(11 episodes, 2009)
My previous exposure :
None, besides the notion that it deals with an big-time earthquake in Tokyo (which of course makes for an interesting watch with hindsight). Also, it aired on NoitaminA, so there were good chances of it not being crap.
What’s it about ?
The Tokyo Bay is hit by a big one (I’ll let you guess the magnitude). Disaster ensues.
The series focuses on Mirai, our de facto middle-schooler protagonist ; she was with her younger brother Yuuki to a robot show on the Oidama island when the earthquake hit. They’re helped by Mari, a young delivery-woman in her twenties who took a shine to them and needs to take the same direction to go home anyway. The whole series follows their long trek back home in the aftermath of disaster.
What did I think of it ?
This is a very, very low-key show. Realistic to the utmost, it examines in painstaking detail what the aftermath of such a disaster entails. Some people do dumb or selfish things (especially in the crowd scenes – I’m sure I saw someone getting trampled to death), but there’s also a lot of genuine solidarity (and tons of professionalism from the rescue workers). What saves the series from being a glorified PSA is that all this stuff stays in the background, letting the focus rightfully fall onto our three leads.
And that’s basically the limitation of the series : a lot of your appreciation of it relies on how much you can bear with Mirai, who starts off as a complete brat and becomes somewhat more tolerable as she suffers through the ordeal. In comparison, Mari feels unreally saintly, with an incredible amount of patience for those kids she’s just met. For such a character-focused drama, the characters feel a bit flat, and the show suffers from it.
Still there are moments of genuine emotion that truly work. Episode 5, where we meet a grandfather who’s just lost his grandchildren who were visiting him, and still keeps helping as much as he can, is a tear-jerker. And the big twist in episode 10, that Yuuki died two episodes ago but he kept appearing on-screen because Mirai was in denial about it, despite being a hoary old cliché, was well-enough executed that it gave the concluding gravitas that the series really needed. It’s transparent emotional manipulation, but it works.
It’s not a groundbreaking show in any way, but it’s clearly earnest in what it’s trying to depict, and it works on that level.