Tokyo Magnitude 8.0


         For my second post in the “12 moments in anime 2009” series I’m not so much picking out a moment, but choosing a characterization that I think is spot on. So, I’m choosing Mirai’s expression of teen angst and alienation from episode one of Tokyo Magnitude 8.0.  

         Watching Mirai go through her full range of emotions in episode one of TM 8.0 brought back memories, and not all of them good, from that same period in my life. In TM 8.0, Mirai is a middle school student in the 13-14 year old age range, she’s in that terrible transitional period when you’re no longer a kid but not really considered to be walking the path towards young adulthood either.  I remember how this period of life sucked because when I fell back in kid mode I realised how adults looked down on us, but when I tried to act more mature that really didn’t work either.

         So, I could really understand Mirai’s frustration and anger when she asks herself “why does everything make me so angry?”. In hindsight, I realise my frustration and Mirai’s frustration was not caused because the world was out to get us, but because we didn’t understand ourselves and our roles in the world.

        I know that everyone can relate to how Mirai’s frustration grew to the point where she wished the would break. I know that more than once in my younger days I had shouted in frustration and anger at my brother or my sister, and even at my parents that I hated them, or I wished I had another family. The only difference between my outbursts and Mirai’s wish that the world would break is that I always had time to cool down and make things “right” where Mirai’s world really did break, and now she has to live with those thoughts for the rest of her life. 

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.

mari-mirai-and-yuuki

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.

why does everything make me angry

normal-teenaged-feelings1They look down on us because we're kids

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 wants a happy family again

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 seeing Yuuki and Mirai for the first time

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 world should break and it did

Tokyo being destroyed

         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.

Mirai I love you

       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.

hang in there and lets go

       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.

Thank you Yuuki

   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.   

If I was dead what would you do

      This episode picks up with Yuuki and Mirai riding towards their home in the army truck when Yuuki asks Mirai what she would do if he was dead? Mirai tells Yuuki not to say strange things  and that mother, father, and she would probably cry themselves to death.

they would cry to death

       Soon, Mirai and Yuuki exit the army truck and head towards home where Mirai runs into Mayu who lets her know that Mirai’s mother, and father survived the earthquake. Mirai’s mother is taking shelter at the elementary school, and her father was injured but doing OK at the local hospital.

Mom and Dad are OK

       After Mirai finds that her mother went home to get some clothing, she goes looking for Yuuki who has headed inside the elementary school classroom areas. Mirai runs into Yuuki’s friend, Itsuki, and together they search the school grounds for Yuuki. As Mirai searches the school, she comes across some of Yuuki’s classroom artwork and begins to cry, Mirai is unable to explain to Itsuki why she’s crying. At various times, Yuuki appears to Mirai telling her not to cry, but vanishes as soon as Itsuki appears.

I wonder what's wrong

Why I'm I crying

       As time passes, Itsuki becomes worried about Mirai’s strange behavior and he tells her to come to his house so he can give Mirai a journal that he and Yuuki have been keeping. When they arrive at Itsuki’s home, Mirai notices a danger notice posted on the door, but Itsuki goes inside anyways. As Mirai tries to call him back outside, she also sees Yuuki enter the house, so Mirai has to follow them in. When Itsuki hands Mirai the book, an aftershock strikes the area and she grabs Itsuki to protect him from the falling debris. Mirai then notices Yuuki in the hallway, so she drags Itsuki over to Yuuki and cover them both up. A few seconds later, the part of the house where Itsuki and Mirai were in has collapsed but Mirai and Itsuki are safe, but Yuuki has disappeared again.

Mirai saving Itsuki

       Yuuki then appears before Mirai where he calls her name;  Then the truth comes flooding into Mirai’s mind.  Yuuki died outside the hospital, the medical workers tried to bring him back but failed, the scene where Mirai was looking at his death certificate in the hallway was real, and it seems that Mirai was blocking out everything from when the sunlight reflected in her eyes as she was walking up to the hospital. Yuuki then tells Mirai that he’s dead, and as tears begin to roll down Mirai’s cheeks, the episode ends.

Mirai looking at Yuuki's death cert.

Sorry, Mirai, I'm dead

      Well, most of us knew what was coming, and the only questions were how long would it take and was Yuuki a delusion inside Mirai’s mind or was he some sort of ghost? After watching this episode I think that Yuuki was a combination of both Mirai’s mind and a helpful spirit; Mirai’s mind up until now was unable to fully adjust to the truth of her brother’s death and was suppressing everything after the flash of light in her eyes, but her mind was trying to remember the truth and Yuuki’s ghost/spirit was just there to be with Mirai until she was ready to handle the truth, it might be painful, but Mirai can now handle the truth.

       Now, I think Mirai will have to go and find Mari and retrieve Yuuki’s backpack and bring Yuuki fully home to their family. I feel the backpack contains Yuuki’s death certificate and maybe even his ashes, and once Mirai brings Yuuki home her family can then perform the proper Buddhist/Shinto death rites for her brother, Yuuki’s spirit can then rest in peace until they invite him home for Obon and he can live on in their memories.

       My problem with the “Yuuki ghost” storyline is that I felt that they dragged it out for way too long. TM 8.0 was supposed to be a realistic look at the aftermath of monstrously deadly earthquake and while mental problems with survivors is an issue, the “Yuuki” thing went over the top. I could see Mirai having a temporary mental break as plausible, and I could even understand “Yuuki” as a ghost. But, I feel by combining  Mirai’s mental problems with Yuuki as a ghost was really too much. I think that this is too bad because I felt that TM 8.0 was heading towards becoming a truly great anime, and now I’m going to place it in the “well above average class”. I’m really looking forward to a realistic wrap up to the series without any stupid twists like, maybe Mirai or her parents dying, or even Mari dying. Life needs to go on for the living, and let the dead be a warm memory of the past.

obon candle boats

        When I first started watching TM 8.0 I was struck not by the inventive storyline, or any sort of stunning new levels of animation quality but by how true the main characters felt. In TM 8.0 you won’t find any fourteen year old kids piloting multi-billion dollar mecha, or any eleven old espers, or adults that are dumber than the children that surround them.

       Basically, TM 8.0 is told and experienced from the perspective of Mirai is your typical 13-14 year old girl, she’s at the point in her life were 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 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. In TM 8.0 Mirai represents the self, but a self that is disconnected with those around her and her responsibilities to family and society.

normal teenaged feelings

       Along for the call to adventure is Mirai’s younger brother Yuuki, and he’s your typical energetic and lively young boy, Yuuki rushes forward with enthusiasm to the objects of his interest. In TM 8.0 Yuuki represents innocence, but not just is own, he also represents Mirai’s innocence. The third member along for the call to adventure is Mari, she’s in her late twenties to early thirties, and Mari serves as mother and guardian to both Yuuki and Mirai. In TM 8.0 Mari represents what us adult might aspire to be in that situation by protecting and guarding the weak.

Mari, Mirai and Yuuki

        When Tokyo was devastated by the 8.0 earthquake Mirai, Yuuki, and Mari became travelling companions on a journey of survival where they experienced devastation, loss, and suffering but they also learned a lot about themselves. 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 travel 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.

do you want me to carry that bag

       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 brothers 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.

the bridge to the future
Sleep pretty darling do not cry
And I will sing a lullabye

Golden slumbers fill your eyes
Smiles awake you when you rise
Sleep pretty darling do not cry
And I will sing a lullabye

Once there was a way to get back homeward
Once there was a way to get back home
Sleep pretty darling do not cry
And I will sing a lullabye 

Boy, you’re going to carry that weight,
Carry that weight a long time
Boy, you’re going to carry that weight
Carry that weight a long time

I never give you my pillow
I only send you my invitations
And in the middle of the celebrations

I break down

Boy, you’re going to carry that weight
Carry that weight a long time
Boy, you’re going to carry that weight
Carry that weight a long time 

Oh yeah, all right
Are you going to be in my dreams
Tonight?

And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make

References for this article.

Cultural Experience in Japanese Death Legends-Michiko Iwasaka & Barre Toelken

Masks of the Gods V4-Joseph Campbell

Hero with Thousand Faces-Joseph Campbell