Japan Sinks: 2020
Episode 8

by Lynzee Loveridge,

How would you rate episode 8 of
Japan Sinks: 2020 (ONA) ?

A number of years ago I watched an episode of I Shouldn't Be Alive, likely on Animal Planet, that included a tale that very closely mirrors the events in "Mom's Secret." I had heard mutterings on the internet about this episode, specifically the shark, and I'm here to tell you that it wasn't nearly as far fetched as I was expecting in part due to I Shouldn't Be Alive.

That particular episode, titled "Shark Survivor", discusses the shipwreck of the Trashman yacht in 1982 off the coast of North Carolina as it was en route to Florida. The crew of five, three men and two women, evacuated the sinking vessel onto a life raft. One member was deeply wounded while evaculating and they had no food, water, or shelter from the elements. The wounded member's blood likely entered the water at some point and sharks began bumping up against the bottom of their boat almost immediately. Heat exhaustion, dehydration, and starvation set in. Crew members began gulping down saltwater, leading to hallucinations and overall delirium. The former captain, convinced he saw land, walked right off the raft and into the mouths of sharks. Another delirious crewmember followed suit and was devoured beneath the boat. The wounded crewmate died of sepsis while the remaining two members debated eating her, but ultimate threw her body overboard since she was likely too sick to be eaten.

The survivors were eventually saved after five days at sea by a Russian cargo ship. Obviously the episode made an impact on me since I can still remember the details some 15 years after it aired. If you aren't aware of the story, the series of events in this episode might seem outlandish but I was surprised by how similar they were to the experiences of the Trashman crew. Ayumu and Go attempt to keep their spirits up after the Japanese fisherman dies overnight. The volcanic ash has blacked out the sky, there's no sense of direction, food, clean water, or resources. Time starts to run together as the siblings grow weary from hunger. They survive off a meager energy bar and later a few fish regurgitated by a seabird. Flares, whistles, and other attempts to draw a rescue boat fail until...Mari and Haruo arrive in a rowboat.

From where is kind of vague. They made it to some alternate location to recharge and presumably saw the flare. KITE and Onodera aren't with them either. Honestly, the biggest leap in believability is the fact that either of them managed to row a boat for any length of time; Haruo is still badged from where he was punctured with glass and Mari's pacemaker hasn't been able to charge due to ash blotting out the sun. Still, they are reunited briefly and manage to rig a makeshift compass to start heading in the direction of the coordinates Onodera provided before the eruption. They come across a motorboat that promises to ease their physical strain but it's tethered to a sunken dock, they have no knives, and the cable is pulled taught in some debris.

Honestly, while most of the tragedy that has befallen the Mutohs failed to ensnare my emotions, Mari's final hurrah to save her children got me a little. A pro-swimmer with a failing heart, she manages to loosen the tether but can't get back to the surface in time. The episode closes out with a desperate CPR scene as Ayumu and Haruo attempt to revive Mari to no avail.

Up until this episode, I haven't spent much time commenting on the actual production side of this series. Masaaki Yuasa, perhaps more appropriately Science SARU's in-house style can be an acquired taste for anime fans. Color palettes are often muted, character designs utilize pencil-thin line work, and Yuasa has never shied away from stylized ugliness. The stylization in Japan Sinks: 2020 has been more subdued than in previous works and the simplified designs seemed to benefit the animation more often than not, but there have still been cuts that stood out as being less than stellar.

"Mom's Secret" though had some especially unrefined looking moments where the characters barely resembled themselves. Go's helmet hair was absurdly large at times and kids' facial features looked at times oblong or simply strange. Hands also grew to triple their usual proportions in various scenes on the raft to the point that it looked like they were stung by bees. These flaws are all the more obvious when compared with the CPR scene and subsequent death of Mari. That scene in particular featured more detailed line work than we've seen in awhile and special care was given both to Mari's lifeless body and Ayumu and Haruo's facial expressions as they attempted to revive her.

Basically this episode was all over the place artwise and that dimmed some of its finer moments. Shark munching included.


Japan Sinks: 2020 is currently streaming on Netflix.

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