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Japan Sinks: 2020 (日本沈没, Nihon Chinbotsu 2020) is the second collaborative series between acclaimed director Masaaki Yuasa of DEVILMAN crybaby fame and Science Saru, which was also distributed through Netflix. Following the Mutohs, a mixed-race Filipino-Japanese family as they struggle through the collapsing countryside of Japan after disaster strikes. The journey centers around Mutoh Ayumu, a naive trackstar, her fully Japanese father Koichiro, former swimmer mother Mari, and her little brother, wannabe e-sport athlete Go. Tagging along are two classmates who manage to survive the destruction with her, Nanami and Koda.

Based on the 1970's novel of nearly the same name written by Sakyo Komatsu, Japan Sinks: 2020 takes many liberties with the characters, events and themes. As such, many of the tropes that applied to the book might not apply here.

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Tropes:

  • Amazonian Beauty: Mari, due to her past career as a pro swimmer. Ayumu is also shown to have grown up into one in the epilogue, having become a track star.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Daichi, the child icon of Shan City, has a developmental disorder that left him unable to speak, implied to be autism.
  • An Arm and a Leg: In the final episode, the infection Ayumu suffered from a cut in the first episode spread to the point of necessitating amputation. The epilogue shows her sporting an athletic prosthesis.
  • And I Must Scream: While in Shan City's hospital, Onodera struggles with being almost completely paralyzed and unable to effectively communicate. Thankfully, he manages to get through to Ayumu when she realizes he is using the only parts of his body he can still move, his left thumb and his eyes, to communicate in Morse Code.
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  • Anyone Can Die: The Mutohs all survive the initial earthquake, but not all of them are as lucky after that...
  • Apocalypse How: Class 0. The earthquakes are centered on Japan, with nearby costal areas suffering lesser effects, but the damage to Japan is severe. By the end of the story, the entire archipelago has been submerged, but is beginning to re-emerge.
  • Artificial Limbs: As a result of the wound she gets in the first episode, Ayumu eventually has to have her left leg amputated. In the epilogue, it is replaced with a prosthetic.
  • Attempted Rape: Happens twice throughout the series.
    • The party hitches a ride on a random guy's truck, but as soon as they make a pit stop, the guy attempts to corner Nanami in the restroom so he could "have some fun" with her. Thankfully with Mari's help, she's able to fend him off.
    • At a party in Shan City, one man attempts to rape Ayumu outside the club, but she knocks him out with a swift headbutt to the jaw.
  • Back for the Finale: The young boy that Mari saved in the first episode briefly reappears during the epilogue. His identity is confirmed when he takes out the group photo that Mari gave him before they went separate ways.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In the final episode, KITE flies off with his newly-recovered hot air balloon, coldly abandoning Ayumu and Go in the middle of the flooded land... or at least, that's what we're led to believe. In reality, he took to the skies so that he could get a signal for his phone (which he left with the children), allowing a military helicopter to find their location and rescue them.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: Mari has a distinctly husky build, fitting her past as a pro-swimmer, but is no less cute for it.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Several characters, including Go, Kite, and Daniel, speak English fluently.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Japan is destroyed by the earthquakes and completely submerged, but Ayumu, Go, KITE, and Onodera survive with the data on Japan's destruction and eventual re-emergence. While the Japan they knew is long gone and most of their friends and family have perished, the data helps to lay the groundwork for Japan's revival, while Ayumu and her peers make new lives for themselves.
  • Bland-Name Product: Who needs Google Search if you have GoGoSearch?
  • Bookends:
    • In the second episode, Mari takes a group photo of her family and those Koichiro aided during the first quake before they go their separate ways. In the final episode, the young boy who was given the photo, now a young man, is shown gazing at that same photo nostalgically.
    • At some points in each episode, voices of the characters talking in happier pre-quake times are heard, particularly during poignant moments. In the final episode, those conversations are revisited in the pre-quake Japan archive, from Ayumu loving her father's cooked yams to the old man's cranky celebration of his store's anniversary.
  • Born Lucky: KITE boasts of this a few times, and his luck pans out each time.
  • Bottle Episode: Downplayed since the "Bottle" part only takes up two-thirds of the episode, but most of "Mom's Secret" focuses on Ayumu and Go while they're stuck in a small, inflatable watercraft floating in the middle of the now flooded country. They're eventually rescued by Mari and Koda, who come to their aid in a rowboat.
  • Breather Episode: Episode 5, “Illusion”, takes place entirely in Shan City, a peaceful community where the group takes refuge after a perilous journey across Japan. Compared to the episodes preceding it, this episode is much more relaxed in tone, though it’s merely the calm before the storm.
  • Brick Joke: When Go reunites with his family, his father uses staples to seal the wound over his eyelid, with some jokes likening them to piercings. In the story's epilogue, Go actually decides to get a brow piercing around where the staples were put in.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Mari is from the Philippines, making Ayumu and Go Filipino-Japanese. This is even more noticeable where Go tends to speak English words since English is the Philippines' secondary language.
  • Canary in a Coal Mine: Invoked. Ayumu notices some dead birds lying on the ground in a valley moments before Nanami, who had gone on ahead, collapses and dies. KITE warns her soon after that the valley was filled with toxic volcanic gases released by the quakes.
  • Canon Character All Along: The mute, paralyzed patient that Ayumu nurses in Shan City is later revealed to be Toshio Onodera, one of the main characters from the original book.
  • Canon Foreigner: The only character who originated from Sakyo Komatsu's novel is Onodera. Everyone else in the cast was created for the series.
  • Continuity Nod: As she pulls herself out of the wreckage of the locker room in the first episode, Ayumu cuts her leg on a broken locker that had metal sticking out. Her wound is shown at least once an episode or she has some type of physical reaction to it. Due to it never have been treated, to begin with, it slowly shows signs of infection throughout the series, and ultimately reaches a point where it is so severe, the leg has to be amputated.
  • Cool, Clear Water: In episode 2, the mountain stream that the family finds is pronounced safe to drink after looking at some water that was scooped up in a plastic bottle.
  • Cult: The farm the main family visits has many of the signs of one, though ultimately they're a benign example.
  • CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: Averted and played straight on seperate occasions. When Mari drowns both Ayumu and Harou try to resuscitate her. They take turns doing it, and it ultimately does nothing to bring her back. However when KITE does it to Onodera towards the end of the series, a single, sufficiently hard whack to the chest while on the verge of giving up does the trick, while KITE doesn't even seem to be tired afterwards.
  • Deadly Gas: Nanami dies to a mazuku near Mt. Fuji, which has been emitting enough carbon dioxide to fill whole valleys. KITE is able to warn Ayumu away before the same can happen to her.
  • Death of a Child: There are two particular instances in which young characters perish in the disaster.
    • The first characters we see killed onscreen are Ayumu's entire track team, who are brutally wiped out when the earthquake strikes the locker room.
    • Daichi, the young son of the Shan City medium, tragically gets his head smashed by falling debris.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Koda starts out extremely withdrawn and almost unresponsive because his mother has just died. When Nanami gives him replacement glasses his face is fully shown for the first time. He starts opening up more in Shan City when he feels safe enough to cry, and KITE coaxes him out further until his pre-trauma personality, much more energetic and proactive, is on display.
  • Demoted to Extra: In the original novel and its two live action adaptations, Onodera was the central character. While he still plays an important role here, he's no longer the main focus.
  • Determined Widow: After losing her husband, Mari will do anything to keep her children and their friends safe as they try to find a way to survive.
  • Disabled in the Adaptation: This version of Onodera suffers from near full-body paralysis, and can only communicate through Morse Code or when a phone is put into his hand. This wasn't the case in the original book.
  • Disaster Movie: A ten-episode mini-series focusing on a natural disaster befalling Japan and one family trying their best to survive it.
  • Disney Death: This happens to Go at the end of Episode 3. He gets impaled by an arrow while attempting to escape the store. The next episode reveals he survived and the arrow hit his gaming device inside his fanny pack.
  • Does Not Like Spam: Go won't eat vegetables willingly.
  • Drowning Pit: KITE and Onodera are trapped in the latter's cave lab as it sinks into the water. KITE quickly straps Onodera to himself and finds an air tank to get them both to the surface, which nearly results in Onodera's death because the tank had a leak and only Onodera noticed.
  • Drugs Are Bad: The old man Ayumu's party meets has a crippling morphine addiction. Taking it leads him to hallucinate and attempt to kidnap Daichi from Shan City, while being deprived of it sends him into extremely painful withdrawals.
  • Drugs Are Good: Cannabis is shown to be a benign drug that the people of Shan City garnish their food with. KITE, himself, likes to light up whenever he can.
  • Dwindling Party: Thanks to Anyone Can Die, the Mutohs' party gets smaller and smaller over the course of the show. Ayumu, Go, KITE, and Onodera are ultimately the only main characters to survive the disaster.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: In Episode 2, the characters watch a YouTube video of the entire island of Okinawa sinking, filmed from an aerial view and posted by KITE. They're reluctant to believe it since the sea swallowing an entire island is a bit fantastic, plus they're confused as to how KITE got the angle in the first place. KITE shows up in the flesh the following episode, flying around using a motorglider.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Ayumu loses her home, her parents, close friends, and even her left leg as a result of the destruction of Japan, but she and her brother manage to survive and she goes on to become a professional track star. KITE survives and remains a popular Youtuber, while Onodera is vindicated and becomes a respected professor.
  • Eye Scream: Go gets hit in the eyes during the first big earthquake. Fortunately, it turns out to be just a deep cut above his left eyelid that his father staples shut.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Most of the people that the Mutoh family and Koda met along the way ended up becoming friends such as KITE, the old man, and Onodera. Specifically, Ayumu doesn't trust KITE at first but they became friends. This is exemplified in the last episode where KITE sends Ayumu his late birthday video message to her containing the last birthday greetings from Mari and Koda.
  • Foreshadowing: Right in the poster shown above, which pictures Ayumu and Go running towards a sunrise in the middle of a ruined street. At the end, both children survive the disaster and live to witness the emergence of Japan's bright new future.
  • Friend or Idol Decision: Ayumu learns that she can board a ship leaving with evacuees thanks to her accomplishments in track and field giving her priority status. In so doing, however, she would have to leave Go and Mari behind, leaving her conflicted. She ultimately chooses to stay behind when she realizes Mari is not well.
  • Gorn: While not nearly as consistently visceral as Yuasa's previous anime series, there is no shortage of gore as a result of the quakes. In the first episode, alone, Ayumu's entire track team is violently killed when they and the lockers in the room are thrown about every which way.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Ayumu begins showing signs of jealousy towards the developing friendship between Nanami and Haruo. Not long later, Nanami dies.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Multiple ones. The Shan City cook that Go befriends shields him from a deadly falling rock, the old man stays in the collapsing tower in Shan City to protect Ayumu's group from armed gunmen, Mari dives into the ocean to free a motorboat from being tangled after her ventricular assist device's battery dies for the last time, and Koda is swept out to sea while saving Onodera's archive from washing away. Onodera pulls one on KITE by refusing to breathe from a punctured oxygen tank so he can survive, but he is resuscitated afterwards. KITE later seems to pull one by piloting a hot-air balloon boosting an internet signal into the frigid sky, but he survives the ordeal.
  • Hope Spot: Whenever things seem to start going Ayumu's way, be prepared for a curveball.
    • In the first episode, Koichiro manages to reunite his entire family by setting up flashy lights to guide them to him. Their elation is short-lived, however, as the camp he and other survivors witness bodies raining from overhead as a helicopter goes down nearby, reinforcing the fact that they are in the midst of a disaster.
    • Later, Koichiro finds some Japanese yams, which could help keep his family fed. Unfortunately, he and Ayumu realize all too late that those yams are growing in a minefield.
    • Later still, Ayumu and company find a supermarket with food where they can shelter for a time. The store's owner, however, does not take kindly to them taking his store's products and attacks them.
    • Shan City seems a safe place to stay, but as Onodera warns, nowhere is safe. Soon after, Shan City is completely destroyed by a massive quake.
    • After Japan sinks beneath the ocean, Ayumu and Go are elated to reunite with Mari, and the group discovers a motorboat. Unfortunately, the boat is stuck on a sunken pier, forcing Mari to sacrifice herself by swimming beneath the water and freeing the boat from the debris after her ventricular assist device's battery dies.
    • In the final episode, Ayumu, Go, and Onodera are finally rescued and taken to dry land. On the way, however, Ayumu suddenly collapses. She survives, but learns that the infection in her leg, caused by the cut she suffered in the first episode, had spread to the bone, necessitating amputation and potentially ending her track and field career. Thankfully, the epilogue reveals that Ayumu has continued her career as an athlete, thanks to a new prosthetic leg.
  • Hostile Weather: At one point, radiation from a nuclear power plant mixes with rain clouds to create a toxic rain storm. Fortunately, Ayumu and her companions were in a good shelter and safe from the irradiated elements.
  • I Choose to Stay:
    • Daniel stays in Shan City even though it's collapsing from the earthquakes because he's lost everything else in his life and doesn't want to go on.
    • Later, Ayumu decides to stay in Japan after realizing her mother was on a ventricular assist device, even though all indications point to Japan not staying above water for much longer.
  • It's Raining Men: And not in a good way! At the end of the first episode, Ayumu and others witness multiple people falling to the deaths in the surrounding area, having leapt from a helicopter that was moments away from crashing.
  • I See Dead People: A medium shows up in the weed-growing society, delivering the last words of a victim by touching something of theirs. KITE initially believes her to be a fraud, but she proves she's genuine by reading an object when he asks her to.
  • Ignored Expert: Onodera predicted the calamity, but was dismissed as a quack. Fortunately, Ayumu realizes he knows what's happening and takes him seriously. After the disaster, he's vindicated and regains the respect he deserves.
  • Ill Girl: Mari's trip overseas was to have surgery to implant a ventricular assist device to supplement her weakened heart, the pouch she is seen carrying throughout the series being a container for the device's battery. After Mt. Fuji erupts and the skies are blacked out by ash, Mari becomes unable to use solar power to recharge her battery: from that point, her life would not last much longer.
  • Imminent Danger Clue: Done twice. Both times with Ayumu noticing the danger just before another character falls victim to it. First, she notices a sign covered by yam vines that says that digging for yams is prohibited because of unexploded ordnance from World War II. Just as she turns to warn her father, who is digging for yams, he hits a bomb and is killed. Second, when Ayumu and Nanami go down a hill to use the bathroom, Ayumu notices a bunch of dead birds. One second later, Nanami collapses. Ayumu tries to go to her, but is warned away by KITE who was motorgliding above them. He explains that Nanami died instantly due to a build-up of poison gas. This even happens before the quake even starts. Ayumu has enough time to ask about a sound she hears before the earthquake hits in the track room, leaving all of her teammates dead.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Go, who survives the cataclysm and grows up to be a professional gamer, and the young boy who Mari saves in the first episode.
  • Jerkass Façade: KITE. He seems unconcerned about Nanami's death just before his arrival on the scene. When asked why he didn't escape Japan on his own when he had the chance he only says that staying seemed more interesting. He calls people by mildly insulting nicknames, repeatedly boasts of being born lucky, and once shouts that he's never failed at anything in his life. All the while though he's risking life and limb for the little group, literally carrying people on his back, and trying to keep their spirits up.
  • Karmic Death: A group of ultra-nationalists rejected a family for not being Japanese and rejected Go even though he is half Japanese. The ship promptly blows up from engine failure causing a cascade reaction.
  • Kick Chick: Nanami is shown to be a capable martial artist specializing in kicks when she fends off a man trying to assault her.
  • Land Mine Goes "Click!": While looking for yams, one of the characters goes into an enclosed area. They see signs that it is illegal to enter, but presume it is just to get the yams. And with society in shambles, he figures it's free picking and they really need food. It's actually an enclosed minefield, left over from past wars. He triggers one while digging, getting a few seconds to realize what's happened before it explodes.
  • Lost at Sea: Ayumu and Go end up adrift at sea at one point, the sea being where Japan once stood before Mt. Fuji erupted and sent the entire archipelago plummeting below the water.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Koichiro's death by land mine results in a brief rain of blood and his severed hand landing right next to his wife.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: At first Mother's ability to contact the dead is questionable at most, and KITE openly tells her that he has his doubts. But when she touches a pair of glasses held by Nanami, she claims to have heard her say, "It was me who said to take a break. Don't worry about it." in reference to Nanami and Ayumu taking a restroom break before the former's death.
  • Meaningful Name: Invoked. "Ayumu" means "walk" (ayu) and "dream" (mu), while "Go" signifies movement. Before her Heroic Sacrifice, Mari tells her children to embrace the meaning of their names as a way of motivating them to soldier forward.
  • Mixed Ancestry: Go and Ayumu are half-Japanese, half-Filipino. Their father is a native of Japan, while their mother is from the island of Cebu.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • In the first episode, when Ayumu saw one of her teammates calling out for help while she's bleeding to death, she freaks out and runs away. Near the end of the episode, she breaks down into tears when she remembers it and realizes how horrible she is for leaving her teammates to die.
    • The old man is horrified when he thinks he's killed Go with an arrow, but lucky for them both the arrow hit something in his bag and didn't penetrate.
  • The Night That Never Ends: After Mt. Fuji erupts, volcanic ash blacks out the sky. It takes a long time before even a sliver of sunlight can penetrate the ash clouds. This leads to Mari's death because the ash clouds prevent her from charging the batteries on her ventricular assist device. Without it, she dies freeing the motorboat from the line anchoring it to the sunken dock.
  • No Antagonist: A given since the disasters are more than enough to drive the conflict. While antagonistic characters do appear (the trucker, the ultra-nationalists, etc.), none of them are central to the plot.
  • No OSHA Compliance: An aversion is what allows Koichiro to survive the initial quake uninjured. He was working high up, wearing a safety harness and ends up dangling above the wrecked stadium he was building.
  • No Periods, Period: implicitly averted, as Mari picks up some pads while in the supermarket in episode 3.
  • Pocket Protector: Go switches his waist pack's position so it crosses his chest just in time for it (and the game console inside it) to protect him from an arrow to the chest.
  • Racist Grandpa: The old man doesn't like foreigners and isn't afraid to say so, but doesn't go beyond that. Contrast the ultra-nationalist Japanese on the barge, who actively reject saving foreigners.
  • Regional Redecoration: It isn't called Japan Sinks for nothing. By the end, though, the land is slowly starting to rise again.
  • The Reveal: One of the flashbacks shown during the ending montage is of KITE as a child; specifically, as a young girl, confirming that the character is transgender.
  • Rising Water, Rising Tension: Done on a massive scale with the whole of Japan, which is gradually sinking into the Pacific. Later used when KITE is racing to save Onodera's research in an underground archive room that is in danger of flooding. When the water causes the computer to malfunction, KITE manages to quickly preserve the data by storing the computer's hard drive in a waterproof case.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Koichiro Gotoh, Ayumu's father, ends up dying at the end of the second episode.
  • Safe Zone Hope Spot: Considering that the whole archipielago of Japan is sinking it makes sense, but the series sure is built on a constant barrage of these. To provide some of the nastiest examples: The hill close to the Mutohs' home in Episode 1 has dead people falling on it courtesy of a helicopter accident. The abandoned village the Mutohs find in Episode 2 has a field of unexploded World War II munitions lying nearby and Koichiro becomes a casualty to them. Shan City is a nice place but it's full of crazy cultists and corrupt people who were exploiting them to get rich off a Sham Religion and the Mutohs not only need to get the hell out as an earthquake wrecks the place but also under fire. The boat of a kindly fisherman who takes in the group sinks because the sea becomes too choppy from the earthquakes (the ultranationalists' raft doesn't fares any better, exploding a few minutes before that). The one "safe zone" that is truly safe is the government evacuation ship and that ends up being a bust overall because it will only take Ayumu because she was chosen because she's a member of the national track and field team, and she refuses to leave her family behind.
  • Setting Update: The anime is set fifty years ahead of the source material, which was released in the 70s.
  • Scenery Gorn: In the first episode, alone, Tokyo gets seriously messed up by the quakes. The rest of the archipelago is not much better off, and it only gets worse as the series progresses.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Daniel chooses to stay in Shan City. As a comedian who can only talk about trauma through the teddy bear he carries everywhere, he's not suited for the turns the story takes next and isn't even shown with the cultists who choose where to die.
  • Shrinking Violet: Following the earthquakes, Ayumu's friend Koda becomes withdrawn and sullen. This is because his mother died when the quakes buried her in debris. After arriving in Shan City, however, he begins to come out of his shell, thanks to KITE.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Mari and Nanami are very tall women, standing roughly the same height as Koichiro and being a full head taller than Ayumu.
  • Stepford Smiler: Mari tries to put on a brave face and keep morale high among her family and friends. From time to time, however, it becomes more than she can bear.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Ayumu compares the staples on Go's eyelid to piercings, which her father says is what her mother would say. Ayumu denies this, only for her mother to make the same observation when she sees the staples.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Of all sorts! Factories, crashing helicopters, the landmine that kills Koichiro, the jury-rigged ship ferrying the racist Japanese nationalists...
  • Super Cell Reception: Although characters oddly enough rarely use their cell phones to call or even text people, it sure is bizarre to see them readily using them to seek out stuff on the Internet after the whole of Japan is affected by a barrage of apocalyptic earthquakes. When Mount Fuji erupts and most of the land submerges, they lose reception.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Go can't swim worth beans. In the epilogue, however, he learns how.
  • Surprisingly Good Foreign Language: The Russian news anchor and doctors in episode #10 were voiced by native Russian speakers.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Ayumu initially powers through the leg injury she suffers in the first episode and largely ignores it afterwards. The infection visibly grows worse as the series progresses. By the end of the series, leaving it untreated and exposed for so long results in the infection reaching the bone, so her lower leg has to be amputated upon rescue.
  • Survivor Guilt: Ayumu gets hit with this early on, and later events pile onto it. First she panicked and ran away when the initial quake hit, leaving some of her dying teammates behind. Then she saw that her father was digging in a field of unexploded mines, but realized it too late to warn him. Thirdly, she insisted on going to the bathroom, which unwittingly led Nanami to walk into a cloud of invisible toxic gas.
  • Time Skip: Halfway through the finale, the story skips ahead eight years to show what became of the surviving characters and Japan as a whole. Notably, a new Japanese civilization came into being above the flooded land, Ayumu and Go grew up to become a Paralympic runner and professional gamer respectively, and the history of old Japan lives on thanks to online archives.
  • Token White: The cast has two of them in the form of KITE, who's Estonian, and Daniel the Anglo-Yugoslavian comedian.
  • Wham Shot:
    • At the end of Episode 4, Go appears to be shot by an arrow. Thankfully, as the next episode begins, it's shown that his portable game console stopped the arrow from penetrating his body.
    • In Episode 8, Ayumu and Go are left stranded in the ocean in a floating tent with an old man who saved them. Later in the night, when Ayumu wakes up from her sleep, she sees the corpse of the man getting devoured by seagulls.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The epilogue reveals a city was built on the first area of land to rise back above the water, Ayumu has become a professional runner with a prosthetic leg, Go has gone on to become an e-sports pro, KITE survived his last flight, and Onodera has a new job.
  • A Wild Rapper Appears!: While taking a break from their trek across the sea, KITE plays a beat from his phone and has the group participate in a freestyle rap session, just for fun. This leads to each person (impressively) rapping about the current situation. Onodera doesn't participate due to his disability, but enjoys the rap and blinks in time to the music.

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