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Boku dake ga Inai Machi 03 December 2016

2016 seinen manga adaptation, 12 episodes: AniDB, vtt "Erased" and "The Town Without Me". Fujinuma Satoru sometimes slips back in time to just before a life-threatening accident, which lets him try to correct it. When his mother is murdered, he finds himself thrown back to eighteen years earlier, when he was in elementary school and someone was killing his classmates.

The occasional show like this is the reason why I keep watching anime, and plough through all the derivative and second-rate stuff. After an un-promising start showing Satoru's drifting modern life, it's straight into the action: as a schoolboy retaining his memories of the killings, he has to try to befriend the victims and stop them from being on their own and vulnerable – and of course to try to work out who's the murderer.

I must admit, I thought that was pretty clear, but Satoru doesn't spot the answer until rather later. Given the way anime often understates things, I'd thought he was just playing his cards close to his chest, but no, he was really surprised to find out. Ah well; this isn't really meant to be a mystery show, and the big question is how he'll do what needs to be done to put the world right rather than whether he'll work out whodunnit.

There's a certain amount of Important Life Lesson in there too, as the alliances Satoru has to make to try to keep people from being killed start to change the way he looks at his friends, and they at him. If or when he gets back to the present, he will find himself feeling differently about his life, even if the closing shot of Virtue Rewarded feels lifted from James Hogan's Thrice Upon A Time.

Art is workmanlike rather than stunning, though the snow (of which there's quite a bit) is well-animated, and the Foley people did a good job there too. Characters are distinctive without all needing to have different-coloured hair. Music sets the mood, but I won't go out looking for the soundtrack album.

This is a solid psychological thriller. Don't ask how the time-travel works: this isn't a superpowers show, but comes closer in concept to something like Groundhog Day in that there's a single unexplained gimmick to let the plot happen. Yes, there are occasional plotholes, but overall I very much enjoyed this.

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