The recent earthquake that leveled half of the shitty projects known as the "Asscrack of the Caribbean" (aka Haiti) made me think: "Hmmmmmm, didn't I recently watch a boring as all fuck anime show that had to do with a major earthquake hitting the Land of the Rising Sun?" The answer was of course "Oh Jesus Fucking Christ, yes..." And that show's name was Tokyo Magnitude 8.0. This is its story.
First I must state, no, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 isn't the Anti-Christ of animation — the story is actually dramatic and thought provoking — but it just isn't told very well. The characters were very real, the destruction caused by the earthquake of the title was devastatingly awful (and real), and even though the plot takes place over the course of a few days it FEELS like it's told in real time... It'sssss sssssssssooooooo sssssllllllllllloooooooow. TM8.0 was a very short series (only 11 episodes), but it truly only had enough plot to cover maybe an hour and a half of story time. So, for you non-math majors out there, it was 11 half hour chapters, making it 5 and a half hours long, meaning it was FOUR HOURS too long for its own damn good.
Now, before all you holier than thou sophisticated douchebags gets up on a pedestal and claim that I only like shit with explosions and tentacles, I would kindly tell you to shut your pie hole and give this show a try yourself. Honest to God the Almighty Teabagger, after trudging through 4 episodes I then tried watching the 5th installment on Quicktime set to 3-times normal speed; I was still able to read every subtitle, hear the soundtrack, and see everything that I needed to see. Then I watched it at normal speed. It made paint drying watching seem like it was one of the X Games. I'm here to tell you that 3-times speed is the way to go. Not only do you still get the whole story, but in the few (very few, like 2 or 3 only) and quick (like 30 to 45 seconds each as a few buildings sway and topple) instances of any kind of action or movement in this thing you get to be entertained as the characters move around in Benny Hill-like fast motion. That's always awesome.
Okay, whatever. It's much longer than it needed to be and it's weary as hell... What else? Well, if you're that determined to give it a try and piss away an entire afternoon with an unexciting story of people suffering (extremely slowly) in a dead city, then I'll tell you. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is the story of middle schooler Mirai and her younger brother Yuuki as they try to make it back to their home (and hopefully their parents) after getting caught on the other side of the Big Riceball (Tokyo) in the middle of the worst disaster to ever hit the island nation ever. Ever... The plot to Melody of Oblivion notwithstanding. Buildings are knocked down, fires are rampant, bridges take dives into the depths of the waters they cross, aid for the survivors is slow and laborious (hmmm, maybe the reason the show is so stagnant is so that you can feel the characters' pain better), and travel has been restricted to foot traffic only.
The first episode is basically all about learning who Mirai and Yuuki are in their normal lives as they start their summer vacation: who their parents are; likes and dislikes; attitudes toward life and friends; how big of a bitch somebody is. Yuuki wants to go to a gay little robot exposition in downtown Tokyo, but the only person who can take the overexcited boy is his older sister, who's waaaaaay too cool for that shiznit.
Then, in the last 30 seconds of the 1st ep. the earthquake hits. It's 8.0 on the Richter Scale, and it's pretty much scary as fuck. As windows shatter, complexes crumble, and alarms go off amid all the screams of terror and panic, it's pretty tense and very interesting... But as I just said it's only 30 goddamn seconds of any real tension and fear. The entire second episode has some interesting drama as Mirai has to go back into an indoor mall in order to find her bro who was inside taking a piss when the big one hit, and there's structural dangers, fires, and scared people doing stupid things to hold her up at every turn, but soon our lead protagonist bumps into Mari, an older woman who quickly takes a parental interest in the two kids (yeah, of fucking COURSE they find Yuuki) and despite her own need to get to her own house to see if her daughter is okay, she promises to make sure that the two siblings make it home safe first. Then the loooooooong journey begins.
The show is all about the aftereffects of the quake, the total destruction, and the frightened herd mentality of the population as they try to get back home to their loved ones. There are tons of realistic flashes of death and destruction (small feet sticking out of rubble, ruptured water mains, fires consuming half-destroyed buildings from within, etc) that really make this thing fascinating to watch, in a looking-through-a-textbook, or a watching-CNN sort of way. You don't even notice the lack of music throughout the whole thing till the ending theme kicks in. It's pure drama, and it's unrelenting in its honest depiction of how people interact with each other and react to the bad shit going down all around them in end-of-days scenarios like this. No spunky, wise-ass, sassy sidekicks who lighten the mood (Mari's really just being a nice person, she's hardly comic relief). The problem is that it's just too depressing. No, not Grave of the Fireflies depressing (Jesus! What IS?!), but it's a total downer, and slow downers are really only for junkies and alcoholics. The characters really don't make much headway through each episode, and by the time the credits role on each chapter you realize that Mirai and co. only traveled about a quarter of a mile in the last thirty minutes. Ugh...
At first I had quite a bit of sympathy for Mirai (even though she thought her better-than-average life sucked rhino, and complained a bit too much about everything), but when she just wouldn't shut the hell up about pitiful stuff, and continuously did stupid things that kept putting everybody's life in jeopardy, my affection for her waned as things progressed (even as slowly as they did). I really liked Mari, and her reasons for making sure the two kids were okay all the time (she'd never be able to look her own daughter in the face again if she abandoned such youngsters in their time of need), but my favorite character was definitely Yuuki, which is why I really grew to hate this show. See, there's one "twist" in the later bit of the show that I think was truly unnecessary. This show would have been fine without it, and honestly it just pisses me off more than anything. It wasn't truly clever, and it had been done before, and you can kind of see it coming a mile away when they start telegraphing it way ahead of the big reveal. Really, you don't need to see this snorefest, so I'll just tell you (SUPER SPOILER, BITCHES!): Yuuki dies from some stomach bug or something at about the midpoint of the series, but Mirai keeps seeing him as the story continues, and we don't really know he's dead until she finds herself home again. Honestly, it was a sad attempt to make the viewer weep. Come on, storywriters, you can do better than this! (SUPER SPOILER OVAH!)
I did truly enjoy some aspects of this thing, but their positives were heavily outnumbered by the stuff I just talked about above. For instance, the opening was beautiful — it's just a bunch of very detailed black and white still shots of a devastated Tokyo after a (I'm going out on a limb here) supposed 8.0 quake, but it's haunting... Very reminiscent of all the old photos you see of the 1904 San Francisco earthquake. You know why you're here watching this thing when it's already called Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, and you get to see just what is about to befall the poor fucks in the city in just a little bit. And anybody who's watched any anime over the last 10+ years should already be very familiar with the cityscape and all the buildings. It's somehow very sad to see them rendered so lovingly in such a devastating manner, even if you've never seen them in person.... That being said I couldn't wait to watch them come crashing down in high quality animation!.. But like I already told you, that actual scene in the show is really only 30 seconds at the end of the very first episode. Though Tokyo Tower does come down during a later aftershock, so you can at least look forward to that if you stick with this sucker.
Okay... I guess that was the only aspect that I truly enjoyed.
I must be brutally honest here: As a scientist and as a man with a brain in his skull, this show — this premise — did not shock me. I am honestly amazed that "the big one" hasn't leveled the capital city of the pervert nation already. Look at the facts, the entire country is sitting on one giant fault line, and Tokyo is pretty much ground zero for the meeting of 4 (count them, FOUR) tectonic plates of death! Holy gazoombas, man! If Godzilla were to sneeze in the center of town he'd set off destruction the likes of which we'd never seen before! And after watching a few of these Japanese cartoons over the years, all I can say is, "Gods? If you're listening, they need to go. Really. Let the island nation of the sun take its final dip. No more tentacles, no more 'magic' girls whose panties we see when they turn all magicky, please. It needs to end."
The fact that they willingly built upon land that has tremors every 5 to 6 hours is proof that Mr. Darwin needs to pay them all a visit. This is like setting up shop right below an active volcano!... No, wait, they did that too. Or maybe it's like telling your very attractive and bosomy 17 year-old daughter to sit in front of the tentacle demon's cave and expect her to NOT get violated in every orifice of her body at the same time. Oh, I am so sorry, but they do THAT too! That's called "Tuesday." Okay, how about this: It's like parking your Chevy on the ice near your Minnesota home in the winter, and expecting it not to sink in the Spring. Though to be perfectly clear I DID in fact expect that to happen, and that's why I hid the illegal cadavers in the trunk.
I say LET the giant earthquakes rumble and tear that kinky nation down! And just like Haiti, we can then sit back and laugh our chuckles off as we watch those void-of-souls peoples pretend to rebuild. Fall! FALL!!