It struck without warning one fateful day in Tokyo – a massive 8.0 earthquake rocked the city and caused massive devastation and death in its wake. Having taken her little brother to an exhibit that day, young Mirai and he find themselves alone and with no one to turn to – until a kind delivery woman named Mari promises to help them get back to their family. Now, the three travel the ruined cityscape and brave immense danger as they try their best to make their way home.
StoryI 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?AnimationGenerally 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.SoundTokyo 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.CharactersGood 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.OverallIf 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.
StoryAs 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.AnimationTo 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.SoundWhen 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. CharactersOf 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.OverallFrom 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.
Story/Characters: You know what I hate reviewing? Good shit, because you can't riff on good shit or drop fuck bombs like The Boondock Saints. This is one of those shows. It isn't deep on plot nor does it do anything too outlandish or 2012 with the whole "Earthquake pwning Tokyo and surrounding districts" but that's a given for the disaster scenario and in it's in favour respectively. What it does well, is being a good survival show that feels real while maintaining a mix of quasi-adventure/journey type shit and horrifically sad and stunning. It's like... earthquakes and shit. Hence the title: Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, because Tokyo got rocked by an 8.0 magnitude earthquake, and some aftershocks that are 1/8 of the original earthquake and it's a magnitude 8.0 on the feels scale. But it follows a brother/sister combo and their eventual caretaker/biker chick as they make their way back home. Bam, plot. But it's more so the journey than the overarching barely-existing plot and it bloody works. It's not a crapsack world where everybody is a douchecanoe and pushes kids, jacks their food and punches their granny. It's people helping people while other people are typical disaster folk, trying to survive. Granted some are trying their hardest to be a nominee for Douchebag of the Disaster. It just feels real, feels authentic as the authorities are helping people out, people become refugees and help each other in times of need, good samaritans are around and it's not all "Eat shit main characters". Except because it's a disaster thing, it is "Eat shit everybody" as nobody gets out of this unscathed. Suffering around that totally undermines the animation and art, some shocking moments of things collapsing on people from aftershocks or the earthquake, it isn't gory or blood-soaked or anything and again, it works in its favour; discretion is the better part of valor. But you aren't going to get out of this unscathed because this is some seriously sad ass shit. The characters are realistic which adds to them being more endearing and likable; the realism is just... damn son, they be peoples with peoples expressions and emotions; peoples reactions and peoples being peoples. This isn't even including the more deeper themes, like grief and sickness, it's all done well. The story is simple, but the journey is outstanding- simple as that. And get some tissues. Animation: It looks bloody good for a 2009 show. It's clean, not sketchy or overly glossy; it's a nice art direction and it runs smoothly. The characters look good, the nice blend of being semi-realistic while not being too serious or cartoony. Faces portray a good amount of emotion to make you feel emotions and it's a pleasure to watch. The scenery is something else, it is fabulous! Matches the characters so nothing is out of place, solid CGI that can kick the shit out of a few shows released in 2017 or so and the destruction of buildings is righteous. Sometimes it's literally breathtaking, not just in actuality. This is the right time for it; not glitzy, not chintzy. Sound: The English dub is surprisingly good. Like, seriously good. It shouldn't be this good but it is. Solid and clear, voices don't grate on the ears and it may sound strange, but it sounds like the responders are actual responders responding to a crisis. And the music, mostly tops. When it accentuates the scene, it's glorious. When it's playing during a time of sadness or joy, it enhances it. The OP sets you up, the EP tips the dominoes. Overall: STOP MAKING ME CRY DAMMIT. Reviewed last minute for Secret Santa 2017
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