She's Breaking Bit by Bit
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is something special. A human story told through naked eyes, this show did something that a lot of anime hasn't done for me lately, spark an emotional connection. It gently nudged me through the tale of a young girl named Mirai, her little brother Yuuki and a motorcycling delivery woman name Mari, as the world around them shattered into pieces.
Tokyo is crumbling; foundations are upheaved, buildings are leveled, and bridges are twisted till the tensions snap, as a magnitude 8.0 earthquake roars. Fires break out like crimson rashes, burning away homes all over the Kanto region. From the wake of the chaos, people stumble and endure, somehow crawling back home.
Mirai and Yuuki are tremendously endearing. Mirai is terribly pessimistic, always believing that fate has a bone to pick with her. She snaps at her brother for being her antithesis, a hopeless optimist at heart who believes that everything has to turn out alright. The older lead, Mari, serves as a nice foil to the pair, level headed and calm; she serves as a guide and guardian to the children. It's easy to appreciate how each character grew over the course of the tale; Mirai gaining a drop of her sibling's positivity, Yuuki gaining a touch of his sister's pragmatism and Mari learning she's not so invulnerable, as they hobble over the fractured roadways and splintering scenery.
The plot focuses on the trio as they trudge their way back to their families. The urgency is palpable as snapshots of destruction litter each episode from radio snippets to television clips. The three are twisted by stress and struggle to best figure out a way to deal with death and disaster. Even Mari, grounded and collected, stumbles from this tightrope. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is fueled by emotion and the most fundamental instinct any human has: to survive. It starts off slow, but it builds like a powerful crescendo into an unforgettable ending.
The art and animation are inconsistent. I love how most of the character models were plain, unadorned figurines on the broken canvas of Tokyo. It lets the viewer focus on the detailed scenery; the cracks veining through the pavement, uprooted trees, shattered windows, twisted steel, and burning buildings. The artists captured the ruination and didn't seem to want ornate models taking away from it. On a more technical aspect, the CGI that is sprinkled throughout is done well, opting for a distinct cell-shaded look. It was irksome to find the animation to be uneven and, at some points, even choppy. It's a shame, considering how much effort and thought was put into the art direction.
The music is nothing amazing, but it works with the show. The score moves with the ebb and flow of the small group's journey, cascading gently with the moments of calm before beginning to tumble with scenes of tragedy. I didn't quite enjoy the OP by the Abingdon School Boy, the upbeat tempo being too much of a contrast to the carefully paced tale. The voice acting is commendable for weaving the powerful tale. Mirai's faltering voice, echoing loneliness, pulled at my heartstrings, while Yuuki's voice brought a smile to my face.
Watchability and Enjoyment
The story slowly burns itself, never exactly rushing within the small frame of eleven episodes. I took Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 in tiny doses, an episode here and there. Nothing really pushed me to watch the next episode until I reached the last quarter. Things really pick up in the last three episodes, as the journey winds to an end, for a strong conclusion. It was only then that I felt satisfied with my investment in the series and appreciated the first eight episodes.
It's the realism that shook me. Every episode began with a disclaimer stating that the series was based on seas of research and simulations. Sure, the science is well and good; but it was really about the 'human' realism, overcoming the hopelessness. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is a great anime, worth a watch by anyone who appreciates a good story.