7 Seeds – the anti-grimdark post-apocalypse

7 Seeds is a post-apocalypse story for people who:

  • like to read about human cooperation and resilience
  • don’t like reading sad, grimdark tales of how awful humanity is or how doomed we all are.

Sometimes the story is heartbreaking, or horrifying – but it’s never pessimistic.

For the most part, we are spared the immediate impact of the apocalypse – a meteor strike which wiped out most of humanity. Our protagonists wake up long into the future, where they find that, while there might not be people any more, the biosphere has rocked on, and plants and animals have evolved in new, interesting, life-threatening ways. It’s a survival story, but without the hope of ever being rescued. Our protagonists need to build something new.

There are two points in 7 Seeds where we find out what happened to a group who had initially survived the meteor strike. In one of these, we see the events in flashback – so we are put directly into the events, we get attached to the people involved. In the other, we only find out what happened as the characters in the future find out what happened, through what the past has left behind.

And I feel like the choices that Tamura has made here are quite telling. The story we are shown directly is that of the group that died with dignity, illustrating the best of humanity and our ability to create meaning in our lives. The story that we only learn as our protagonists do is the story of a group which wiped one another out, who gave up hope.

I also feel it’s telling that the first group of survivors are civilians, and the protagonists entertainers – entertainment being something that we might think of as frivolous, but which in fact is the thing that keeps the group going, giving them something to look forward to, something to keep them together. The second group is military.

Even though Tamura doesn’t tell us that second story directly, she does make the effort to remind us that it involves people. We learn their story when Team Summer B come across an old military shelter. On exploring it, they figure out that:

  1. the survivors all killed each other
  2. the survivors decided that there was so little hope for humanity that they’d just blow up the rest of Japan and Team Summer B have accidentally restarted the missile launch. Oops!

There are a few things Team Summer B tries in order to stop the launch. One of these is overriding the launch command. The ship’s controls require four people to do this – those people need to input their codes (off their dog-tags) and then answer a ‘secret question’.

It’s not enough for Team Summer B to find the codes – they also need to find out something about the people who held them. So instead of just being a group of faceless killers, we get little glimpses of humanity. We know that one of them had a cat named Mimi. We know that the crew’s favourite meal was curry rice (because, as Team Summer B decide, isn’t everyone’s favourite meal curry rice?). It’s important to empathise with people, even if we can’t accept their actions.

Of course, in the end, Team Summer B can’t stop the missile launch that way, and tragedy is only averted because the ship is full of hibernating iron-eating bacteria, and Natsu has woken them up after running all over the ship while on her period. The bacteria destroy the ship and save Japan. Bless you, Tamura Yumi, and your penchant for biological horror.

**

There are a lot of post-apocalypse stories that never really get to the ‘post’ part. The apocalypse never really ends. Humanity can never reestablish itself. Not because of environmental factors, or because it’s difficult to survive (certainly Tamura doesn’t gloss over those things) but because people can’t get it together. Because once society is shattered, we go all Lord of the Flies. We are our own apocalypse. And so on into misery.

And the reason I love 7 Seeds is because it goes in the opposite direction. It acknowledges that people are sometimes awful, that the world is hard to live in – but it doesn’t focus on that. What it focuses on is human resilience, on finding joy in any circumstances. On cooperation and building relationships with others. On building something new. And the difference in how Tamura portrays the survivors immediately post-apocalypse is, I think, emblematic of that.

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