Japan Sinks: 2020
by Lynzee Loveridge,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Japan Sinks: 2020 (ONA) ?
Ah, it's nice to be validated. I felt pretty secure in my evaluation of Japan Sinks 2020's themes of nationalism and patriotism, but directors Pyeon-Gang Ho and Masaaki Yuasa decided to say it one more time for the people in the back in "The Dawn", alongside concurrent issues of "good immigrants". Man, that episode title isn't subtle.
Having fled the collapsing Shan City, The Mutohs made their way to a nearby port in hopes of getting one of the rare spots on an evacuation boat. Space is limited and the government is choosing citizens via lottery based on national ID numbers (this would be like choosing the last four digits of social security numbers at random). Apparently no one on the truck has their numbers memorized and KITE probably doesn't even have one to start with since he isn't a Japanese citizen. The government deciding to go the National ID route has some specific implications that aren't said but are worth mentioning.
Japan's National ID number system is new; it was put into place in late 2015. The numbers are given to Japanese citizens and long-term non-Japanese residents with permits. The number is part of the Basic Resident Registry Network which is a catalog of all Japanese citizens that includes their name, date of birth, address, and gender. As you can guess, the system had a lot of opposition when it was proposed because some people aren't down with the government cataloging people in such a manner.
Anyway, I bring this information up because every foreigner in Japan doesn't necessarily have an ID number and would be SOL if they couldn't get help from say, their respective embassy. Even with the lottery in place, tensions quickly rise as the unlucky are left without an immediate means of escape from the sinking nation. It also comes to light that the lottery system isn't pure luck, either. With that, Japan Sinks 2020 opens up the conversation of who is "worthy"; or more aptly, how the system selects who is worthy.
Ayumu is, for one. She and all her track-and-field peers were impressive enough athletes that they got a free pass to less suffering. Social value is placed on high-achievers, be it physical or intellectual, which opens yet another can of worms. If you read the label, it's says EUGENICS and there's some of that at the forefront of this episode, too. The situation makes it clear that Ayumu's potential has a higher value than say, the single mother crying for the soldiers to let her child on board. Ayumu feels a sense of guilt too. She initially accepts her place on the boat even though she knows her athletic career is probably over -- she's been hiding a rather substantial injury to her leg for multiple episodes now.
She weighs the circumstances including the rather haphazard reveal that her mom had heart surgery and is living on a solar-powered pacemaker that no one knew about and decides to disembark to stay with her family. Once again, the Mutoh family is on the run again when Onodera predicts the eruption of Mt. Fuji and Haruo takes shrapnel to the shoulder. Everyone's looking pretty beat up right now with the exception of Go and KITE. The volcanic eruption cements Japan's status as a sinking nation and those with the means to survive get to make the rules.
A group of Japanese blood-purists have gathered on mega-float where they plan to take their nationalistic rhetoric on the road to more stable land and inflict their bullshit race politics on the locals. The Mutohs attempt to board but are denied immediately because, with the exception of Haruo and maybe Onodera, none of them are pure enough. The asshole manning the boat even suggests that if they were to put Ayumu and Go together, then they'd equal one Japanese person, mirroring World War II-era rhetoric spewed and carried out by both Japanese Imperials and Nazi Germans.
This doesn't go unchallenged. You can imagine my delight when the floatation device explodes and takes all of its purists and enablers into the sea.
The Mutohs find shelter on a fishing vessel as the sea rises but that too is short lived as the boat takes damage from the nearby Racism Float's explosion and everyone has to dive inside a covered emergency raft. It's unclear if there was a second raft or not, but the first holds Ayumu, Go, and the fisherman. Haruo, Mari, Onodera, and any additional ship staff are nowhere to be seen.
This episode left me thinking more broadly about what "sinking" means in the series as a whole. Other than the obvious, the narrative is intent on showing what is bringing down Japan and tying it closely to xenophobia and arrogance. The continual debate of whether Japan can actually collapse as the entire country is literally pummelled by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and floods until the sea level rises to unforeseen levels is laughable. It's as if people are clinging to the idea that it "couldn't happen here" and if they simply wait it out, it'll go away.
We're on day 234 of COVID-19. How's that working out?
- No, we still don't know how Onodera can predict seismic activity
- Everyone tries to curse in English in this episode and it's kind of hilarious
Japan Sinks: 2020 is currently streaming on Netflix.
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