Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 won the Excellence Prize for Animation at the 2009 Japan Media Arts Festival. It’s actually a fairly educational anime for learning about the destructive effects of earthquakes. The premise of this series is the 70% chance that a magnitude 7.0 earthquake will strike the Tokyo area in the next 30 years. The anime depicts what would happen if an 8.0 earthquake took place. The intro states:
“This work of fiction surrounding the circumstances of a massive earthquake in Tokyo is based on tremendous amounts of research and verification. Striving for a sense of realism, many simulations were thought of to create this original story.”
The story centers on Mirai, a middle school freshman girl, and her young brother Yuuki, who go out for a day trip by themselves. Their parents are at work, it’s the beginning of summer vacation, and Yuuki wants see a robot exhibition. Mirai reluctantly takes him because all of her friends have gone away for the summer, and she has nothing better to do.
The two children ride a train to Tokyo’s artificial Odaiba Island where the robot exhibition is being held. Their adventure in the city becomes a traumatic experience when “The Big One” hits while they are there. Windows shatter, concrete crumbles, sewer mains rip open, fires break out, the famed Tokyo Tower and Rainbow Bridge fall down, and there are recurring aftershocks.
Amid the chaos, Mirai and Yuuki must try to find their way back home. The children are assisted by a motorcycle courier named Mari, who is striving to reach her own daughter and mother. The threesome has to walk on foot across central Tokyo, which is now a ruined city blocked with rubble, impassible roads, and collapsed buildings. They face various hardships and heartbreaks along the way, and with no phone service they are unable to find out if their loved ones are even still alive.
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is highly engaging due to the realistic subject matter. The anime shows what really happens in an earthquake, the chaotic aftermath, the emergency response, and how ordinary people react in a natural disaster. The efforts of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, Japan Coast Guard, Tokyo Fire Department, and Tokyo Disaster Medical Assistance Team are accurately portrayed.
While Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is definitely not a light-hearted anime, it isn’t so much a tragic drama but more of a deeply emotional journey – both for the viewer and the main character. At the beginning of the series Mirai is a sullen, angry teenager who meanders through life and wishes ill on the world. She prophetically says, “The world can fall apart for all I care.” Gradually, Mirai starts to change her outlook. By the end, Mirai comes to understand what truly matters.
Despite the fact that some parts of this 11-episode series are quite sad, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is strongly recommended as an excellent slice-of-life anime. But it is an anime after all, so of course there is a strange plot twist at the end. Will Mirai, Yuuki, and Mari get safely home to their families? Watch it and find out!