When I heard about The Days, I was super curious to see the inside happenings of Japan’s nuclear disaster of 2011. We all know about the disastrous earthquake, which was followed by a tsunami, but it was also followed by a nuclear disaster that could’ve contaminated half of Japan. Of course, to address the elephant in the room, The Days is unlike the edge-of-your-seat Chernobyl. Instead, it’s a slow-burn approach that brings in too many technicalities to make an emotional impact. It’s an 8-part mini-series that follows multiple characters that embody real-life people who contributed to managing the nuclear disaster over the few days following the 11th of March, hence the fitting title. Although the subject matter is quite harrowing, the execution of the show is boring at times.
Personally, I was very keen on seeing things from the point of view of Yoshida (played by Kôji Yakusho), as he was a very compelling character whose story we started with. He introduces us to the disaster we’re going to learn about, but slowly, other perspectives keep getting added to his, and it gets a little overwhelming. Not to say we didn’t need the point of view of other characters, but it just loses focus after a certain point. The second half of the series is much more gripping than the first. For me, half the things said about the reactor in the first half of the series went completely over my head, and I found myself losing interest. The dramatization is well handled, and even though it is understandable that a Prime Minister handling such a grueling situation would be under immense stress, I felt that his role was like a caricature, only there to invoke panic. It is also quite unclear what kind of light the show is trying to paint him in.
The Days shows us three points of view following the natural and nuclear disasters on March 11th, 2011: the government, the corporate group, and those forgotten by most, the workers who were given orders to walk into their deaths. Media involvement, who took charge, and what was really happening inside the reactors are all depicted in the series. Given the subject matter, The Days can be heavy and overbearing at times. The unprecedented nuclear disaster could’ve taken a catastrophic turn, but we see that it wasn’t one man’s effort but the effort of many that led to a better outcome.
In terms of CGI and cinematography, a lot of the color grading is somewhat distracting, and a huge chunk of the series is in the dark, which also makes it difficult to understand what is happening. The tsunami itself is quite terrifying, even if it looks fake in parts. It’s definitely not a show to binge watch because it’s quite dark (not in the literal sense) and could be anxiety-inducing for some. I especially enjoyed the parts where we could see the hope and hard work in people amidst disaster, and that’s what grounded the series. In terms of emotions, a scene from the last episode is a real tearjerker. But a lot of the sadness of it all is lost in the numbers, abbreviations, and technical terms that were hard to follow. While the show intends to pay respect and homage to the heroes who worked hard in the middle of a catastrophe, night and day, with impending doom— it doesn’t translate into the drama. It feels unethical to critique a show that speaks the truth about a real-life disaster, but the hour-long episodes feel overlong and unnecessary after a certain point. If only it had been crisper and made into a 5- to 6-part series, removing the technicalities and sticking to detailing the internal discrepancies between the Tokyo Electric Power Company and the Japanese government, then it would’ve been much easier to comprehend.
Additionally, all the emotional bits would’ve been much more hard-hitting because we would not still be trying to make sense of the previous scene. Another interesting aspect is the Japanese government’s worry about the world’s perspective of the nation and how to handle such a large nuclear disaster, the first of its kind after Chernobyl. The domino effect of disaster after disaster is very clearly visible in Yoshida’s handling of things, but somehow it is not poignant but convoluted. It sounds to me like I’m repeating myself, but I felt the same way as I progressed through the series; a lot of it felt like “Oh, I’ve just seen this in the previous episode.”
There is something lacking in The Days that prevents it from being the masterpiece it had aimed to be. For most who may begin The Days in the hope of learning something about the occurrence of the disaster like I did, they will step out underwhelmed and disappointed. Although the show clearly takes inspirations from HBO’s Chernobyl, the execution is below par even without a direct comparison. With such a massive weight to carry, there would’ve been a lot of pressure to present this show in the right manner, and that’s where it looks to have been lost.
Final Thoughts On ‘The Days’
Still, I quite enjoyed (not sure if I can use that word here) The Days, and it definitely delivers on the front that a lot was done in order to make sure Japan didn’t see its worst nuclear disaster ever, and it’s commendable for that reason alone! If you have the time, patience, and an interest in knowing what happened at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, then give The Days a watch, slowly, so it doesn’t feel like an explosion of technical information. There’s no sex in the show. However, you should go in expecting mild nudity, mention of death, and minor profanity. I would give The Days 3 out of 5 stars, mainly for the effort and the heart behind the series.