“252 Seizonsha Ari” – Dramatic Japanese Disaster Movie

The next of my posts about movies which I studied for my article “Disaster Narratives by Design: Is Japan Different?” is about 252 Seizonsha Ari (252生存者あり) (Nobuo Mizuta, 2008), known as 252: There Are Survivors or 252: Signs of Life in English.

A summary of the movie on IMDb is as follows:

A massive earthquake strikes off mainland Japan causing the temperature of the Pacific Ocean to rise meteorically, leading to a massive storm to hit Tokyo and for it to be inundated with water. Later the largest typhoon in recorded Japanese history hits Tokyo. The Tokyo Fire Department and its team of crack rescuers swing into action, and shortly after they do, a distress call arises from an underground subway station – with repeated indications of the rescue code, 252 252, and the exclamation “We Have Survivors.” It soon becomes apparent that the local rescue squad must attempt to save the survivors, doing so at the expense of their own lives and safety.


The movie has all of the ingredients for a great disaster movie – with an earthquake, a typhoon and flooding – but the average score on IMDb (5.4 at the time of writing – although a bit harsh in my view), is perhaps an indication that it doesn’t quite deliver. Yet, in terms of the revised list of conventions that I developed as part of my article “Disaster Narratives by Design: Is Japan Different?“, the movie scored a 16 out of the 17.

I mentioned the movie in the article itself in relation to it being one of the few Japanese movies that also including a seemingly disabled person and so tied this to the discussion about whether a cross section of society was included or not. Given the relatively homogeneous nature of Japanese society, it is perhaps easier to argue that most Japanese movies have a cross section of society than may be found in Hollywood equivalents (although not all Hollywood movies tick this box – see my post on Twister). But what cross sections should be included? Are we talking about class, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or what? Whatever the answer, my study did alert me to the severe lack of portrayal of those with disabilities in movies. I also became more aware of how those with disabilities rarely appear in the novels that I read. Consequently, when it came to writing the novel I was working on at the time, published as Tokyo 20/20 Vision, I decided to address this by including a character with a disability. It is unfortunate, in my view, that in the case of 252 Seizonsha Ari, the chance to address issues faced by those with disabilities was undermined by the way that the story ended.

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