The digital edition of Erased Vol. 3 (collecting chapters 13-18 of Kei Sanbe’s series) picks up where volume two left off, and dials up the suspense tenfold. Is it good?
Volume two spent a lot of time on Satoru and Kayo’s developing friendship, as well as Satoru’s attempts to save her during his latest “Revival” (uncontrollable time-travel) back to their childhoods. Volume three opens with Satoru facing the harsh reality that he didn’t do enough to change the past, and all his efforts may have been for naught. This tension is handled effectively, and it helps to keep the series suspenseful at a critical plot junction. By making Satoru’s initial mission a failed one, Sanbe makes it clear that anything can happen at any point, and readers shouldn’t ease into comfort too quickly.
Aside from setting up expectations regarding the series’ tone and future plot developments, the opening chapter in this volume works beautifully as a standalone piece of character work. Sanbe’s artwork here is very emotive; Satoru’s anxiety, rage, and resolve are all conveyed perfectly in the line-work. Sanbe also nails the writing of Satoru’s thoughts and interactions with other characters. The chapter’s sense of suspense is effectively catapulted less by the pivotal plot revelation and more by Satoru’s emotional response to it. This is drama that is grounded in human emotion and meaning, rather than lazy narrative utilization of death as a horror without exploring its effect on living people.
This sense of characters interacting with the world and its circumstances around them is enhanced by Sanbe’s detailed backgrounds. The houses the characters live in actually feel lived in. Furniture is cluttered up by personal items, shelves are not empty, and curtains actually ruffle and fold like real fabric. Sanbe also knows when it’s best to keep things visually simple, especially in the case of outdoor events. When white space is used extensively, it often takes the form of undisturbed snow surrounding Satoru, seemingly enveloping him just as his sense of helplessness does.
Unfortunately, the portions of this volume that take place once Satoru returns to the present day aren’t as consistently high in quality. That isn’t to say that any moment here is particularly bad, but the drop from near perfection to just good is noticeable. On the plus side, it’s nice to see Airi return to narrative prominence, and the introduction of Sawada is very well-done. Having a supporting cast member who ties into both past and future events provides a nice sense of continuity.
On the downside, events in the last third of the volume feel much too rushed. A twist involving Airi and her mother feels less impactful than it could due to a lack of page-time covering it. The same can be said for the police’s arrival which, while not out of the blue, could have used a little more buildup. There are also points where the stylization of characters’ faces and bodies feel slightly off when compared to the rest of the volume’s artwork.
Erased Vol. 3 gets off to a beautiful start, and the first two thirds or so feel solid. Unfortunately, the ending chapters seem rushed, with a handful of concurrent plot events that feel weakened by a lack of narrative focus. There are also certain artistic decisions in the second half that feel questionable, especially in contrast to the nearly perfect artwork at the volume’s beginning. Overall though, this is a strong installment for the series, and one that is definitely worth reading.