An Anime Review of 'Japan Sinks 2020'
Kite and his phone are all you need.
Japan Sinks 2020 is an updated adaptation of the 1973 novel by Komatsu Sakyo. The series was produced by Science SARU and is directed by the fantastic Yuasa Masaaki. The story revolves around a family that is trying to survive the sinking of Japan. While it has the outline of a simple disaster movie in the view of the likes of 2012, the events of this show hits harder, and shows the best and worst of humanity. The final episode of the show is about on par with an episode of Violet Evergarden when it comes to the emotional factor.
If you think someone is going to survive, there is a good chance one can be wrong. Death in this show is incredibly anticlimactic. This is not something that is bad, in fact if anything, it helps the show attain a sense of realism that would otherwise be missing in the narrative. There is no glamor, there is nothing heroic, it simply is. In a story that is pitting the will of humanity with the callus uncaring manner of nature itself, it is only fitting that there is not more to death than it simply being another aspect of the things that are occurring in that moment of time.
While the events that occur throughout the show makes logical sense to a certain degree, there are certain events that make it feel as if we are taking a detour from the problem at hand to spend sometime in a particular location. While this is the case the payoff to these segments makes it feel worth it by the time we move one, however this highlights a particular issue with regards to the pacing of the show. There are some episodes which progress at such a pace that has multiple episodes worth of content within it. This is a major issue on four of the episodes throughout the entirety of the show. While it is nearly half of the show as a whole, it does not take away from the characters. Ultimately, it does not hinder the impact of the events that are portrayed in the show as a whole.
The characters are fantastically written, they feel like human beings, and make decisions that would make sense in the context of the situation that they find themselves in. Each of the characters has a personality that is distinct, and the growth of the characters are incredibly organic, each of whom are contributing in the way that is best suited to their strengths. This incredible characterization makes the loss of a character all the more impactful as the story carries on. This is very well done, in fact it is so well done, that I am able to recall all the character deaths in the show. Despite the fact that there is no ceremony to the deaths of the character, the great character writing alone makes the deaths memorable.
Visually it is very much a Yuasa show. The animation has a realistic tone to it, almost as if it has all been rotoscoped, however they move with an energy that is reminiscent of other Yuasa films. Proportions morph based on the emotion, and the energy of the movement that is occurring on screen. There is also a level of detail that is present in the background that adds to the immersion of the show. What is regrettable is that it was clear at certain points that it was clear the studio was hamstrung by the television budget. There are instances where the 3D animation and the 2D animation blend incredibly well, and just as many instances where they are jarring to watch. The repeated frames are at times incredibly obvious as well. Once again these are constraints brought on by the television budget, and it is absolutely a shame as a result.
The music in the show is fantastic, emphasising the plight that the characters are in. What is even better is the sound design. The instances where the moment needs to be quiet are wonderful. There are entire segments where the only thing that is audible is the environmental sounds without a hint of the original soundtrack. These moments are incredibly memorable. In fact, the portion where this is done best is the ocean episode.
The show is not flawless, however it leaves an impact. It has an incredible final episode that is incredibly emotional. It has a fantastic message, and incredibly earnest by the time it ends. This is a show that I highly recommend, though I must warn you, there are instances of some graphic imagery present. It is available to watch on Netflix.