Tokyo Magnitude 8.0
The premise of the project is the 70% possibility that a magnitude 7.0 earthquake will occur in Tokyo in the next 30 years. The anime depicts what would happen if an 8.0 earthquake took place.
The story centres on Mirai, a middle school freshman girl who goes to Tokyo's artificial Odaiba Island for a robot exhibition with her brother Yuuki at the start of summer vacation. A powerful tremor emanates from an ocean trench, the famed Tokyo Tower and Rainbow Bridge crumble and fall, and the landscape of Tokyo changes in an instant. With the help of a motorcycle delivery woman named Mari, who they meet on Odaiba, Mirai and Yuuki strive to head back to their Setagaya home in western Tokyo.
The disaster film is... *sigh* Let us just say that it is not a genre I am fond of as a whole. It is as a standard often bloated, self-important and frankly dismissive of reality no matter what they say. To be fair, it is not a common one in animé, which is odd when you consider how natural disasters are such a risk in a country like Japan. Maybe it hits too close to home to be comfortable for Japanese audiences and that is a fact that Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 always keeps in mind. It wants to be uncomfortable. It wants to make you think. It also wants you to bawl your eyes out but I will get to that later.
One of the things that strikes me about TM8.0 is how measured it is. Finger pointing is often the favourite pastime of these post-disaster settings and if it is not a person or organisation that gets the blame, then it is often humanity as a whole - in any case, someone is to blame. I know it is ramp up the tension but I have to admit that the 'individuals vs. the world' dynamic has become a little tedious and one of the most interesting things here is that this show never goes for that. TM8.0 is about three people going home, nothing more and nothing less. We just see what they see, hear what they hear, meet whom they meet and that is what you get. The sense of hazard is still there but anyone looking for earthquake-based thrills will be sorely disappointed.
Yes, TM8.0 is in this for the drama but a little more than that too. One of the more interesting things it does (other than destroy Tokyo landmarks, which would probably be more affecting to a native than it is to me) is highlight what would actually happen in the case of such a disaster, not just in terms of damage caused and its after effects, but in terms of the actions of emergency services. It is quite refreshing to see a disaster show where the emergency services are not impotent but a functioning and effective force. The characters rely on them and the service they deliver - they are properly equipped and we see them saving people throughout, providing aid and generally being useful. Even normal people other than protagonists are useful and helpful, brave and strong, even without names or a supporting character credit. Sure, we see a lot of selfishness too amongst the people but it is understandable and not demonising - everyone is just trying to survive.
Other than the disaster itself, the show chooses to focus most heavily on the characters. Mirai, the 'point of view' character for the show and a brooding, self-absorbed middle-schooler, would not be my first choice for a protagonist, but the show makes it work. Disillusioned with her parents and the world in general (as you would expect of a teenager), her naive pessimism certainly makes her an interesting reflection of her brother's naive optimism. The characters as whole seem to act enough like their ages to be effective and emotive, there is nothing precocious about Mirai and Yuuki and it works strongly to the shows benefit. Mostly it works because it lets Mari be an adult. The relationship the group has is clearly that of an adult looking after two children and that allows Mari to be a much more empathetic character. We see her struggle to stay positive and strong under the strain of supporting Mirai and Yuuki whilst harbouring the same doubts for the safety of her family that Mirai and Yuuki have for their parents. Even with only eleven episodes, the characters change and grow but in a human and finite way. I have to applaud the writers for it, their understanding of human beings very evident from the show.
The greatest strength of the show is its humanity. Personal as well as large-scale tragedy is something the characters (and we, by extension) face frequently throughout the show's runtime. Whether it be halls filled with the dead, all their faces covered, with weeping relatives all around or an old man helping out in shelter having lost both his grandchildren, the show manages to make the show more than an interesting look at a possible event but a very real and affecting one as well.
My only complaint, and a minor one at that, is that the show is perhaps too positive -- not that a show can be too positive, or even negative for that matter. I just get concerned when there seems to be nothing really to back up the assertion. Sometimes the show errs on the side of hopefulness and I just wish the show reflected a more pragmatic viewpoint sometimes, something it missed between its pessimism and its optimism.
That all said, TM8.0 is the kind of show of which animé needs more. It has a rough edge or two (it is definitely a little over-sentimental in its hopefulness), but it is an intelligent and reflective show that will almost certainly tug a few heartstrings in all but the most cold-hearted viewer. Watch it.
I honestly tried to think of some good reasons why this should not be five stars but they just will not come. It looks good, its pacing is slow but measured and effective, and its drama is top notch. Take one star away if you want more than just strong, moving drama. — Aiden Foote
Recommended Audience: I suspect this would bore anyone younger than a teenager and even if not, they might find some of the imagery and tragic content distressing.
Version(s) Viewed: Pre-license digital source
Review Status: Full (11/11)
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 © 2009 Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 Production Committee
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