Friday, April 5, 2019

Writing Lessons from Anime: Erased: A Town Without Me

Erased: A Town Without Me is in my top five favorite animes. It has a dynamic plot, a fun subtle bit of fantasy, precious themes about friendship, sacrifice, and loyalty, and lovable unforgettable characters. It's a fun mix of genres, merging mystery with a hint of fantasy. It's only twelve episodes and it's just perfect. And you can also hurry and go watch it before reading this review! You can do it in four hours.

You done?


For those (most of you) who didn't watch it, this anime is about a twenty-nine-year-old man named Satoru who is a washed up manga artists (mangaka) who is carrying around the deep regret of not saving a young girl named Kayo from a serial killer when he was nine. Satoru has the mysterious ability that he calls "revival" which will spontaneously take him back in time just a few minutes which allows him to save other people from harm. When his mom is murdered, Revival takes him all the way back in time to his nine-year-old self so he can save his mom and all of the victims of the serial killer. But can he do it or will he just repeat history?

Warning: Very minor spoilers. I don't spoil the killer though because I'd just be a jerk if I did that.

1.) Urban Fantasy Mystery - This story has such a fun and unique drama. For the majority of the show you're trying to figure out who the killer is, so it's got that mystery vibe. With Revival and the time travel involved, that sets the story in the urban fantasy category. This is such a fun merging of genres.

How this can be applied to writing: I've seen very few stories with this combination. Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller being one of the few. Have you tried this combination?

Revival is signified by a butterfly referring to the Butterfly Effect theory.
2.) Unique Time Travel - When Satoru goes back in time a few minutes, it's a flash like you skipped back with a remote. When goes back to the 1980s, his body doesn't move, but his mind goes into his younger self's body, so he has his older self's memories and none of his younger self's. Another thing Satoru brought up was changing time too much so he couldn't predict things and therefore stop matters if they take a turn for the worst.

How this can be applied to writing: There are so many different types of time travel. Using a time machine such as in the form of a TARDIS or Dolorian (if you don't know where those two things are from you need to retake your geek exam), a device such as a special book or watch is needed (Time Warp Trio), time travel that only occurs if a version of yourself exists in the time you wish to travel to (Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance), time travel where a portal is needed (Kate & Leopold) ... It goes on and on. There are so many ways to be creative with it and always new ways to make time travel unique!

Young Satoru
3.) An Adult in a Kid's Body - As you can imagine a twenty-nine-year-old in a nine-year-old's body can have some problems such as he knows things from the future that haven't happened yet or uses words his younger self wouldn't know or he just has a more mature vernacular. This presents some pretty freaking hilarious situations, most of which I've laughed over. Satoru tries to contain his adult thoughts such as his inner kicking himself for being in tune with his younger self and having a crush on Kayo or he gets embarrassed when he expresses his thoughts out loud. My favorite being:

Satoru to Kayo (a girl his age): D***, you're pretty!
Kayo flushes and the entire class gasps (as depicted in the gif.)
Satoru: Oh my God ...................

How this can be applied to writing: It's so funny how our adult selves and kid selves are so different from each other and how merging these parts can make for interesting situations as also seen in Big and Freaky Friday or if someone is trapped in a child's or adults body such as in Maximum Ride. Have you written a story with characters like this?

4.) Making Yourself Forget Your Past - Satoru was so traumatized by other kids at his school being murdered that he made himself forget many of the details of what happened so he could cope. His mom encouraged it because she didn't know what else to do. Satoru forgot details such as what day that Kayo died, that Kayo was being abused by her mom, and that he went with Kayo to a museum one weekend.

How this can be applied to writing: It's crazy how much power we have over our own minds. We can make ourselves remember and forget things if we really want it hard enough. We can even genuinely convince ourselves that lies are truths such as the case with pathological liars. Don't underestimate the power a character can have over his or her mind.

5.) The Goal of Stopping Someone's Death - In the end, this story is about saving the life of an innocent girl. Kayo inadvertently becomes the target of a sick human being and Satoru sacrifices so much in attempts to stop her death and the death of his other friend Hiromi. Throughout the anime you're so tense about whether he's going to save Kayo or is he going to fail.

How this can be applied to writing: Having the lingering ticking time travel time bomb of someone dying creates great tension for a story or other sorts of ticking time bombs such as they're going to going to get injured or make a decision that they'll regret such as Marty McFly's dad not standing up to Biff. What time bombs can you add to your time travel story?

Conclusion - Erased is a beautiful story about regret with a riveting plot. I highly recommend it!

Have you seen Erased? Have you noticed these writing aspects in this anime or other writing? What movies have you noticed have good writing? Let's geek out together!

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