Sometimes it’s hard liking so many different genres because it’s almost impossible to find a book that encompasses all of them. I mean, you like mystery novels. And thrillers. But you like your stories to have a deeper meaning…and with some humor. Sci-fi is good, too. But where on earth are you going to find a funny mystery thriller sci-fi with a purposeful plot?
Nothing. Zip. Nada.
And then Yen Press sent me a copy of Erased Vol 1 by Kei Sanbe. The ultimate story. A mystery thriller sci-fi with a bit of humor and a whole lot of meaning. And, as if that wasn’t already unbelievable, it comes in the form of a very beautifully illustrated manga.
I think I’m in love.
Loser. That word pretty much sums up Satoru Fujinuma, a twenty-nine-year-old pizza delivery guy with no social life who just really, really wants to be left alone and allowed to become a manga artist. To most people, he just looks like a typical failure with nothing special about him. They would be right about the former, but not the latter.
His life has been taken captive by a phenomenon he terms Revival: he is sent back minutes in time right before a disaster strikes, forced to relive the moment again and again until he can stop the catastrophe…But usually at the price of bringing an equal problem down on his own head.
He has always considered the Revival a curse. But when a family member is brutally murdered, he knows how to save her. Satoru does something he’s never done before: He calls upon the Revival to send him back in time, and it does. Eighteen years into the past.
Sent back to the time in his life that he’s tried so hard to forget, Satoru, now in his eleven-year-old body, comes face to face with a classmate, Kayo, who he knows will be the first victim in a series of serial killings. Is saving her the key to saving his loved one? As Satoru works against time to save Kayo, he realizes that his childhood was not as he remembered it…and that fighting evil in real life is very different from how battles play out in his own manga stories.
This is the kind of story that, when over, leaves you staring blankly at a wall, wondering how you’re supposed to move on. This story is the full range of human emotion painted onto 384 pages in a beautiful, gut-wrenching display.
Love. Despair. Gratitude. Pain. Friendship. Guilt. Ambition. Defeat.
The characters in this story are heartrenching. We have Satoru: The boy who cares too much even though he once didn’t care at all. We have Kayo: The girl who pretends to feel nothing because she feels it all. Satoru’s mom: the woman who appears self-centered, only to be revealed as woman who will do anything to protect her son.
Each character is a paradox, each one has traits both admirable and painfully human. This depth of personality is one that many characters never come even near to reaching. The fact that Sanbe handles so many raw human emotions while also slipping in bits of humor is incredible.
Honestly, Sanbe could have stopped there. He could have just written a time travel plot with a mystery element and deep characters and the story would have been a good one. But he went deeper.
This is one of the few stories I have read that tackled the issue of child abuse in a correct manner. While it made this manga a difficult read, it was an important element, especially since this is a topic that fiction likes to shy around, glamorize, or misuse as some weird form of character-building.
Kayo, whose mother is violent and angry, is emotionally damaged and thus ignored by her classmates, who don’t understand her home life. When Satoru is sent back in time, he is given the chance to befriend the girl who he had previously avoided. The resulting friendship (and the changes to both of their lives) is emotional to say the least.
The illustrations in this manga perfectly match the mood: The inking is dark, crisp, and often minimal. Every panel has a purpose and works to support the dialogue and narration.
This manga really forces a person to think. It’s a mystery, so sure, you’re kept wondering: Who is the killer? How can he/she be stopped? Will Satoru be able to prevent future murders? But it’s also a deeply emotional story that makes you wonder: How many people do I misjudge because I don’t know their full story? How many people can I help if I just take the time?
This manga, while heartrending, is a beautiful, hopeful story. It may be a difficult read, but I do highly recommend it. Due to the topics of domestic violence and serial killings, it’s probably best for ages 16 and up. If you choose to read it, get the hardcover. It’s beautifully put together and is the kind of book you’ll want displayed on your shelves.
Vol 2 will be released on June 20th, 2017. Which is probably best because it will give me time to recover from the overwhelming emotions caused by Vol 1. Have you read this book? Please leave your thoughts below!
This manga was supplied to Constant Collectible in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own.