Give a Dog a BONES: Tokyo Magnitude 8.0

This work of fiction surrounding the circumstances of a massive earthquake in Tokyo is based on tremendous amounts of research and verification. Striving for a sense of realism, many simulations were thought of to create this original story. However, the circumstances depicted may be different from the real thing.

Now, when you start an episode with a statement like that, as every episode of Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 does, I’m gonna hold you to it. I’ll expect a serious depiction of the kinds of destruction and disorder that would occur during a massive earthquake in a famously dense urban area, and what would happen in the aftermath. But that’s not really what the series is about.

This is Colony Drop, so it’s time for a controversial and crudely defended claim: Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is collectivist propaganda, designed to glorify the ideal of the Japanese Spirit — willing and eager self-sacrifice for the success of the whole without regard for personal tragedies. The titular earthquake is merely a backdrop for the tale they really want to tell — an embarrassing, overtly heartstring-tugging sob story about a bratty teenage girl learning how privileged she is and how she should try to be a bit less of a whiny jerk to everyone she meets.

Obviously, I’m going to be discussing the plot, and the ending, of the series. If that’s going to bother you, don’t click “Continue Reading.”


Now, Mirai, hon, don’t get me wrong, I know what you’re going through. I’ve had days where I’ve gotten mad at everything and done my damnedest to not have any fun whatsoever, too, but you need to stop being such a dick to your little brother, Yuuki. It’s not his fault he’s endlessly chipper and wants the rest of the family to feel good, too – he’s a little kid! Besides, writing all those angsty blog posts is only tempting fate — this is the kind of show where publishing one errant phrase, such as “The world can tear itself apart for all I care,” becomes the symbolic cause of some sort of massive disaster and personal tragedy. Good going, girl. Now you’re going to have to walk home all the way across the city with the first of the many selfless individuals you meet, Mari the single mother.

Considering the scale of the disaster they’re marching through, our heroes make out pretty darn good. For much of the series, they’re surrounded by suffering and pain, but narrowly avoid it themselves. They always manage to find food, water, and shelter despite how often they move from location to location (itself far from the greatest idea in the situation), and have a lot more to fear from the arbitrary Emmerichian action scenes that threaten to crush or drown them every episode or so. Compared to the coverage of similar-scale real world disasters, like Hurricane Katrina, the series seems idealized at best, and possibly even flat-out dishonest for drawing its focus on a group who avoids the brunt of it while warning the viewer of the research behind its production.


Maybe it’s just me, but it’s hard to take the story seriously when the biggest crisis Mirai faces in the immediate aftermath is getting cut in line for the toilet and having someone spill hot soup on her leg without apologizing. As Pete eloquently put it, “It’s like a fucking show about a dorm power outage. ‘Oh boy, can’t use computers! Fuck, I don’t wanna go drink and launch boats into puddles, I wanna do my Differential Equations homework!'”

Other people sure have it rough, though, like that nice old man volunteering at one of the shelters to try and get people settled and cared for even while struggling with his wife’s dementia and the deaths of his grandchildren in the quake. While Mirai (and the audience, right?) is reduced to tears by his story, he finds the inner strength to put his own problems aside and to do whatever he can for the other survivors. Likewise, Mari continually refuses offers to let her hurry home to check on her own family and get out of her promise to escort others home first. Far more important than one’s own peace of mind are the completion of obligations and the protection of the whole. Even robot-enthusiast Kento’s interests are motivated primarily by his desire to save lives by becoming an engineer and designing rescue robots like the ones that saved his family.


But it’s Yuuki who drags these themes to the forefront. Not even his own death from a sudden, previously unmentioned illness can prevent him from keeping Mirai and Mari’s eyes on the prize. As Mari has a crisis of faith and collapses in a heap before the first unidentified corpses resembling her daughter and mother that she encounters, Yuuki’s spirit encourages Mirai to check the other nearby shelter and find Mari’s family alive and well. He leads Mirai along the final stretch home, protecting her from danger and allowing her to rediscover the joy his insufferable good nature brought to her, her family, and everyone who knew him, eventually leading her to accept both his death and his devotion to doin’ what has to be done no matter how much literal pain you’re in.

Pardon me while I gag.


You don’t have to over-analyze characters’ names to get the message from this show. It’s hand-crafted to be as goddamn heartbreaking as possible, building up the sacrifices of the characters to greater and greater levels, in painfully obvious fashion. I don’t hate melodrama on principle — if I did, how could I ever enjoy Japanese cartoons? — but I do hate poorly executed, mopey melodrama. Before long, rather than tune in each week to find out what happened next, I was tuning in to see how the writers would try to manipulate me this time. Yuuki’s death is portrayed in a series of jarring transitions (“fake-outs”), presumably to try leaving the question of whether he’s actually dead up in the air at least briefly. Of course, everyone’s familiar with The Sixth Sense and its twist by this point, so conversations crafted to make sense with or without a character’s presence are simply trite rather than clever.

There’s not really anything here to offer aside from the tediously executed storyline. I don’t think a single big name from BONES worked on this show, and yet it still manages the usual problem of having intensely uninteresting characters. Oh, and did I mention how ugly Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is? It combines the worst in modern, detail-free character designs which reduce characters of all ages into indistinct blobs with my least-favourite new technique, the 3D computer graphics crowd shot. Perhaps it’s far quicker, easier, and/or cheaper to animate large numbers of distant characters moving about using 3D computer graphics rather than hand-drawn animation, but when mixed with hand-drawn backgrounds — or worse, hand-drawn characters — in the same shot, the deliberately stilted motion of the 3D models only serves to draw more attention to itself. On the other hand, the score can’t even manage that much. I couldn’t tell you a single thing about the music in this show except that it exists, and that the theme song by T.M. Revolution side-project abingdon boys school (no caps, like bell hooks) feels totally mismatched with the tone of the show.


I do have to give grudging admiration to the show for one thing, however. Even if I don’t like Tokyo Magnitude 8.0‘s execution, it is a depressing rarity in Japanese TV cartoons: an original series aimed at an audience other than hugpillow-owning otaku (or any other kind of children), showing signs of scriptwriting before production was already half-completed. Next time, maybe you guys could make something a little less boring and manipulative, is all I’m asking.

29 Comments

  1. > Even if I don’t like Tokyo Magnitude 8.0’s execution, it is a depressing rarity in Japanese TV cartoons: an original series aimed at an audience other than hugpillow-owning otaku (or any other kind of children), showing signs of scriptwriting before production was already half-completed.

    I’m not really sure, but most of those shows I remember recently have this sort of flat shaded character design.

    It must be either because the normal people don’t care as much as you, or just because I’m thinking of Masaaki Yuasa.

  2. I’ve never seen Tokyo Magnitude, but considering the trite garbage you describe in this review it makes me wonder how anyone could sit through it, let alone blog relentlessly about how amazing it is (as a large number of anime bloggers did).

    Your ending statement makes me wonder if perhaps Magnitude’s popularity speaks not just to the remarkably poor taste of anime fans, but also to a desire for something other than the otaku-pandering shit we get in spades every seasons.

    …Probably not.

  3. You hit it right on the money there. They wasted too much time pulling on heart-strings than actually trying to develop some interesting characters and depressing scenarios for them. By the end, it makes that whole “Research” thing at the beginning seem a bit ironic.

  4. Yeah I watched this show and was pissed off that it was a wasted attempt at something that was not fujoshi/pedo pandering drivel.

    Being that I live in Southeastern Louisiana and been through Katrina (though not in the thick of it) they were very hit and miss with how people would react in such a situation. Sure you had plenty of people join hands and help out like the old guy at the shelter, but they kinda left out the looting, fighting over food and water, and the authorities trying to herd people together and not letting them leave.

    Anyway, wasted potential.

  5. Screenwriting though is the bane of good animation. The problem with most anime, be it a manga, visual novel, light novel, videogame or even a lot of original material is it is overwritten to begin with.

    Good animation comes from the storyboards, then gets a script. The visuals should drive the story not the words. There’s a lot of good storyboard artists in Japan, the problem is a lot of the work is tied to slavishly reproducing existing material.

    My problem with TM8 though was that it was as guilty of a lot of otaku-bait shows in trying too hard. In this case trying too hard to be a serious work of importance.

    It’s perfectly possible to lay on heaps of melodrama without forgetting you’re a cartoon (recent example: Michiko & Hatchin), but TM8 seems to think too highly of itself to throw much of that the viewer’s way.

  6. I’m prepared to believe that there’s some basis to the idea that people in Tokyo wouldn’t necessarily react in the same way as people somewhere else. The response to Katrina was a huge clusterfuck by the city, state and federal governments, which caused a lot of anger and exacerbated pre-existing racial and social tensions, whereas Tokyo has quite an integrated approach to disaster management and lacks many of the socioeconomic problems New Orleans had. Murakami Haruki’s interviews with the survivors of the 1995 Sarin incident suggests that Tokyoites are generally able to keep calm and carry on in a crisis, albeit one of a different, erm, magnitude. I haven’t read much about the Kobe earthquake, though, which would be the most logical starting point (although one interesting thing I have read suggests that young people were traumatised way more than the elderly, particularly the ones who remembered the war).

    That said, TM8 sounds like utter rubbish. A disaster story doesn’t need to go all Mad Max on us, but it surely needs to probe into the darker corners otherwise it’s not exploiting the scenario fully. The fire that killed four people in my local district in Tokyo recently reveals something of the horror that will happen all over the city when the big one hits. Old buildings without fire escapes, or at least with the exits inoperative through years of neglect, are all over the city, and no matter how goody-goody people are, it’s going to be a horribly traumatic experience.

    “makes me wonder how anyone could sit through it, let alone blog relentlessly about how amazing it is (as a large number of anime bloggers did)”

    A lot’s probably just down to some idiotic sense of loyalty to BONES by fans of their earlier mediocrities.

    “Good animation comes from the storyboards, then gets a script. The visuals should drive the story not the words.”

    A good script includes attention to the visuals as well as the dialogue. “Show, don’t tell,” is the first rule any scriptwriter is taught. Storyboard artists shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the script until it’s finished though (too many cooks and all that).

  7. Dotdash, it’s not surprising that you’d think that way as that’s the approach that TV in general has instilled in people.

    However, I believe writing for animation visuals are another step more complicated than writing for visuals in general, and are better served by being written by people who have actually drawn the stuff. And even then a writer who works well with one animator, may be terrible with another (i.e. Ito with Oshii vs. Ito with ANYBODY ELSE).

    Kemonozume for my money is one of the better TV shows of the last decade because in almost every episode the direction/storyboard/script were handled by one person. And each of those people were first and foremost an animator rather than a screenwriter.

    It’s a show that has the sensibilities of animation all the way through, rather than the sensibilities of animators forced to somehow turn the ideas of a non-animator into animation (see: the rest of the animation industry). In terms of production, it’s what I measure all other shows against nowadays.

    TM8 on the other hand is a writers’ show. Even when they did have an animator writing (Hiroko Kazui) they didn’t get them to storyboard the same episodes.

    As pointed out, Bones best talent aren’t on this show. Had it been, they might have beaten more interesting visuals out of the script, but even the best director can get hamstrung in this manner. Igarashi on Soul Eater for instance – great visuals, dull by the numbers story.

  8. I actually thought it started off really well since it went out of its way to be as true-to-life as possible, especially in the portrayal of the troubled family situation and the recognisable landmarks in the backgrounds. True, it was indeed a refreshing change in terms of subject (gotta love the noitaminA slot for delivering on ‘grown-up’ anime, really) but the bland visuals didn’t bother me as long as the characterisation and plot held out (‘Emmerichian’! LOL).

    For the most part, it did actually hold out for me; the wheels didn’t fall off until later on in the second half, but that was enough to leave me disappointed. It felt like a bit of a cheap plot device in killing off Yuuki as it did but more than anything I was frustrated at the lack of explanation for it. Food poisoning? Sunstroke? Internal injuries? Blood poisoning? For a series that paid so much attention to gritty details, it felt a bit rushed and lazy to leave that out. Overall it seemed to try too hard in the closing episodes when subtle storytelling had worked so well earlier on.

    And the music…yeah. It wasn’t *bad* or anything, but considering it was written by the same guy who did the OST to Haibane Renmei…you have to wonder what went wrong there too.

  9. It’s an odd thought that popped into my head. I think they were trying to do something akin to ‘Nobody’s Boy Remi’ with this (or maybe even Candy,Candy and I do mean that and not in any hipster ironic way) but being too stuck in MOE production culture, they just couldn’t get the thing going.

    Hard to make soup if you don’t understand you need water…

  10. “However, I believe writing for animation visuals are another step more complicated than writing for visuals in general, and are better served by being written by people who have actually drawn the stuff.”

    Firstly I disagree that anime visuals are “more complicated”, and secondly I don’t see how it follows that the animators should then start mucking around with things like the story and characters. If an animator has some particular skill with these things, then by all means he/she should produce a script (you mention some exampls, and auteurs like Miyazaki or Kon Satoshi carry it off well), and it surely helps a production if the people involved at various stages are aware of what each other’s work involves (Lain was a great example of a collaborative work where everything fell into place nicely), but I completely disagree that this necessarily means animators are inherently more qualified to write scripts than, you know, scriptwriters.

    Good anime comes from a good story and good characters. That is the absolute, irreducible, essential core of any drama in any medium. If you start with the visuals and try to fit the script around it, it’s like putting on your trousers before your underwear: the results are likely to be awkward and uncomfortable.

    “And even then a writer who works well with one animator, may be terrible with another (i.e. Ito with Oshii vs. Ito with ANYBODY ELSE).”

    This is true of any writer/director partnership. It’s certainly not particular to animation.

    The problems with scriptwriting in anime are partly due to the fact that so much of it used to be adapted from manga, which uses text and dialogue to convey stuff that’s hard to convey through static visuals. One result is that anime often uses dialogue as a crutch to get across something that should really be shown visually. Another is that anime massively over-uses the hated voiceover [pulls face, spits]. Visual novel adaptations have a lot of the same problems. Writers need to be aware of the medium they’re working in.

    Another reason for the poor quality of anime scriptwriting is that writing for Japanese TV is almost universally dreadful. Ever seen any Japanese live action TV drama? There just isn’t a great stock of good writers out there.

    Good writing by a few exceptionally talented animators doesn’t mean all the rest of them can do it too, and for the most part the solution to bad writing, has to be to get better writers, not to give the job to someone else.

  11. Good writing by a few exceptionally talented animators doesn’t mean all the rest of them can do it too, and for the most part the solution to bad writing, has to be to get better writers, not to give the job to someone else.

    No. It’s to stop writing cartoons as if they are live action shows with infinite budgets, and instead write them as if they are cartoons. Who are the best people to do that? People who can actually draw, because they aren’t going to ask animators to draw something they can’t draw themselves.

    You’re right about Japanese live action dramas being terribly written, which is why when they try and write a cartoon the same way it amplifies the basic problem, that cartoons shouldn’t be written that way in the first place, let alone badly.

    Now of course, an anime show can have good TV writing or good film writing, however that’s not the same as good cartoon writing.

    I think a lot of people come to anime (and US cartoons for that matter) for reasons that have nothing to do with wanting to watch good cartoons and so are perfectly happy with just good writing as opposed to a great cartoon.

    Example: Legend of The Galactic Heroes is a great piece of writing and a great show. Judging it as a cartoon however? Not very good.

    A more modern example: the adaptation of Monster. I suspect the TV-ness of its writing is a big reason it’s airing on US TV at the moment.

    The same goes for US cartoons. Venture Brothers? Great TV writing, great TV show, not a great cartoon. Superjail on the other hand makes full use of the medium and is the better cartoon. But people’s brains are wired now to expect TV writing as opposed to cartoon writing so Venture Bros is the more popular show.

  12. Example: Legend of The Galactic Heroes is a great piece of writing and a great show. Judging it as a cartoon however? Not very good.

    I’ll bite — explain what makes LoGH a “bad” cartoon, and explain what you would consider a “good” cartoon.

    By the way, knock it off with the lazy Youtube posts already. That sort of inanity is what Twitter is for.

  13. Of course animators know more about animation. That’s why they’re animators (and why they’re not scriptwriters). But whatever the differences between animation and live action TV, both are storytelling media, and you still haven’t explained how this unique knowledge makes them better qualified to deal with the story and characterisation than someone who specialises in those things. You might as well say that since the writer created the characters and is the person who knows and understands them best, he/she should also take charge of the character design artwork.

    As you rightly point out, LoGH is a great piece of writing. It’s also a show that’s stood the test of time despite some limited animation. The reason for that is because it’s good writing: good characters, good story, all the fundamentals are strong. Poor animation can always be saved by good writing. Can you show me some examples where the reverse is true?

    None of the problems with TM8 that Jeff has detailed above are things that would have been solved by giving the script to an animator. All of them would have been solved by a better writer.

    Getting rid of writers and giving their job to the animators is like making an oar by ripping planks from the bottom of the lifeboat’s hull. You’re fixing one problem by creating another, worse one.

  14. I’ll bite — explain what makes LoGH a “bad” cartoon, and explain what you would consider a “good” cartoon.

    Won’t go into too much detail as I’m planning a longer post on this very subject.

    LoGH is a bad cartoon because it doesn’t take full advantage of medium. In fact barely takes advantage at all. Drawing spaceships instead of making scale models or using CG isn’t taking advantage, it’s using animation as a budgetary short cut.

    It could easily be a live action show given enough budget. As it is the height in anime-fandom as extension of sci-fi fandom, in terms of marketing it’s as bad as later shows based on visual novels or light novels.

    It’s almost the anime equivalent of those mail-order only Doctor Who-related sci-fi “films” you had during the period only aging nerds cared about Sontarans and the like. It’s a niche show, concerned about pushing the buttons of an audience it knows, and so visuals aren’t the primary concern.

    In fairness, given that it is essentially the equivalent of adapting someone’s Traveller RPG campaign, it might have been odd to have had character designs that move and react with cartoon motion. Or perform impossible feats of movement. Or have shots that are entertaining in and of themselves. But it would have made it a better, if tonally different, cartoon. Albeit one that would have likely freaked out the target audience.

    Now there may be some good animation work later on in LoGH, but the abiding impression one gets from watching the early episodes is of an awful lot more of boring, stationary talking heads shots. To the point it would almost be better off being a radio play.

    So for the story it’s telling, the visuals are perfectly sufficient, but the story itself leaves the animators hamstrung with regards to interesting visuals.

    Finally, here’s a specific example of the problems I have with LoGH that ties back to the original article above:

    While the masses of spaceships are hand drawn in LoGH, they are still just as bad an example of poor animation writing than whoever asked for crowd scenes in TM8. Animation doesn’t do crowds well, in whatever form they take, and asking animators to put them in shows a poor understanding of animation (see also: every Simpsons/Futurama commentary that an animator appears on).

    So what makes a good cartoon?

    http://www.awesome-engine.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/snapshot20090223180550.jpg

    Something like that for starters. An entertainingly arranged shot featuring characters doing something impossible.

    Compare LoGH to later Shin-Chan episodes, Masaaki Yuasa’s work, Imaishi’s work, Koike’s work, or the recent Naoki Tate episodes of One Piece.

    All have a better sense of rhythm, layouts, movement, shots than LoGH. They aren’t tethered by some anti-cartoon desire to be “realistic”. And invariably they are funnier than LoGH too.

    More importantly, they tend to let individual directors and animators express themselves more (though they got cold feet on Gurren Lagann after Otaku Feared Kobayashi).

    In short, cartoons should be visually delightful in ways not achievable by other visual media and using the tools available to them in animation.

    Now obviously I’m being hyperbolic about LoGH somewhat, as I do like what I’ve seen of it. But nothing I liked about it is due to the animation, so as a cartoon, I judge it a failure.

    If I was in Japan at the time dropping Yen for each volume via mail order, I don’t think I’d have made it very far based on the story alone.

    Anyway, once I’ve rounded up some more research on LoGH (anyone know what it cost at original release?) and rewatched it some, I’ll be giving it a more thorough kicking in the New Year.

    And also I won’t be writing it half asleep while eating cereal.

    By the way, knock it off with the lazy Youtube posts already. That sort of inanity is what Twitter is for.

    Jeez. Sorry Blog Dad.

  15. By the way, knock it off with the lazy Youtube posts already. That sort of inanity is what Twitter is for.

    Jeez. Sorry Blog Dad.

    Hahaha. That’s the funniest thing on the internet right now.

    Plus I liked TM8. Yeah, it might seem a bit emotionally heavy-handed – but when you’re dealing with a city that wakes up every morning actually relieved it didn’t fall into a fault-line overnight, that’s somewhat forgivable.

    One thing this review seems to have skipped is the body count. For a family show there’s a lot of dead bodies on screen, a lot of the time.

    Plus its the only show I’ve felt compelled to finish in a while, sadly.

  16. OK, so, I think we’ve established that Brack-chan is from the Krisfalusi school of animation, thinking that cartoons should be all mid-career Tex Avery and 1940’s Loony Tunes, with maybe some ’50s UPA and Bullwinkle thrown in. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    But the problem is, that leads to Dead Leaves and Aeon Flux and yes, *gasp* Evangelion. Style over substance, wanting a ‘cool shot’ instead of telling the story.

    LOGH IS a good use of the medium precisely for the things he’s said were the problem. Masses of spaceships, crowds of people, that would have been IMPOSSIBLE to shoot live back in the ’80s, there would be no budget that could handle such a thing.

    It might help to recall that LOGH was a subscription based OAV series. This was the ultimate expression of the core concept of the OAV-soliciting the otaku for direct payment to watch a show.

  17. They aren’t tethered by some anti-cartoon desire to be “realistic”. And invariably they are funnier than LoGH too.

    Yeah, I watched that film Raging Bull the other night. It was rubbish; I hardly laughed at all.

    Nowhere near as good as Tootsie.

  18. Yes, Tex Avery does have an undue influence on what I want from cartoons, you can blame Tony Robinson (Baldrick from Blackadder) for that. He used to have a BBC show called Stay Tooned that had a formative effect on my taste, and like John K, a huge Avery & Clampett fanatic (though it wasn’t just WB/MGM stuff, he showed a lot of independent animators’ work too).

    More importantly he’d talk about the animators who made the cartoons he showed, rather than have them exist in a vacuum as his predecessor Australian comedy singer/artists Rolf Harris had done. Notably, what he didn’t do, was talk about writers.

    And I have to say if what I want from cartoons leads to Dead Leaves, Aeon Flux (the shorts at least, once it tried to add narrative it started to fail) or Evangelion then that is not a “problem” in my book, it’s the solution.

    Don’t get me wrong though, I’m only saying LoGH fails as a cartoon. It obviously succeeds as an adaptation of the books, and as a way to avoid the budgetary problems doing it as a live action would entail. As space opera goes, it’s got a lot to recommend it. Just not the animation.

    There’s plenty of shows I like that along those lines, that push my buttons narratively speaking (Akagi, Kaiji, One Outs for instance), but I’d find it hard to stand up for them as a piece of animation. As TV shows though, great stuff.

  19. Yeah, I watched that film Raging Bull the other night. It was rubbish; I hardly laughed at all.

    Nowhere near as good as Tootsie.

    That’s odd. Raging Bull IS funnier than Tootsie.

  20. I have to say, if all anime was like how Brack apparently thinks it should be like, it would kill my interest in the medium entirely.

  21. Much as you might like animation to be limited to clever little shorts, as long as there remains an audience who wants to watch animated feature films and multi-episode dramas, those things will continue to exist. What you’re doing is imposing a very narrow view of animation, based mostly on 5-minute shorts, on a format where a show has to sustain interest firstly over 22-minute episode, and then over a run of usually about 26 episodes. Over a single episode the Tex Avery approach can sometimes work, but stretch it out anything beyond that and people need to have their emotions and interest engaged by something more complex.

    Evangelion didn’t succeed over 26 episodes because it had clever animation tricks, it succeeded because the characters were emotionally engaging and the mysteries at the story’s heart were developed in a way that sustained the audience’s interest. Anno is an animator, but Eva succeeded because he and the other writers had strong writing fundamentals. Ditto shows like Kuchu Buranko and Mononoke, which both do fantastic things with animation but without these fundamentals would just be flashing lights on a screen, unable to sustain anyone’s interest for the length of even a single episode.

    Unless you’re saying animation is inherently unsuited to character and narrative (which I hope you’re not because that would be idiotic), you’re sooner or later going to have to admit that writers are necessary in anime.

  22. Unless you’re saying animation is inherently unsuited to character and narrative (which I hope you’re not because that would be idiotic), you’re sooner or later going to have to admit that writers are necessary in anime.

    What I’m saying is that animation is better suited to visual language, than character and narrative. You can have them too, but the focus should be on the visual language. Otherwise, why bother making a cartoon.

    Mainly though, I was saying that writers often don’t understand that the visual language in animation is not the same as in live action television or film. Or even worse, they think because it’s animated, you can do ANYTHING! Emphasis on the you. All they have to do is put words on paper.

    There are non-drawing writers who get it (and I think there’s more of them in Japanese animation industry than in the US – I was making more a general statement about animation), or those who have a more collaborative relationship with certain animators.

    Likewise there are those directors who can turn a script better suited for live action into a half decent cartoon.

    But however much I might like some of those shows, I can’t unsee cartoons like Mind Game, Kemonozume, Denno Coil and stop wanting more of that.

    Because for me that’s what animation can be, and it isn’t being that often enough.

    So I’ll admit to being overly idealistic rather than idiotic. Let’s face it, what I want is in incredibly short supply nowadays and I’m unlikely to get my way. I’ll enjoy my scraps where I can. Boo hoo.

    Guess what? You’ve already won, writing fans!

    I’ll just have to suck it up and live with the continued existence of Seth McFarlane’s career. And watch Archer with a mix of amusement and self loathing (love H. Jon Benjamin’s performance, hate the poorly animated cartoon).

  23. I think we can (or at least should) all agree that if writers are going to work in anime, they and their work would benefit greatly from an understanding of what an animator’s job involves. And I do think it’s true that a lot of the best anime out there is stuff created by a multitalented writer/director, so there are obvious benefits to having both jobs in the same hands where the person has demonstrable talent in both.

    The point where we will always disagree it seems is on the focus. A truly great animation should excel in both the visual language and the character/story. However, obviously most anime isn’t great, so I’ll take a good story over great visuals in any show that asks me to devote hours of my life to following it and caring about it.

    Guess what? You’ve already won, writing fans!

    Rather I would say that in a world where pish like K-on is feted as the pinnacle of animated excellence, we all lose.

  24. Well, Brack, I’m going to ask the ‘elephant in the room’ question.

    Feeling the way you seem to feel, why the hell are you even bothering with Japanimation?

    There’s plenty of ‘The Mind’s Eye’ stuff out there, any number of animation student ‘endless cycles’ shorts (usually done to music from ‘Art of Noise’), shorts like ‘Nana and lil’ puss-puss’ and such to satisfy you, why watch something you seemingly can’t stand?

    Oh, wait..Birth. OK, that OAV must be like catnip to you.

    But I just have to wonder, that’s all.

  25. Well, Brack, I’m going to ask the ‘elephant in the room’ question.

    Feeling the way you seem to feel, why the hell are you even bothering with Japanimation?

    I did travel 200 miles to see Angel’s Egg on the big screen in a wet and windy Leeds. That should give you a clue why I bother.

    Masaaki Yuasa’s why I bother. Mamoru Hosoda’s why I bother. Akitaro Daichi’s why I bother. Masayuki’s why I bother. Hiroyuki Imaishi’s why I bother. Tsutomu Mizushima’s why I bother. Kenji Nakamura’s why I bother. Naoki Tate’s why I bother.

    I bother a lot and bother HARD.

    And you seem to be missing the point I kept making alongside my hyperbolic attack on writing – I can actually stand shows like LoGH. I quite like LoGH. Could use more nob gags obviously, but I like it.

    As a cartoon though, it’s not this shining example of the medium that the sci-fi fan department of anime fandom often make it out to be.

  26. Thanks for this, Jeff…it’s too bad that the show apparently did not deliver (especially with the JAPAN SINKS angle–i.e., a major disaster affecting a Japanese city and its aftermath). I guess I’ll have to skip this one, then…

    To Brack…I’m not sure I agree with your statements about writing in animation and how it’s the storyboards that matter the most. My disagreement comes from the fact that I have worked in animation–and everything started with the script. The designs, boards, layouts and final animation all flowed from there on.

    Have you worked in animation? I’m asking not to jump down your throat, but I’m curious. I have not encountered your line of thinking from someone who has worked in animation, but if you have put in time in the trenches, then I’m certainly willing to mull it over.

  27. It isn’t “collectivist propaganda” any more than Western fiction is “individualist propaganda.” Japanese culture is simply different than Western culture; they elevate the collective above the individual whereas we do the opposite. Both approaches have their merits and demerits, but I see none of the latter in Tokyo Magnitude. Helping others and pulling together are clearly good things, especially during a time of disaster. Individualism would not work.

    Mirai’s story is actually almost the same as Chihiro’s in Spirited Away (uh oh, more “collectivist propaganda”), and both impart similiar lessons.

    Comparing this scenario to Katrina is pointless. Tokyo and New Orleans are completely different cities with different cultures, levels of preparedness and available resources, and the disasters are obviously different as well. The Great Hanshin earthquake of 1995 would be a more valid comparison (and since then Japan has become even better prepared for earthquakes). While Tokyo Magnitude may be a little sanitized, I doubt it’s too far removed from reality (incidentally, those cool robots actually exist, though apparently only as prototypes).

    I thought this was a good show, generally speaking. It’s only towards the end that it starts to fall apart due to excessive melodrama and the misplaced Fight Club-esque plot device. The intro song is atrocious, though the outro song fits quite well.

  28. To tokyojesusfist: good points there…I guess I’ll have to change my mind and give it a look then.

    You made some valid points about Katrina and Tokyo, but you also mentioned the Great Hanshin Quake of 1995 (also mentioned by Komatsu in his intro the then-new English edition of his SF novel JAPAN SINKS). Pretty interesting that you bring this up, since there has been a recent controversy over the fact that educators are finding it difficult to educate students about the quake and the horrific results of that disaster.

    And let’s not forget…TOKYO MAGNITUDE 8.0 is, uh, fiction…it ain’t real.

    Just my 2-cents

  29. My favorite part about this garbage review from this smug, pretentious, contrarian website is how the real-world drop kicked your asinine criticisms in the face a couple years later. The big quake did happen (though fortunately not under Tokyo), and killed 18,000 people. And guess what? The Japanese did mostly respond calmly and reasonably; there wasn’t mass rioting or looting. “Collectivist propaganda”? Surprise surprise, the Japanese creators of this show understood the psyche of their own countrymen a hell of lot better than you did.

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