I don’t normally go for full on drama anime. I especially don’t actively seek out survival or disaster series. However, hearing many good things about Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 piqued my interest, so I left the shounen on the shelf and the comedy in the cupboard and decided to give it a go. Little did I know that I would marathon the entire series in one evening and be so emotionally moved that my eyes physically hurt from the tears.
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 follows the plight of two young children, Mirai and Yuuki, as they cope with the fallout of a massive earthquake that has devastated most of the city. Though the pair is initially alone, a kind woman named Mari soon takes it upon herself to help the siblings return home and find their parents while she tries to get back to her young daughter and elderly mother. The series starts out calmly enough by dedicating the first episode to introducing the two central protagonists, then with less than a minute to go before the ending credits roll the faeces hits the fan – and so begins the most heart-wrenching anime to grace my screen for a very long time.
A lot of the show is fairly slow-paced, which ultimately creates far more of an emotional impact than if the whole thing had been eleven hi-octane episodes of running from collapsing buildings or falling down newly formed crevices in the middle of the road. By having the protagonists make sluggish progress towards their goal, the gravity of their situation sinks in all the more and small moments become incredibly poignant. Mirai spotting one of her classmates mourning her dead mother is so powerful because you can see the realisation of the earthquake’s severity creep across her face. Certainly one of the most haunting moments of the series that will undoubtedly stay with me, is a single shot of two sets of children’s feet poking out from underneath the rubble of a shopping mall.
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 examines both extremes of human nature, from selfishness and utter panic, to unfathomable kindness and generosity. Very rarely can one series invoke such despair at the state of mankind only for it to be quickly restored with the smallest of actions. Without a doubt the show’s central theme is that of individual strength – something that each of the protagonists demonstrates in their own ways. Mari in particular covers up her intense worry for the safety of her own family with a highly optimistic attitude to not only help herself cope with the circumstances, but also to prevent the children from giving into despair. It often leads one to question their own ability in a crisis and wonder: Would I be able to cope if I were in their shoes? Could I keep it together? Would I simply fall apart?
Generally I hate CG in anime; nine times out of ten it looks horrifically out of place standing out as much as a cosplaying narutard in a coffee shop. Impressively Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 slots into that rare little ten percent where the computer graphics genuinely work and, above all else, look good. The effective use of this medium means that the collapsing buildings make more of an impact and that crowd scenes aren’t simply still shots or filled with clunky movement simply because “it’s in the background and therefore doesn’t matter”.
Aside from the CG, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 boasts impressive scenery from decimated buildings and fire-engulfed bridges to the quiet sanctuary of a lush park or a calm pool of water. A realistic colour palette and toned-down character designs place a shining spotlight on the dramatic narrative instead of distracting from it, while also adding to the wow factor of the particularly well-animated earthquake and aftershock sequences.
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 knows exactly how to use its sound design to full effect. A loud, orchestral track with plenty of brass heightens the drama of the already awe-inspiring earthquake scene, only to follow it up with a few seconds of complete silence. This lack of noise also re-appears at other moments for maximum impact, such as when young Yuuki becomes separated from Mirai and Mari in a crowd. As the camera focuses in on the terrified child calling for his sister, the thunderous hoards of individuals jostling past and all background din fades away entirely until all you can hear is the frightened call of ‘Onee-chan’. Such absence of sound gives one a strong impression of Yuuki’s fear and loneliness and allows the viewer to put themselves in the petrified boy’s shoes for a moment.
Excellent voice acting tops off Tokyo Magnitude 8.0’s aural experience. The series’ seiyuu capture their characters perfectly, from Yuuki’s adorable innocence and Mari’s maternal optimism to Mirai’s irritable teenage cynicism.
Good characterisation is hard to come by in anime, but Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 has it in abundance. Every single cast member acts realistically, which immediately sucks the viewer into the story by making the protagonists much easier to relate to. With their strengths come moments of weakness: Yuuki maintains his optimism and keeps complaints to himself, yet ultimately he openly voices his concerns to Mirai; Mari acts as the mother figure and remains as cheerful as possible, but even she cannot help giving into her own fears and anguish. Even secondary characters with little screen time earn a certain amount of emotional investment and it’s difficult not to empathise with their plights as well as that of the protagonists.
The most impressive aspect of this anime’s cast is the development of Mirai. As she eerily states at the beginning of the first episode that “Everything should just be destroyed… or at least that’s what I used to think every day” it’s clear that she will go on an emotional journey during the series. Starting out as a typical angry teenager with terrible grades, Mirai fails to make herself particularly likeable, especially when she seems to have little time for her adorable younger brother and frequently snaps at him for little reason. However, as the narrative progresses so too does our young heroine as she begins to realise the importance of family and even starts to understand why her mother acts the way she does. While this could sound quite stereotypical, the way in which the series handles her evolution, by subtly softening her character with each passing event, makes the transition almost unnoticeable; people don’t just change in an instant, and neither does Mirai.
If I can advise you on anything it is to make sure that you have a box of tissues nearby when you start this series. I haven’t seen an anime that has made me cry so damn much since I sat down to watch Grave of the Fireflies for the first time and was weeping within five minutes. By mixing the powerful narrative with a realistic and understated depiction of its protagonist’s characterisation, clever sound design, and beautiful visuals, this anime wrenches the heart and makes for compelling viewing. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is one of the best series of 2009 and proof that the medium of animation offers up so much more than just simple children’s cartoons.
As someone educated in structural engineering, I happen to know a thing or two about what earthquakes will do to buildings. Thus, when the writers made a point to preface Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 with a statement lauding its realistic portrayal of an earthquake, I must admit I was looking forward to shredding all the series’ little mistakes. Unfortunately for me, I soon discovered there was not a lot of shredding to be had; instead, I had to settle for an an engaging, dramatic storyline and a splendid set of main characters.
Generally speaking, I tend to be a fairly dry face when it comes to anime that center around tragedy – Grave of the Fireflies only managed a tear, and Oseam choked me up at best. There is something about watching two young children struggle to find their way back home amidst utter carnage and devastation, however, that Tokyo Magnitude explores on an exemplary level. Even the events prior to the earthquake managed to pull gently on the emotional strings, and I am not exaggerating when I say I spent close to half the series with watery eyes. While the earthquake’s torrent of death drives much of the tragedy, the major emotional impact of the series surfaces not from particular events, but from the journey itself. Key points within the story, such as Mirai’s dichotomy between childhood and adulthood, are touched upon with a remarkable level of detail, and the story’s merits stem well beyond mere shock value.
Be that as it may, Tokyo Magnitude does struggle at times with being overly dramatic. For the first half of the show, the aftershocks that accompany the primary quake follow a rather formulaic pattern: the trio wanders near a structure that obviously is in poor repair, an aftershock hits right as this happens, and the structure ultimately collapses as they make a narrow escape. While the aftermath of each of these events is important to the story, at times they border on feeling contrived. Earthquakes follow a wide array of different patterns and behaviors, and the lack of variety or creativity with this notion was disappointing given its potential for improvement.
When all is said and done, however, these disturbances are little more than ripples on the surface of a pond. Both the story and its pacing display a phenomenal level of composition, and the series consistently strikes emotional chords without dipping into monotony or tedium. While poor or rushed endings are an anime trademark, Tokyo Magnitude flaunts one of the most mature and memorable endings I have seen in years if for nothing more than its keen sense of writing and direction. By the closing scene, Tokyo Magnitude feels a clean and complete work, and certainly leaves its mark as one of the most professional anime produced to date – if there exists any indication that anime rises beyond simple children’s work, this is it.
To my elation, the promises of earthquake accuracy rang true throughout the first half of the show. Everything from structural member collapse to bridge sway was shown in largely realistic fashion and, though certain exceptions were made for dramatic effect, the show feels visually real. While to 99.9% of Tokyo Magnitude’s viewer base this may seem trivial nitpicking, it proved to me that the animators cared about their work and did wonders for bolstering the credibility of this very prominent claim.
Unfortunately, this attention to detail does not compensate for a low budget production, and Tokyo Magnitude leaves quite a bit to be desired in areas outside scenic earthquake destruction. From character designs to the notable use of static shots with minimal movement, at times I felt as if I were watching a 2004 or 2005 production. While certainly not fatal to the series’ presentation, this one area of poor repair did appear out of place.
When you watch anime as long as I have, there are certain names that stick out when hearing a soundtrack for the first time. Be it the epic orchestral works of Kawai Kenji or the haunting dissonance of Yoko Kanno, the musical composer of a series holds great sway as to how the story will feel. In the case of Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, fans of the Haibane Renmei’s breathtaking composition will feel right at home as Ootani Kou returns with another melancholic masterpiece. While the animation may be lacking in certain respects, the music compensates for any misgivings threefold, as each track is accompanied by a perfect mixture of emotions. Be it the frenetic tension of a building collapse or the quiet sorrow of a mourning family, the music practically defines the drama and is nothing shy of brilliant.
Of all the characters in Tokyo Magnitude, Mirai easily steals center stage. In many ways she’s a typical teenager, frustrated with life due to a poor relationship with her parents, struggling grades, and a feeling of distance from her peers. Stuck in this mire between childhood and adulthood, she must pick up the responsibility for her younger brother, Yuuki, whose care her parents place on her due to being too busy with work to do so themselves. While her actions often seem selfish, over the first episode she’s quickly fleshed out to be more than just a bratty teenager: she’s a young girl who wants nothing more than a loving family, but is utterly helpless to realize this dream. As such, her jaded view of the world comes across as quite believable, and her selfishness and bitterness are somewhat justified in the context of her circumstances.
This unevenness in her character is ultimately what makes Tokyo Magnitude such a remarkably powerful series. The earthquake turns her world entirely upside-down, and reveals a young girl who, while strong, just cannot bear the responsibility thrust onto her. Yuuki compliments her amazingly well, highlighting her numerous child-like weaknesses that surface in the wake of tragedy and adversity. She consistently struggles with this throughout the duration of the show, insistent that she is not in fact a child but hesitant to admit herself an adult. Likewise, the children’s traveling companion, Mari, brings to light Mirai’s immaturity and inexperience in dealing with catastrophic situations, and forms a sort of dual-foil with Yuuki that results in some of the most heartwarming and touching character development I’ve ever seen. Sympathizing with Mirai comes almost as easy as breathing, and watching her story unfold is a truly unique experience.
From planning stages to construction to finished product, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 shines through and through. From the ground up, the show was designed to be a mature, intelligent, and emotional drama, and makes no faux pas in delivering its story with powerful success. Both newfound anime viewers and seasoned veterans alike should put this title at the top of their lists – there exists little room for disappointment.
It’s been a while, but I can proudly say that the little drama-queen inside of me was bawling manly tears at the end of this show, something that last happened at Grave of the Fireflies, half a year ago.
First of all, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is a disaster-flick, and a good one at that, with real people in a state of disaster, in a situation that could actually occur in the real world. The show starts with… whining kids, basically. More specifically, one whining kid, Mirai, a first-year middle school student who “hates” her parents for working too much and not caring for her and her brother Yuuki. Then, on the fateful day that Mirai has been burdened to take her brother to the robot exhibition, it happens. All of a sudden, a massive 8.0 earthquake hits and in a matter of seconds Tokyo is in a state of disaster, and the journey home begins for the siblings.
You might be asking yourself by now:”If this anime made you, a drama-junkie, spill eye-fluids and compare its emotional punch to Grave of the Fireflies, why the meager 8.3 rating, while said movie is in your top 10?” Well, the thing is, “said movie” was also brilliant besides its emotional punch. The first five or six episodes in Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 were just not all that enjoyable or brilliant. Still, while they were indeed needed as build-up, I wouldn’t go as far as calling them a necessary evil. They display a realistic view on the situation after such a massive earthquake and its aftershocks. The people you meet on this journey all come across as real and there are some touching small stories in those first episodes. After the first five or six episodes the show starts to pick up a bit. The anime is still about the stories of the people in the mid of a city in rubbles, but the focus starts to shift towards the main characters and their development. The ending, oh wow, for fans of drama, the ending alone is well worth sitting through the rest for. Again, that’s not to say the rest is rubbish, it’s still quite good, but not up to that level.
The animation in Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 was good. While the character designs are fairly basic, they all look real; no pink entities are balancing on the scalps here. The backgrounds are where the show shines on the animation department. They’re detailed and really add a lot to the show, showing Tokyo in all of its ruined glory. While I wouldn’t go as far as calling the animators geniuses, it shows that they put in a lot of effort to make the anime look real and detailed.
The sound in this series is fitting. Soundtracks are almost non-existent, they’ve instead chosen to use lots of realistic background noise. If they’re in the middle of a crowd, you actually have the feeling they are, instead of in a concert hall, which added a lot to the whole feeling of reality. The OP and ED, well, let’s say that there’s no accounting to taste. They’re both good and surprisingly enough fit the show, even though they’re not what you’d expect for an emotional disaster-flick. Still, they were also not really songs I’d listen to over and over, and thus they were mostly skipped.
Overall, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 definitely was one of the best shows of 2009, and even though it IS a disaster-flick and a drama, it’s something I’d recommend to everyone, if only for the fact that they’ve managed to create this level of realism. Aside from the mentioned first five or six episodes being not-as-good as the second half, I can’t spot any real flaws. Flawlessness however, doesn’t equals brilliance. The entire show is really good (hence the 8.3/10 overall), but only the ending really shines (10/10). Expect to get a bit bored during the first few episodes, but keep in mind that it’ll be worth it.
It's the little things that can make or break an anime. I don't think it has ever been clearer than when watching Tokyo Magnitude 8.0. I got attached to this series right from the first episode, yet if you asked me to tell why, probably couldn't since I'm not quite sure myself.
Well, anyways, the good points I can define. The characters and their actions are low key and believable enough to pass for real people and, while they can get very emotional and close to losing it, never really cross the line into Stupid Hysterical, a problem that plagues a bit too many shows.
The main cast is also likable, which is a big plus seeing as a disaster flick pretty much falls flat when the viewer couldn't care less about the characters. Mirai starts out as a gloomy complainer, trying very hard to both act like a grown-up and at the same time look like she doesn't really care about doing so, the archetypal user of the line "It's a pain..." and always ready to offer a cynical counterpoint to her brother's smiles, but still very much there to look after him when it counts. This is before the titular earthquake.
After both being forced to grow up by the earthquake and its ruthless crash course in the frailty of humans and everything they've created but also helped to grow up by the kind understanding of his traveling companions and the goodness of various people they run into, we've bid farewell to the forced indifference by the end, making way to a young lady who's still somewhat gloomy but knows her limits notably better and can appreciate things in a way she never could before.
Mari, meanwhile, is a person pretty much anyone would be able to appreciate during a time of crisis, a woman who can keep level-headed when there are people needing her and help those who can't necessarily help themselves, made all the more respectable by the fact her own family's fate is unknown, too. Yet she never leaves the siblings behind to check up on her family faster because of simple human empathy. And when she can finally afford to get emotional, it's a sight worth waiting for.
Finally there's Yuuki. About all kid characters in catastrophic scenarios could take a lesson or two from this boy. He's basically the positive counterforce to Mirai's negativity, yet his smiles never really come across as dumb obliviousness but instead a child trying to keep things down to a scale he can understand and, at the bottom of it all, make his beloved big sister smile with simple displays of love and caring. After so many bratty children and the stink they cause he was a refreshing breeze whom I started caring about in the first episode more than many other characters during their entire series.
The other characters left a good, non-clichey impression, overall, but didn't get enough screentime for me to get attached to them like these three. However, this brings my attention to the next point I liked about this show: it showed the best of human nature. Shows that show the utter monstrousness and depravity humans can go to aren't exactly scarce, but the other side of the scale is fairly empty. Hence seeing all the people, both professionals and volunteers, helping strangers and conducting rescue operations, while still keeping things realistic in that not everyone they met was all smiles and helping hands, was a very welcome sight and good enough that I'm willing to ignore the fact that in real life you'd probably have looters, criminals and all kinds of assholes trying to profit from this one way or another.
Also, I think one of the best things about this show was the subtle facial expressions that were usually a better indicator of the characters' true feelings than their words. They also didn't shy away from the destruction caused by the earthquake. Objects sent flying/falling, windows breaking and ground cracking were all portrayed without skimping on the animation. Even certain large-scale objects go crashing down with the appropriate chaos and destruction.
Another strong point would be the voice acting. Mirai and Yuuki scream each other's name a good number of times throughout the show, but the distress in their voices makes it sound heartfelt instead of corny. Their mother also gets a special mention despite only appearing in two episodes. A performance good enough that even I, who don't usually notice these things much, took notice this time. Also liked the OP and ED, and while I mostly didn't notice the soundtrack otherwise, they did utilize it very finely in one scene.
Also must mention that I can count the amount of shows I've actually cried to on one hand, probably, but this one took the cake. It even got me crying out of sadness whereas most others have been tears of happiness. So... yeah. For someone like me who likes to get emotionally involved, this show was gold. 9+/10 About the only reason I don't give this something even higher is that I couldn't really pick out a stand-out scene or something similar.
The sadest part in this anime was the last episode as you can watch it your self from begnning to end to feel the sadness yourself when you get up to episode 11.