Reviewing anime and emotional connection.
Generally when I review a anime series I take several things into account like; is the story new or original, is the animation of good quality, is the soundtrack appropriate, are there good plot twists that keep me interested in the show on a episode to episode basis, is the world the creators are constructing believable in some way, is their some overall message the story is trying to convey to me, and many other factors. But, to me the most important aspect of any series is one of emotional impact; when I suspend my disbelief and float away from my 40+ year old self who’s worked since the age of sixteen and spent 23 years in the military and slip into the main characters’ shoes do their actions, reactions, and emotional experiences to their current situations feel right and true. Or, in other words, can I actually put myself inside the characters’ heads so to speak, and actually experience all the sadness, pain, loss, joy, excitement, and love along with them?
While TM 8.0 had its weak points the true power of this series lay in the emotional impact it had on me, I laughed, I cried, and I road along with Mirai on her bittersweet emotional roller-coaster like journey to emotional maturity, and by the end, I felt drained, but better for having taken the journey.
TM 8.0 characters and story.
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is a basically the story of three characters sharing a journey through a Tokyo devastated by a major earthquake with its streets filled with the presence of death and loss. When Mirai, Yuuki, and Mari began their journey together their first priority was one of survival and gradually their end goal became one of wanting to return home and reunite with their families. While TM 8.0 featured three main characters the true focus of the series was Mirai’s painful journey to emotional maturity.
Mirai- Basically, TM 8.0 is told and experienced from the perspective of Mirai; she is your typical 12-14 year old girl, she’s at the point in her life where she’s trying to come to grips with her identity, she’s not a little girl any longer in physical terms but neither is she a young woman in emotional terms. Mirai feels frustrated because she knows she’s not a child any longer but she thinks that she’s still looked at as being a child, so in affect she thinks the world sucks and nobody understands her, she’s a typical normal young teen aged girl. Mirai’s interactions with her mother, father, and brother reflect this stage of her life, Mirai looks and acts with her family like everything is a burden to her she only thinks and reacts to situations on a how it will affect her basis, and while Mirai might understand that her actions might be causing waves within her family she really doesn’t care. In TM 8.0 Mirai represents the self, but a self that is disconnected with those around her and her responsibilities to family, friends, and the greater society around her.
Yuuki- is Mirai’s younger brother, and he’s your typical energetic and lively young boy, Yuuki rushes forward with enthusiasm to the objects of his interest. What Yuuki wants more than anything in the world is for his family to return to what it was like a few years ago, to a time before Mirai’s teen angst started causing problems in the family, and a return to a time when his mother and father weren’t so busy with work that things like family day trips were more common, Yuuki wants a return to innocence. In TM 8.0 Yuuki represents innocence, but not just is own, he also represents Mirai’s innocence.
Mari- The third member along for the journey is Mari, she’s in her late twenties to early thirties, and Mari serves as mother and guardian to both Yuuki and Mirai. Mari works as a delivery bike driver and she is a widow that supports her elderly mother and her young daughter Hina. In TM 8.0 Mari represents what us adults might aspire to be in that situation by protecting and guarding the weak, and Mari serves as role model for how Mirai might want to behave.
The story begins with Mirai unwillingly taking her brother Yuuki to a robot convention on their mother’s birthday, the two of them spend time inside the convention center, and then Yuuki wishes to buy a birthday gift for their mother, so they go shopping. After buying the gift, Mirai waits for Yuuki outside while he uses the restroom and goes to buy Mirai a drink. While Mirai is outside she looks at her text messages and asks herself why everything makes her so angry, and in a moment of childish spite she texts that she wishes the world would break, and it does.
At that moment, a very destructive earthquake strikes the Tokyo area and lays waste to the city. Once Mirai realizes her brother is still inside the building she rushes inside to find him and she meets up with Mari who helps locate and rescue Yuuki from the building. From that point on, Mari becomes a guardian and mother figure to both Yuuki and Mirai helping them get off the island safely.
The three of them continue their journey home together Mirai, Yuuki, and Mari become travelling companions on a journey of survival where they experienced devastation, loss, and suffering but they also learned a lot about themselves. While on this journey the greatest personal growth was experienced by Mirai, before the earthquake she was pretty self-centered and oblivious to her roles to her friends, to her brother, to her parents, and to the greater society. But, as the group travels through the devastated landscape Mirai began to notice the sufferings of others, courage in the face of loss, and normal citizens doing their best to help others and she found herself lacking. What makes the turn of events even more heart rending is that at the moment Mirai vows to be a better sister, a better daughter, and help when she can, her world is turned upside down by the loss of her brother, when Yuuki died so died Mirai’s innocence.
Yuuki’s death had such a profound affect on Mirai’s mind that for a period of a couple of days she managed to block out his death and replace those facts with a hallucination of Yuuki still being alive with her leading him home. While I had at first been very cold to this plot twist I went back and re-watched episodes 8-11 back to back and now take a much gentler approach to those episodes. I now feel that the “ghost/hallucination” Yuuki of 8-10 was Mirai’s mind giving her the strength through her memories of Yuuki’s best qualities to carry onwards when she really wanted to curl up in a ball and just cry. At several points after Yuuki’s death his voice through Mirai gave hope and strength to others when there should have been none, that was the voice of innocence and youth speaking.
When Mirai’s mind finally reached the point where it could no longer suppress the true memory of Yuuki’s death her hallucination of Yuuki comes right out and tells her he died, her world came truly crashing down around her. At that point, Mirai’s depression had reached a level where she no longer wished to return home without Yuuki, and the ”true” Yuuki returns one last time to help his sister complete their promise to return home together. I feel that the final Yuuki was truly his ghost/spirit, because this time Yuuki cast no shadow while the hallucination Yuuki from Mirai mind did, and this Yuuki was much more somber and had the feel of a person on one last mission. When Mirai and Yuuki finally make it home Yuuki thanks Mirai and begins to vanish, and when Mirai tells him not to leave he says he’ll always live in her heart and that he loves her.
I found the final half of episode 11 to be extremely emotional and Mirai’s reunion with her mother and father held tremendous impact and their grieving touched me. I also really loved how Mari helped show Mirai that their can be a future after loss, their joint emotional catharsis felt true and right because Mirai was finally able to share her pain with some who experienced the trauma of their joint journey.
Of Yuuki and his backpack. (Parts are from a earlier post)
With Yuuki death his backpack and the bridge take on tremendous symbolic importance, Mari offers to carry it but Mirai declines saying that it’s her brother’s, so she’ll carry it. So, the pack takes on the meaning that Mirai now has to live her life by paying off the obligation she owns to her dead brother’s spirit for the love she received from him and sometimes didn’t repay in kind. In Asian and Japanese culture family roles and obligations are of extreme importance, in affect, Mirai must live her life as good person honoring the memory of her brother. Also, under the principles of Confucianism names have importance; Mirai’s name can mean the future, and Yuuki’s name can mean strength, or courage but it can also mean tender hope or gentle hope. So, when Mirai crosses that bridge she must begin a new phase of her life and move forward towards the future with tender/gentle hope as a better daughter, a better friend, and a person connected to the world around her.
Now this is major speculation on my part, I also think that the backpack might also include Yuuki’s remains, with the high rate of deaths normal Japanese/Buddhist funeral procedures were probably suspended and Yuuki was probably cremated right away so Mirai was telling the truth when she told Yuuki that she would get them home.
While I was wrong about the Yuuki’s remains being in the backpack I was right about the backpack representing Yuuki’s spirit. The pack really did contain Yuuki’s hopes and dreams, his dreams of a happy birthday for his mother, his wish for the four of them to be a happy family, and his hopes of having a better relationship with his sister. When Mari returned the backpack to Mirai she now understands her loss fully and has now crossed the bridge to emotional maturity and she now knows what she must do to be a better person. Mirai now has the strength of her younger brother to guide her forward towards a better more hopeful future.
Overall, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 was a very powerful and emotionally moving experience, and I felt that all the main characters were realistic and believable. This series had a story to tell and it did so in a mostly straight forward way with a few little twists thrown in here and there to keep the viewers slightly off balance. TM 8.0 is a great example of anime storytelling of the highest level, and it easily is one of the best series of the year.