Boku Dake ga Inai Machi ran from 2012 to 2016 in its manga form from author Sanbe Kei. At the beginning of 2016, it also got an anime adaptation from A-i pictures. Which concluded in March. This is the same studio that gave us Kuroshitsuji, Anohana, Valkyria Chronicles, Uchuu Kyoudai, Sword Art Online & OreImo. For me, their track record has been extremely mixed. With some of those anime being strong, some being more middling and some, SAO & OreImo, being foetid piles of excrement. So, let’s look at Boku Dake ga Inai Machi and see how it compares to the studio’s other works.
Satoru is a failed manga artist making ends meet by delivering pizzas. He also has a strange power, revival. When something is about to go wrong around him, he finds himself a couple minutes back in time so that he can search for signs of what’s about to go wrong and intervene. During one such incident, he saves a young child from an out of control truck and gets in an accident in the process. His mother shows up to his flat to help him recuperate. While they’re out shopping, he experiences a revival and asks her if she notices anything amiss. She spots someone about to abduct a child. He notices and scarpers. She snaps a picture of his car and is reminded of an incident from when Satoru was a child. She mentions a belief that the case is still unsolved in spite of a man being in prison for it. Later on, Satoru returns home to find her murdered and he’s the primary suspect. In grief and panic, his mind reaches 141.6 km per hour and he experiences the biggest revival of his life, with his mind sent all the way back eighteen years to just before the serial abduction case. In order to change the future, the now eleven year old Satoru has to find the truth behind the incident and prevent it from happening.
While the premise is very compelling, there are some pretty significant flaws with the execution. The most substantial being that the mystery element is too obvious. While there aren’t many clues to go on, there also aren’t any suspects that fit those clues and are also major enough characters to be viable except one bloke. So, you can pretty readily figure out that it’s either going to be that guy or the Baron showing up out of nowhere.
(the face of true evil)
The series could have really benefited from having more major adult characters who could have potentially been the culprit. There’s also a bit of a problem with Satoru gaining knowledge out of nowhere. For example, there’s a part where Satoru is looking over the files on the abduction case from when he was a child and he somehow knows instinctively that the killer murdered one child in particular to throw suspicion off of himself. What, did he peek at the script? But that actually brings me to another story aspect that bothers me. The police investigation of this case was downright inept. From two young girls being murdered, they came to the conclusion that their culprit was definitively targeting girls and only girls. Seriously? I’m pretty sure that a sample size of two victims is not enough to make definite claims about someone’s modus operandi. I’m sure they’d look for commonalities, but I’m also pretty sure the response to a boy joining the victims wouldn’t be “our perpetrator must have thought that he was a girl.” At that point, it’s just as likely that the culprit is just going after children and doesn’t care about their sex.
On some more positive notes, the premise is highly compelling. And, while the mystery falls woefully short, the thriller element is very strong with a lot of strong tension. The series also does a really good job of tackling some difficult and serious issues like child abuse. The ending is really good. The series also does have a very strong atmosphere with a lot of really good scenes playing off of it. The anime is also pretty well-paced especially given how much longer the manga version is.
Boku dake ga inai machi is one of those works where the shortcomings of the plot are somewhat offset by the strength of the characters. It has a really strong cast. Sachiko is, quite possibly the best anime mother I’ve ever seen and her strength as a character really helps add to that tension since part of what Satoru is trying to do is save her. His young friends are also pretty complex characters who still manage to feel like children. Some people may take issue with Satoru’s character and how his young self, in spite of having his adult mind, still acts largely like a child. However, there are two possible explanations for it that would make complete sense. The first is that he has the adult’s memories and knowledge but he’s sharing his mind with his childhood self. One of his friends even suggests that, at times, he seems like someone else which would support that idea. The second possibility is that he has his adult mind but he still has an underdeveloped child’s brain so that he can’t fully utilise it. Which would make sense based on actual brain development. It could also be a combination of the two, I suppose. The point is, I’m not going to complain about the story not explicitly stating it when there are ready explanations that make perfect sense.
The artwork and animation in this are well done. There are a lot of nice details and it does do a really superb job of helping build and maintain that atmosphere. The film reel image for Satoru’s time travel is an effective one. About the only thing I would say in criticism of it is that the character designs are pretty standard. They look fine but they also look like the characters you’d see in a lot of other works. Exempting only the pronounced lips on certain characters.
This series does have a strong cast. For me, the performances that stood out were Mistushima Shinnosuke & Tsuchiya Tao (as older and younger Satoru), Yuuki Aoi as Hinazuki and Takayama Minami as Sachiko. There really weren’t any weak performances, but those four were the best. The music, on the other hand… it’s all right. Kajiura Yuki has certainly done a lot better but there’s nothing really wrong with it.
This series really doesn’t have any. It doesn’t do much in terms of romance, really.
Boku Dake ga Inai Machi is a good series. The weakest aspect is the narrative itself which, though flawed, is still decent. Aside from that, the characters are great. The artwork is good. The acting is great and the music is decent enough. If the premise seems interesting to you, even knowing that the mystery is weak, try it. If the mystery being weak is going to ruin it for you or the premise doesn’t seem interesting, give it a pass. For me, it’s a solid 7/10. Next week I’ll be looking at another request with Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu. We’ll see how that goes.