The writers begin to poke at Mari’s weak spots and tensions, revealing a bit more about her humanity in the process.
So far in Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, we have been seeing the story from the perspective of Mirai and Yuuki–the kids. Mari has been depicted as a near-perfect surrogate parent for them in this crisis, a strong, reassuring protector who is an island of steadiness for them both (even if it takes Mirai a little while to warm up to this fact). In this episode, the stresses that she herself is going through become apparent, and it’s directly related to her role as a real mother of a child.
The show prepared us well for this fact. We saw pictures of her young child in her cell phone in the second episode, and so any attentive viewer would have wondered eventually how she was feeling being separated from her daughter and not knowing her fate. So far this show has consistently shown that the closer the characters come to their homes, the greater the anxiety and emotional burden. Last week’s episode was a superb example of how Mirai, in the shadow of her own middle school, must come face to face with her own sense of powerlessness and what she might do to rectify it. Mari, at last hearing about her own neighborhood’s fire, faces a painful moral dilemma–abandon Mirai and Yuuki despite her promises, or wait until she can send the two home and then find out about her own child? The conflict gets right to the heart of what obligations families and neighbors have over us, and whether they can really be prioritized without tremendous pain.
The show chooses to be hopeful here. It’s a measure of growth for both Mirai and Yuuki to be both willing and able to put Mari’s needs over their own–offering to allow her to go, getting a bike for her despite its weight. They have grown stronger in part due to Mari’s steady influence and guidance–something that is essential in the wake of a disaster–and so don’t collapse when they see her faint from exhaustion and illness. Similarly, through a series of relatively understated flashbacks, the viewer comes to understand the ordinary-yet-important emotional attachments and burdens Mari carries, symbolized by the picture in the locker. Common, but significant; and, by choosing not to panic and instead see her commitment to guide Yuuki and Mirai home, she grows a little herself, to have a little faith that little Hina is safe with her grandmother. That this belief may be unfounded and not based on anything is almost beside the point. In the foxhole that is a shattered Tokyo, this faith is the only way they can walk forward together, holding hands, strong enough to at least make the journey home.
It’s so refreshing to see a show that is about terrible things, and yet chooses not to dwell exclusively on its misery and its pain.