It’s sort of amazing that Japan Sinks: 2020 has landed on us at such a perfect time. I mean, you’re telling me that a story about natural disasters with apocalyptic scenarios just happened to debut this year?
Yes. And we’re so happy it did.
Previously updated for the modern day, this story begins with the Mutoh family. After spending time during a trip abroad, Mari Mutoh flies back to her home in Japan. Her daughter, Ayumu, is training with her high school track team for an upcoming competition, wile her son, Go, is at home playing video games. Mutoh’s husband Koichiro is hard at work constructing scaffolding at a sports arena, when suddenly, the ground begins to rumble. The tremors are drawn-out, but not as intense as in Tokyo compared to other areas, like Okinawa. Once the shaking ceases, Ayumu’s coach urges the training teens to head to the locker room and get dressed while they contact their guardians.
If only they knew what that minor earthquake preceded…
A devastating earthquake sunders the ground, toppling buildings and decimating the city. The furniture, gets thrown around, turning once comfortable seats into deadly weapons. Go gets whipped around the house, before banging his head from a falling chair. Even the plane that Mari’s on gets shook up, and has to make an emergency landing in a river. Koichiro, luckily, managed to stay suspended on a safety cable while his coworkers met their end in the fallen debris. How is the family supposed to reunite?
I’m sure many of you may have gone into this already knowing what you were watching, but I did not. Hey, remember how I mentioned those deaths and casualties earlier so nonchalantly? It was not like that. The deaths were grisly. And brutal. Trust me. Another thing that knocked me off-guard was just how depressing it was. You can see Ayumu walk the streets of the now desolate and empty ruins that were once her home. She narrates as if she were in a school presentation, offering tales of her Dad’s job, the look of her house compared to the others. If gives the feeling of delayed lost and grief, of losing something and trying to hold on to what’s left. It’s the feeling of desolation.
The family manages to meet-up safely within the courtyard of a shrine. Luckily, the shrine is on high ground, and some familiar faces pop up to greet them. After taking shelter, everyone begins wondering how the news is reacting to Japan’s recent quake. Nothing. The government providing support and relief for the people? Nowhere to be seen. It’s a tad strange that no response has been given from the government, prior to or after the incident.
The small group begins throwing ideas around that Japan might actually be flooding, after seeing a YouTube video from someone named “KITE” showing footage of the rising waters. They decide to leave for a bit to find a reliable source of water and food, as well as to find higher ground. Most head east in search of food, but the Mutohs, Nanami (their neighbor), and Koga (Ayumu’s upperclassman whose the school’s social outcast) head out to check out the supposed source of electricity. They make their preparations and head off, with the Mutoh family trying their best to stay optimistic.
Now, episode two.
The Mutohs traverse the hills, eventually finding running water as well as a ruined village that might hold some supplies. Koiichiro finds evidence of wild yams barred behind a fence with a sign saying not to dig for yams. Despite this, he climbs over and begins digging for a while.
It takes him a long time. A bit too long. Enough to make you think…
Ah, no, he’s fine. Phew.
See, its stories like this that never really let you stop holding your breath. Apocalyptic scenarios don’t really lend themselves to happy endings or feelings of hope. I mean, it’s in the title. No one comes into a story like this expecting Magical Girl shenanigans.
Koiichiro hops the fence into an abandoned munitions field, but finds nothing of value. The first episode really sets the tone, but still leaves us with a bit of optimism. Episode two is a grim reminder that any one of these characters can meet their end in any scenario.