Review: Japan Sinks 2020 is a Fascinating Exploration of Japanese Culture

At its surface, ‘Japan Sinks 2020’ takes a disturbing look at a series of disasters that grip the Island nation. But beyond that, it explores, even criticizes, and then celebrates the Japanese culture. Based on a classic 1973 novel of the same name, ‘Japan Sinks’ is a lot more than a tale of survival. While its primary focus remains on the lives of several individuals trying to make it out alive, it does not hold itself back from ruthlessly eradicating its characters or even bringing new ones to its fore. And I believe that’s where it could be a turn off for many. While some will appreciate its realistic approach towards the vulnerability of human lives, others will find it hard to get past its surreal visuals. I, personally, take a middle ground on this. Although I do appreciate its realism and relevance for the current times, I just couldn’t ignore the redundancies in its storyline.

Japan Sinks 2020 Recap

The leading players of ‘Japan Sinks 2020’ are Mari, a strong-willed and athletic middle-aged woman; her two charming kids, Go and Ayumu; Kite, a badass youtube celebrity, who always gets lucky. The series walks us through all the trials and tribulations that these characters face in the aftermath of a high magnitude earthquake. Apart from all the homes and lives that it takes with it, the earthquake even leads to other significant catastrophes such as tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and, eventually, the sinking of the Japanese nation. As a result, leaving the country turns out to be the only way to survive.

Japan Sinks 2020 Review

The anime’s plot is completely driven by its characters who trudge their way towards survival. Along with their journey, the show gives us a glimpse of several aspects, both negative and positive, of the Japanese culture. As most would already know, Japan has dealt with several natural disasters in the past, only to rise from them again. So in its opening moments, it establishes how even a child remains unaffected by the impact of some light tremors. Go, who is not even a teenager yet, simply glides under his dining table when he first feels the earthquake. But then, almost like a nightmare, the anime unfolds its sci-fi premise and reflects on the harsh realities of a calamity-struck nation.

There are moments where it also deals with themes surrounding racism. For instance, there’s a brief section in which all of its surviving characters relentlessly rap about their culture. While some diss their nation, others take a stand for it. Consequently, moments after this, Mari, Go, and Ayumu face severe racism just because they are half-Filipinos. The anime truly shines with these subplots and even sparks an emotional connection with a viewer. But then there are times when it gets too lost in its cultural explorations, especially the parts where it depicts the day-to-day snags of a local survivors community.

When it comes to its animation, it is reminiscent of Go Nagai’s classic style—deliberately not too well-polished but detailed enough to seem utterly realistic. Science Saru has previously pulled off something similar with both ‘Devilman Crybaby’ and ‘Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!’ and this lo-fi style seems to be working out well for the studio. The series also makes a subtle shift in its color palette by starting with bright backdrops and then slowly drifting towards darker and muted tones. There are moments when its overall quality feels stilted, but its animation ultimately proves to be its greatest asset. From a production standpoint, my biggest issue with ‘Japan Sinks 2020’ is its lack of any relevant background scores. Even its OP feels dry and fails to capture the somber vibe of its themes.

All in All, ‘Japan Sinks’ makes up for a great one time watch. It is initially quite enjoyable, downright depressing midway, and incredibly uplifting in the end. Its cathartic explorations of its primary characters and its culturally replete conclusion save it from being just another generic post-apocalyptic anime. Though, ‘Japan Sinks 2020’ could have been better, and I wouldn’t be willing to watch it again. Not to mention, its graphic content is not for the weak-hearted. So only watch it if you had the stomach to get through other gory anime like ‘Devilman Crybaby.’

Rating: 3/5

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