The Winter 2016 anime season has several enjoyable shows but only a couple that might qualify as classics. The leading contender is ERASED (Crunchyroll). (I prefer the Japanese title: Boku Dake ga Inai Machi, “The Town Where Only I Am Missing.”)
This is a murder mystery with fantasy elements. It is rather dark but very compelling.
The hero is Satoru Fujinuma, a 29-year-old aspiring manga artist in Tokyo in 2006.
Since his manga efforts are not very successful he is forced to support himself with a job delivering pizzas.
Satoru is subject to a supernatural phenomenon that he calls “Revival” (using the English word.) If he is present at a tragedy he finds himself sent just far enough back in time that he has a chance to prevent it (generally only a few minutes).
This basic idea has shown up recently in a number of films and video games. I should make it clear that this is not a power that Satoru controls. He just finds himself popped back in time with no warning, often with no idea what tragedy he is supposed to prevent let alone how to prevent it. He must be a quick thinker since it’s implied that he has a pretty good success rate, though surely not 100%.
At the start of the first episode he saves a little boy from being run over by a truck, but ends up in the hospital with a concussion.
As he is waking up in the hospital he remembers a tragedy that he did not prevent. When he was a little boy a classmate named Kayo Hinazuki was kidnapped and murdered. They were not close; she was a loner with no friends. Still, the memory has haunted him ever since.
When he wakes up he is greeted by Airi Katagiri, a high school girl who works part-time for the same pizza company. Airi clearly has a crush on Satoru but he thinks she is much too young for him and ignores her hints.
When Satoru returns to his tiny apartment there is another surprise waiting. His mother Sachiko has flown in from Hokkaido and is determined to stay with him until she is sure that he has fully recovered.
The next day while Satoru and Sachiko are out shopping he finds himself popped back in time with no idea what tragedy he is supposed to prevent. He asks his mother to look around for anything unusual.
Sachiko notices a suspicious-looking man trying to lure a little girl into his van.
He sees her watching him and drives off without the little girl. Sachiko takes a picture of the license plate with her cell phone.
She is still disturbed. There was something about that man that seemed strangely familiar. That night she discusses it with Satoru and also brings up the death of Kayo 18 years ago. It turns out that Kayo was not the only victim. Several other children also disappeared.
Jun Shiratori was a young man who befriended the young Satoru. Satoru called him “Yuuki” because he was always saying “Be brave!”
Yuuki was eventually arrested and sent to prison for the child killings. Neither Satoru nor his mother believes that he was the real killer.
The next evening a mysterious stranger follows Sachiko back to the apartment, stabs her to death and takes her phone. (Did I mention that this is NOT a show to watch with your young children?)
Satoru walks in a little later, finds her body and gets blood all over himself trying to revive her.
He is promptly detained by the police on suspicion of murder.
At this point, as might be expected, “Revival” kicks in. Satoru finds himself going back in time, but not just by a few minutes.
He finds himself back in 1988, a 10-year-old boy walking though the gate of his old elementary school in Hokkaido.
Satoru decides that this time, in order to save his mother, he will have to save all of the serial killer’s victims. This is a tall order for a little boy, even one with the mind of an adult.
Satoru struggles at first to fit back into his life as a 10 year old, but starts to more or less get the hang of it. These are the 4 boys that he used to hang out with in 4th grade. Left to right: Hiromi, Kazu, Kenya, Satoru (with his back turned) and Osamu.
Aware that unless he does something Kayo has only a few weeks to live, Satoru decides to try to befriend her.
Oddly he worries about being teased by his friends. This is one of several hints that emotionally Satoru is closer to 10 than 29.
Kayo however is not eager to be his friend. In fact she seems afraid to get close to anybody. With his adult sensibility it is not hard for Satoru to see the evidence that she is being abused by her mother, but he has no idea what to do about it.
Gaku Yashiro, their kindly homeroom teacher, has also figured out that Kayo is being abused. He is trying to get the social service agency to intervene but so far has been unsuccessful.
And that’s all I know so far. The following is just speculation.
We seem to have left Airi back in 2006 but the OP indicates that we are going to be seeing a lot more of her. That suggests that the story will not just play out in 1988. Perhaps Satoru will make one or more failed attempts to stop the killer and will have to start over?