Tokyo Magnitude 8.0

Tokyo Magnitude 8.0


Watched via fansubs/BD



PLOT: Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 has a very simple, yet powerful story. The basis of the series is that middle schooler Mirai Onozawa and her younger brother, Yuuki, go to see a robot exhibition in Odaiba. While they are there, Tokyo is struck by an 8.0 magnitude earthquake. All modes of transportation are down, and in order for the two young children to make it back home, they must traverse miles on foot with dangers lurking at every corner, as Japan is wracked with massive aftershocks. This is tragedy porn at its greatest, which really hits home all the more after the horribly disastrous earthquake that hit Japan a couple of years ago. Despite the pain and grief that may be accompanied by watching a plot so similar to a life event, I still feel that the anime is worth watching for its character studies.

The series begins with Mirai’s complete apathy towards life. She is disinterested in everything and easily set off by minor inconveniences, such as her mom buying the wrong kind of birthday cake. In an attempt to bring the family together, Yuuki asks Mirai to go with him to a robot exhibition. Reluctantly she agrees to chaperone him. Constantly writing in a mobile journal while there, she types in the words, “I want the world to break” just seconds before Tokyo is hit by a massive earthquake.

Being the bigger sister, Mirai has to suddenly jump into the role of “adult” while being petrified of the entire world falling apart around her. Luckily for the two children, they meet a woman willing to escort them back towards their hometown. Along the way Mirai learns to accept that she still is a child, while striving to do the best she can for herself and others.

I will reluctantly agree with you that the series could be called “tragedy porn,” with its emphasis on human emotions in the face of a natural disaster, but I don’t like the term. “Tragedy porn” sounds like a series that milks all of the sadness out of a situation purely for the sake of manipulating the viewer into crying, while I think Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 makes enough important points about childhood and parenthood to eschew such a derogatory-sounding term.

PLOT: Mirai Onozawa’s a self-centered middle-schooler whose parents are busy and whose little brother is annoying. She doesn’t like school, and just when she has the freedom of summer vacation, she gets stuck taking her little brother Yuuki to a robot exhibition in Odaiba. Soon after the exhibition, a huge earthquake hits, and Mirai’s faced with taking care of Yuuki in the midst of this natural disaster. Fortunately, they encounter the motherly Mari, who helps them find their way home and navigate the systems that emerge following a natural disaster.

The bulk of the series follows the group as they find their way home, which sounds boring at first, but it’s not at all that way in execution. First of all, the earthquake has aftershocks that hit at unexpected times and have large consequences, like making Tokyo Tower fall. The group must always be prepared for another aftershock, even when you think it’s been long enough that they should have stopped.

Secondly, the process of returning home from an island is fascinating. The bridge collapses, so the trio finds a ride on a boat, which is still dangerous due to waves following the aftershocks. Landmarks like Tokyo Tower collapse, and roads aren’t safe due to the shifting ground and the perilous nature of mobs.

Finally, I really enjoyed the dynamics between Mirai, Yuuki, and Mari. The three have a lot to deal with together, despite being near strangers, and they do their best and form a makeshift family unit. The connection between Mari and the Onozawa children gave me faith in humanity, and I hope that real humans in natural disasters can also encounter such love and support amidst the chaos.

SETTING: This series takes place in an alternative modern day Japan and is not supposed to be an accurate depiction of any particular event, but more of an exploration of what an 8.0 magnitude earthquake may be like if it were to hit in the Tokyo area. During the time this series was made, it was predicted that an earthquake of this size may happen in the future within the next 30 years. Since that time Japan was hit by the Toohoku earthquake, but this is not supposed to be a representation of that, despite it being released in America shortly after.

While the children live outside of Tokyo’s suburbs, they travel into Tokyo to visit the large artificial island of Odaiba. After the earthquake strikes they travel across the water to reach the main land again before walking back to their hometown over the course of several days. When developing this series, Bones put a lot of effort into studying earthquakes to create as accurate of a representation that they could. As may be expected of a natural disaster plot, the setting is essential to building up the plot and constantly drives the story and tension forward and does it marvelously.

SETTING: Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 takes places in the modern Japan that’s so familiar to us anime viewers, but it’s been irrevocably changed by the earthquake into a dangerous, uncertain landscape. Bones did a great deal of research when making this series, and it’s evident. The earthquake’s destructive power touches every aspect of Tokyo, from the streets to the buildings, and we see damage that I, coming from Kansas, would never suspect as resulting from an earthquake. Floods and fires happen in addition to crumbling buildings and breaking bridges, creating many dangers that are all too real for the series’ characters. Given my lack of experience with earthquakes, I appreciate the amount of detail that went into the earthquake’s destruction. I now have something of a benchmark for how earthquakes effect people, which allows me to have that much more sympathy for people stuck in these awful situations.

Now we just need a tornado-inspired anime and we’ll be all set.

CHARACTERS: I love Mirai. She reminds me a lot of Margaret Murry from A Wrinkle in Time. As a middle schooler, she’s right at that age where she hates everything and everyone. Nothing pleases her, and she looks back on life thinking about the simpler times, while simultaneously wishing people would treat her like an adult. She constantly remains cold and distant as a means to protect herself from being hurt, especially from the lack of attention from her parents. Over the course of the series, she learns to worry less about appearances and to stop taking matters for granted. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 brutally strips Mirai of her childhood innocence, while remarkably allowing her the freedom to stop pretending to be an adult. In the end she’s finally allowed the opportunity to lean on those who are closest to her, something she has been secretly vying for since the beginning, but was too proud to ask for.

Yuuki on the other hand is the wonder child. Don’t we all wish we had a younger brother who was completely devoted to making us happy? As an elementary schooler, he may seem like he’s only thinking about goofing around, but his real motivations are to bring his family together so that they can all be happy again. In a backhanded way, he ends up fulfilling this desire, but I won’t go into that more for fear of spoilers.

Mari Kusakabe happens across these two on multiple occasions before the fateful moment of the earthquake. From that point onwards she meets Mirai again, and assists her in locating her brother. As a motherly figure, she ends up being very protective of the two and decides to stick with them, and make sure they arrive back home safely. She stands in as an excellent example of the strength and compassion of strangers towards others in times of disaster. Her character strengths are highlighted by the indifference of the crowds of people who constantly rush and push past them in order to preserve their own lives.

Yuuki’s definitely too attentive and collected for being so young, which is probably the series’ biggest issue. However, I thought he acted enough like a child when he fought with Mirai to balance it all out and make him at least semi-believable.

CHARACTERS: As I mentioned above, I like the strength of the makeshift family unit Mirai, Yuuki, and Mari make over the course of this series. The connections are well developed, and each character brings something to the table.

Mari, as the adult, is the cool head that finds a way to keep the children calm and headed home. She manages to secure food and drink for them on their first night following the quake, and she keeps them together through the crowds of people trying to leave the island. Realistically, Mari’s not a flawless source of strength for the children, and I appreciate that we see how difficult the disaster is for her, as well, despite her greater maturity. I have so much respect for her as an adult in such a trying situation.

Yuuki, as Whitney mentioned, can be unrealistically devoted to keeping Mirai happy, but he also has his childish moments. When Mirai pushes him too far, he runs away in a tantrum, despite being told to stay where he is. His impulsivity causes most of the series’ tension, as he’s always running somewhere for some reason, oblivious to the fact that aftershocks are around every corner. Overall, he’s a tough kid who’s just a little too perfect, but at least he likes frogs.

Mirai is very much a middle-schooler, just like Shizuku in Whisper of the Heart is. At first she’s upset about everything, and even after the quake she still finds plenty to whine about. Fortunately, the series is about her character development, meaning we see her mature into a better older sister who cares for her brother without being as pushy or mean. Unfortunately, she has to grow up too quickly as a result of the earthquake, and we also see those negative effects on her. By the end of the series, I find her to be a well-matured kid, and I’m sure she’ll become a good adult.

I really liked the extent that the series went to in exploring the sibling relationship between Mirai and Yuuki. My favorite scene is when they are fighting and Yuuki finally gets the opportunity to show his real anxieties. Mirai up until that point took for granted that Yuuki just didn’t get what was going on, and the two come to a mutual understanding and cry together.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: The animation for Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 isn’t the greatest thing ever, and it’s definitely not the worst either. It’s just pretty standard color and detail wise. However, Bones clearly put a lot of effort into making buildings, roads, and debris shift in ways which look believable. So while you don’t get a full spectrum of shiny colors, or hyper detailed shots, you get a wonderful display of plate tectonic movement. Even the crowds of people seem to swarm in and out with life and vivacity.

If you’re worried about gore, I’d say that the series is pretty tame when it comes to showing you any particular details. The story is very emotionally moving, but you aren’t forced to watch actual people being hurt. Most of the tragic moments are implied or shown from far away.

The character designs are nice and simple, while still making it easy to tell everyone apart. There aren’t a whole lot of people to keep track of, so when someone shows up you can tell who they are right away. For the most part everyone moves in a strong and believable way, and the angles liven up for key moments, and flatten out for somber ones. Overall the animation worked very well to strengthen the storytelling of the series and to heighten the connection I had with the characters and what was going on.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: Though this show doesn’t have flashy animation, it’s very competently made and strongly animated. The primary earthquake and resulting aftershocks are all impressive and (to my knowledge) reflect the realities of the destructive power of earthquakes. The natural disaster and resulting destruction look completely realistic to my eyes, which is a strong point in this series’ favor, given the central importance of the earthquake. My favorite earthquake-related part of the series is actually the opening, which consists of sketches of destruction following the quake with the three main characters walking through it. The images are beautiful in a way, and I can’t get over the amount of detail and research they show.

Though the character designs are simple, I love the iconic effect of them, which allows the viewers to better connect with the characters and maybe sympathize with them more. Everyone’s been distilled to the essential facial features, and you can focus more on the emotions on their faces. Notably, I can tell all of the characters apart easily, unlike in Wandering Son, which is another strength of this series. Really, it’s a beautiful series in every way, though the clear line effect of the characters and backgrounds may take getting used to for some viewers.

OVERALL: I love this series. The first time I watched it I cried through the last half straight. This time I cried for probably the majority of the show. By cry, I mean the good kind of cry, which lets you know you’re still human. I’m strongly drawn to characters like Mirai, probably because I’ve been a selfish middle schooler before, and I’ve had to go through some pretty dramatic stuff in my days. Watching a show like this can be very fulfilling, or at least it was for me. However, I’m one of those people who like watching stories of those painful puberty years. I think Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is a wonderful depiction of how life can be painful, and it won’t always get better right away, but that there are those around you who sincerely care, even if it isn’t always obvious. I think that lesson in itself, that people do care, is reason enough to suggest this show.

Of course viewer discretion is advised. I’m pretty sure you can tell for yourself on if you can handle watching this after certain world events. Personally I can separate fantasy from reality, but it also didn’t hit quite so close to home to me.

OVERALL: This is a great series that highlights the effects of natural disasters. Of course the series focuses on the negatives, including mass destruction and the great uncertainty that follows, but it also allows the strengths of human nature to shine through. Mari’s one of the strongest female characters I’ve seen in an anime, and I loved watching Mirai grow up and be able to face the results of the earthquake head-on. If you’re into anime that focus on characters, do yourself a favor and watch this. I haven’t loved an adult woman so strongly since Moribito (which you should also watch!).

Somewhat unexpectedly, I also value this viewing experience because of my increased knowledge about earthquakes. Since I’m from Kansas, I mainly know how tornadoes effect people, and earthquakes are a whole different animal. This show, though, makes me better appreciate the struggles of those who face earthquakes, and the next time I hear about one in the news, I’ll have a better grasp on what people are experiencing. What better benefit can fiction have than to teach us more about our world?


One thought on “Tokyo Magnitude 8.0

  1. I really, really enjoyed the character development in this series. I can think of very few anime characters as annoying as Mirai as the series begins, which makes her journey a very satisfying one. There’s real growth happening in the face of tragedy.

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