I wonder if disaster movies will ever become a trend again. In the meantime, this anime appeared on Netflix. It’s not exactly the typical disaster premise of watching monuments crumble, and I get that. But the timing is also an interrogation. Are we really going for dystopian fiction in this dystopian reality? Well, yes and no. The premise and the style of the show does work to a certain level. It is strangely cathartic.
Japan Sinks 2020 is directed by Masaaki Yuasa. It is an anime adaptation of the bestselling science fiction novel by Sakyo Komatsu. It follows the story of tribulations of the Mutou family integrated by Koichiro, Mari, Ayumu and Go. Koichiro is an electrician working at a stadium. His wife Mari is traveling back on a plane. Ayumu is the best runner at her school. Go plays video games and often quotes things in English. When the first earthquake hits, most of them just shrug it off until a massive one destroys the entire city.
The story does not shy away of showing the trauma of survival. Ayumu survives, sees one of her schoolmates trapped under rubble and bleeding to death and runs away scared. Her mother Mari instead, jumps out of a plane but manages to muster the strength to save a drowning child. Obviously she has lived longer and can manage under stress, but Ayumu, a regular teenager, cannot.
The tone of the show is one of both survival and the ability to put on a brave face in the face of overwhelming odds. Ayumu is terrified, but her parents somehow are trying to make the best of it. This tone is not always consistent. Sometimes the show just decides to kill off a character for the sake of it. Obviously we keep meeting new characters, some you would expect and some rather unconventional. This gives the show moments of brilliancy but almost careless flow of events throughout.
And then there’s the animation. I’m seriously not crazy about it. The fact that some characters are engaging and/or infuriating is either diminished or made more frustrating due to the rather lackluster look and feel of everything on the screen. Getting through the show is going to depend on your level of tolerance to it, and frankly that will only happen if you’re into the story and the cast. Once you can move past it, you’ll make it through. Otherwise, it’s best not to bother.
Recommended for some brilliant moments, but if you’re not willing to put up with its shortcomings it’s a hard sale. That being said, there is some payback to see it the whole way through. It’s got its brutal moments in which it sort of reminded me of The Walking Dead in its sincere brutality of killing off characters unexpectedly. The animation is a major hurdle, since it weakens the characters’ performance. Fortunately, it has some engaging characters and the storyline does shine at points. It’s a mixed bag, so try at your own risk. I’d say that if you find yourself caring for the characters, try to make it to the end.
That will do for now.