Japanese Title: Tokyo Magnitude 8.0
Similar: Grave of the Fireflies
Moribito – Guardian of the Spirit
Yomigaeru Sora: Rescue Wings
Watched in: Japanese & English
Genre: Disaster Drama
Length: 11 episodes
- Emotional connection to the characters and their plight.
- Tense throughout.
- Attention to detail in the destruction.
- Twist fake outs too often.
Japan’s propensity to suffer earthquakes is a well-known phenomenon. Positioned on the edge of three tectonic plates, seismic activity is a regular occurrence, with Tokyo itself struck twice weekly in recent years (mostly negligible). Experts estimate Tokyo will likely suffer a magnitude 7.0 quake in the next decades. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is a what-if scenario were an 8.0 quake to strike the Japanese capital, as told from the perspective of two children and a helpful stranger.
Mirai, a middle school girl, and her younger brother Yuuki visit a robot exhibition on the man-made island of Odaiba (home of the life-sized Gundam) in Tokyo Bay. The earthquake hits. Within moments, Tokyo’s landscape changes from a metropolis of advanced civilisation in to a city of fire and ruination. Scared and far from home, the siblings meet Mari. Together, the trio start the long journey through the wreckage of Tokyo, which will test their resolve like never before.
If you have seen disaster films before (2012, The Day After Tomorrow), you may not have much inclination to watch Tokyo Magnitude. After all, disaster films aren’t known for quality – spectacle reigns. However, I urge you to watch Tokyo Magnitude, for it turns a disaster film from regular popcorn into a story worth your time, owing to a simple key – characters.
Mirai starts as a real brat, the sort who wishes her parents would just disappear and stop bugging her. The siblings’ home life isn’t the most functional. She hates being treated like a kid despite acting like a kid – she’s annoying, but accurate. Once forced to grow up amidst the quake, she sees how different her view of maturity is from reality. The greatest surprise was her character arc. I freely admit I expected no more than an anime version of The Day After Tomorrow, but the characters, Mirai in particular, elevated this piece. Fear not if you want the spectacle, for Tokyo Magnitude has that as well.
Given Japan is a hotbed of natural disasters, the emergency services – the people as a whole – are some of the world’s best at dealing with times of crisis. The production team consulted with the relevant groups – Self-Defence Force, Coast Guard, Fire Department, Medical Assistance – and those who have experienced serious earthquakes to capture the realistic after-effects of such a disaster. They succeeded in evoking the atmosphere of a torn city and the people’s ability to overcome the odds.
Seeing the swarms of people travelling on foot, all transport crippled, is reminiscent of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake that washed over the northeast coast and shutdown Shinjuku Station, Tokyo’s most important station, forcing millions of commuters to walk home.
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is a simple story: earthquake hits, return home across the city. No monsters, no government conspiracy, just survival after a natural disaster, and yet, it is complete, using conflict to the fullest, characters at its heart.
Art – High
Great effort went into detailing Tokyo’s destruction by earthquake. The OP in particular is a haunting, devastated Tokyo.
Sound – High
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 has strong voice work in both languages and good understated music. Solid all round.
Story – High
Two children helped by a stranger try to return home after a magnitude 8.0 earthquake strikes Tokyo. A gripping disaster tale filled with tragedy and perseverance.
Overall Quality – High
Recommendation: A must watch unless you don’t like tragedies. Disaster fiction rarely boasts depth, but Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 succeeds where other fail. Who knew focusing on characters was the answer? A ‘Digest’ 1-hour version exists if you don’t want to watch the full series, but I recommend going all in, as the Digest Version lacks many of the subtleties that make Mirai flourish.
Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)