How do you take a complex multi-volume manga or its fantastic 12 episode anime adaptation and translate that into a 2 hour live action film? How do you condense that story in a way that the heart of it isn’t lost in the process? It is a difficult challenge to overcome and for the most part the live action adaptation of the time travel mystery series Erased does an admirable job, until it all falls apart in a baffling final act that betrays the audacious climactic turn of events of the source material in favour for an illogical climax that lacks the same ingenuity and emotional impact. That said, for the majority of its run time Erased is a fine adaptation, as long as you stop watching before the final act.
Erased follows Satoru Fujinuma (the always fantastic Tatsuya Fujiwara), a down on his luck aspiring manga artist who works as a pizza delivery driver for a living. Satoru has a bit of a secret however, he has the innate ability to relive events with a power called Revival, which rewinds time and gives Satoru a chance to change history. This ability winds up flinging him back in time to his childhood days of 1988, where the trauma of his past seems to be directly related to the trauma of the present. He must correct the past in order to rewrite his future.
The film really does explore the 1988 setting wonderfully, recreating the time with a great attention to detail. The child actors also do a great job with their characters, bringing genuine pathos to their performances. Likewise, Tatsuya Fujiwara truly brings the character of Satoru to life in one of his most powerful performances to date. Unfortunately the script lets him down with the final act veering away from the source material’s original ending.
The conclusive act isn’t problematic simply because it diverges from the original, the problem is that it logically does not make sense. The film doesn’t consider the idea of time travel as anything more than a mere plot device and the ramifications of Satoru’s past actions have illogical affects on the present in this revised ending. Things only become for the worse when the film decides to dive deeply into the melodramatic with a tragic ending completely tonally different to everything that had come before it. Erased is an optimistic story about second chances, at its core this is a story of a hero’s journey there and back again, unfortunately this live action adaptation missed the message of the original completely and falls flat in its climax.
All that aside, the film does do an admirable job in recreating some key moments of the original and bringing this iconic tale to the silver screen. If viewed without prior knowledge of the original source material, viewers would likely find themselves wrapped up in the mystery of the film and trying to figure out who the killer, enjoying the suspense. Illogical ending aside the film does a great job at building up that suspense and playing with viewers emotions, especially in regards to the child abduction story line which is a tough subject matter to approach but one that is handled nicely here.
Aesthetically the film is shot beautifully with some really nice sequences particularly back in the 1988 scenes. The soundtrack does an effective job although it doesn’t really match up the that of the anime series.
All in all the live action Erased film is an admirable effort in adapting this story onto the silver screen. It features memorable performances from legendary actors and relative newcomers alike as well as featuring some stunning shots of rural Japan that are a beauty to behold. That is why it is so unfortunate that the film falls apart with its truly unintelligble final act that betrays everything that played out before it. Fans of the source material would be interested to see the film for comparisons sake, but just don’t be surprised when the story veers off a bridge quite literally in its final act that in all honesty was probably better off being ‘erased’ from the film.