REVIEW: ‘Japan Sinks: 2020’ Is A Depressing, Stressful, But Satisfying Experience

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Ayumu And Her Family in Japan Sinks 2020

Japan Sinks: 2020 is a 10-episode Netflix series directed by Masaaki Yuasa (Devilman Crybaby). This anime is an adaptation is based on Sakyo Komatsu’s bestselling science fiction novel of the same name and will be released as a manga from Mangamo as well. Japan Sinks: 2020 follows 14 years old, Ayumu Muto and her family trying to survive catastrophic earthquakes and the sinking of Japan. Reina Ueda (Mallow, Pokemon: Sun & Moon), Tomo Muranaka (Myelocyte, Cells at Work), and Yuko Sasaki (Shenhua, Black Lagoon) lend their voice talents.

Japan Sinks: 2020 has to be one of the most depressing, stressful, yet satisfying experience I have seen when it comes to anime this year. The series starts you off with life in Japan, people heading home, parents and children in the park, and small introductions to our characters, Ayumu Muto and her family. Things seem calm when an earthquake rocks Japan. Eight minutes into the show I was taken aback of how violent the scenes were. This adaptation does not shy away from brutal and traumatic natural disasters are. The show does not shy away from the showing or large amounts of blood our dismemberment of body parts.

In the first episode, after the first big earthquake that does significant damage to Ayumu’s school, we see the aftermath. Not just to the building but bodies were strewn around. There’s a graphic scene where a classmate of Ayumu’s is pinned under rubble and bloodied, reaching and crying out for help. Ayumu, being naturally horrified, runs away, leaving her classmate to her fate. This could be triggering to some viewers but I feel this set the tone of the show and what to expect moving forward. I liked that they didn’t shy away from the trauma that takes place during a natural disaster. Each episode kept me at the edge of my seat as Ayumu and family got through the thick of things, found safety, and for things to hit the fan. When disaster hit, it was the most unexpected event to happen and I didn’t see it coming.

Japan Sinks: 2020, Ayumu and Go in a life raft

The art and music in Japan Sinks: 2020 is quite beautiful. Colors were bright and music gave you that sense of peace, hopefulness, but also urgency when disaster struck again and our characters needing to get out of harm’s way quickly. If I had to compare the art of Japan Sinks: 2020, it would be to the liking of the Studio Ghibli films. Every character you encounter stands out with their own look and personality. As the cast of characters gets close to one another, you can’t help but empathize with and root for them. I don’t think I came across a character that I disliked. While Ayumu’s constant whining and fight with her mother did extremely annoy me, I had to remember that Ayumu is only a teenager and she’s processing the events of what’s happening to her home and the people she loves the best way she can.

A character I enjoyed most was Ayumu’s mother, Mari Muto. Despite all that’s going on, Mari is the anchor. Whenever the family is together and there is a break in the drama, Mari pulls out her camera and asks, “How about we take a photo?” This was weird to me at first because I was screaming at the television, “Who takes a picture during a natural disaster?” However, as time progressed I changed my frame of thinking to why not? The point of a photo is to catalog memories. Mari was also the glue of the Muto and she reminds me of my mother. Always there when things went down to pick up and hold the pieces together. Mari is depicted as strong, and she is, but you see her breaking point and she uses that breaking point to teach her teenage daughter, bringing them closer together.

Japan Sinks: 2020 really explores the humanity of people when things hit the fan, rules are thrown out the window, and society crumbles. We see many folks helping the Muto family get to safety and it’s refreshing. However, many of those people of wolves in sheep clothing. What cuts deep, while putting my feet in our beloved character’s shoes, is characters that are looking out for themselves and doing so in such an inhumane manner. The show, however, balances everything out with our characters being somewhat triumphant and having quite the story to tell.

Japan Sinks: 2020 is currently streaming on Netflix

Japan Sinks: 2020
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10


Japan Sinks: 2020 really explores the humanity of people when things hit the fan, rules are thrown out the window, and society crumbles. We see many folks helping the Muto family get to safety and it’s refreshing.

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