The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Tokyo Magnitude 8.0

Title: Tokyo Magnitude 8.0
Genre: Drama
Company: BONES/Kinema Citrus
Format: 11 episodes
Dates: 9 Jul 2009 – 17 Sep 2009

Synopsis: Mirai is a middle school freshman girl who goes to Tokyo’s artificial Odaiba Island for a robot exhibition with her brother Yuuki at the start of summer vacation. A powerful tremor emanates from an ocean trench, the famed Tokyo Tower and Rainbow Bridge crumble and fall, and the landscape of Tokyo changes in an instant. With the help of a motorcycle delivery woman named Mari who they meet on Odaiba, Mirai and Yuuki strive to head back to their Setagaya home in western Tokyo. Based on the premise of a 70% possibility that a Magnitude 7.0 earthquake will occur in Tokyo in the next 30 years, this series depicts what would happen if a Magnitude 8.0 earthquake took place.

The Highlights
Animation: Simplistic character designs set against beautifully and faithfully rendered backgrounds makes for a visual disconnect almost on the level of Mahou Tsukai ~Natsu no Sora~.
Characters: Fairly realistic for their respective age levels for the most part, but…
Realism: Mostly delivers on the promise of realism, despite some not-quite-kosher moments, but…
First Half: Surprisingly more slice-of-life than typical disaster plot, yet excellent slice-of-life nonetheless, but…
Pacing: Warning: plotquake imminent in episode 8.
Second Half: Everything that was good about this series is traded in for awkward twists, predictable melodrama, and tired preachiness.

At the beginning of almost every episode of this series, a disclaimer that this original story by Bones is based on tremendous amounts of research and verification, and attempts to strive for a sense of realism by being based on a number of simulations is displayed. Even though the disclaimer also includes the caveat that the events of Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 may end up being different from the real event should it happen, it nonetheless serves to give the premise of this series the sense of an ambitious scope, and indeed much was expected of this series when it was first announced.

However, do not be fooled; Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is likely to prove quite different from what one might expect at first glance from a disaster series. Following the journey of the main trio as they attempt to make their way home in quake-wrecked Tokyo, TM8 is not the usual disaster story about a group of survivors clinging on to life as a tempestuous Mother Nature throws life-threatening challenges at them one after another, although the characters do go through the requisite “close calls”. What it is, surprisingly, is more of a slice-of-life kind of story; much focus centers around how the main trio, and to a lesser extent the Japanese people in general through the trio’s eyes, attempt to cope with the aftermath of a catastrophe that has shaken up the foundations of everyone’s everyday life. The main character Mirai in particular undergoes significant character development, as the realities of the earthquake slowly but obviously sink into her, manifesting in the form of the many epiphanies she gets, which changes her from the realistically cynical 13-year-old she started out as into a girl obviously changed by her experiences.

It also helps that much love has obviously been invested into the production of this work; the rendition of the backgrounds are exceptionally detailed and are pretty much true to actual locations and landmarks in Tokyo, although the simplistic character designs in contrast presents a visual disconnect somewhat like Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto ~Natsu no Sora~ did. Though they are not the focus of the story, the depiction of the behaviour of the Japanese public in the context of a literally earth-shattering disaster also comes across as mostly true to life, if somewhat calmer than what most would expect. Though some small details may seem unlikely on closer inspection, it is clear that much effort has been expended on making the setting of the storyline seem at least realistic. Therefore, though it comes across initially as unexpected, TM8 actually proves to be a rather excellent slice-of-life story… at least for the first half.

For one should be warned; the series suffers from a suspiciously apt plotquake around episode 8, which completely changes the dynamics of the series entirely. And not for the better either; episode 8, itself a full-episode acid trip arising from a plot twist out of nowhere, leads into a second half where realistic depictions of the challenges faced by the characters give way to awkward foreshadowing and plot twists, where excellent dramatic moments cede the spotlight to predictable melodramatic instances, and where almost-sublime epiphanic character maturation devolves into too-obvious and tired preachy moments. And unlike the much-maligned True Tears, TM8 never really manages to get back to its best; the final episode is a strong effort, but it’s still a “your mileage may vary” effort that’s much too little, far too late.

For an anime series which held so much promise of being one of the year’s defining titles, I can only lament how TM8 fell so badly short of its vast promise in the end, becoming another “good doesn’t do justice to what could have been great” series. What a damn shame, Bones.

The Rating: 6

Reviewed by: Ascaloth

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