Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 (Bones, Kinema Citrus) – Genre: Drama
Today marks the two year anniversary (EDIT: 4 years now) of the Tōhoku-oki earthquake, the fifth most powerful earthquake recorded in modern history triggered deep below Japan, with a magnitude of 9.03. The earthquake released energy equivalent to over 500 million atomic bombs, moved Japan several meters closer to America, and shifted the Earth’s axis (actually shortening our days). Of course, this is reality and Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is fiction…isn’t it? Well, the premise of the anime series was based upon research studies done on the seismic forecasting. This study projected, at the time, a 70% chance for a major damaging earthquake (7.0+) to hit Tokyo within the next 30 years. This hit home for me because the area that I happen to live in has the exact same forecast statistics, and this series brought to light the frightening reality of what could possibly, and inevitably will, happen.
Some people may think: “Well, the big one they predicted already happened two years ago, so there’s nothing more to fear for Tokyo, right? In fact, Tokyo was barely damaged when it hit!” Unfortunately, that’s wishful thinking. The March 11 tremor occurred deep in the Earth’s crust below (about 30 km) and very far from shore (about 70 km). Given how far Tokyo is from the Tōhoku region to begin with, it’s amazing that the city felt shaking at all. In fact, the quake was powerful enough to ring the entire Pacific Ocean. While it’s true that Japan as a whole suffered very little damage from shaking, with most fatalities (almost 16,000) caused by the resulting tsunami, this is only because how far away the hypocenter was. The scenario depicted in Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 projects a situation where the magnitude is less than the Tōhoku earthquake, but the epicenter is right beneath the city rather than over 100 km away. As shown in the series, this would generate enough seismic motion to collapse freeways, drop bridges, and topple buildings.
The story of Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 really only centers around three main characters: the immature Mirai Onozawa, her precocious little brother Yuuki Onozawa, and a single mother by the name of Mari Kusakabe. The series begins with Yuuki begging his older sister Mirai to take him to a robot convention out in the city. With some coaxing from her mother, she reluctantly agrees to play the babysitter. While at the convention, Mirai gets separated from Yuuki and becomes frustrated with the way things are going. She, like we all sometimes do, begins to wish that everything would just disappear. At that moment, the earthquake triggers, and Mirai’s life as well as all of Tokyo is never the same again.
Mari comes into the picture when she helps Mirai find Yuuki. Since they live in the same direction, they decide to travel together while Mari hopes to make it back to her mother and daughter. Throughout the series, the bond between the three grows from being simply convenient acquaintances to a second family for each of them. How scary would it be to be separated from your family in a disaster and had no way of knowing whether they were okay or not? It becomes tolling on all of them, as even Mari struggles to put up a strong face for the two children.
The animation, while nothing particularly stands out, gets the job done. The animators obviously wanted a more realistic art direction to go with the realistic situation. The music is subdued and underlying, much like a movie score, and moves with the emotion on screen. To be sure, there are several beautiful piano tracks that flesh out the emotions that the anime wants to touch upon (i.e. rip your heart out). If I had one complaint about Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, it would be that much of it walks along at a slow pace despite only being 11 episodes. But again, it’s a necessary part of portraying such a scenario in a realistic fashion. There are real problems here with gravity behind its intentions, so one shouldn’t expect lavish action sequences or over-the-top character personalities.
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is a drama in almost the greatest sense. There’s not much room to laugh, other than some refreshing breaks with Yuuki’s infectious innocence and the playful dynamic that the two siblings have. The series is a depiction of one group’s struggle to adapt and survive, yet is only one ordeal among a possible many. To think that there are thousands of other people going through the same thing at the same time is a bit overwhelming, and the series will often remind us of this harsh, cold reality. In times of crisis, it’s every man, woman, and child for themselves, and things can get vicious at times. However, the series aims for a more hopeful tone with people like Mari who are willing to help out a pair of lost children, and vice-versa, even if it means delaying her return to her own family.
If there’s one thing I can say about Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, it’s that it will make you cry. I’ve seen Ano Hana, Clannad, Angel Beats!, etc., but never have I watched an anime series more emotionally arresting than this. This is once again due to how realistic it is. Not everyone can relate to romance, but I think family, friendship, and the accompanying loss are universal experiences. This is a belief that I’m behind, and I think Mirai grows to learn this by the series’ end, too.