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‘Japan Sinks: 2020’ review: Masaaki Yuasa’s anime series on Netflix is flawed, but relevant

‘Japan Sinks’ on Netflix: A story of resilience

‘Japan Sinks’ on Netflix: A story of resilience  

One good thing about being a part of family Whatsapp groups are cute cats and innocent toddler videos. One such message showed a Japanese kindergarten quake safety drill: toddlers ducking under their table and grabbing a hat and running out when alarms ring. Adorable? But also indicative of the depth of precaution taken, should a crisis ever arise.

When you are an island country lying along the Pacific Ring of Fire with over 1,000 quakes striking every year, it is indeed better to be prepared. This is exactly the reason why in the opening scene of Japan Sinks: 2020, people remain calm and vigilant when a low-intensity quake hits. Directed by Masaaki Yuasa, Japan Sinks: 2020, a 10-episode anime series based on the 1973 novel of the same name, follows a middle-class urban family’s struggle to survive an earthquake-ravaged country.

About 10 minutes into the series, the first big earthquake strikes: buildings collapse, bridges breakdown, trains derail, an explosion, a plane lands on water, all the ingredients for a perfect tragic drama. But was this a perfect time for its release? In the middle of a pandemic? A recent study did claim that disaster movies have been helping people face real health crises and giving greater resilience during this pandemic. No wonder Contagion became one of the most-watched films online.

Japan Sinks
  • Director: Masaaki Yuasa
  • Voice cast: Reina Ueda, Tomo Muranaka, Yuko Sasaki
  • Seasons: 1
  • Episodes: 10
  • Storyline: A family’s survival journey as massive earthquakes rock Japan and make the island sink

Japan Sinks: 2020 is quite stressful with gut-punch surprises, moving from one tragedy to tragedy. It is absolutely inverse to Masaaki Yuasa’s previous work Devilman Crybaby, which was more squeamish and violent. Even the style here is in good faith with milder hues and simple tunes giving you hope, such as A Life, the title track by Taeko Onuki and Ryuichi Sakamoto.

The show is a story of resilience; how normal people would react when they lose their houses or cities. There is no time to grieve the misfortunes — and most characters accept the reality and keep moving — except the teenage daughter of the family who is constantly troubled by survivor’s guilt.

Similar to the resourceful algae island in Life of Pi, the family makes a pitstop at a welcoming Shan city with yummy food and rave parties. Maybe these episodes hold paradoxical symbols, but it did make for some odd and off-track moments.

Though it tried to be more than a simple disaster anime, showing human greed, selfless love, family and connections, Japan Sinks: 2020 doesn’t quite hit the poignant and evocative notes it could have.

Spoiler: Japan does sink and parts of it resurface after a few years.

Japan Sinks: 2020 is currently streaming on Netflix

 

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Printable version | Aug 13, 2020 4:56:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/japan-sinks-2020-review-masaaki-yuasas-anime-series-on-netflix-is-flawed-but-relevant/article32090453.ece

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