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Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 Review

Two kids, Mirai and Yuuki, spend the day at a robot fair on a nearby island when an powerful earthquake strikes Tokyo.  They find themselves stranded amidst the results of aftermath of this disaster and must find their way home with the help of Mari, a single mother who happens to be a very good Samaritan.

Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, TM8 for short, gave me some very promising opening episodes.  I enjoyed how they avoided some of the tropes of disaster flicks and kept the drama to a level that was high enough to be powerful and suitable without being manipulative.  The first episode drew a lot of criticism because most of it was a character study of Mirai, a typical, somewhat bratty, teenage girl.  Those who were expected a louder kind of series were disappointed.  TM8 continued this formula for a while.

And for many people, TM8 was good all the way through, while a significant amount believe it fell apart somewhere in the middle.  I would say that the beginning of this series is quite strong, and it ends on a relatively high note as well in the final episode (with some scenes of introspection on the aftermath of the earthquake that were handled quite well).  I do think that there are episodes in the middle that were a little weaker than the beginning and end.  Around episode seven there is a sudden “twist” in the plot – and a drawn-out reaction to it – which takes the show into a different realm of storytelling that broke apart from the more down-to-earth believability of the immediate earthquake aftermath.  There are some plot devices used which don’t seem to mesh well with the tone of the early episodes.  I know it is vague, but it’s hard to describe them without revealing the plot, which is why writing this review is a bit difficult.

I can, however, mention one thing that bugged me later on, and that is the way the show used bait-and-switch death scenes to create drama and emotion.  It would be heavily implied that a someone has died, there would be an emotional response to that, and then it would be revealed somehow (for example, a dream) that this person had not really died.  Used once, it can be forgiven and even effective if done right, but when it’s done multiple times, it feels manipulative.  Stories can be very moving only if the window into the writers and creators is effectively hidden.  When I watch Grave of the Fireflies, the characters feel like real people and their actions and situations genuine.  But when plot devices like this are used so frequently, it makes me more aware of writers penning these scenarios and that tends to dampen any emotional investment.

The technical details leave nothing to complain about.  I wasn’t particularly enamored with any of the songs, and the background music served its purpose without standing out too much.  The animation is quite good, and there are some very pleasing backgrounds, particularly when there is greenery.

When compared to most other anime, TM8 wasn’t a bad series by any means.  It just left me with the feeling that had it been a little more cohesive in its scope and direction, I would have had an extremely positive reaction to it, but now I’m left with a feeling of something that had a lot more potential it ended up exhibiting.  I can say with certainty, though, that this is a clear case where “your mileage may vary”.   1/2

4 responses so far

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4 Responses to “Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 Review”

  1. Gloon Sep 22nd 2009

    I loved it. This was done so well, and gave such a realistic view (as you said, except for that small plot twist toward the end), that it….I’m speechless.

  2. Kenon Sep 23rd 2009

    I’ve read a lot that people thought the “is he dead or isn’t he” aspect was drawn out, but in all honesty, I thought that was probably one of the more realistic parts of the show: the uncertainty, the dread, being cut off from knowledge and wanting it all to be over with already. The entire time, the main characters have no idea if their homes are fine, or if their families are still alive, and it has to be eating them up inside. It takes them almost a week of walking through the largest metropolis on Earth to gain absolution; waiting a couple episodes for us to learn the truth pales in comparison, but helps me on some level to empathize with what they’re going through.

  3. xoxoon Jan 12th 2013

    I pretty much agree with you.

  4. Kerry Lourashon Dec 26th 2013

    It’s been awhile since I saw this, but the ending stands out in my mind, like “Kanon’s”. A real kick in the gut. A lot of series have weak eps when put into the procrustean bed of the seasonal format. Alas, no place for a beach ep here.

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