I’m tempted to say that Mari is the star of today’s episode, showcasing her child management skills, her calm under pressure, and overall goodness of character. No, I think that would be unfair to the work put in this episode that really put me on edge. I got pretty raw watching the earthquake aftershocks tear up the ruins further, but seriously, I was strongly affected when people got in actual harm’s way.
It was all about the effective depiction of danger.
I won’t comment on how scientifically accurate the portrayal of earthquake damage and behavior is, what’s important I believe is how well it communicated danger, how much at risk we felt our characters were, and perhaps people in general. The general threats:
Time is against them, and the journey is long.
Subtle hints are given: scarcity of food and drink (even if they scrounge together a few food items and drink, they don’t have the carrying capacity to store much for prolonged privation); Odaiba is an artificial island (reclaimed land, which is usual for coastal metropolises like Tokyo and Manila), which could sink due to the stresses of the earthquake and aftershocks; lastly, their residence in Setagaya is hardly a place that can be reached on foot.
Limitations on transportation.
All the public transportation systems are offline. The bridge is severely damaged which eliminates land crossing into the city proper. The coast guard informs them that bus boats will be ferrying batches of citizens from separate ports, but the distance to these ports is a good walk from where they stayed the night.
These threats compounded and set the stage for the challenges to our protagonists. The first calamity is a small one, but is a very good detail paid attention to by the narrative. Mirai was wearing sandals, which led to horrible blistering on her feet and behind her heels. While Mari had band aids, I was viscerally reminded of the difficulty they’re facing.
The second threat was getting separated in the crowd. This was really, really scary. It was an ever-present thing during their march. Mirai, who’s very averse to being thought of as a child refused to hold hands with Mari. This is when the first aftershock struck, startling the marching crowd and showing more damage to the immediate surroundings. Mirai found herself separated and at the mercy of strangers unsympathetic to her needs due to their own survival concerns. To me, and perhaps any kid who ever got separated from her parents in a crowd of people would be an excruciating thing to watch. The narrative moves very fast, Mari finds her soon enough — no dwelling on pathos here, but more than enough to give me terror for those few seconds.
Together, they faced the second aftershock much better. But the third threat is probably the most terrible one for me. They were in the thick column of people descending the wide steps towards the pier, when the pushing at the top of the stairs resulted in a wave of people crashing down into each other. Two threats in one: children, Mirai and Yuuki getting trampled underfoot; and the threat of getting separated in an even thicker crowd where the chaos is even more unmanageable. This time tiny Yuuki gets pulled from Mari’s grasp, and for a moment we’re shown what he sees, a moving forest of tall, unfamiliar people. His desperate cries seem muffled — or rather, the crowd noises are muffled, a conceit in portrayal that I find effective as opposed to drowning his voice in the noises of the crowd. This time, Mirai finds him but I’m not given that much time to celebrate their reunion.
Women and Children First
Part of what reassures me about this contingent family is that they’re going the same way home. This was very briefly threatened, but my goodness my balls got stuck in my throat when the coast guard from his megaphone asked the children to board the bus boat… only the children, first. It took what seemed like an afterthought, and a case of mistaken identity that Mari is the mother that allowed her to get on board. The uncertainty couldn’t have lasted more than a few seconds, but mannnn… it was enough to tighten my chest uncomfortably.
And finally, the bridge fell. This time we see people at the mercy of the earthquake’s effects. The bus boat that was following the one they were on got swallowed by the wave caused by the large chunks of bridge falling in the water. People were riding the roof seats of the boat. All of them were swept in the water. Again, no dwelling on the scene, no extended shots of people suffering. The show trusts itself and the imagination of the viewer that danger and harm happens here. And even if I wanted to think a little more about those poor folk swallowed by the water, that same wave went after the bus boat our heroes are on. The boat stays steady, the wave passes through them before finally losing strength. And Mirai is left considering the consequences of getting on board late. They could’ve been in that other boat.
This is the best acknowledgment for Mari, from all of us. She really did well didn’t she? And our sourpuss, wet blanket non-heroine Mirai gets to say thank you to Mari, who’s been awesome the whole episode. From her resourcefulness, her responsibleness, her patience with Mirai, never getting upset with her negativity and dangerous stubbornness; to her decisivenss in dangerous moments, and her overall upbeat and positive spirit. Hearing it from Mirai, I felt like a winner watching this episode.
First impressions on the show [->]
More on Mirai [->]