Strange Vistas


Kayo and Satoru

Erased’s Satoru Fujinuma works a day job as a pizza delivery man while struggling with his attempts at a wanna-be manga artist. He doesn’t share much with others, which his editor thinks reflects on the manga he writes and stops him from connecting with potential readers. At 29-years-old, his career ebbing away from him, he seems a teenager whose gap year before college extended to an entire decade. He is thoroughly unremarkable, other than the fact that he sometimes jumps back in time.

It’s not exactly an ability. Satoru can’t control it. It’s more something that happens to him, like everything else in his life. It always happens before an accident, a disaster, or another event with negative consequences, giving him a chance to prevent it. But since there is no warning, and it happens before the event takes place, Satoru doesn’t know what the trigger is. He finds himself yanked back, déjà-vu-ed a few minutes to the past, the needle skipping back. The moment he notices the jump, he frantically searches for a sign of something wrong, something he can affect, something he can fix. It resolves quickly, cause and effect apparent the moment he spots what’s wrong.

Until the time where a catastrophic shock sends him back eighteen years, to the time when he was in school, and somebody murdered three kids his age – two of them his classmates.

That “somebody” officially was an older friend of Satoru’s. Satoru never believed it. He sets to not only clear his friend’s name but also to prevent the murders. Yet he barely remembers the case, because adults at the time did their best to hide the grisly details from children like him. How can he act, trapped in a 10-year-old’s body, stuck in school, unable to explain to anyone what little he knows?

Erased avoided easy plot solutions, confounded my expectations. Not entirely, mind you. They only have so many pieces, and only a few of them would fit some areas. You can glimpse the edges of a pattern emerging, but like Satoru, you can’t always see the whole design.

Yes, I tend to favor shows that surprise me, but surprise is a quality that’s in short supply when you’ve watched as much stuff as I have.

That by itself would be enough to recommend it, but *Erased *’s characters grow on you, become something more than puzzle pieces for you to fit. And when they do, you start worrying about them, concerned about how Satoru’s actions to save one of them might pinball around and affect the others.

Everybody wants a do-over. Satoru gets one. He may not like the effect of the choices he has to make.

There is a grasping at father figures, rediscovering friends through your older eyes, the nostalgia for those innocent days when everyone was in sync. Yet Erased also has something else on its mind, which we glimpse as we see Satoru stumble and gasp and stutter when he is in his much younger body: we grow upwards, but not always up. A lot of us are just children, stuck in older bodies, never having figured out what happened in the time the age counter increased and expectations piled up. Satoru, looking at his friends again, has to realize that age doesn’t imply maturity and that he can’t succeed by himself.

There is a striking amount of tension in watching children doing child-like things to help each other escape an unseen threat.

#anime #erased #kadokawa

Jazz band playing on Kids on the Slope

Everybody's children are so special. It makes you wonder where all the ordinary grown-ups come from. Code 46

I'd never given it much thought to why high-school stories are popular.

Partly it's because it's such an impressionable age that any little bit of drama feels life-changing. Someone of the right age will identify, easily, and agonize with them. As an even slightly older viewer, you'll want to grab them by the lapels, yell at them that it's all going to seem irrelevant soon, that they don't need to overreact... but you can't.

But there's also life's rhythm.

We all walk at our own pace, and even people whom we think at one point will always trot beside us fall behind, cut ahead, take a side road, stop. High-school forces everyone, for a brief time, to walk at the same speed. Makes it easier to create shared memories.

Kids on the Slope is all about that rhythm. A theme here, a thread there, a harmony emerges phrase by phrase out of dissimilar instruments... then it all syncs... and it explodes into a dynamic, moving story about a few people improvising a friendship, riffing off each other's actions and music phrases, fighting to keep the tune going for as long as possible.

Sometimes the pianist pulls back; the drummer goes at it alone. The trumpet jumps to action. The older bass player strolls in. It all goes well while at least two of them strive to make it work. If one feels the other is not playing in sync, wants to solo instead, they won't stop and ask – that'd kill the tune. They'll keep playing, but change their style to try and solo as well. They'll clash. The harmony will vanish. The band will stop being a single being, become merely a group of people banging on instruments at the same place.

The tune that had enthralled you will disappear. And you'll hang around in a poorly lit corner, nursing your bourbon, hoping they'll get their groove back before too long has passed, before they forget how to make magic come out of lifeless metal and wood.

In jazz, the performance is the thing. The live interaction that cannot be repeated. It's a snapshot of the musician's life influences up to that moment in time. It's ephemeral. And it's over before you realize it.

I didn't find out until it had ended that it was created by Watanabe Shinichirō and Kanno Yōko. I'm glad I didn't know, or I would have expected this weaponized nostalgia neurotoxin, this yearning for people you haven't actually met, this sudden emptiness as the music stops.

Originally published on my old blog.

#kidsontheslope #anime #watanabeshinichiro #sakamichinoapollon #manga #kodamayuki #jazz #kannoyoko