Saturday, 8 August 2009

Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 - Episode 5

The last episode of Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 ended with the collapse of Tokyo Tower - A landmark arguably on a scale with New York's World Trade Centre in terms of the impact its destruction has on the populace of the country and, perhaps, the world. Naturally, this event is afforded at least a little time in this fifth episode of the series, although perhaps not as much as you might expect.

Instead, this latest episode chooses to focus intently on the human side of the natural disaster portrayed, as Mari, Mirai and Yuuki end up at a shelter that just so happens to be Mirai's school, in a district that was relatively unaffected by the damage caused by the huge earthquake.

The story from here is, quite frankly, harrowing stuff of the highest degree, as Mirai's attempts to show Yuuki some stained glass windows at the school leads them to a makeshift morgue full of both the dead and their grieving families, including one of Mirai's schoolfriends in one case.

With the large aftershocks from the earthquake still continuing, we also see the efforts of one volunteer brought into relief despite his own losses as a result of the earthquake, depicted as a very human struggle against grief coupled with a very human instinct to look after the needs of the living over and above taking the time to grieve for your own loss. The whole scenario is painfully difficult to watch, and I'd be lying if I didn't admit that this particular episode reduced me to tears.

It's a reaction like this that really says it all about Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 - Just like real life in a genuine time of crisis it isn't relentlessly depressing and there are still moments of wonder and humour, but all of that is set against a tale of absolutely tragic human loss; a state of affairs which this series has managed to build up so believably (despite its occasionally suspect animation) that I can't help but be moved by it as though I were watching it on a nightly news broadcast. Thanks to the emotional nature of some of the scenes depicted, this episode almost felt like living within someone else's nightmare, and it's one that I can only hope never comes to fruition in my lifetime.


The Fin said...

The last episode of Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 ended with the collapse of Tokyo Tower - A landmark arguably on a scale with New York's World Trade Centre in terms of the impact its destruction has on the populace of the country and, perhaps, the world.

I don't have any special window on the Japanese psyche, and obviously the fall of the Tokyo Tower is fictional so it's impossible to know for sure, but I don't think this is a very good comparison. Tokyo Tower is a 333 meter tall tourist trap that cost less than 9 million dollars, the twin towers were office buildings more than 400 meters tall that cost 900 million (although that's 1958 dollars versus 1960s-70s dollars). Japan is a smaller country than the U.S., but not that much smaller. And in terms of international impact, Tokyo Tower is just a tall museum and local communications tower, the WTC housed a lot of city and federal government functions and offices for some of the largest financial institutions in the world, and was considered a symbol of capitalism and globalism. The circumstances and impacts of their destruction were also very different. Honestly having been there I wish they would just take the thing down themselves, it's a huge orange Eiffel Tower ripoff eyesore right next to a very famous Buddhist shrine.

Anonymous said...

>>The Fin

"Japan is a smaller country than the U.S., but not that much smaller."

No, it's a LOT smaller. Look on a map. And since when have size dictated how important a country is? If we go by that, Canada's much more important than the US, something no doubt most Americans would feverntly deny.

Amazingly enough, something you don't understand can be important to people of a different culture.

The only point I can agree with you on is that the circumstances were indeed different. I am more or less amused that in your whole ranting, you mentioned NOTHING about the amount of human lives lost in 9/11.

DCJoeDog said...

I think what was meant by the blog post author is that the Tokyo Tower is a point of local pride, as much as we took the WTC towers as a symbol of our society, and even though we take them for granted, if they were to be taken from us, like the WTC, we would have a feeling of emptiness we never knew that something as mundane as a building could instill in us.

Anyway, the episode was great and the human touch is very gripping. I almost believe I am watching the events unfold in a documentary in a fly-on-the-wall kind of way. I hope they all make it safe to all their respective destinations

Hanners said...

Indeed, I think The Fin is missing the key thrust of my point, that whether the populace loves or loathes Tokyo Tower, it is still a stand-out landmark on the city's horizon, and thus its collapse would be bound to hold some kind of symbolic significance. To assume that it wouldn't be important to anyone is a bit like saying that if Big Ben was destroyed in London, nobody would care because there are taller buildings and it's only a clock anyway.

Of course, the World Trade Centre isn't an entirely analogous situation, but it's the only real-world example I can think of where a well-known landmark has been entirely destroyed, and for me the psychological reaction to such a collapse (putting to one side, for a moment, the greater loss of life and other consequential issues) is an intriguing one.

The Fin said...


I was referring to the size of the economy, which had more influence on how many and how large a country's buildings are going to be. I understand fully that different sites are important to different cultures in different ways and I still don't think it's a fair comparison. Lives lost might have been a better statistic to compare, yes, the 2750 on 9/11 is several times the capacity of the tower itself (not counting the attractions underneath), and presumably in Tokyo Magnitude the tower would have been evacuated, not filled with trapped people. And I try not to rant on other peoples' sites, I was just pointing out that the World Trade Center and the Tokyo Tower are not equivalent buildings and their loss wouldn't have equivalent effects on their respective cities.


Even as a symbol, Tokyo has a lot of famous large buildings that have more important functions (Sunshine 60, Midtown Tower, the Metro Building), the Tower is really just decoration. I realize there are no real historical parallels, but Big Ben would definitely be a better comparison than the WTC. And I'm sorry this was some big argument because I really thought it was a minor point.