[Secret Santa] Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 Review
This is my second Secret Santa anime review. You probably know what it’s about, but just in case-it involves recommending a blogger 3 anime where he must picked one to review. For mine, I chose Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, an anime aired way back in 2009. I heard high praises for this anime so my expectation was particularly high.
Mirai is undergoing a phase of her teenage life where she just simply hates everything in the world-her parents who barely spends any time with her, her stupidly optimistic little brother Yuuki. One day, being dragged by Yuuki to a robot exhibition against her will, maybe it’s just her usual childish rants-but after she secretly wrote “I wish this world would just fall apart” on the internet, a huge magnitude 8.0 earthquake tore down the city as if on cue-a quake which forced her to really re-examine herself and her views on everything.
Reading the MAL synopsis: “The premise of the project is the 70% possibility that a magnitude 7.0 earthquake will occur in Tokyo in the next 30 years.” And it’s kinda prophetic now that when I think about it, considering a huge earthquake DID occur in Japan, not even 30 years but just 2 years after the anime aired.
But in any case, watching Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 really gave me a closer perspective on the victims of earthquakes than any news I had read-the characters’ pains and their struggles to hold on to hope as they attempt to crawl back to their homes despite the crumbling buildings; you will be seeing all these as if in first-person. It’s definitely a realistic anime, I’ll give you that-and it’s a great direction which gives the anime a serious and thematic focus.
That brings me to the “twist” in the 3/4 of the anime, however, which I can’t reveal much here due to spoilers. Looking around, I also see this “twist” is often criticized. I admit, I’m also worried the very first time I noticed this. Personally, I would prefer Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 to be as realistic as possible, not relying on twists. Especially for a show dealing with such a realistic topic, I would love it to be as a “what you see is what you get”-kind of anime. But after I completed the anime, and see how it all concludes, the sacrifice to realism kinda makes sense too, because in sacrifice to realism, the anime managed to dive deeper into the characterizations and developments-and it all leads to a very emotional, bittersweet conclusion. The necessity for the narrative to resort to such twist is still debatable, however.
The main character cast isn’t particularly huge, there’s only 3 characters you will mostly be seeing throughout the show, but one of the most endearing things about the show is witnessing these characters’ journey back home-it’s like a “reverse adventure” genre where the end goal is to get back home, instead of getting to someplace. While the anime had really powerful beginning episodes, the later episodes focus on their journey, their encounters with other victims as well and how this post-earthquake period effects them.
It was especially heartwarming to see Mirai slowly developed throughout the crisis, you can clearly see that she’s less pessimistic about everything as the anime progresses, showed an extremely caring side for her brother Yuuki, and even started warming up to adults-people she didn’t normally trust. When it’s all said and done, one of the themes about the anime is that they are just simply no people so bad they would simply neglect you, especially in times of crisis. In a way, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 actually paints quite an optimistic picture. There is an old man, despite his grandson just passed away, was trying his best to help any victims he came across. A stranger allowed them to stay in his house to take shelter from the rain a bit. Even Mirai’s parents, who was not seen for the entirety of the anime, were worried sick. Of course, who can forget Mari, one of the character of the main cast, who despite not being the actual family of Mirai and Yuuki, has pretty much taken the caretaker role of the two despite not obligatory. While I do question the significance of some support characters, but overall, I think characterizations are pretty well done. The main characters shine and have a thematic purpose, but also because of the aid of other support characters too.
The backgrounds in Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 are finely detailed, and looks excellent, and very nicely gave an impression of an apocalyptic feel-what with the crumbling buildings, snapped towers, broken bridges, and whatnot. The camera also wisely zoom out from time to time to visually explore these backgrounds, reinforcing the hopelessness of the situation. As far as composition of scenes go, it’s top notch, and even almost photographic at times. Sadly, quality of animations are very inconsistent in comparison, and there are moments when you can clearly see the production had budget issues. There are also very heavy usage in CGI-understandably, it’s mostly used when needed to animate hundreds of people at once where CGI is definitely an easier and cheaper alternative, though still doesn’t help that it makes some scenes unnatural and disorientating. Character designs also look simplistic and even dated, especially since this is a 2009 anime we are talking about here, but realistic at least-perfect for what the anime is going for. I also can’t help but feel that visuals as a whole, look kinda flat, presumably due to a lack of color shading and good lighting in most scenes.
Overall, the anime is great in backgrounds and cinematic, but lackluster in other visual aspects. As for the audio side of things, it’s a decent list of soundtracks but nothing noteworthy. Most of the soundtracks have a “quiet” feel, mostly soft ballads, which nicely supplements the scenes, though there are also a few orchestrated “intense” pieces for during the more thrilling scenes.
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is about family and how not to take spending time with your loved ones for granted; it is also an anime about optimism in human nature, how there is always good in anyone no matter what a pessimist thinks-all themes explored through the cracks in the earthquake setting. While it made some questionable narrative decisions, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is a heart-wrenching, but if not, great anime, and I think it more than enough satisfied my expectations.