If there's one major drawback to my "stream of consciousness" style of 'blogging here, it's that sometimes pretty important points can go unnoticed until you sit down to actually think about it in a comprehensive way. It appears that in the case of episode eight of Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, the immediacy of my writing form has actually missed a hugely important point, and thus for the first time ever in the history of this site I've found myself sitting down the next morning to rewatch an episode and pen this "redux" entry about the aforementioned episode of this series.
The reason for this requirement of a complete rethink about the episode is, quite simply, a discussion of what is real and what is not in the context of the instalment - To a certain extent, this is due to Tokyo Magnitude 8.0's prior use of "dream" sequences, and on this occasion what appeared to be a nested dream sequence but, on closer inspection, is in fact only a single scene while the scene which immediately follows is unabashed reality.
Ergo, the question pinging around the Internet like wildfire this morning is - Is Yuuki alive? A question to which the answer appears to be no; instead, the Yuuki we see playing football and walking with his sister is simply a figment of Mirai's imagination, as she goes into denial about her brother's loss. Note how Mari doesn't speak to or acknowledge Yuuki at all in this episode, how she phones Mari's parents, the presence of only two sleeping bags outside the hospital rather than three, and how the concern and bottled-up emotion I mentioned in my original entry all appear concentrated towards the young girl.
I would say that this episode requires a second viewing just like the movie The Sixth Sense, but in a way this episode almost is The Sixth Sense, and to be honest I'm a little torn on how these revelations regarding this instalment affect my judgement on the episode. On the one hand I think the prior use of dream sequences has come back to bite the producers here, confusing reality and imagination to such a degree that it made this episode difficult to pick apart - Perhaps that was the aim though. Moreover, I'm vehemently argue that the scene where Yuuki's death is announced is animated and directed to too great an extent to look like a dream sequence - The angles, colour palette, lighting and even background audio all suggest an otherworldly atmosphere, which perhaps tips the balance beyond simply making an intense moment stand out towards making it seem unreal. Finally, there's also the question of why Mari says nothing to Mirai about her delusions during the remainder of the episode - Sure, she's upset too and to constantly remind a young girl that her brother is dead is a nightmare scenario, but she's a responsible grown-up (and has proved to be such throughout this series) so would she really shy away from it, let alone let Mirai leave the hospital grounds while she's suffering from such mental trauma?
Those points aside, my wider impression however is - Well done Tokyo Magnitude 8.0. We reside in a world where unhappy endings are almost unheard of, even in anime; we simply expect the protagonists to survive no matter what, and it's this blase attitude of the viewer which is at least partly responsible for taking Mirai's beliefs as "canon" over any other evidence. The death of someone so important to the story really rams home the impact of the earthquake on a personal level - Whether the coverage of the disaster and its human toll provided by this episode intensifies or dilutes that coverage is a subject for another day, but I think that as long as this whole "is he or isn't he?" saga isn't dragged on too far into the next episode then this is quite the masterstroke for this series that, in a sense, moves it onto a whole new level. We've spent this whole series watching other people left wondering whether their loved ones are alive or dead; now, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 has managed to manoeuvre us into those shoes for ourselves.