When I reviewed Erased a few weeks back, I said that I found the ending to be one of the best I’ve seen for an anime since Cowboy Bebop. I still feel that way, but it would appear the interwebs doesn’t agree with me. Not that I care. The interwebs has issues it should really be seeing a therapist for. At very least it should be on some kind of medication.
As I mentioned in my review, the real story of Erased is about Satoru, his dispassionate life, and how his trip back in time helped him see why he needed passion in his life, and eventually lead him to embrace being passionate about not just in his writing as a mangaka, but life in general. The murder mystery side of the story is just the frame work that the real story hangs on, as the catalyst that sets Saoru’s journey into motion. Outside of that, the murder mystery is relevant only to bringing that catalyst to a conclusion.
Oh, and by the way, there will be spoilers for pretty much the entire ending of Erased in this post, so, ya know, proceed with caution, blah, blah, blah. Also of importance, I tend to view things as a writer, what with me being a writer, so my opinion of the show, and the finale, will be colored by that. Figured I ought to remind folks of that.
After I finished watching the series, I tripped about reading other reviews of the show, and in general, I found my opinion of the ending to be vastly different than most viewers, and a few reviewers. I do want to touch on the two major complaints about the ending, as well as the only one I’ve seen that holds water, but we’ll get to all that in a bit. First, let’s look at why I find the ending to be so perfect.
It starts with Satoru basically preventing the three murders from his childhood, leading to the killer, his own homeroom teacher, Yashiro, revealing himself to be the killer. He’s become fascinated with Satoru, and how this eleven year old always seems to be one step ahead of him, leading to Yashiro deciding to kill Satrou by dumping his car in the river, leaving Satoru to drown.
Told ya there’d be spoilers.
Next we know, it’s been fifteen years, and Satoru survived, but has been in a coma since then, being cared for by his mother, and shockingly, Yashiro. Against all odds, Satoru awakens to discover how much time he lost, and that his own memories are fragmented, causing him to not remember that Yashiro is a serial killer.
As he recovers and goes through physical therapy, Satoru meets his childhood friends, Kenya and Hiromi again. Kenya has become a lawyer, inspired by Satoru’s actions when they were kids to always be on the side of justice, and defending those who can’t defend themselves. Hiromi has become a doctor, also inspired by Satoru, though with a focus on finding a way to save his friend that has been in a coma for fifteen freaking years.
That is a huge thing. Before, Satoru left no impact on the world. In his original timeline, after school, he lost touch with Kenya, and Hiromi was freaking dead, the second victim of Yashiro. Now, he’s changed not just Hiromi’s fate, but Kenya’s as well, both driven to pursue their careers because of Satoru.
Let’s make this crystal clear. Satoru’s first trip back ended in failure. His second trip back was when he finally understood he had to be on the offense in saving Kayo, Hiromi, and the third victim, Aya, in order to save his mother in the present. More importantly, he had developed a relationship with Kayo, and seen Kenya and Hiromi through a new perspective. This is what sparked his passion for protecting them, and made him understand how important it is to have deep bonds of trust and friendship with others. In turn, his newly awakened passion inspired both Kenya and Hiromi to become very different people than they would have been otherwise.
Especially Hiromi, what with him not having a future career as a corpse to fall back on anymore.
At the heart of all that was Satoru coming to understand what it was to be passionate about something. Because that’s what the story is about. It isn’t enough to sit back and watch life pass you by. You have to be involved in it. You have to be actively participating, and that takes passion. Without passion, we have no motivation, no drive, no goals or dreams. We’re just going through the motions. With it, we can excel, and surpass even our most daring goals for own lives, and inspire those around us to do the same.
That’s the entire point Erased is making.
Later on, Satoru meets Kayo again, who is now an adult, married, and with a child of her own. Married to whom, you ask? Why, Hiromi. As Satoru touches their daughter’s hand, his memories return, including of his previous life, and all he did to save Kayo and Hiromi. He also remembers that Yashiro was behind it all, setting up their final confrontation.
Yashiro is an excellent villain for this story. He’s methodical, patient, and intelligent. He thinks of all the ways he could get caught, and leaves no traces of himself. Instead, he creates evidence to lead the police to someone else, which is why Jun spent so many years in prison, falsely convicted of the murders back in the past.
However, Yashiro makes two mistakes in dealing with Satoru. The first is that he revealed all he did for him while he was in a coma. The second was in not understanding just how deep the bonds of trust between Satoru, Kenya, Hiromi, and Kayo had become, much less how willing Satoru was to tell his mother everything. Granted, some of that Yashiro couldn’t possibly know, as he didn’t live the original timeline. However, he remembers Satoru as a child, and that he had a somewhat cool relationship with his mother. He assumed that to still be the case, what with thinking Satoru hadn’t gotten all his memories back.
The reason the first thing was a mistake is because Satoru now understood what passion was. That Yashiro would spend so much time dedicated to helping care for Satoru while he was in his coma, including cutting his hair and shaving him, told Satoru that Yashiro had become passionate towards him.
No, not like that. Get your mind out of the gutter.
When I say he was passionate towards Satoru, it was in the sense that finally, someone knew the real him. That he was a killer, a monster, who preyed on the weak and defenseless. Someone knew that, and was still alive, but posed no threat to him. For Yashiro, this was an incredible thing, and he even reveals that he hadn’t killed anyone for the last fifteen years. Which is massive, as we learned earlier in the series that his killing had been going on long after his murders of Kayo, Hiromi, and Aya. So, yeah, Satoru saved a shit ton of lives, and changed the world in a pretty drastic way.
Basically, Yashiro loved Satoru as his friend, the only person who really knew him, and he cherished that. It wouldn’t stop him from killing Satoru, of course, in order to protect himself, but he did love him. In a way, Satoru had set him free.
And Satoru knew it. It wasn’t something he could have ever understood in his original timeline. That sense of caring so deeply for another, of having passion for anything.
The other mistake was one Yashiro could have avoided, but is a good example of how rusty he’d gotten. He failed to grasp just how tight Satoru’s bonds of friendship with the others had become. Which is where the finale really nails it, to me.
Satoru’s confrontation with Yashiro on the edge of the hospital roof. It’s just amazing from a writing standpoint. Everything that Satoru has learned comes into play. He does know Yashiro, and he knows what he means to him, and why. He uses that to drag a confession from him, and to force Yashiro to confront himself.
When Yashiro lets go, his intent is kill Satoru, yes, but to also jump and die with him, as a complete human being in his own mind. That they leave this world together, close and bound in that knowledge only they shared. Yashiro wanted to die with the only person who truly knew him, because in his messed up head, that was love.
So, naturally, when he looks down and sees Satoru in the air bag, surrounded by his friends, and the smirk on Satoru’s face, he is crushed. To him, Satoru betrayed him, and the passion he had developed.
Which is important, because just as Satoru had lead a dispassionate life, so too had Yashiro. They were the flip side of the same coin. Both had pretended to be someone they weren’t in the original timeline. Both had only engaged with others in the only way their disconnected mindsets knew how. Satoru by distancing himself from others, and Yashiro by killing them.
The reason Yashiro comes to have passion is because Satoru inspired it in him, too. That passion prevented him for killing for fifteen years, saving countless lives. To have that betrayed destroyed Yashiro, even as it saved Satoru, who had his own rewarded.
Which is a pretty heavy thing, when you think about it. Passion can save us, but it can destroy us, too. That’s why it’s important to have good friends, people we trust with our very lives, there to catch us when we fall. Satoru had that. Yashiro didn’t.
Yeah, that whole scene was a metaphor. Pretty damn good one, too. I was impressed with how well constructed it all was.
Of course, there’s that final bit, where the blue butterfly that gives me Ga-Rei: Zero flashbacks, and preceded Satoru’s Revival goes flitting by moments before he meets Airi again. For her, it’s the first time, but for him, it’s seeing someone he knows is the kind of person who will have his back, be there for him, and that he can count on no matter how rough things get. Plus, both of them are older now, Satoru having slept through his departure period in the original timeline, so Airi is in college now, and an adult as well.
The reason I like this is because, all of it together is as if Satoru was being told he hadn’t met her by accident. That she was the one who would truly save him, and she was. It was Airi that first made him really understand what it was to embrace being passionate. It was Airi that protected him, guided him, and gave him the advice he needed to really change the past. It was Airi who made him who had become. She played as big a role in changing the past as he did. Neither their original meeting, or this one, was an accident, but fate. These two would always meet, no matter the timeline, no matter the history, because they were meant to meet.
And yes, I do believe some people are meant to meet one another. Don’t ask me why or how, cause I don’t know. Just that some folks, they belong in each others lives, be it as lovers or friends, or even enemies, they were meant to meet. To inspire each other, to drive each other, and to complete each other. All of which plays back to Satoru and Yashiro. They were meant to meet. They needed each other. Just as Satoru and Airi did.
In the same way that Satoru inspired Kenya and Hiromi, so too did Yashiro inspire Satoru, and was inspired by him in return. Satoru was inspired by Airi and her passionate way of living, which created the circle in the first place, leading to Kenya, Hiromi, and Kayo’s new lives, and Yashiro’s defeat. Passion is a ripple that moves through us all, from one person to another, inspired a chain of lives to reach higher, dream bigger, and dare greater. This, Erased captured with such beauty, I can’t help but love it.
Well, this has all gone on longer than I planned. Told ya before, I had a lot to say about all this. Regardless, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve made a huge post, so let’s get into the things people didn’t like about the ending.
The first I want to touch on is people calling Satoru regaining his memories after touching a baby stupid.
Yeah. That baby by two people who died as children in the original timeline. The one who couldn’t possibly have existed had Satoru not gone back and changed the past. This person who wouldn’t have ever existed.
Time travel is okay. Impossible baby magic is not. That’s the argument.
For real, guys? I mean, seriously?
How hard is this to get? It’s a metaphor! Kayo and Hiromi’s daughter represents how significantly Satoru embracing passion changed the world for the better, allowing him to see his past through a new perspective, represented by the new timeline. Do people even bother with thinking these days? I honestly wonder. Cause that was pretty damn obvious.
The second thing people complain about the most is that Kayo married Hiromi. Yes, really. I lost count of the number of times commenters, and a couple of reviewers, bashed the ever loving hell out of Kayo for making Satoru a cuck.
Now, I admit, I’m not up all the modern lingo, so that kinda confused me at first. It couldn’t possibly, I thought, mean what I think it meant. So, I did a bit of digging, and yes, it really did mean exactly what I thought it meant.
They are claiming that Kayo made Satoru a cuckold, which is an old term for a man who has had his wife cheat on him. Note, his WIFE. Kayo was not Satoru’s wife, because the last time he saw her was when they were eleven. Then he spent fifteen years in a coma. When did they get married, exactly? Oh, right, fucking never!
The bigger issue I have this, however, is the idea that somehow, Kayo should have spent the last fifteen years waiting in virginal bliss for Satoru to wake up from his coma, so he could tap that ass. This is just plain stupid on a level I don’t even know the words to describe.
No, and that’s not because of some kind of feminist reason, or equality thing. It’s just basic fucking logic, and human decency.
Look, every year a person is in a coma, their chances of ever waking up decrease. Satoru was in a coma for fifteen years. The odds of him ever waking up where pretty much zero. Yet, there’s this notion out there that she should have waited anyway, instead of living the life Satoru worked so hard to make sure she had. Cause her other alternative was to die as a child, in case we’ve forgotten that whole part.
Satoru saved her in order to save his mom, not to get some nookie in the future. He saved her because she was a human being, who didn’t deserve to be treated the way she was, and didn’t deserve to die the way she did. He did it because it was the right thing to do, and because the more he got to know her, the more he cared about her, and wanted to save her, because, again, she’s a human fucking being who was facing a horrible death.
He averted that, and she lived. She lived, which was the whole point. She had a life, which was the whole point. Being pissed she didn’t sit and wait for him to wake up so she could ride his dick is missing the whole point.
These same people are also pissed that she married Hiromi, which somehow insults their idiot sensibilities even more. Why, I don’t know. Dude turned out to be a doctor. Looks to me like he’s doing well in life.
Ah, right, because Hiromi isn’t a studly manly man who slaps a ho when she doesn’t respond to Beer Me Bitch fast enough. He’s kind, thoughtful, considerate and gentle. Ya know, the opposite of the guys her worthless mother kept dragging home, that also slapped her around as a child.
I can’t imagine what she saw in him that made her fall in love in with him. It’s a fucking mystery.
Look, here’s how it is. Thinking Kayo somehow owned Satoru pussy, and did him wrong by marrying Hiromi means you have some deeply messed up priorities. The kind that make you a fucking asshole. Which is probably why you have the attitude you do towards women. Because you are a fucking asshole. It’s also probably why you don’t have a woman in your life. Because you are a fucking asshole.
How about you try not being a fucking asshole. Never know. Might just make your life better. Fucking asshole.
Last of all, there is one good argument against the ending, and that is the massive tonal shift the show takes. From a very dark story, full of foreboding and near hopelessness, to one that is very bright and happy endingish.
I will give this argument credit, because the tonal shift does happen, and it happens really fast. Like, almost whiplash inducing fast. I noticed it as well, but I tend to let such things slide when a show has presented itself in an otherwise excellent manner. It remains, however, that there is a very sudden tonal shift.
I think there’s two reasons it happened. The first being that it was the final episode, and there wasn’t a lot of time to make it more gradual. Limits like these are going to come up, and there really is no good way of dealing with them. Sometimes, you just gotta induce that whiplash and hope everybody is nice and limber.
The other reason, I think, was because the writers really did want to emphasize just how dramatically the timeline had changed. The original was dark, menacing, and very ominous at times. The new one is significantly different, and required a different tone.
Could they have done it better? I dunno. Maybe. I wasn’t there, so it’s hard to say. I won’t rule out that it could have been presented better, and will even admit that the reason for the tonal shift isn’t really ever made clear. It’s implied, and I only really got it after thinking about this argument for a long time. So, yeah, it isn’t made clear, and it comes across as just a big shift that comes out of nowhere.
Still, even saying that, for me, the ending was wonderful. It resolved everything, made some powerful statements about life, and showed us a better world than the one Satoru had lived in before. It gave us hope, where there had been none, and left me feeling as if Satoru was going to be okay. Maybe even better than okay. Maybe he was going to be happy.
Which is what I really love about the ending. This bored, detached person we met in the beginning was now someone I could believe was going to be happy. That made me happy.
In the end, isn’t that a pretty wonderful thing?