I thought I’ve written everything I already could about this show at the end of that year it aired. I still am amazed that it’s already been 2 years. I feel compelled to think about this show again given the recent events in Japan that make the disaster depicted in this show seem so paltry, so weak, even if the show did topple the Tokyo Tower.
I’ll indulge myself some weakness: I’m laughing right now at all the people who complained to me at how unrealistic the show was. And it was, only not for the reasons they mentioned. They had no problems with how the infrastructure of Tokyo crumbled in the earthquake, they were more concerned with how unnaturally nice, cooperative, and good-natured the Japanese people were in the face of calamity.
After a much stronger earthquake (albeit some distance from Tokyo) we now know that it’s the opposite: The Japanese building code is so freaking badass (and their discipline in adhering to it even more so) that most of their concrete infrastructure stayed intact. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 actually got some of the science wrong – in underestimating the performance of Japanese buildings under extreme stress, and underestimating how the sea would cause a whole lot more damage than the show portrayed it. What the show did get right, is how the people behaved. It is consistent on a grand scale, how they all help each other, how they become each other’s heroes, how devoid of malice such a large population is.
I won’t speak at length about this, as I’ve done so already in debunking the appeal to realism using the behavior of the citizens of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as a standard of human nature. And if we try to rationalize how Japanese can afford to behave extraordinarily humane because they are rich, it is not that much different in much poorer parts of East Asia.
People expected the Japanese in Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 to behave pretty much like those in High School of the Dead; to many the people in the zombie apocalypse displayed behavior that is truer to human nature. But how different reality is! Even if it all goes to hell from this point, perhaps due to the potential nuclear meltdowns or further aftershocks is how for the first few days after the disaster, people behaved beautifully.
My lovely wife shared with me this link last night on our way home from work. It sure got dusty inside the car all sudden: c/o catachan of the HWZ forums, here is an abridged version of his list of Japanese on twitter translated in English.
At Tokyo Disneyland:
Tokyo Disneyland was handing out its shops’ food and drinks for free to the stranded people nearby. I saw a bunch of snobby looking highschool girls walking away with large portions of it and initially though “What the …” But I later I found out they were taking them to the families with little children at emergency evacuation areas. Very perceptive of them, and a very kind thing to do indeed.
At a congested downtown intersection …
Cars were moving at the rate of maybe one every green light, but everyone was letting each other go first with a warm look and a smile. At a complicated intersection, the traffic was at a complete standstill for 5 minutes, but I listened for 10 minutes and didn’t hear a single beep or honk except for an occasional one thanking someone for giving way. It was a terrifying day, but scenes like this warmed me and made me love my country even more.
Card board boxes, Thank you!
It was cold and I was getting very weary waiting forever for the train to come. Some homeless people saw me, gave me some of their own cardboard boxes and saying “you’ll be warmer if you sit on these!” I have always walked by homeless people pretending I didn’t see them, and yet here they were offering me warmth. Such warm people.
Japan is a wonderful nation!
Both the government and the people, everyone is helping one another today. There are truck drivers helping evacuees move. I even heard that the “yakuza” (gangsters, organized crime groups) are helping to direct traffic in the Tohoku region! There have been many recent developments that have made me lose my sense of pride in my country, but not anymore. Japan is an amazing place! I’m just simply touched. Go Japan!
“All of us”
I spoke with an old taxi driver and some elderly staff at the train stations. All of them had been working non-stop and had not been able to go home for a long time. They were visibly very tired, but never once did they show any sign of impatience; they were gentle and very caring. They told me “… because all of us are in this together.” I was touched at what the notion of “all of us” meant to these elderly people. It is a value I will treasure and carry on to my generation.
昨日、裏の家の高１になるお兄ちゃんに感動した。 家に１人で居たらしく、地震後すぐ自転車で飛び出し近所をひと回り。 【大丈夫ですか―――！？】と道路に逃げてきた人達にひたすら声掛けてた。あの時間には老人や母子しか居なかったから、声掛けてくれただけでもホッとしたよ。 ありがとう。
A strong voice
Yesterday, I was impressed and touched by the actions of my neighbor’s 13-year-old-boy. He was home alone when the earthquake hit. But instead of hiding, as soon as the earthquake quieted down, he jumped on his bicycle and road around the block repeatedly shouting at the top of his voice, “Is everyone alright? Is everyone okay?” At the time, there were only women and children and the elderly in the homes. I cannot describe how comforting it was just to hear a strong voice asking if I was okay. Thank you!
I promise you, there are other stories like this I couldn’t paste anymore. I promise you, I want to be that boy when I grow up. I would paste more examples from the thread but I already am in tears as I was last night when my wife told me all about this. I’m a nihilistic sort of person and yet I want to always think the best of people, and these short stories from this little social networking service have moved me profoundly.
Haughty girls doing right by others, Yakuza doing right by their community, the elderly coming up big, little kids pitching in like giants… sure I’m retarded for stories like these, where those from whom we expect so little of surprise us with their greatness. This is the kind of underdog story that I love, where the hero has long odds not because he is powerless, but because nobody counts on him to do the right things.
Which brings us back to Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, where the future of Japan, ham-fistedly named Mirai, was so despised by the viewers at the beginning of the story. The story is mostly hers, how she could, even as she was, become a person who can do right by others.
I saw a lot of these stories play out over the past 4 days, and they all made me remember love for Tokyo Magnitude 8.0.