This is not ok
I watched ERASED (Boku Dake ga Inai Machi) as it was airing, which is a rarity for me. This was a hot show that had great momentum, 1 ½ fantastically self-imploding, horrible episodes in a 12-episode run, and is now over.
I occasionally enjoy reading reviews and comments from others about what I’m watching at the moment. One thing that really surprised me, though, was the number of people debating whether the scenes of child abuse in ERASED (ep. 2) were over the top, only for shock value, or totally unnecessary. Many even said that they didn’t like these scenes because there was no reason given for the abuse.
ERASED is not the first – nor certainly the last – show to deal with characters who have been victims of child abuse. Check out this article about abusive parents in anime and manga:
One comment that really stood out to me, though, was along the lines of:
“They didn’t need to show her getting beat up. That was completely unnecessary. Just show us like a bruise on the leg or something. All we need is a hint to understand what’s going on.”
I wish I could remember where I read the comment, but I can’t. I do know that it keeps playing in my head, despite the fact that the series has been over for a while now.
You see, I have no problem with the violence that is depicted in anime – I never have. However, I am amazed me that the fans of a medium that regularly shoves images like these at us with ZERO SUBTLETY:
A medium rarely treats female characters and their bodies with a modicum of respect:
A medium as violent as this:
Can also be fans that feel that a portrayal of child abuse handled with appropriate gravitas and artistic framing is over the top or for shock value only.
Check out this video to see a really great scene breakdown from Erased Ep. 2,
including the one involving the abuse, here by Mother’s Basement:
You see, it’s not that the scene isn’t shocking – it totally is. It’s hard to watch. For those of us who may have been witness to or victims of abuse in our life, it may be near-to-impossible to watch. You don’t have to have experienced any of this to know it’s an awful thing. So why have the scene, then? Why not be more subtle about it – a bruise here or there, a standoffish attitude, etc.?
Because the scene yanks us from sympathy for the character to something closer to empathy. We are seeing what haunts her mind EVERY SINGLE DAY and now it haunts us, too. So when we see Kayo smiling with her friends, when we see her all grown up with a family of her own, we know about her journey, about where she came from, what she had to deal with and work through. We’ve all had struggles like that.
Tell me, when’s the last time you empathized with this:
I am glad that the anime community still finds things like these shocking and hard to bear, but it is quite interesting that something horrible dealt with realistically is negatively panned as adding no value to a story when something frankly unrealistic that may literally add no value to a story (fanservice), possibly desensitize us to violence, or perpetuate awful stereotypes about the value of women and their bodies is widely accepted and often applauded.
What did you think of that scene in ERASED? Did you think it was unnecessary? Why or why not?