Anime Special Review: Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 Series

Originally published and formatted for Livejournal on 3/13/11:

Anime Special Review:
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0

The third largest earthquake in recorded modern history struck off the coast of Honshu this past weekend, and we have all been glued to the television sets, radios and internet for the latest depressing news about the disaster. Given these events, I thought it might be timely to point anime viewers to one of the better series of the past couple of years: Tokyo Magnitude 8.0. This 11-episode television series was broadcast during the Summer of 2009 in the prestigious Fuji TV “noitaminA” time slot (replacing Eden of the East), produced by BONES. I actually re-watched the series just a few weeks ago.

Mirai is your average teenager, the kind who gets angry at her parents over the tiniest of things (“Birthday cakes should be ROUND, why don’t they understand!”), testy and a little bit angry at the world. Forced to baby-sit her younger brother, Yuuki, on a summer break trip to a robot convention, they suddenly find themselves stranded miles from home when a massive magnitude 8.0 earthquake strikes Japan. Joining up with Mari, a motorcycle deliverywoman, the three of them slowly try to make their way back home across the ravaged city.

The producers of the series took great pains to try and depict the earthquake in as real a manner as possible. The comparisons to the monster 9.0 Sendai quake are obvious, but this anime series only deals with the direct effects of the earthquake on Tokyo itself, not touching on tsunamis or nuclear jitters. Even so, the damage from the earthquake is more than enough, and even an 8.0 earthquake (which is 32 times smaller in scale than the current quake) would reduce much of the Japanese metropolis to ruins. Check out the trailer below:

Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 hits upon many of the aspects we are seeing play out in real life over the past couple of days: The breakdown in communication, the shell-shocked survivors, the raging firestorms, relentless aftershocks, millions of people walking home because all transportation is broken down, shortages of food and water, massive volunteer efforts…and the dead. And if you are going to watch this show, you better be prepared for a gut-wrenching emotional punch in the stomach.

FINAL SERIES GRADE: A- – Not the best show of 2009, but I place it in my Top Ten for the year. It really is heart-breaking, but with a satisfying conclusion. The only major drawback is the animation is a little bit weak, but the solid storytelling and character development more than make up for it. Definitely worth checking out.

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