Erased is the story of a young man, Satoru Fujinuma (played by Tatsuya Fujiwara, who played Light in Death Note). He is an aspiring manga writer, who is forced to work as a deliveryman after being rejected by a publisher again.
Satoru has the ability to go back in time, or rewind. His 'revivals' take him into the past and allow him to fix things that are about to go terribly wrong. One day he is thrown back to being a 10-year-old, at a time when children in his area were falling victim to a serial killer and he decides to solve the mystery.
It should go without saying that anime is better than real life, so we really need to stop expecting live-actions to live up to their 2D counterparts. But even if you do try and view this movie away from its source material, it's still lacking.
The Anime is always better
The Erased anime was a well paced, visually beautiful, sadistic master of puppets that had your feelings on the end of its strings. For the most part, the live-action movie is a wonderful tribute to that, with well chosen scenes for the benefit of the anime, while not ignoring those who were seeing it for the first time.
Unfortunately, somewhere between pleasing the anime viewers and fitting itself into an acceptable time limit for other movie goers, it cut the strings that connected everything. (And the anime fans know exactly how that feels...)
The story didn't quite make sense. Even if you had prior knowledge from watching the anime this version had gaping chasms between one moment and another. It was nonsensical. At times there would be a vague reference to something that made half-sense to a fan of the anime, but would have left movie watchers fairly confused.
The live-action remake misses some of the most important points from the original story. I'm not talking about subjectively important points, like spending more time focusing on Satoru's mum (though that would have been nice because she's an awesome mum). I'm talking about objectively integral parts that make up the cobweb of Erased's story.
That aside, bringing Erased to the big screen would be no mere feat, and the parts it gets right are wonderful.
While the entire cast does the story justice, the child actors Tsubasa Nakagawa and Rio Suzuki are the stand outs. They're phenomenal. If you didn't feel protective of their characters before now, you will after seeing this movie.
Set and landscape choices are superb as well. The scenes that come from the anime are well paced and wonderfully executed. It's only when the movie deviates that it severely misses being a great story, to one that's a jumbled mess.
I won't tell you not to see this film because there's joy to be found in it, especially for Erased fans.
If you have seen the film and didn't watch the anime beforehand, then I hope that you will feel motivated to see the anime, which I think will go down as a classic in years to come.
I give it 3 Hamsters out of 5 (because giving it 2-and-a-half hamsters would be a bit awkward honestly...)