Review: Japan Sinks 2020
So I'm not entirely sure why I felt like watching a disaster show like this because it does feel like tempting fate with that title. Still, I did find it to be worth the time despite some odd inconsistencies in the animation and some jilted storytelling. The overall push of the show following the survival of one family mostly kept on point for me, despite the plot pushing the boundaries of my suspension of disbelief. And I mean, I gave them a lot of rope on this one to begin with, so that's saying something.
The story follows the different members of the Mutou family as disaster hits and a major earthquake hits Japan. You follow their different paths until they converge together, and I felt the first couple episodes to be pretty engaging. The animation style is a bit unique, and in the first couple episodes there are some really great shots and solid sequences.
On one hand I want to say that the show isn't too gratuitous in its disaster storytelling (at least compared to the 2006 film adaptation), but on the flipside it's pretty brutal with character deaths. There's a Walking Dead-esqu quality to how quickly it snatches away characters, and while I didn't hate the two main characters (who you pretty much knew were going to be safe from the get-go), the escalating body count did bum me out as people I started to care about were snatched away.
It's around episode 3 or 4 that the animation inconsistencies start to pop up, so much so that I had to wonder where they lost some of their budget. The show also suffers from some impressively ugly faces during emotional breakdowns (which, ok, realistic), so much so that I'm surprised there isn't an entire online community that's tried to document them all yet. I think it was on episode 8 though that it felt like an entirely different studio took over because it was almost a completely different style. All the characters developed giant hands that felt disproportionate and I kept squinting at the screen as my brain was trying to process these random changes.
The major breaks for me though were when it felt like the writers painted themselves into a corner and the remarkable coincidences kept piling up to save everyone's lives. These include but are not limited to:
-An Estonian YouTuber flying in on a paraglide at just the right moment to the main character's life, warning her about poison gasses erupting through the ground.
-The glasses of a thug being relieved and gifted to another main character who happens to have the same prescription, and said glasses being used to commune with the dead later (we'll get to that).
-The main character stumbling across a submarine pilot who predicted this disaster and can uncannily predict every earthquake with no real explanation while he's recovering at a strange commune.
- Oh yeah, then there's the entire sub-tangent of the weird commune headed by a woman who can speak to the dead when given items that were dear to them. And the show makes it a point that's she's legit.
Now don't get me wrong, I can appreciate some randomness. I loved it when a character not only had their flesh picked off by seagulls but was then immediately devoured by a big ass shark (because I am evil, btw).
It's just you hit a certain point where your tangents have tangents, and sometimes they can be useful for the plot but......c'mon. When the Estonian YouTuber shows up to save the day in a military amphibious tank, I kind of checked out a little.
All nitpicking aside, there were some genuinely shocking moments as well as plenty of truly emotional ones as well. I sort of wish they didn't feel like they had to go through such lengths to make this as much of a disaster adventure. The drama is where it shines, and the genuine sense of optimism and perseverance in the face of tragedy was a much better focal point. There's a huge chunk of the final episode that really drives that home, perhaps obnoxiously so but definitely need an abundance of positivity after the last chunk of deaths.
Overall I would say it's worth your time, but I would rate it about a 6/10. There's some good takeaways and some nice visuals, plus a solid minimalist soundtrack that really worked. I got a pretty good shark GIF out if it as well, so we'll chalk it up as a win.