“The Town Where Only I am Missing” is the literal translation of “Boku Dake ga Inai Machi,” an anime and manga better known in the United States as ERASED. My college-age daughter recommended the show to me and it marks the first time I’ve watched an anime series as it was being aired in Japan. It tells the story of Satoru Fujinuma, a manga artist, haunted by his childhood, when three children were abducted and murdered. Satoru also has the power to slip backwards in time along his own history and relive events, which has allowed him to save lives, but also leaves him the worse for wear.
Satoru’s mom is a former news announcer who sees the person she suspected of being the murderer from years ago. The problem is, the murderer is aware of her attention and strikes first, killing her. In order to save his mother, Satoru slips back in time eighteen years until he’s ten years old—the time two of his classmates and another child are killed. With the knowledge of of his twenty-eight-year-old self, but in the body of a ten-year-old kid, he must prevent the murders that have haunted him, so he can prevent the murder his mother.
Normally, my taste in horror runs to the supernatural variety—ghosts, vampires, monsters from the beginning of time—that sort of thing. Stories about serial killers usually don’t engage me much. However, this story is played more for the mystery and suspense than for the potential horror aspects and the time travel premise is handled in a sufficiently fresh way to make this story particularly engaging. In fact, this show demonstrates some of the most nail-biting cliffhangers I’ve ever seen.
I’m hard pressed to say the series was perfect. Satoru seemed to have an easy time convincing his classmates to help him. Also, I guessed the identity of the murderer two or three episodes before that person was revealed and we weren’t exactly given a lot of suspects to keep us guessing. That said, J. Michael Straczynski, the creator of Babylon 5, once said it’s not whether or not you know the story’s ending, but how good the journey is getting there. In this case, I felt ERASED took me on a very satisfying journey. Although the show isn’t billed as horror, it created characters I genuinely cared about and, at times, felt scared for their safety. The series did this a minimum of on-screen violence—a restraint anime isn’t always known for.
You don’t have to be missing from the town where ERASED is set. You can stream episodes for free on Crunchyroll.com.