Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 (you know, the anime this blog is suddenly all about) seems to put a lot of value on realism. Research, realistic danger, microscopic detail on depiction of home life — it all serves to put us there so we can feel the experience of the Giant Quake. But without characters, the story just doesn’t work. Otherwise, it’d be called Documentary on Tokyo Earthquake in Animated Form.
Writer Natsuko Takahashi and co. went a bit on a limb when it came to creating their star, Mirai. And though I prematurely quit my blogospheric research due to laziness, anecdotal evidence tells me that people freaking hate her. She “pisses [people] off,” she’s a “depressive brat.” It goes on.
What are people seeing differently from me? Personally, I love the little shit, and here’s why I think she shows enough character to catch a break from you guys. Forgive me for taking a position, since that’s not typical ghostlightning style, but I’m not ghostlightning.^_^
Is Mirai a whiner?
Actually, in this case, I might vote “worse than a whiner.” But different. Mirai makes a lazy, skeptical EEEHH? noise when she encounters an order or event that displeases her. It’s as if Akari Mizunashi’s excited and wonderous EEEHH? triggered Newton’s Third Law (requesting Lelangir YouTube vid combining both). She can’t be assed to do anything — even whine or get pissed off — with too much enthusiasm. To me, that’s not annoying, it’s kinda hilarious, because it’s the epitome of adolescence. How can I possibly do all that? I’ve been awake since 11am now!
Does Mirai really care about no one and nothing?
Au contraire. While it’s possible she’d act the same given different circumstances, her early motivations don’t have anything to do with disliking her parents, her city, or her brother. She would really love to go on a family vacation, even if on the surface it’s just an excuse to be despondent in another location. She expects a little real family bonding. At that age, regardless of how adult she hopes to be, she still craves the care of her mother and father. Even a round cake, instead of some fancy-ass individual slices, would be ok. You can’t sing happy birthday and blow out the candles around those slices as a family (or whatever they do in Japan), and so the cake becomes a sad symbol of her family’s fracturing.
Is Mirai a total git to her brother?
Fu fu fu, you haven’t been watching. She teases, and she doesn’t always want to babysit. That’s natural. But when she chides him for being a “kid,” it means this: It must be nice to not be angry for no reason. It must be nice to look at the world without jaded eyes. It must be nice to love mama and papa without also hating them. She resents that — but not her brother himself. Notice how she has no problem giving him some of her ice cream (maybe not enthusiastically, but let’s not get too radical).
Notice that even before the earthquake has had a chance to register in her brain, her first thought is of Yuuki. And every subsequent thought is of him too, at least until she finds him. I’ll give you this: in a moment, Yuuki’s death would destroy what’s left of that childhood she’s been so intent to move past. And she realizes that she’s not so sure she wants that anymore. But I still don’t see much to that angle; it’s something an insightful person could come up with in retrospect, but a 12-year-old during an earthquake? Doubtful.
Is she really unrepentant?
This is the big one. For all of the circumstances that she deals with poorly, for all of her despondency, at least on some level she is a victim: She’s a victim of her own biology. I’ve joked before that instead of sending kids to middle school we should create cage matches for children of that age since it’s really the same thing and they’d learn about as much. When the little kid gets ice cream on her skirt, she nearly breaks down, so confused and frustrated about being confused and frustrated. She feels bad, but she doesn’t know why and she can’t help it. She lives daily in a hormonal nightmare, unable to effectively control her emotions. I still remember what that’s like, and I wasn’t even a girl.
Maybe more important than that moment, though, is her final cellphone diary entry before the quake: I wish the world would just break.
Of course it’s an obvious theatrical flourish to have that coincide in such a way, but it’s more significant than that. She’s a smart girl, and old enough to know on an intellectual level that she can’t cause an earthquake. But if it were you, do you think that could stop you from feeling maybe the first — almost certainly the worst — guilt you’ve ever encountered? I know around that age, being an angry confused kid, I wished for horrible things. And it’s heartbreaking to imagine how she must feel to have that horrible thing actually happen.
Mirai no Mirai
Episode three showed something that I think is really important: For Mirai to grow up, she paradoxically has to be a kid first. Even Yuuki knows it, while she’s at that age of denial, but the incredible danger of the earthquake and Mari’s motherly care are already breaking her down.
With the way in which Bones handles emotion — both delicately and intensely, depending on what’s called for at the moment — and the way this writing crew has handled realism, I’m banking on a coming of age story that will excite and move us, set against a backdrop unlike any we’ve seen before.
For every episode that goes by, I’m afraid the Bones crew will do more for converting people than my blog posts could ever do. Is it working?