-A Reflection On Modern Japan-
- Episodes : 10
- Genre : Drama, Sci-Fi
- Airing Date : July 9, 2020
- Producers : Science SARU
Nihon Chinbotsu 2020 is a modern day take on the original 1973 novel by Sakyo Komatsu. Just like in the novel, tectonic shifts in the Eastern hemisphere are attributed to a series of earthquakes that sinks Japan into the ocean. Through this Netflix adaptation, you see how the Mutoh family, consisting of Kouichiro, his Filipina wife Mari, and their children, Ayumu and Gou, try to overcome the obstacles they must face as they encounter others who are also trying to find refuge.
Putting aside that Nihon Chinbotsu 2020 is limited to ten episodes, it tells a complete story as you see Japan literally sink, and how the people struggle through it. In recent years in American media, we tend to get the ugly side of human nature through a disaster or tragedy. When Hurricane Katrina happened in 2005, much of the media focused on the looting. With the recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations, many among the media are also showing the looting as a possible means to discredit the movement. With what’s been going on recently with the coronavirus, domestic American media (and social media) has shown the country in a panic over a shortage of toilet paper, and refusing to wear a face mask!
When it comes to Japan, many people around the world were touched by how things went orderly in the aftermath of the March 11, 2011 disasters. No one was allegedly looting and when it came to waiting in line for food and shelter, the Japanese did their part without complaining (or as the kids call it these days, Karen-ing). As for wearing a mask, it has long been part of Japanese society due to how Japanese values emphasize on being mindful of others in comparison as to how American society values individualism.
However, Nihon Chinbotsu 2020 challenges these notions as the anime shows people looting and how an old man goes as far as potentially killing children over trespassing in his supermarket! In the third act, the Mutoh family attempt to find refuge on a boat, but those operating the boat are fringe alt-right lunatics who refuse to take them because Mari is a Philippine national. If Japan ever faces a crisis as severe as what happens in Nihon Chinbotsu 2020, will it be as orderly as it was after March 11, 2011? Or will it be chaos?
Character and Relationship Development
Not only is Nihon Chinbotsu 2020 a challenge of the Yamato Damashii (the Japanese Spirit), but the human condition, and the Mutoh family and the people they encounter are a great reflection of that. You see Ayumu, the daughter, go through so much emotion throughout the duration of the series. We’re positive that if any junior high girl was put in her position, they’d act the same way. At times she can be selfish, and there are times she’s willing to put herself before strangers. With Gou, you see he is driven by his dreams of becoming an e-Sports champion.
Mari does a great job of being the glue that sticks the family together. She’s the ultimate definition of being selfless. Koichiro is a great representation of optimism and smiling through the most challenging of times. If anyone had great individual development, it would be Haruo, Ayumu’s teammate on the track team. Upon the beginning of the series, he’s a shut-in, and by the time the series hits its climax, he finally learns to open up and value life in the direst of times.
Kite, a foreign YouTuber who enjoys doing stunts, is willing to put himself in harm’s way and MacGyver his way out of any situation he’s in. Kunio, an old and broken grocery store owner who feels he has nothing to live for, briefly finds purpose in helping others in hopes he can be with his grandchild. Daniel, a Yugoslavian-British immigrant, still finds ways to never lose his smile despite his upbringing and the present situation he’s in. As individuals, the characters really do capture you.
The relationship dynamic is also one of the highlights of this ten-episode journey. Kite becomes a positive influence on Haruo and Gou, and you can truly feel the bond Ayumu has with Nanami, her friend. The brief friendship that Mari and Daniel share is also another moment that will truly remind you that having a friend, even if it’s someone you barely know, is one of the most important things you could ever have when facing a tragedy.
Art and Animation
If you’re looking for high-quality art and animation, then Nihon Chinbotsu 2020 isn’t what you’re looking for. The character design and animation looks more like a rough draft of a storyboard, and the lighting is relatively weak. However, the background art and animation sort of makes up for this quality as it emphasizes on the devastation the Earthquakes and tsunamis have on the nation. But if you’re going to watch this series, we have to warn you that a large number of images portrayed in Nihon Chinbotsu 2020 aren’t for the squeamish. You see people crushed by debris, engulfed in a tsunami...and old people having sex...
Yes, there is an English dub, but we have to recommend you watch this in Japanese since Gou, Mari, Daniel, and Kite tend to use English words and expressions in that version. This is very important with Gou and Mari since it symbolizes their relationship. By watching it in English, those qualities lose their purpose. And we also promise that Kensho Ono’s (Giorno from JoJo) portrayal as Kite will knock your socks off.
“A Life”, the opening theme, is rather misleading on what you’re about to watch. It just feels like your typical slice-of-life anime opening with how mellow it is and does nothing to prepare you for how dark it really is. Not saying it’s a bad thing, but just feels out of place. We suppose in some instances, being misled can be a good thing. For the most part, background music is pretty much non-existent other than when Haruo listens to his music or when they have that party in the shelter run by that weird cult. Whenever there is music, it is at the right time to set the right mood (especially the rap battle in the hot spring).
All we can say is, despite how badly animated Nihon Chinbotsu 2020 is, it can still tell a story. It’s not just a story about surviving a cataclysmic disaster but is also an excellent critique of Japanese society by challenging every social norm you can think of. It addresses its elderly population, foreigners in Japan, the group mentality, and things that a non-Japanese audience could ever think of. So before watching Nihon Chinbotsu 2020, do a little bit of study of Japanese society (especially with March 11, 2011) and you can appreciate this anime more. For those that have already seen Nihon Chinbotsu 2020, what did you guys think? Please leave your thoughts in the comments!