“The Days”, on Netflix, at the heart of the Fukushima cataclysm with a technician

Masao Yoshida (Koji Yakusho), in the series “The Days”, created by Jun Matsumoto.


Of the sequence which saw the Tohoku earthquake, the tsunami and the nuclear disaster of Fukushima-Daiichi succeed one another, we cannot say that we saw nothing. From March 11, 2011, images of these disasters fed social networks. In the days that followed, the television stations that watched over the submerged atomic power plant captured live the hydrogen explosions of three of the Fukushima units, before following the telephoto lens of the helicopters dropping tons of seawater on fusion reactors.

What to show then, if we undertake to tell Fukushima with the tools of fiction? The Days keeps the promise of its title. The series depicts the passage of time, measured by countless clocks, the clepsydra of water falling around the reactors, the hourglass of molten matter threatening to break its concrete barrier. The biological clock that governs men (women, with the exception of a victim’s mother and sister, are absent) is also called upon to contain the threat, disrupted by lack of sleep and the possibility of ‘apocalypse.

This hypothesis, which serves as fuel for big-screen cinema, which likes nothing more than to save the world in extremis, is here put at the service of a work of great rigor. As if the designers of the series, in whose ranks we find the filmmaker Hideo Nakata, author of The Ring but also of Darkwater, horror film and ecological parable, wanted to apply to their series the method that guided the Fukushima technicians, made up of science and do-it-yourself.

Post-disaster labor

The result has nothing to do with an epic fresco. The Days Although offered by Netflix, the series escapes the laws of the show. When it comes, as in the third episode, to showing a trio of ordinary men trying to turn off a few taps in the dark, that’s exactly what we see on screen: closed spaces, lapping water, silhouettes barely defined by the flashlights that wave or freeze for long moments.

After remarkable special effects disposed, in the first episode, of the earthquake and the tsunami, The Days is therefore dedicated to post-disaster work. The series defines a few places: the control room, plunged into darkness, of one of the reactors; the headquarters of Tepco, the company that supplies Tokyo with electricity, operator of the plant; the Prime Minister’s Office, Naoto Kan (Fumiyo Kohinata); and especially the room of the paraseismic building of the plant where, surrounded by his collaborators, the director, Masao Yoshida (Koji Yakusho, who has just won the Best Actor Award at Cannes for his role in Perfect Days, by Wim Wenders), tries to cope.

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