This astonishing episode, the most genuine and heartbreaking display of emotion I’ve seen in TV anime in a long time, cements Tokyo Magnitude 8.0‘s place as the best show this season for me.
The theme that runs underneath this episode is a simple, and difficult truth: the familiar places one takes for granted can become unrecognizable in an instant. Tokyo Tower collapses, and suddenly, the view from the school–Mirai could see it from her school, remember–is utterly changed. The courtyard of her prestigious academy is now full of military trucks, supplies, wounded people–and the room of stained glass (a chapel?) is now, cruelly perhaps given the setting, a mortuary. It’s not surprising that it’s these events that seem to begin a permanent change in Mirai’s character. We are shaped by our surroundings in more profound ways than we often realize, and to take away the safety of the familiar is to undercut the sense of self tied to those places.
That was not all, of course. Perhaps the greatest catalyst was to see the contrast between her own actions and the simple nobility of Mr Furuichi and his wife. The moment where Mirai asks Mr Furuichi, in tears, how he could carry on in the middle of such suffering, is a moment of genuine emotional nuance, the kind of sadness that is rarely portrayed well in anime. It’s a marvelous piece of acting and illustration: you see his face darken behind his genial smile, his voice dip just a little bit lower as he describes how his grandkids decided to come up to visit. And then he says simply and calmly, without quavering or tears, his old face swathed in shadow:
I should’ve been the one who died. I want the young to live.
His weariness and grief are contained in only the slightest emphasis of his voice, but it speaks volumes. The words themselves carry the power, and caused Mirai–and me–to cry.
But then he smiles again, waves, and continues to distribute water to the needy.
Some might be wondering: do such people even exist? People who can bear so much raw grief and still remain so dignified, and so giving? To which I say–I have met these kind of people. They do exist, often (in my experience) in churches but certainly not exclusively in them; they’re usually not people whose names anyone outside of their communities will recognize, and often they seem like the happiest, least troubled people you will meet…until you hear their stories, that is. Of course not everyone is like that. Mirai’s repentance–what else is her resolution at the end “there is something I can do”?–is in part a realization that she is not. Perhaps most people aren’t like that, and no one is like that all the time. But if disaster or crisis strikes, they are the glue that holds whatever bonds are left together in society. The world would be much more frightening and dark if they were not there to be the peacemakers, the salt and the light.
Speaking of society: I wrote in my previous article about how well civilization seemed to be holding up. Not only was that confirmed as being realistic by a Time magazine article, it also finally struck me once more when the newscaster announced that it has actually only been a day since the earthquake. Time has actually progressed slowly in this series, which has been airing for 5 weeks now; it was all too easy to think that more time has passed in the show than in actuality. If any trouble starts with the city in general, it will be later, perhaps after most of the aftershocks have subsided and the initial shock (and the solidarity it produces) fades. The number of aftershocks seems truly frightening and constant–a good reminder for those of us who live in earthquake-prone areas that having a multi-day supply of emergency rations is no joke.
This episode made me tear up. It has been a long time since an anime has done that and not left me feeling manipulated by the end. And that is the best last word for this episode, and this show so far. May it continue.