The death of a loved one, or in fact any human being is something that often triggers a powerful emotional response in most people. Equally or even more often, there’s nothing we can do to stop it or change anything. Yet what if we could?

What am I?

Fujinuma Satoru, the main character of the series, is reminiscent of shounen style leads, in that he wants to save everyone. Now generally I would take that fact with a “meh”, but as a character he isn’t perfect. This is one of the hallmarks of great protagonists, the ability to grow and learn through mistakes.

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Often in the show, Satoru makes mistakes that seem unthinkable in most anime that involve time travel; he has an imperfect memory. This is probably one of the more human attributes you can get in these kinds of protagonists. And although there’re times when his leaps of logic appear to be almost superhuman, there are also times where his logic fails in the face of panic, and that really helps in relating to him as a character.

Kayo

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At times seeming to be merely a plot device, Hinazuki Kayo grew to be one of my favorite characters in the show. She’d better, considering the amount of screentime she has. But why?

It’s all in the little things. Kayo slowly opens up to Satoru, and through him, to the audience, through small everyday actions that don’t really register; small details that slip through the cracks. As a victim of child abuse, she grew up cold and very tight lipped, but her gradual response to the warmth given from Satoru and the gang (and his mom) is only positive, and it is a delight to see her teensy character development, even though it isn’t really relevant to the plot.

Not What You Thought Would Happen

Time travel is a very powerful tool, and let’s be honest, it isn’t handled well too often. Does Boku Dake do it well? Let’s just say it’s on the better side.

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A big disconnect is of course the fact that Satoru’s “Revivals” often occur just because something bad is going to happen. There is zero explanation, because even the man doesn’t know why they happen. This would generally be enough to place this in the ‘Not Bad’ section. But what I do appreciate is the fact that it’s an imperfect system, and that he sometimes lacks memory of the events in the past. That’s new to me, and it’s great.

Time travel is used very well in the show and really helps the mystery part of the anime thanks to the oft repeated fact that any action can and will change events that have/will take place. This really spices things up, especially in the latter half of the show, when Satoru just decides to throw caution to the wind and just brute force through to secure the future he wants.

Atmosphere

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The various compositions used for Boku Dake’s soundtrack coupled with fantastic backgrounds done in duller colors work very well with the more realistic art style used, and it creates the perfect atmosphere for a mystery anime.

The opening and ending also suit the anime pretty well, the opening setting up with some intense imagery, including a wave of water which threatens to overwhelm Satoru, and a teensy little hint which pretty much gives the game away. The ending, which is the better song in my opinion, instead provides an alomst perfect background to let you go over what happened in the past episode, while also being tinged with enough sadness and hopefulness which really suits the show.

The voice actors also performed admirably, with both Mitsushima Shinnosuke and Tsuchiya Tao fitting perfectly to Satoru’s older and younger forms respectively. Not much to say for the rest of the cast though.

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A Heavy Hand

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Let me set this straight right now. I am not a person who watches a lot of mystery anime. But I have read quite a few mystery books, including work from Japanese authors.

Now I’ll get straight to the point. Boku Dake is chock full of foreshadowing, which isn’t always a bad thing. The mysteries are often well constructed, (although they are a tad lightweight against some better mysteries) and it’s generally not too difficult to get the answer before the characters do. That’s both a good and a bad thing.

But take the case of the main culprit. The revelation of the main antagonist (or mystery situation) is usually the strongest plot point available to mysteries, if done right. This is why Boku Dake’s tenth episode is probably the worst out of the entire show, when it could’ve been the best.

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The foreshadowing only got heavier as the show went on, but this actually hurt the show, because the heavy focus on that particular character definitely generates a GIGANTIC flag, and that’s really bad. What was meant to be the biggest twist in the entire show fizzled out into nothingness thanks to the usually subtle hints being blown into uncomfortable proportions. I mean c’mon. It’s even in the opening!

Those are 11 year olds?!

This is a really big point of contention for me. Kenya is waaaaay too perceptive and intelligent for an 11 year old. Making him a genius still wouldn’t solve this issue, so it just boils down to a really excessive use as a deus ex machina. (I really don’t like to use that word too much. It sorta bothers me)

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And the sheer lack of oversight of parents on Satoru and friends is really unbelievable. However liberal his mom may be in parenting, the amount of things he can do as an 11 year old is just inconceivable.

Motives and explanations, or lack thereof

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The reason behind committing a crime sometimes points to a tragic event in a person’s past, as in the case of Kayo’s mother, or due to an ulterior motive known and understood only by the perpetrator. The main culprit behind the murders in Boku Dake has a motive that falls heavily under the latter, but these motives, while better for creating character, are very easily done badly.

Unfortunately the motive of the villain in Boku Dake does not have a strong motive. In a ‘realistic’ show like Boku Dake, one instance of a ‘magical and mysterious ability’ is about one too many, but to have two is just really pushing it. And the pretty common reason of wanting to kill just for the thrill is probably the cheapest way to make a motive, and that really breaks from the general continuity of the show.

Speaking of magical abilities, the fact that the characters with them in question have for all reasons no idea why or exactly how they have the abilities, and although it doesn’t affect the story, really causes a big disconnect, and that hurts the realistic world Boku Dake exists in.

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Pacing

Boku Dake started out very well paced for the first half of the show, the story and plot being revealed slowly in rhythm, and it was excellent, but left me feeling that it probably wouldn’t be able to end well in 12~13 episodes. Then they sped it up, very noticeably too.

The latter half of the show, while being a lot more thrilling, generally feels too fast-paced compared to the former half. I did praise the general change in Satoru’s behavior, but the pacing change was a bit too abrupt, and the speed increased a tad too much.

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The rest of the gang?

As good as the character development for Kayo is, it brought forth a whole host of other problems: the supporting characters. Put basically, besides Kenya and to a lesser extent, Hiromi, the other characters are pretty much pointless. Osamu and Kazu don’t even have last names. And don’t forget the character they seemed to remember at the last minute, Aya Nakanishi. Another character I would’ve liked to see more of if of course Airi, but the events don’t really allow for that.

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The Ending

I’m very close to making this a ‘Terrible’ point thanks to how much it detached from the rest of the story’s tone. The ‘gotcha’ scene was too overdramatized compared to the rest of the show, and Satoru’s actions were also way too out of character.

I can’t say too much about it since it’s very easy to spoil, but needless to say, after the rest of Boku Dake being so damn good, this ending will only leaves you with a bad taste.

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For all its faults and flaws, I still find Boku Dake to be one of the best anime I’ve watched recently, and I can’t help but recommend it. It’s a good show to watch, but don’t go into it with expectations set too high.

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Boku Dake ga Inai Machi is available for legal streaming on Funimation and Crunchyroll!


Header GIF thanks to Tim C. (Unimplied)!

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