Kei Sanbe’s Erased features time travel, childhood memories, suspense, and murder. The digital version of volume one, localized through Yen Press, contains the manga’s first six chapters. Does the series get off to a good start?
The first half of this volume goes by very slowly as we get introduced to the protagonist, Satoru Fujinuma. Satoru works as a pizza delivery boy and is also an aspiring manga creator. The beginning of the first chapter shows potential as the reader is made privy to Satoru’s thought processes, and we get to follow his frustrations with his manga career. He laments the fact that others are not connecting with his work, and that he has been told to put more of himself into his art. This emotional distance between Satoru and other people is a theme that runs throughout the volume. While the very start and the second half of the volume handles this distance well, most of the first half does not. There’s a long stretch where Satoru just comes off as a generically grumpy character whose status as a manga creator feels like an expected and unexciting choice.
My main issue most of this volume’s first half is that it dumps a lot of exposition on the reader without also including touching or fun character moments. There’s not a lot of reasons to like the cast in the first three chapters. Satoru is just kind of grouchy, while his mother Sachiko is a generically annoying parent, and his co-worker Airi Katagiri has little personality to speak of. Her whole role is to be nice to Satoru, thus causing Satoru to fear messing up their relationship. Hopefully future volumes will flesh out her character.
The initial chapters introduce us to Satoru’s ability to travel backwards through time. It is not a power he can control, rather, he occasionally finds himself thrust back mere moments in time, with the chance to save himself or someone else from a dangerous situation. The early chapters also inform the reader that, when Satoru was a child, his community suffered through a series of child abductions. The abductees were close to Satoru and, as a result, his mother tried to get him to forget about the incidents. All of this exposition dumping makes it clear that the manga is going to tackle serious themes, but the initial execution is poor. The first three chapters feel like they could have been condensed down, and there’s a weird mixture of different tones used throughout.
As a result, the second half of this volume is marked by severe tonal whiplash. The pace picks up considerably following a major character death, as what’s at stake starts to become more clear. With that said, the gruesome murder feels almost like it came out of nowhere. It’s shocking–and perhaps that’s a good thing. But it’s hard to give something full credit for being unexpected when most of what led up to it was uninteresting. If I was reading this volume on my own time as opposed to reviewing it, I don’t know if I would have stuck through it long enough to get to the second half’s shocker moment and resultant suspense.
My problem with the change in tone isn’t that it is entirely out of nowhere. The plot significance of certain events in chapters one through three become more apparent as events move forward, but my appreciation of the way Sanbe handled said plot events remained low. The second half of this volume is enjoyable but the first half isn’t good enough to warrant waiting that long. If a written work is going to rely heavily on exposition, that exposition has to be made enjoyable. It’s also worth noting that most of the artwork, while not outright bad, is fairly generic, and doesn’t help to make the slow start any more interesting.
The second half of this volume carries it. There’s a lot of potential here for a touching remembrance of childhood mixed with suspenseful elements. Sadly, the volume’s beginning wasn’t as strong, resulting in a middle-of-the-road reading experience. Hopefully volume two will be as good throughout as volume one was in its ending.