Friday, 10 July 2009

Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 - Episode 1

As far as ambitious anime projects go, I doubt anything will beat the plan set out by Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 this season. With the promise of a faithful and scientifically accurate depiction of an earthquake measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale hitting Tokyo, and a place in the noitaminA block previously occupied by Eden of the East, expectations are bound to be high for this particular series.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves though - Despite it's stunning black and white depictions of an earthquake-hit Tokyo in the opening titles, and an opening scene that suggests we've already missed all of the carnage, we're soon returned to a pre-earthquake state to allow the series to introduce some of the characters we'll be following during the course of the show.

The centre of attention for this episode is Mirai Onozawa, a middle school student with bad grades and a bad attitude who appears to be going through one of those teenaged rebellious streaks that we all know and "love". Despite her typical teenage girl attitude towards life, and the fact that she's constantly glued to her mobile phone throughout the day, to some extent you can't blame her for her attitude, with an excitable younger brother named Yuuki who is frequently left in her charge, and parents who are apathetic to both their children and one another, appearing more interested in their careers and the like than giving their kids the love that they need. In other words, they're your typical dysfunctional nuclear family.

With the summer holidays beginning, Yuuki wants to visit a robot exhibition in Odaiba (a name you might have been hearing a lot of recently on account of its life-size Gundam statue), and of course Mirai is the one tasked with taking her younger brother on his day out. So, off they trot for a day at said exhibition, before leaving us hanging in those final adrenaline-pumping few seconds where we see the huge earthquake hit Tokyo, and begin to get an early taste of its massive destructive powers.

If you tuned in to this show looking for a straightforward disaster movie then you'll probably have been left disappointed by Tokyo Magnitude 8.0's opener, but this first episode was always going to be about building the individual characters and story of the show rather than simply knocking down famous buildings - This isn't a Michael Bay movie, you know. With that in mind, it actually does a pretty succinct job of fulfilling its aims, bringing us close to the brother and sister around whom the series revolves without becoming tedious or overly burdened in any sense of familial discord. The animation quality here is similarly straightforward but effective, with most of the nice touches coming from the mannerisms and reactions of Mirai rather than her "look".

The real hook, of course, is that final minute or so I just mentioned, with the beginning of the massive earthquake that will shake up that series, and quite honestly got the adrenaline pumping on my part a little - So far so good on that front. Now the scene is set and we're ready to go, I really can't wait to see what the next episode brings, and it'll certainly be interesting to see how this series attempts to blend the science of a natural disaster on a massive scale with the more human story of those who the earthquake effects. Could this be anime's answer to the BBC's fantastic 80's nuclear apocalypse drama Threads? Here's to hoping.


Anonymous said...

I was particularly thrilled by the sideways swaying motion that occurs when the earthquake is underway. Looks like they're really doing their homework on this one.

kadian1364 said...

After seeing the first episode, I think this anime will be excellent. They captured the dysfunctional-nuclear-family interactions precisely, and Mirai is picture perfect disinterested schoolgirl. Her behavior reminds me of how my sister acted when she was that age. Too often anime characters act too much like anime characters, as if they're taken from some playbook for standard anime personalities.

One episode in, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 nails everything I want in anime: high concept, detailed plot, consistent and believable setting, direction that doesn't speak down to its audience, and focus on characters and interactions at the core of the show.

With Haruhi down in summer reruns now (lol double meanings), this easily shoots up to my most anticipated series this season.