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Review: Japan Sinks 2020 Is A Heartbreaking But Hopeful Disaster Anime Series

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BY August 27, 2020
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The action and blockbuster elements of many anime come from a place of fantasy or sci-fi. However, one of Netflix’s original anime Japan Sinks 2020, is more of a  realistic drama set in Japan. It’s a show that deals with love, loss, and incredibly realistic depictions of people trying to survive a natural disaster. My Japan Sinks 2020 anime review highlights how the series works on multiple layers packing an emotional punch in almost every episode. We tend to think of anime as high-concept fantasy and science-fiction, but it remains a dynamic medium capable of telling many kinds of stories.

Review: Japan Sinks 2020 Anime Has A Nation Devastated

Japan Sinks 2020 anime review family. Image via Netflix.

The anime series begins with Ayumu (Faye Mata), a high school student at a track and field practice for her school. Her father is at a job site, while her mother is on a plane returning to the city. Everything seems completely normal when an Earthquake rocks the nation. The plane is in an emergency, her father’s worksite is in jeopardy, while Ayumu’s locker room of classmates gets demolished. It’s a brutal scene with many casualties, which puts you on the edge of your seat for the rest of the season. What follows is a series where the survivors desperately seek their loved ones and escape to safety, while trying to figure out what exactly happened.

The Japan Sinks 2020 anime starts off telling a family story, but there are some shocking twists and turns in almost every episode that makes the series incredibly engaging. While not following a gimmick of cliffhanger endings, the anime still provides enough of a hook to create an urgency to keep watching through each episode. The family story expands to include multiple additional characters going to unexpected places. 

There Are A Lot Of Weird Similarities To The Walking Dead

Japan Sinks 2020 anime review crying Image via Netflix.

Lest my review make you think the story is all quiet character moments, the Japan Sinks 2020 anime still deals with the aftermath of crazy disaster. In that sense, the show has a lot of similarities to AMC’s The Walking Dead. Like the survivors of a Zombie Apocalypse, the crew of the Japan Sinks 2020 anime begin by getting away from the earthquakes that are devastating the country. On their way, they lose some of their party, while meeting others who join them. The principal cast is a mother, her daughter Ayumu, her young son, a YouTube star, a former athlete and many others who embark on this road trip to safety. 

At first, they come across a seemingly abandoned store, which is more than it seems. Then there’s the utopian society where everything looks almost perfect. Almost. Weirdly, there is also a young child there that can commune with the dead. In this society, they find a paraplegic scientist who may have the clue to surviving the disaster. Through the halfway point, the survivors have to find a secret lab that may have coordinates that could lead them to safety. While there aren’t any specific sequences that draw connections to the Zombie series, the themes and moments of loss definitely feel similar. Essentially, these are people fleeing from something they can’t truly run away from. 

An Anime That Has Lots Of Twists And Turns

Japan Sinks 2020 anime review crying Image via Netflix.

Japan Sinks 2020 is incredibly moving and exhausting to watch. The series has insane twists and turns that you don’t see coming. Some brutal, some hauntingly sad while others are just completely out of left field. The show begins with some tragic loss of life, but more general casualties to the disaster. It’s not until after the first episode the first major death takes us by surprise. This becomes a pattern for the show, although the treatment of each character’s death is simply gorgeous. The emotional substance of the show really caught me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting it to have such depth and be so emotional. 

There’s an episode where Ayumu and her young brother Goh become trapped on a life raft in the middle of the ocean. With no rescue in sight, the two have to find a way to eat, drink, and survive. The episode holds that tension as we wonder if there’s any salvation. Characters die in this series, so the stakes are high. Japan Sinks 2020 does this a lot; putting the characters in situations that feel like there’s no escape from. When salvation does arrive, it never shows up in a way we see coming. The apparent hopelessness of the anime series is almost always overcome with some sort of uplifting message or outcome. In a way, that’s a lesson The Walking Dead could stand to learn from Japan Sinks 2020

Our Review of the Japan Sinks 2020 Anime Is That It’s Worth Your Time

Raft. Image via Netflix.

If your only experience with anime has been high concept fantasy series or science-fiction then Japan Sinks 2020 anime is a must-watch for you. It’s received mixed reviews, but I thoroughly enjoyed its realistic depictions of love and loss. It’s an anime series that has incredible character development, subtlety in its themes, and masterful writing when it comes to how the events unfold. Despite there being countless movies and TV shows that use the disaster genre to tell their story, Japan Sinks 2020 does such a better job of providing something new and profound using the same formula. And how the series ends is the most unexpected twist of them all. 

Japan Sinks 2020 is now streaming on Netflix. 

Have you watched the series? How does it stack up for you? Share your review of the Japan Sinks 2020 anime in the comments below. 

Featured image via Netflix. 

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Shah Shahid is an entertainment writer, movie critic (so he thinks), host of the Split Screen Podcast (on Apple Podcasts & everywhere else) and filmy father on a mission to educate his girls on decades of film history. Armed with uncontrollable sarcasm and cautious optimism, Shah loves discussing film, television and comic book content until his wife’s eyes glaze over. So save her by engaging him on his own blog at BlankPageBeatdown.com or on Twitter @theshahshahid.

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