Japan Sinks: 2020
by Lynzee Loveridge,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Japan Sinks: 2020 (ONA) ?
We've reached the conclusion of the "cult arc" and I'll give Japan Sinks credit for going in a completely different direction than I expected. Looking back, I can't tell if this hard left turn is my fault for reading too much into earlier "flags", like the weed and KITE sticking with energy bars. If you introduce utopian cult in fiction, I'm going to expect adherents to down Kool-Aid in hopes of being beamed up onto a spaceship hiding in a comet or at the very least, someone is getting bamboozled. This cult iteration had all the markings of an elaborate con job, down to accepting payment to speak to dead loved ones. I can't blame anyone who was waiting for the other shoe to drop on its nefarious plans -- except there weren't any.
Kanae and her lover founded Shan City as a community centered around respect for everyone's different levels of ability. Everyone had a purpose, a roof over their head, and food in their bellies. School was free. Your time was your own. Anything broken can be repaired and it's made more beautiful by its scars. And their son Daichi was the catalyst.
There are a couple different ways to frame Shan City's origins and it's up to the viewer to decide if Daichi's parents' intentions are endearing and noble or misguided. Until this episode, I presumed that Daichi was being manipulated for the sake of the community. Again, we knew drugs were in the food and here's a 10-year-old kid that's being put on a pedestal as a kind of spiritual conduit who never speaks. It turns out the "pedestal" was the entire point. Daichi is non-verbal and as his mother, Kanae knew that this would greatly limit her son's ability to thrive in a traditional community and that he would be subjected to unkindness for most of his life. So instead she and her husband created an ideal community where her son would be treated with respect.
I can't help but honor her intentions but I also can't ignore that there was a level of performance put upon her child that he could not consent to. Yet, the episode tries to put the viewer at ease by giving Daichi a final line to speak where he thanks his mother. I suppose that means that he enjoyed his time at Shan City even as the utopia collapses.
I can't help but feel residual sadness at the community's destruction now that all of the elements are out in the open. That's how quite a few of the characters feel as well. Shan City wasn't perfect: it certainly wasn't void of its share of creeps and the drugs probably flowed too freely, but it was a genuine attempt to create a sanctuary for those othered by war, illness, or disability. When the city itself begins sinking, everyone has to reconcile what their own purpose for living is and what is worth dying for.
For some, there is nowhere else for them and they resign to go down with their utopian home. Daniel, still affected by the war he witnessed tear apart Yugoslavia, stays behind. The cook (who took way too much shit from Go for his size) utilizes that same size as a strength to save the little bastard. The old man uses the last of his strength to try to reconnect with his dead granddaughter and once satisfied manages to get a few more murders under his belt before being consumed by the wreckage. Kanae, her lover, and a host of cult members die together. If Shan City was paradise, then I suppose they found contentment in the time they had there.
The Mutoh family escape with KITE and Onodera, the submarine pilot who first posited Japan was sinking. Turns out he was the infirm man that Ayumu was caring for in the clinic. After she finally figured out he was communicating in Morse code, it's revealed that he can somehow detect incoming earthquakes. The group drive Gramp's truck into the horizon, resolute not to die yet.
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