Finally Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 delivers on it’s teasing. In this episode, we have robots. Awesome, real robots; robots that have real-world applications and are designed with practical sensibilities. They get to do awesome things too, and the show provides us not one, but two audience (ghostlightning) surrogates: Yuuki (of course), and Kenta the robot otaku.
Honestly, the show has gotten me so hooked that I wasn’t getting impatient regarding the eventual appearance of the rescue robots. The show has consistently focused on character insights brought about by their interactions with each other and a choice few strangers. In this episode, Yuuki gets the focus — as the events depicted mostly revolve around him and his interest (IN ROBOTS).
It would seem that Yuuki is a dead kid walking… given how the threat of his demise was already made very clear in the first episode. Well I don’t think anyone expected him to be killed then and there, but this time… it’s quite possible. I don’t think I can identify proper death flags, but I can’t rule it out.
But I think that this episode is still very much Mirai’s. Yuuki’s exuberance towards robots, and Nonomiya Kento the robot otaku, only serve to bring a dynamic into play that highlight’s Mirai’s character. First, take note how Kento is described; remember that the show uses Mirai to provide the description: a robot otaku.
She delivers this in a tone by which she communicates a certain passion for anything is lame. She wouldn’t be caught dead being lame, heavens forbid. She tries lamely to make fun of the robots, attempting to put them down. There’s something to be said how the show is handling Mirai’s ‘maturity.’ Consider the following ‘triggers:’
- Episode 1–2: Yuuki is stuck in the convention center and Mirai attempts to rescue him. Her attitude is very much the ‘brat’ that characterized her (“The world should just break!”), but her actions indicate a fundamental love for her family (if not, at least a regret for some of her behavior).
- Episode 3: Mari does so much to keep Yuuki and Mirai safe through the exodus out of Odaiba, that even Mirai finds it in herself to thank her.
- Episode 4: Mirai sinks at her lowest (suffering the indignity of shit), blaming Yuuki for everything (for the world that just broke!). Yuuki breaks from the repudiation and comes into harms way when the Tokyo Tower fell, but in fact ends up saving Mirai from the debris. I believe this closest of calls is the most important trigger. She knew that if Yuuki had indeed gotten harmed, it would be on her, to say nothing about him saving her life despite her behavior.
- Episode 5: Casualties close to home: her classmate’s mom, then an old man who lost his grandkids. These things occur while Mirai takes refuge at her school. It’s the first time she gets affected by the suffering of others. She resolves to do something to contribute.
- Episode 6: Mari is unwell. Mirai, tries to do things – as part of her resolve from the previous episode. However, she doesn’t get to make much of an impact. The scooter she borrows, Mari decides to return.
In Episode 7, Kento’s enthusiasm for robots not only allows Yuuki to stay consistent from an ‘interests’ standpoint, it also allows the narrative to bring early story elements back into play. But even more importantly, it allows Mirai to show more of her ‘before’ picture (given that the context is her growth and perhaps transformation).
Kento loves robots because robots saved his family during an automotive accident. Robots were a big part of the rescue effort. He resolves to become a robot designer, specifically for those with rescue functions. It is also important that Yuuki draws out from him that he is also in his first year of middle school: exactly Mirai’s age.
Mirai takes away two things from this: 1) Here’s someone her age who is rather mature, in that he displays valuing his family much more than she ever did; this unsettles her a bit; 2) Here’s someone who already knows what he wants to do, compared to her who can’t even begin to imagine what to put in her assignment that describes her future self.
This connection to the immediate past of Mirai, contextualizes her growth. The earthquake happened just a few days ago, but already she finds herself changing a lot (for comparison’s sake, behavioral change cum attitude epiphany of this kind occurs over 40+ episodes for Amuro Ray and Kamille Bidan from the first two Gundam series, 40+ episodes for Setsuna F. Seiei from Gundam 00; 25 episodes for Alto Saotome from Macross Frontier — a 25 episode series!).
And still, still, she doesn’t get immediate rewards for meaning to do well. Her trying to do things for others, and actually wanting to do so, doesn’t cure her of her 13-year old stupidity. When Kenta gets himself into trouble trying to rescue a rescue robot (a dumb kid moment for him as well), Mirai rescues him, and succeeds. But in the end Mari, and the rescue authorities puts things in perspective. Mirai and Kenta were being stupid (for entering a prohibited zone, to say nothing of Kenta’s trying to rescue a robot designed to prevent secondary casualties).
This is the point: Just because Mirai suddenly finds a heart, and resolves to do well, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 won’t suddenly turn her into Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.
She and Yuuki make a new friend, who could serve as a male role-model for Yuuki. They start making their way home with Mari, then the cliffhanger strikes: Yuuki falls face first on the pavement, inert. The show fades to black. Credits roll.