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Japan Sinks and the Cultural Identity in Disaster Anime

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Gina Szanboti

Joined: 03 Aug 2008
Posts: 9958
PostPosted: Fri Sep 04, 2020 5:19 pm Reply with quote
The title seems a bit misleading as there was almost nothing in the article about cultural identity in disaster anime. Instead it was mainly a comparison of two recent earthquake disaster anime (and it overlooked the parallel of a mother figure named Mari saving and protecting children in both series).

It's not that it wasn't interesting as it was, but an article that actually covered the title topic would've been even more so I think, since I can't really come up with what such an article would say. I'm not being snarky here. If someone did write about what all these various disaster anime have to say about Japanese cultural identity beyond "we survive disasters real good" I'd seriously like to read it, since I'm mostly drawing a blank. I think Japan Sinks 2020 was making a point about "What is Japan?" but Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 just seemed like "this is what it would be like," and Akira just used the initial destruction as a launchpad for its story about alienation, government corruption and military excess, none of which are unique to Japanese culture, or disasters for that matter.
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Joined: 27 Aug 2008
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 05, 2020 12:19 pm Reply with quote
Tokyo suffers considerable destruction in some episodes of GeGeGe no Kitarou (2018). The tone of these episodes bears a marked similarity to Anno Hideaki's live-action Shin Godzilla. Both have their roots in the Japanese government's response to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami and the consequent damage to the Fukushima nuclear plant. In both stories, the government is filled with self-interested politicians more worried about their own futures than in the fate of the Japanese people.

For those interested, these themes arise in Kitarou in episodes 11 and 12 where an army of tanuki threaten to take over Japan. The prime minister in this arc appears from time to time later on and plays a significant role in the final arc during the war between humans and yokai.

I only watched one episode of Japan Sinks and didn't find it especially compelling. I watched every episode of Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 as it aired.
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Joined: 09 May 2015
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Location: Belgium
PostPosted: Sat Sep 05, 2020 4:07 pm Reply with quote
I'm not sure if the very much British Electric Light Orchestra would appreciate being described as a "screaming J-pop soundtrack".
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Joined: 29 May 2020
Posts: 21
PostPosted: Sat Sep 05, 2020 7:57 pm Reply with quote
The premise is similar but the execution is different. Japan Sinks is a product of a series of unfortunate events and I'm not just just talking about the situations the characters find themselves in. Something must have happened on the planning and production levels to come to such a shocking result. It's bad.
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ANN Associate Editor

Joined: 27 Oct 2008
Posts: 237
PostPosted: Sat Sep 05, 2020 9:57 pm Reply with quote
Eigengrau wrote:
I'm not sure if the very much British Electric Light Orchestra would appreciate being described as a "screaming J-pop soundtrack".

I'm well and truly owned - I've now acknowledged the mistake in the article. I adore 'Twilight' yet I somehow always presumed it was a Japanese song, despite the English lyrics!
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Location: Crackberry in hand, thumbs at the ready...
PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2020 7:49 pm Reply with quote
I agree with Gina Szanboti, this article feels incomplete. I haven’t seen Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, but having just finished Japan Sinks 2020, I got the impression it’s commentaries on Japanese nationalism, culture and identity were meant to be more than skin deep. The fact that the main family was mixed race (Japanese and Filipino), seems very important throughout—not just when they encounter obvious (and obviously bad) racists. I don’t feel that I picked up all the nuances of the show’s message there, as a non-Japanese person. As a Disabled person, I was pleasantly surprised by the show’s anti-ableism. spoiler[The show never implied that Mr. Onodera’s life was worth less than anyone else’s, and in fact, he’s one of the survivors who rebuilds his life at the end. Ayumu represents Japan as a Paralympian in the finale after losing her leg. The cult turned out to be mostly good, and was inspired by the mother of a nonverbal boy wanting others to see her son as precious as she saw him, with an emphasis towards universal acceptance.]
I also think it’s worth noting that KITE spoiler[is revealed to be a transman] which is another statement on acceptance of identity.

Overall, I liked the show, but I think I would have liked it less had I binged it. This show has so many upsetting and often ridiculous turns that work better when they are given time to settle between episodes.
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