When a massive earthquake hits, the story gets pretty personal as two kids do their best to get back home.
What They Say:
The devastation is unleashed in the span of seconds. Yielding to centuries of unrelenting pressure, an ancient rift in the Earth gives way and a force equivalent to over a thousand atomic bombs erupts beneath the feet of the citizens of the world’s largest mega-cities! For the people of the greater Tokyo area, the results are catastrophic as even “earthquake-proof” buildings sway like weeds in the wind, gas mains rip open in gouts of flame, and huge sections of the city’s vital infrastructure are torn into shreds.
For sister and brother Mirai and Yuki, who were caught in the earthquake while in Odaiba during summer holiday, it’s the start of a desperate journey back to their parent’s home in Setagaya. For motorcycle courier Mari, it means an equally frantic battle towards Sangenjaya and her own daughter and mother. Joining together in an epic odyssey through the mangled streets, these three must brave impossible obstacles and endure unspeakable hardships and heartbreak, with no way of knowing if their loved ones are even still alive.
Contains episodes 1-11.
The audio presentation for this series is about what one might expect for a series of this nature. The show includes a pair of stereo mixes encoded using the DTS-HD MA codec which gives it a good lossless presentation. The show has a few big moments early on with the earthquake and how it unfolds, but mostly it’s a rather quiet and dialogue driven mix. There are areas where the ambient sounds are key and that plays well, having those sound stand out in the right way and adding to the atmosphere. But by and large, it’s all about the dialogue and it comes across cleanly and without problems here. There’s not much in the way of depth or directionality outside of a few scenes but the forward soundstage presentation overall is one that’s solid, clear and without problems.
Originally airing in 2009, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Spread across eleven episodes, the first nine are on the first disc while the final two episodes are on the second. Animated by Bones and Kinema Citrus, the series has a great look about it with a lot of detail that a series like this should have as it wants to replicate a real world situation and the kinds of architectural issues that would come to light. There’s a lot to like in pausing and taking in these details and seeing how far they went to make such realistic settings come alive like this. The character animation isn’t simple in contrast to it, but it goes with a specific approach that is aimed more at a Ghibli-esque realness about it rather than traditional anime characters with wild hair, colors and exaggerated physical features. The transfer captures these two sides well and with some fantastic colors and a very good sense of depth throughout, it’s a really strong design that draws you in all the more because of how clean the transfer is.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard size Blu-ray case where both discs are held against the interior walls with no hinges. The front cover uses one of the more familiar pieces of artwork as it has the two lead characters running through the ruined streetes and devastation with a looming Tokyo Tower in the background. With the blue sky and the softer grays here, combined with the Blu-ray case, it’s almost a too-bright kind of cover but it’s balanced by the fear that you see in their expressions. The back cover goes for a different approach as it has a sepia toned background piece of the devastation with a lot of white space, which is covered with the lengthy premise and a few taglines. There are some good shots from the show included as well as a clear listing of what’s included on the discs. Production credits are simple and easy to read and the technical grid covers everything without any issues. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design works off of the main image that you first see in the opening sequence of the devastation of the earthquake in a sepia tone and the white sky. The trio that the series focuses on is visible in the midst of it all and it has a pretty downbeat feeling to it. The right side is where we get the navigation, which doubles as the pop-up menu, as it has a kind of concrete and city feel to it where it blocks down the episode numbers and titles and uses a yellow highlight for what’s selected. Submenus load quickly and the languages are easy to change.
The extras for this release are intriguing as you essentially get another way to look at the show. The big extra is a fifty-two minute digest version of the series which takes you through a good chunk of the first episode and then compartmentalizes a lot of the rest to make for a very different kind of flow to things. Seeing it after the series is kind of jarring because you know how much is removed, so it’s something that I’d suggest waiting a few weeks to revisit so it’s a bit more fresh. Other than that, we get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original work part of the noitaminA block from 2009, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 was produced by both Bones and Kinema Citrus that was directed by Masaki Tachibana and written by Natsuko Takahashi. When this block comes up with original works, they’re usually pretty interesting and merit some attention. This one managed to win some awards alone the way as it tried to present something as realistic as possible, but could only go so far. Imagining a series like this being made today, after the 3/11 quake and tsunami, I imagine we’d get a very different work in terms of how the events themselves play out, though the character drama would be the same. And really, the character drama is what this show is all about.
Set in Tokyo, we’re introduced to a typical problem family of the day as we have a first year middle school girl named Mirai, her younger brother Yuuki that’s in third grade and their two parents. Their father works as most do and their mother is busy beyond words lately because of her job and the clients she has to deal with. So much so that even on her own birthday, she just gets cake wedges for the others and isn’t around for it since she has to be out working. There’s some tension within the family, but a lot of it stems from Mirai as she’s unhappy about how the closeness they had when she was younger just isn’t there and how her parents don’t have much time for them. This is made worse as it’s the last day of school and everyone was talking about where they’re going for vacations over summer break. With Mirai and her family, there’s nowhere to go as they’re all working.
Mirai also has some of the usual little brother problems, but even those just stem from her general moodiness over the family situation. When the first day of vacation hits, she’s “requested” by her mother to take him to Odaiba to see a robotics show that’s occurring. She’s obviously not interested but it’s better than being stuck in the apartment for the day and the two are off on their adventure, with her being the unwilling participant. We get to see some good things about how Yuuki is with his curiosity, and the foreshadowing of the earthquake search and rescue robots, but we also see that Mirai has her good qualities when it comes to him and how she interacts with people in general. There’s a shyness about her as she deals with some adults and an uncertainty that comes with the age.
When the earthquake hits while they’re in Odaiba, everything goes to hell pretty quickly. The visual representation of it is good, based on all the research that was done, and we see how so many services respond so quickly and people generally do right by each other as they get out of buildings and seek shelter since a storm is hitting at the same time. For Mirai and Yuuki, they get some unexpected help from Mari Kasukabe, a young woman who is a mother herself that was visiting Odaiba while working as a courier. She’s an interesting case as she has a four year old daughter herself and lives with her mother, having survived the death of her husband recently and doing the best she can by her child. Since she lives in the same direction as the kids, she offers to travel with them since walking is the only wait to get around at this point and provide them with a bit of supervision, comfort and companionship. But it’s also pretty symbiotic as she’s worried about her family, especially as they see on the news reports that where she lives is heavily on fire after the earthquake.
The series runs its course over four or five days where communication is weak, people are stressed and a whole lot of first responder services are in action. In a lot of ways, you can see parallels here to Grave of the Fireflies as the three travel through the destruction and find those that are compassionate, those that lost others over the course of the quake and those that are just plain rude and pushy in their efforts to get where they’re going or just to survive in their own mind. The journey covers the second through tenth episodes and it does a fantastic job of keeping things engaging over it as they move from place to place, with one episode just dealing with the initial escape from the exhibition building and finding each other before deciding to work as a group. With the journey, we see other areas and how residents are coping, the level of death that increases as it shoots up from first reports of a thousand to well over two hundred thousand after a couple of days and the scale of the destruction is revealed.
A lot of the compelling material is just in seeing how the main three characters deal with their fears. Not of the earthquake, aftershocks or others that they run into. But rather the fear of the unknown. As they go forward, they have to wonder if their family members are okay, if their homes are still standing and what their lives will be like. Some of that varies depending on the character, since Yuuki is a bit too young to grasp a lot of it, but it’s things that Mirai starts to grapple with as they get closer and she finds friends with losses themselves. And you do wonder who will have made it and if there will be a family dynamic change because of it, as there’s a chance that these three will be alone together at the end. But the show instead manages to sucker punch you with a surprise or two along the way, making you both love and absolutely hate the show for what it does and how it manipulates you. And that is, simply, excellent programming.
Coming into this series after the 3/11 quake is certainly difficult, but there’s also that reality that what happens in the real world can make some compelling storytelling. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is an excellent series with strong production values that is at its core a very human story about survival and how people cope and deal with each other and events that may be too big to comprehend in a life where things are very static and “certain” in a way. I came away with a real appreciation of the work that went into it and the overall presentation and would highly recommend it at the drop of a hat to anyone looking for quality anime. But there is that part of me, nagging away at the back of my mind, wondering when we’ll see a new take on this story after the real world events happened and what kind of series that would be. How much starker, more detailed and more painful it would be. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is all about hope and it’s filled with it as they deal with catastrophic situations. This is what you give to people who ask if anime can make compelling and engaging stories.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 Digest Version, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Maiden Japan
Release Date: April 2nd, 2013
Running Time: 275 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.