Japan Sinks 2020 Review
I watched the popular Netflix anime original and...
Japan Sinks 2020 is one of Netflix’s 2020 anime originals, and it had a lot of hype for me going into it. I saw lots of people tweeting about it, and I heard it was great, so I decided to finally buckle down and watch it. I’ll just say now, this is a spoiler review, so if you don’t want anything spoiled, stop here, watch it, and come back when you’re ready!
The plot of Japan Sinks isn’t hard to follow. Due to a series of wild natural disasters from eruptions to earthquakes, Japan is sinking. The anime follows a crew of main characters, focusing on a family of four, as they try to survive and escape the destruction.
Alright. I have to say it. This one was a little underwhelming for me. The frustrating thing about Japan Sinks is that everything about it is great, except for the way the story played out.
It was such a bummer, because so many things stuck out to me as being really amazing. I watched part of this show dubbed, and part subbed, and the voice acting for both was really great. The emotions in everyone’s performance was totally on point for me, and they were all fantastic with what they were given. The visuals were also wonderful. The linework felt really unique to me, and I was genuinely concerned for the characters as things were happening. The weight of the disasters felt real, and when characters died, you could get how brutal it was.
Then there was the music. If there’s something about this show that totally stole the show, it was the score. It could be soft and sweet, quiet and ominous, or intense and scary. It got so many emotions out of me, I was blown away. The soft foreboding music as the first earthquake is about to hit in Episode 1 made me legitimately terrified in a way I hadn’t been while watching a show in a long time. Even if you decide not to watch the show, I recommend listening to the soundtrack. It’s a fantastic listen.
I have to talk about my issues with this writing. This is an intense story. There’s guilt, grief, regret, and a host of unfathomably sad emotions to dig through here, and I wanted to have my soul crushed. The problem I had with this writing was that it started so damn strong, and then turned into a murder of the week format. When Nanami dropped dead of a random toxic gas in Episode 3, it became a shock value thing for me. It didn’t feel character driven anymore, but instead it just wanted to be brutal. We’d have new characters introduced only to die an episode or two later.
The worst crime about the writing is that the show has so many solid moments. While the voice acting is great, there’s some fantastic visual storytelling that conveys emotions and events so well. The entire first episode is incredible, and there’s not much dialogue in it. You get the panic and terror everyone is feeling, and it puts you on edge almost immediately. There are so many great moments, but with the way the story uses the characters and plot for cheap deaths was aggravating to watch.
For example, Haruo is a character that immediately draws you in. He’s quiet, off to himself, and you find out he has a past as an athlete that he’s given up. I wanted to know so much about him. Why did he stop being a runner? Why is he into music now? Tell me more! He has a great personal moment where he thinks of his mother who died in the first earthquake when eating a certain meal reminds him of her cooking, and he starts crying and shoving his face with food. I really liked that, and I thought we’d get more backstory out of him. Instead, he doesn’t get much dialogue after and gets swept away in a wave in the second to last episode. I know next to nothing about him, so it didn’t hurt because I would miss him as a character. It hurt because there was so much missed potential.
This leads me to something else; this show is based off of a novel. The weak characterization and rushed deaths make me think that these things were very fleshed out in the book but couldn’t be included in a short ten episode season. Maybe that’s what happened, I’m not sure. But I’m for damn sure going to read that book and find out more about that sad boy Haruo.
Would I recommend watching Japan Sinks? You know what, I would. For all its faults, it’s gotten enough good reviews that I can see someone still enjoying it. I wish the story didn’t throw random, sloppy deaths into it just for the hell of it, but some people like that. It’s similar to The Walking Dead, in that respect. But the visuals are unique and stylized, and the voice acting and music are awesome. Check out the first two episodes at least and see if it’s for you.