There is no stopping the furies of mother nature. Destructions with uncontrollable capacities, natural disasters are a wake-up call to humanity, leaving behind ruins that signal a time of healing and strengthening to those who survived through such an ordeal. Rising up from the rubbles, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is a story about reality; one that reveals the facets of humanity as it gradually explores the aftermath of a seismic convulsion.
In the sultry annoyance of summer, an already sour middle-schooler by the name of Mirai is unwillingly dragged to a robot exhibition that her younger brother, the optimistic Yuuki, wants to go to. Because reality appears to hate her and due to some family circumstances, Mirai has a nihilistic outlook on life, and in one random moment outside the exhibition center, these pessimistic thoughts of hers seems to come alive. Amidst a dead silence, the swarm of fluttering birds warns the coming of a colossal beast. As if to break her unhealthy perception of reality, a magnitude 8.0 earthquake has suddenly arrived...
...And just like that, the whole world shook.
With Tokyo crumbled to a demolished state and casualties spiking up to the thousands, it's clear that this disaster has become a large-scale crisis. After getting saved by a single mother named Mari following the mainshock, these two antithetical siblings along with their motherly guardian head off on a difficult journey to reunite back with their respective families. Through this precarious endurance, they confront a world ripped to the very core of humanity; growing up and changing as the struggles of reality unravel in front of them. The story did take time to build up momentum and there are times when the pacing needlessly drags on with uneventfulness, but the result of their development becomes clear nearing the final leg of the journey.
Mirai starts to reconsider her pessimistic attitude towards life, bit by bit gaining a deeper sense of understanding of the whole world upon experiencing its fragility. The happy-go-lucky Yuuki learns more about the reality of the situation outside of his innocently bright interpretations. And Mari serves as a strong role model for these two children, comforting and protecting them with parental devotion. The more they walk, the more their interpersonal relationship strengthens them as people as they encounter what the emotional qualities of family, life, and death mean within the wreckages.
But despite those clear portrayals of humanity, sometimes the story backtracks with its own realism. The attempt to create tension, more contrived than natural, is definitely the biggest flaw for this show. There's this habit where the children go through a streak of moving towards obvious dangers, only for an ill-timed aftershock to arrive and prove the danger, then always getting saved in the nick of time that really questions if they've forgotten what they've learned from previous life-and-death experiences. Especially when they're close to reaching their home. The suspense just feels artificial and brushes aside their delicate changes all for some goosebump moments.
Returning back to the realism, the art, while plain and basic, fills the world with natural colors perfect for a metropolitan setting. Well, at least one that's changed to a fractured condition with smokes everywhere, wrecked buildings scattered around, and jagged fissures split across the ground. Significant in size, the sceneries drive home the horrific scale of this natural disaster, and it's not hard to realize why it's such a life-changing event for the main characters. Which speaking of them, the animation fluctuates quite a bit in quality, but it's generally solid enough to capture their movements. The CGI crowds, however, might need some time to get used to, though the rescue robots do look great.
Other than the melodramatic music that blares during the forced tension, the sound details are generally well-done, with the quieter audio such as the silence and piano tracks stirring emotions more authentically. The voice acting puts on a convincing expression, particularly for Mari as her soft voice exposes the gentler sides beneath her durable exterior. Then there are also the diegetic sounds such as the media reporting on the state of disaster, making everything feels more worryingly genuine.
And it's that realness—the recognition that the story told in Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 can happen to anyone—that gives the show an emphatic human quality despite some of its setbacks. The time after a catastrophic earthquake is the time of rebuilding, where people gain a better understanding of reality and where the endurance of survivors manifests itself as one of the greater aspects of humanity. This show really is a powerful reminder.