communication skills aren’t the best.

However, the name Airi suggets could be their man – Nishizono – doesn’t match the list of suspects from Sawada’s files. He’s hit a roadblock, and at the worst possible time: turns out Airi was followed without her knowledge, and the police surround and arrest Satoru.

But before they do, Satoru tells Airi about an idea he had for a manga: a Grim Reaper who made a clerical error and killed a young boy. He resolved to fix his mistake, but only ended up drawing more and more people to their doom. When he compares himself to the reaper, Airi objects: both the reaper and he should have more faith in themselves, and not focus too hard on their subjective impressions of how their actions affect others.

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After all, Airi is still alive and unhurt. As Satoru is taken away and Airi’s cries of protest go ignored, Satoru turns around and says what he thinks a hero would in such a situation: that he can keep fighting because she believes him. Then everything freezes and goes black-and-white as Satoru spots the same suited fellow with red eyes who he saw on the balcony the night his mother was killed.

Considering there’s little Satoru can do in jail, I imagine this is a Revival. Assuming it is, I wonder when he’ll end up as we enter the second half of the season, and what he’ll be able to do differently in that time now that he has a much firmer handle of the situation, but also knowing his adversary is an extremely crafty son of a bitch.

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Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 05

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Boku dake ga Inai Machi has made it sparkling clear that it has absolutely no intention of going easy on Satoru or the audience. He may be mentally 29, but that doesn’t blunt the devastation of losing Kayo one bit. He sees suspicious footprints by the shed, but nothing else. In an immensely disturbing cut, we see Kayo’s mother and her male friend inside, Kayo’s badly beaten, lifeless body lying on the floor.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter right now who killed Kayo or how. All that matters to Satoru is that he failed in his mission to save her. His mom tries to comfort him by saying it’s not his fault, but she’s not aware of her son’s journey to this point, nor the pain of having come up so short.

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To add insult to injury, both the school and media keep the disappearance under wraps or outright lie about it (to avoid traumatizing the other children). When a second girl goes missing, the story kinda goes away, as if swept away by the wind.

The last straw comes when Satoru sees Kayo’s mom take out the trash, and for one horrible moment I thought she might just be crazy enough dispose of Kayo’s body in such a fashion. It isn’t that bad (though one shutters to think what really happened to her body), but for Satoru, it’s pretty bad nonetheless: it’s a translucent bag, and through it he can see the gift Kayo promised to give him: a pair of knit gloves.

Seeing those poor gloves sends Satoru into a fit, and before he knows it, he and we out of the letterboxed past and back in full-frame 2006, only moments after he fled his apartment after finding his slain mother.

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Satoru is dejected to be back having accomplished next to nothing, but remains determined to discover what the heck is going on. But he initially doesn’t have the luxury of moving around freely like his past self. He’s a person of interest in a murder investigation, and while he’s a mangaka, he’s not incredibly imaginative when it comes to being on the lam.

His cheerful, supportive pizzeria manager lets him stay at his place, but one click of the remote is all it takes for Satoru to learn the crime and his framing in it is already public record. He doesn’t begrudge his manager apparently turning him in, but he doesn’t give up, either, and his desire to stay free bears fruit in the form of a timely encounter with…Katagiri Airi!

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I wasn’t alone in my almost instant love of the character upon her introduction, as well as my hope we’d see more of her. The show is not usually forgiving, but in this it seemed willing to cut us a little slack. Airi isn’t infatuated with Satoru or anything, she just trusts he didn’t and couldn’t possibly do what’s been reported, and wants to help in any way she can.

Airi provides Satoru a place to crash, and even a ray of hope when she pulls out the crime book he left at work with the bookmarked entry on Kayo. Turns out his actions in the past had an effect on the present after all: Kayo went missing March 3, after turning eleven. If Satoru can get back armed with more knowledge, he may be able to save her…or at least keep her alive longer and longer with each attempt, which could quickly turn into a Steins;Gatean obsession before long.

How she acts on her belief in his innocence contrasts sharply with the more pragmatic manager. No sooner is he meeting with a suspicious suited man whose face we never see (another one of those guys…or could it be the same guy who killed Sachiko?) thanking him for political favors, then he’s catching up toe Airi (whom he likes) and telling her he doesn’t think Satoru did it, and to help him if he approaches her.

Did the suit cut him a deal in order for his cooperation in one small part a larger conspiracy?

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If so, the manager probably believes the kind, naive Airi will do as he says and in doing so, get Satoru into a place where the police can nab him. But he’s foolish to lie about believing in Satoru, and even more foolish to be slinking around her house about to call the cops when she confronts him from behind.

Here we see a wrathful, fiercely loyal, and oh yeah, quite strong Airi, destroying the manager’s phone and punching him in the face with authority. Despite the potential danger, she’s staying on Team Satoru, and is committed to protecting him with everything she’s got.

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When they meet under a bridge, she admits she’s not doing this only for him, but for herself as well. She tells the story of how her dad was accused of stealing a candy bar in her hometown’s store, and while he always claimed his innocence, he lost his job, got divorced, and was basically ruined.

Yet Airi has always decided to side with her dad, because she loves him, and was there with him, and she though him a good person who’d never steal. She wants to believe Satoru in the same way, without him even having to beg her to believe him.

Unfortunately, the parties at work trying to ruin Satoru’s life at every turn are more sophistocated and diabolical in their methods than either Satoru or Airi are prepared for. Tough and careful as she is, she ends up trapped in her room when her house is set ablaze, and when she opens her door she gets knocked out by the smoke.

Is it “Airi, we hardly knew ye” so soon after her reunion with Satoru? I doubt it. But what comes next, I have no idea. She may survive. She may die, and trigger another “revival”. But if that happens, it means one more life he must try to save, even as he only managed to forestall Kayo’s death by two days.

The tide, in other words, is very much against Satoru. Everyone close to him is being killed; he’s being slowly erased. I sorely hope he can find a way to turn that tide.

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Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 02

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Well, it didn’t take long for the season’s top pick to pull away from the field: Erased is the best new anime we’re watching at RABUJOI, and it isn’t really close. This week it raises the bar once more, throwing us along with Satoru back to 1988. The setting is perfectly retro, from the stoically practical structures to the efficient boxy cars.

Satoru is, naturally, quite disoriented by this latest (and by far furthest) revival, as anyone would bee if their 29-year-old consciousness suddenly found itself in the body of their 10-year-old self. The early camerawork, detached and dream-like, does a great job visualizing that disorientation.

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But once he realizes what being where and when he is means, he races home, where his mother finds him dozing on the floor, waiting for her to come home from work. I’ll admit, I was not prepared for the emotional punch of seeing Sachiko again, nor Satoru’s reaction to seeing her again. Tears fell from my eyes as they fell from his. That’s when you know you’re locked in a story.

He’s right; his mom will look pretty much the same as she does here 18 years later, and that’s some good-ass genes. But the emotional similarity ends there. The feeling of simply living with his mom in that cramped little apartment, smelling her cook dinner, and eating as a loving familial unit; he remembers it all, but now he sees it in a new light.

He now experiences this stuff through the eyes of a 29-year-old who, from his perspective, saw his mother lying dead in a pool of her own blood onl hours ago, not the 10-year-old boy she sees. As such, his good manners and loving, grateful attitude throw his mom off.

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Satoru also realizes that now he’s back in a time before Hinazuki Kayo was murdered, he can act to try to avoid that tragedy. But first things first; he has to introduce himself and become friends with her. His mates misinterpret his attention to and desire to speak with her as a crush, and manage to arrange a meeting, which goes…okay.

Satoru figures out she looks to be a bit of a handful (“this brat is a pain in the ass” was a brilliantly timed line from his inner voice), but Kayo quickly sees a bit of herself in him, specifically that they’re both “performing” to the world around them. Now, for a minute, I thought she might be aware his 29-year-old self is in there, or even be a 29-year-old herself inside.

But neither has to turn out to be true, because the fact remains: they have a connection. It’s one they might have had if Satoru had approached her the first time around. Now he has the benefit of foresight and hindsight.

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Kenya, the wisest-beyond-his-years member of Satoru’s group of friends, seems to know what his mate’s interest in Kayo is, and instructs him to read her essay in the class composition collection, a short, simple, utterly heartbreaking tale entitled “The Town Without Me” (or “The Town Where Only I am Missing”), which also happens to be the title of the show.

Had he read the essay 18 years ago, he may not have seen it for the obvious, top-of-her-lungs cry for help that it is; it’s also chillingly prophetic. But he’s not really 10, he’s 29, and now that he has a pretty good idea of Kayo’s situation, he can’t simply stand by and let her be erased a second time. Moreover, he believes saving Kayo will sufficiently alter the future to save his mother, not to mention his framing in the murder.

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So he tells his mom he’s going to have a party in the apartment with five of his friends. She only knows of his four friends, and immediately assumes the fifth is his girlfriend. But one step at a time. Satoru walks to the park where Kayo is reliably hanging out, not wanting to go home to her physically abusive mother (a harsh contrast with Sachiko).

There, Satoru tells her the truth: he does perform around others, pretending to like everybody so some of them will like him in return. She can relate, and elaborates on his thoughts by telling him she often wishes that one day, she won’t have to pretend; that the interactions will be genuine.

29-year-old Satoru can see what’s going on here: as he’s trying to hide his social awkwardness with forced affableness, she’s trying to hide her churning emotions by presenting a stoic, uncaring facade. The problem as he sees it is, a 10-year-old just isn’t strong enough to bear that burden.

Kayo needs a friend; someone who will be there to raise her spirits and restore hope that things will get better; that her suffering won’t be permanent; that she needn’t disappear from town, or from the world. Satoru wants to be that friend, and judging from their discussion and tender meeting of cold, ungloved hands, she’s open to such an arrangement.

I desperately want Satoru to suceed.

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Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 01 (First Impressions)

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Yikes, Hannah did not like Active Raid one bit; no she did not! I, on the other hand, seem to have stumbled on what could be one of the season’s top shows. It’s certainly the best so far after one episode. And it did it with a highly realistic and immersive setting; a gloomy atmosphere full of regret over things not done or unsaid; and a young man unable to progress in life, still haunted by hazy memories and mysteries of the past. Moreover, it didn’t pull its punches.

Oh yeah, and said young man, 29-year-old struggling mangaka/pizza delivery boy Fujinuma Satoru, has a power. No, he can’t defeat villains with one punch, but he does periodically, involuntarily go back a couple of minutes in time when something bad happens around him, enabling him to take action to prevent disaster.

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The reveal of that ability is the first of many jolts this episode gave me, and it’s an ability expertly demonstrated when he stops a truck from hitting a little boy in the crosswalk. Saving the boy gets him injured, and while he’s out, he remembers one of those hazy memories: a haunting image of a little girl in a red coat standing alone in the snowy night. This realm – near the “heart of his mind”, is a place he has always feared, and both his creative calling and social life are suffering as a result.

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That doesn’t mean good things don’t happen to Satoru. His selfless, heroic actions were witnessed by a cute high school girl (and his pizza joint co-worker) Katagiri Airi, who stays by his bedside, now seeing him in a new light. But Satoru doesn’t see anything more coming of such an auspicious encounter; after all, they’re not the same generation, and a lot of her “Gen-Y” sayings and doings are strange and frightening to him.

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Speaking of generations, his mother Sachiko, 52 but looking 32 (he calls her an ageless “yokai” more than once) crashes at his house for a while when he’s discharged from the hospital. This puts Satoru in yet another light, not as the intriguing senpai with the secret heroic life, but the darling son whose mother is worried about him.

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Both his mom’s presence and news of abductions on the television bring more memories to the surface, to when Satoru was a little kid and used to play with a local guy he nicknamed “Yuuki.” Something seems a little off about how Yuuki looks and talks, and sure enough, after two kids from Satoru’s class are abducted, Yuuki is arrested as the culprit and sent to prison for kidnapping and murder.

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When Sachiko and Airi cross paths, the former invites the latter to Satoru’s for dinner, and Satoru starts to suspect his mom is looking for a wife for him, taking Airi’s words about him being “a friend she respects” as a mere polite formality, and that she has no further interest in him. But I imagined, like Sachiko did, that Airi was more interested in Satoru than he thought, considering she bothered to spend so much time with him as late.

Later, as Satoru looks further into the crimes Yuuki was accused of, Sachiko gets suspicious of a person she sees out in the city, knowing the serial abduction and murder case isn’t actually closed yet. She’s always regretted withholding info from Satoru, and making him forget as much as he could about the dark events that transpired in the fifth grade.

Because Satoru knows Yuuki didn’t abduct or kill anyone. It was someone else. Further, that scene of the girl in red – Hinazuki Kayo – was the last time Satoru saw her before she disappeared. He’s blamed himself for not asking her if he could walk her home ever since.

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In any case, Sachiko never gets the chance to come clean with her son, as a mysterious assailant in a black suit enters the apartment and suddenly stabs her in the back, killing her. Now this was a huge jolt. Holy shit. Here, I had settled into this nice, warm, pleasant atmosphere with Satoru and his lovely mother and Airi and it’s all taken away with one plunge of a knife. Damn…

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The killer passes Satoru in the hall as he returns home from the bookstore, and only moments after discovering his mother inside his apartment, the neighbor sees him with blood on his hands and calls the cops. Things threaten to spiral out of control fast as Satoru—like Yuuki, AKA Shiratori Jun—looks poised to be framed. And my heart is pumping.

Just then, another blue butterfly appears – a sign another “revival” or time jump is about to occur, and all of a sudden Satoru isn’t dealing with cops in the city anymore. He’s back in Hokkaido, in the snow, and he’s gone back a little more than a couple minutes, because it’s 1988.

No doubt, Kayo is still alive, and he has a chance to do things differently. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is one hell of an enticing way to end your first episode!

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