A popular manga by Kei Sanbe called Erased was animated while it was still being published. Since the studio was unable to foresee what Sanbe had in mind for the ending, Erased's climax was contentious, similar to many other anime that are being produced concurrently with their manga counterparts.
Erased can be binge-watched in just one weekend, which is more than enough time for fans of the manga to question the anime adaptation's plot. In the Erased manga, Satoru can travel back in time to fix a tragedy, and prior to the main conflict of Erased, he mainly goes back in time a few minutes; however, that changes after his mom's death, and the 29-year-old is thrown back to his elementary school days to prevent the murder of his classmate. Both manga and anime follow this story's main beats, but it's when Satoru returns to the present that the two versions differentiate in major ways.
The Manga Ending of Erased, Described
Satoru meets Kumi, a young cancer sufferer, while undergoing physical therapy after emerging from a 15-year coma. Prior to his reunion with Airi, his memories of Yashiro, the serial murderer, and of his life are likewise sealed away. Around that time, Yashiro returns with a plan to "murder" Kumi and blame Satoru.
Thankfully Satoru, Kenya, Sawada and Sachiko devise a plan to keep Kumi safe while they are on a camping trip. For several chapters, Yashiro and Satoru set each other up until their final confrontation on a bridge, and it's revealed Yashiro had no plans to murder Kumi, simply wanting to draw out Satoru to kill him. After Satoru tells Yashiro how he's been ahead of him, his former teacher lights the bridge on fire. He intends to die with Satoru, but Satoru jumps off the bridge with him, sending them plummeting into the lake, where Kenya, Sawada, Sachiko and Kumi await.
How the Anime Version of Erased Ends
Yashiro and Satoru's altercation only takes place in the hospital in the anime. After making progress with his physical rehabilitation, Satoru is attempted to be photographed by some paparazzi, but Yashiro ruins the video. He also speaks to Satoru personally rather than just observing from a distance. Satoru admits he recalls everything when Yashiro later brings him to the roof. The viewer learns that he informed Kenya and Hiromi that Yashiro is the murderer.
Yashiro demands to know how Satoru knew his future, and he tells Satoru that he sabotaged Kumi's operation so it'd look like Satoru killed her. He also plans to push Satoru off the roof so people think he killed himself ; however, Satoru pieces together that Yashiro has yet to kill him because he needs him in his life, which Yashiro confirms before letting him fall. Prepared to kill himself as well, Yashiro discovers Satoru organized this whole thing. Satoru survives, Yashiro's arrested, and Kumi is rescued, thus ending Yashiro's game.
The ending plot of the anime is controversial.
While in both versions the beats are the same, with Yashiro being brought to justice, the key deaths being prevented and Satoru living a more fulfilled life, the anime rushed its ending. The adaptation only had 12 episodes, dedicating two to Satoru's return and his final confrontation with Yashiro. Meanwhile, the manga is 44 chapters, and Saturo's return to the present starts in Chapter 33, with Yashiro not coming back until Chapter 37.
This allows the manga to focus more on Satoru's rehabilitation, makes the return of his memories more organic and sets up some of the key variables for the final confrontation. It also extends the confrontation itself, giving audiences one more cat and mouse game between Satoru and Yashiro. In short, the manga's end shows how clever these two are, while the anime does more telling.
Plus, how Yashiro uses Kumi differs greatly. In the manga, Satoru believes for several chapters that Kumi's life is at stake, and he works hard to prevent that. The anime, on the other hand, reveals that Kumi's life is actually in danger in the midst of the final confrontation. The manga's approach highlights the heroic side of Satoru and the scheming side of Yashiro more so than the anime.
The ending takes a lot of liberties, but it's understandable why. Like Soul Eater and Fullmetal Alchemist, Erased's anime was happening while the manga was in publication, so by the time the anime needed to end, the manga's conclusion was unknown. The anime had to create its own conclusion, which can work well for those who haven't read manga, especially since it still gives Satoru a happy ending and addresses the complex relationship he has with Yashiro in a short amount of time. However, for some fans of original source material, seeing this murder mystery condescended so much didn't do Erased's plot justice.