There are shows that bog me down, and then there are shows that leave me unhinged. Japan Sinks: 2020 on Netflix is one of those. I've been waiting for this anime and decided to spend my Friday night binge-watching it. That didn't happen as this show isn't made for marathons.
Japan Sinks: 2020 is set in an apocalyptic world where a family fights for its survival, holding on to whatever little hope they can find. As the genre suggests, the series might choke you up with melancholy — deaths, loss, and natural calamities are natural. They move from one town to another, in search of a safe place, but the moment they find respite, it's snatched.
Warning: Spoilers ahead, duh.
Based on Sakyo Komatsu's novel Japan Sinks, there's only mayhem in the show, right from the onset. Ayumu's family and loved ones flee their hometown, shortly after an earthquake wrecks their lives. Within hours, Ayumu loses her dad and a family friend (to a deadly poisonous gas). Unfettered by loss, her mother Mari leads the group throughout the journey. Things appear to change when they meet KITE — a YouTuber, from Estonia, with over a million followers. Ayumu's younger brother, Go, a video game addict recognises (and idolises) KITE. And when Mari requests KITE to take Go to a safe place, he joins them. Yet, catastrophe follows them everywhere they go, making it a harrowing experience. Even for the viewers.
Most events throw Ayumu in a deadlock situation where she loses her parents and loved ones. Still, she has to continue her journey. In the initial episodes, Ayumu comes across as a sensitive but self-centered teenager. In the face of adversity, she makes brave choices for a 14-year-old. I liked that the series showed how tragedy affects each individual differently. Their tenacity to survive, in spite of everything, is admirable and sometimes unreal. With an impending doom lurking around, they're left with no time to grieve. In fact, the only good memories are in the polaroid pictures they take before parting with others.
In an episode, KITE says "the line between life and death is thin" which sort of echoes in every episode. And there are only 10 episodes with about 25 minutes of runtime. There's a lot of ground to cover and often too much to process in little time. While the initial episodes are absorbing, towards the ending, the episodes are sluggish. And give you no real reason to leave you wanting for more. Slow dramas are my thing but a few scenes come across impoverished. You can also almost predict where a character is about to die. They have their moments of glory right before their death. That said if there's one character I found fascinating, it's KITE. He comes across as a hot-headed individual but as the series progresses, when he loses individuals who travel with him, it does look like something snaps inside of him. Perhaps I was expecting compassion from other characters, who are obviously less layered than KITE. In the final episode — Resurrection — things fall in place. There's hope and Japan is healing. Ayumu, Go, and KITE are found doing what they love.
There's nothing spectacular about the animation but it has its moments. Whether it's the conversation between Ayumu and her mother during a sunrise hour or the scene where Ayumu and Go reminisce their former times, in the middle of an ocean — they leave you in tears. I found the artwork dark and it resonates well with the genre of the series.
Now the question remains — should you watch Japan Sinks or not? If you can wrap your head around 250 minutes of destruction in times where reality is equally frightening, go for it. You might have to forgive the plot in several instances (unfortunately, I've made this abundantly clear) but for what it's worth, this jagged ride is a ride, for sure.
Japan Sinks: 2020 is now streaming on Netflix.
Feature Image Photo Source: Netflix