In an alternate version of the present, Tokyo has been decimated by a shocking terrorist attack, and the only hint to the identity of the culprit is a bizarre video uploaded to the internet. The police, baffled by this cryptic clue, are powerless to stop the paranoia spreading across the population.
Zankyou no Terror is created by the relatively new and upcoming animation studio Mappa, which is responsible for a wide variety of different genres of anime. This Noitamina show was made in recent time and carries the terrorism tag making it a show quite topical in current and recent events occurring all over the world and because the series being a relative unknown to me, I have decided to give this show an earnest review. *NOTE* Unless otherwise mentioned, JP front- and surname ordering is used Story (8.5/10) The series takes place in modern day tokyo and revolves around a duo of no-named teenagers who together form a group called Sphinx set on unveiling hidden dark pasts of Japan through acts of terrorism. The name connects the group to Greek mythology and gives well-researched elaboration to said mythology. It’s the duty of the detectives of the Tokyo police department to figure out the end to these terrorist attacks through solving riddles relating to this mythology. In terms of story progression and believability, this series is well structured and sufficiently discusses underlying plotlines to form a complete whole. The series has a clear progression ending up in a grand finale in the last few episodes. This does mean that the start of the show is somewhat deceptive in what it wants to be (by presenting a pseudo-school setting) and being slow to start up. While of course the size of the show restricts answering all open questions, it feels as a complete whole by at least answering the crucial plot related ones and not needing external sources (such as manga or a light novel) to reach a satisfactory end. Furthermore the narrative devices and the puzzles (or riddles), although somewhat simple for a somewhat seasoned person in Greek mythology, managed to give a good swirl or twist to them to still be able to surprise me. Unlike other shows in the same genre (that is, detective / thriller), one could not simply predict what was going to happen next. Art and Animation (8.0/10) The whole series looks well-polished and diverse enough in terms of art and animation. Animation is mostly fluid and there are a few scenes at the start where CG animation is used. However, the CG animation fits well and does not upset the eyes. Explosions and spectacle are shown in bucket loads and have an epic feel and impact to them based solely on the quality of the art and animation quality. The main issues in terms of art is the character designs which for the most part look alright, but some characters (In particular Twelve and Five) have some character designs which feel a bit alien and off. The art of the other characters are quite unique and do not feel out of place. Sound (9.5/10) Directed by none other than Kanno Yoko, I expected great things and this was exactly what you receive. The OST in this series is wonderful and has a great deal of variety. During dream sequences I often found myself checking whether the episodes had ended already, comparing the music used in these sequences to a well-done Ending theme. The music used in separate scenes is spot on to describe the mood and feeling of said scenes. Sound effects are very well made as well. Explosions will sound like proper explosions and coupled with the great quality of the art and animation of said explosions, will deliver memorable scenes. Personally double the effect, seeing that this show takes place in tokyo where you see landmarks violated you have actually visited in real life. The opening theme and ending theme are alright, with the opening theme being the more memorable of the two, even though the narrative in said opening theme does not particularly prepare the viewer for what’s to come. There is a certain disconnect between these themes and the actual series as it borders on impressionism and art, whereas the actual show seems to mostly try to present the audience with a dip in reality (reflected in both topics and art) Voice acting is quite good and the voices fit the characters. While there is a degree of Engrish (n.b. as opposed to English) being spoken, it is excusable for the main characters based on their background. What has to be mentioned is that the series has, in fact, employed proper English voice actors for the minor / secondary roles. Characters (7.5/10) The number of characters are plentiful and inevitably one can draw parallels with other characters in the series of a similar genre. The main thing that makes this series more unique is a duo of males as protagonists (Nine and Twelve) and a female character (Mishima Lisa) which seems to not really belong in this series and, despite being marked as main character, has a mostly negligible role. The characters are mostly clever and especially the main detective character (Shibazaki Kenjiro) is portrayed to be a character with a lot of cleverness and integrity. I do put question marks at the motives of the main antagonist in the story (Five) and have found myself wondering about somewhat inane nature of the character. Since I do not wish to tread into spoiler territory, I will leave it at this. Overall (8.3/10) A very surprising show and not a show I would have discovered myself. Superb music and very adequate art and animation. The open questions and the bipolarity / inane nature of some of the characters prevent me from giving this show something close to a 9. Secret Santa 2015 Review
Terror in Resonance is a fine anime in terms of directing and tension. It’s not hard to see how it excited thousands of viewers into calling it anime of the year back when the first episode aired. That still doesn’t make up for its undeniably amateurishly handled script when it comes to mystery stories. Personally, I didn’t need to wait for the show to be over before I knew it wasn’t as good as they were hyping it to be. The cracks were obvious since the very pilot and kept getting bigger with each new episode. The reason why everybody else didn’t want to admit to that is because the director was Watanabe of Cowboy Bebop fame. There is no way for Watanabe to mess up, even if anything else he made besides Bebop was average. Well, damn, he did, what a shock. So for those of you who are in constant denial while hugging your huge anime pillows, allow me to show you with very basic example of good storytelling why Terror in Resonance is not that great after all. 1) Pretentious Themes Both the title and the premise of the story allude to acts of terrorism. Even the two main characters’ nicknames are an allusion to 9/11. And here is the thing; there is no terrorism in this show. There is no political statement behind the bombings because the two terrorists do not reveal them until the show is over. They don’t even have demands for not going forward with the bombings; a thing which no terrorist ever does. If there is a statement, there is no reason not to reveal it right away; something which of course they didn’t because that way the show would end in 2 episodes. Hell, the very fact that these so called terrorists are making sure nobody gets killed in the explosions and only target buildings makes them hooligans. These are in fact acts of vandalism. The show ends, a dozen mass explosions occur, and there are zero casualties. They even treat the whole thing as a game where you need to follow the rules and have fun. I mean, solve riddles to stop the bomb??? That is both not practical and eventually has nothing to do with their goal. They could have said “We do this for that reason” and everything would be solved right away. But no, the scriptwriters needed to fill 11 episodes somehow and thus made it seem like the so-called terrorists are wasting time by fooling around with these riddles, even they clearly had a limited amount of time left. Also, the population is not terrified by them. You literally see nobody looking scared; everybody is out in the streets having fun. When looking at the bombing videos and the riddles of the terrorists, they are laughing and treat them as entertainment. Even in the final episode where they know the whole city might blow up and they will all die, they look surprised, not scared. Again, no terrorism exists in this show. Not even in the epilogue, where the city recovers from the EMP and one of the most hideous experiments in recent history becomes public which completely ruins their image to the world, they are just looking at the screen puzzled, not worried. How will we fill the terror if nobody feels the terror? Not even the police are not afraid of them; they are mostly angry that a bunch of kids make them look bad instead of feeling they are capable to kill them all and hack into all their secret files. Therefore the show passes as pretentious for presenting you the theme of terrorism but otherwise not handling it as such. 2) Cartoony setting The setting of the show is presented as the real world and is animated as realistically as possible to make you think the show takes place in our reality. Only it does so on a very superficial way, since as soon as science gets in the way, nothing makes sense. Thermite doesn’t work as they show it, secret agencies don’t stop bombings by bombing themselves civilian areas, Americans don’t speak in terrible engrish, people don’t stare at nuclear explosions without getting blinded, and EMP pulses are enough to kill anyone who has a pacer in his heart or is in life support in hospitals, thus contradicting the attempt to not kill anyone. Also, besides that cop at the archives, everybody else in this show is unable to do basic research. For example, the so called terrorists are giving riddles in their public videos that nobody besides the archive cop seems able to solve. And that is completely stupid if you think we live the age of information where you can google something and find the answer in seconds. The riddles are not super smart; they are based on existing myths. Everybody can solve them by a simple visit at Wikipedia. And yet nobody (besides that one guy) seems to do the obvious. Thus, even when the so called terrorists wanted the population to figure out what their intentions really were through the riddles, it would be impossible. They can write it on their foreheads and they will still fail to notice it, since they don’t do the most simple and easy thing everybody would do to figure it out. 3) The Police is Useless The police officers aren’t really doing anything in general. They are all passive, stupid, and useless, as they pretty much are in most stories for the sole purpose of making the main characters seem super smart for doing something everybody can do with a simple visit at Wikipedia. And this is not limited to just solving riddles, they are also acting as if they can’t make the most basic profiling imaginable with the evidence they have so far. If you have videos of the criminals, with their voices and a clear room in the background it is more than enough to make a hell of a detailed profile of them. You don’t sit on your ass waiting for the next video riddle to appear. Hell, they are not even increasing patrols or security measures, something which is the first thing any sane department would do, even if the threat were a bunch of pick pocket urchins. Hell, they are so stupid, they are looking for hard copies of a case the terrorists hacked into digitally. They could have simply found it on their computer instead of looking for hours in the archives. Furthermore in the very few cases where they do try to do something right by having briefing meetings to find the terrorist base, even that is used to make them look stupid since the (not really) terrorists make them fall for traps they deliberately placed for them to fall in. 4) Stupid Eureka Moments Even the single one guy who is a super detective is unable to do the obvious as well. Even when he pretty much has revealed that all he needs to do is look into a myth to find the answer to a riddle, he doesn’t do so until out of nowhere he looks at a guy playing a videogame and saying completely irrelevant things. He then magically finds the solution. And this is done multiple times. This is not how actual detectives do their work. They do not look at something irrelevant and all of a sudden get light bulbs of divine intervention to solve mysteries. They use the facts and the direct information they have in front of them in order to logically solve a mystery with simple deduction procedures. 5) Oblivious Talkers The way things are revealed in this show are not limited to lame eureka moments but also to lazy exposition methods. The simplest form of exposition is to have one character not knowing what is going on and having another character explaining what happened, so in turn the audience can be informed as well. And this is why we have the background stories of everybody being revealed by simply having two people talking about them. “Oh, didn’t you know what is going on with him? Here, let me monologue for 5 minutes.” Although this method serves its purpose, it is very slapped on. It lacks talent and effort and passes as very amateurish for a story that is supposed to be a mystery that is slowly revealing itself. It feels like it’s not about connecting the dots and examining clues, but more like revealing stuff they knew all along by just flapping their mouths. Furthermore they spend so much time in briefings where they explain stuff by talking and not only they are scientifically incorrect but also means nothing in the longrun. They gotta waste those episodes somehow, remember? And then they constantly do that annoying thing we see all the time in shonen, where they have to state the obvious or point at things and ask “What is that?” for more infodump to happen by talking instead of just showing stuff. 6) Out of place Flashbacks Flashbacks are also a method of exposition. They are showing us the past of a character without having a guy simply talking about it. They are best used when something that happens or is said in the present triggers them to begin. But in this show no such thing happens. We get glimpses of the two so called terrorists out of nowhere. Nothing triggers them; they reveal stuff about them with no foreshadowing or excuse, thus they pass as amateurish once again. It would make sense if they were triggered by the arrival of a character named Five in the middle of the series, but no, the show is showing us flashbacks of a character they think is dead, only to reveal she’s alive after all, and the flashbacks were in fact foreshadowing for the revelation of a character that shouldn’t even be there. 7) Everything is Revealed too soon I could already predict what the rest of the show will be about after episode 3. I mean, really, it was obvious what the terrorists wanted to do thereafter. A good mystery story is revealing itself slowly, constantly keeping you interested to find out more. This anime didn’t do that. It overused its already lazy exposition gimmicks to the point it revealed all the major plot points in its first quarter. All there was left was an almost fatalistic procedure because it became that predictable. And the only reason it took 11 episodes to play out exactly as I predicted was only because they wasted half the show running after Lisa or Five, characters whose role was to derail the plot and waste time. 8 ) No Character Appeal As much as I liked its aesthetic presentation, I can’t say I was remotely interested in its characters. None of them were special to remember, outside the lazy attempt to make the investigator and the so called terrorists to appear super smart when in reality they are just average people amongst retards. Everybody else was either background decoration or completely undeveloped and more of a hindrance than a vital part to the plot. That stupid bimbo Lisa the two terrorists befriended for example did absolutely nothing but causing them trouble. Why were they so interested in that troublemaker? She was there only to be kidnapped or assaulted every 10 minutes, so the (not really) terrorists had to constantly endanger their plans to save her, just so she can take up space in their apartment and poison them with her awful cooking. She existed to simply waste episodes by being in them. Five was the biggest problem, a character who is presented right away as a one dimensional psychotic bitch we are supposed to hate. She was there as nothing more than the evil version of the two terrorists and was allowed by the American secret agencies to go around doing hideous things, which somehow would help them capture the other two. Well guess what, not only they failed to do so, but the stupid bitch was also causing more trouble than helping them in their work. By the time she was out of the picture, more damage than good was achieved because of her, and literally half the show was wasted while she was in it, derailing the plot from its main objective. Shibazaki is a cool fellow and the most promising of the bunch but he too eventually becomes nothing but a plot device to keep the story going. He serves as the worthy antagonist in solving the riddles alright, but as it turns out the riddles were pointless, and as soon as the secret agency popped into the story he became a passive observer and a peon to the plans of his targets. There are also lots of side characters, each one serving an interesting side story to further flesh out the cast, but are left as nothing but decorations. This includes people like Lisa’s crazy mother, or Shibazaki’s daughter, or the politician who orchestrated the experiments on children. 9) Rule of Cool What further ruins this show is that it is not serious or well written as most in the community think it is for some impossible to excuse reason. It is made to be flashy and entertaining. There is no real tension, no real mystery, no real depth in its characters. It is all in all a rule of cool show about two brats making adults look bad while the population doesn’t care if they are blowing up buildings. It’s about them laughing while escaping the authorities on their cool bikes. It’s about them outsmarting the police because they are good at playing chess; even if the animators don’t even know the rules of the game. It’s about their nemesis being a shallow psychotic narcissistic schoolgirl that the audience is meant to hate right away. It’s about the Japanese politicians thinking that the best way for Japan to get over its losing mentality from WW2 is to return back into thinking they are the master of Asia, and threatening the world with their hidden nuclear arsenal. All that are not deeper or smarter than watching an average fighting shonen where a bunch of stupid boys solve their problems by punching things. 10) The plot is Plotless In the longrun most of what happens in this show doesn’t matter. The (not really) terrorists could simply hack into the police archives and give them all the information they need to investigate the place they wanted them to go to. But instead of doing something so simple they blow up buildings and throw around riddles that could be easily misinterpreted. They try to excuse it as if they wanted to gather the attention of the world before actually revealing the truth but that is bullshit. Detonating a nuclear bomb is more than enough to attract everybody’s attention. I mean what would the media around the world say? Oh, a nuclear explosion over Japan? We don’t know who did it, so we don’t care. Five the psycho bitch was completely slapped on, doing things that completely ruined the plausibility of the whole show. She basically makes the police place bombs, blow up places, and makes the (not really) terrorists to run around for hours while playing chess with completely broken rules instead of just… capturing them. She knows who they are and where they are but doesn’t just send the police to capture them, she just bombs the place, thus erasing all the tracks of them while still failing to stop them. And of course she never gets arrested for causing more damage than the actual threat because we need to stretch the story even more. And when finally shit hits the fan, she just says it was all a game, shoots to death her colleague, and kills herself. Well, that was pointless…Lisa was also supposed to have her side story, something about wishing the world to burn because she was bullied in school, and her mother was pushy. Yeah, so legit reason to destroy the world. Also she was supposed to be the human factor to keep 9 and 12 sane but that part was completely thrown to the side, as she was busy causing trouble and needing to be rescued in every episode. So was the romance that was hinted at a few points. So was the whole point of being the human element to a couple of guys who would die in a few days, regardless of her being there or not.Shibazaki could have been the real star of the show, going around solving riddles and exposing the human experiments. Yet even he became pointless once the nuclear explosion happened and everybody was looking into what happened. All his research went to waste. If you remove Five, the whole series doesn’t need more than a movie’s worth of duration to tell the whole thing. And if you remove the pointless riddles, it doesn’t need more than a couple of OVAs. The characters were literally overcomplicating everything with pointless riddles and bombings and running in airports, and saving useless schoolgirls, making the story to be essentially 90% filler. And to think that at least all time was used to flesh out its characters? It wasn’t! The show ends and you have no reason to think a single one of them wasn’t a forgettable stereotype. All you will remember are explosions, some weird riddles, and cool camera angles. 11) Watanabe is not God This doesn’t have to do that much with the show as it has to do with the hype around it. Can we please stop losing our shit every time the name Watanabe pops up? The guy made one super successful show (Cowboy Bebop) followed by a so-so show (Samurai Champloo) followed by a run of the mill romance show (Kids on the Slope) followed by random fan service episodes (Space Dandy). And now he made this unfortunate piece of work, but nobody besides me wants to admit it because Watanabe is God and those who disagree must die. There may be no real terrorism in the show itself but the anime community is terrified shitless to admit this show being obviously very flawed. Are you men or ostriches? 12) Noitamina is no Asimov And for Pete’s sake, do you even check rosters? The Noitamina timeslot never produced a single good sci-fi title. They suck at everything that has mystery, or supernatural, or technology. They are good only at romances for middle aged women. I knew right away this show would be bad by this simple fact. Plus, the trailers showed a couple of snotty looking teenagers blowing up buildings while talking to cell phones. How hard was it to smell the failure? Did everybody forget Eden of the East already? All there is in this show are pretty visuals and none of the main elements it was going for. It is a better show to your average harem but calling it a good detective story about terrorism? Not even close to that! Before it even a semi guilty pleasure like V for Vendetta is a masterpiece of storytelling.Let's end this with a joke I wrote about episode 8:Nine: Dammit Lisa, stop cooking, you made the apartment explode!Lisa: No it was a bomb that was mailed to me!Twelve: And what did you do to save our base?Lisa: I ran out while holding the ladle.FBI guy: Five, stop blowing up places. Not even my connections can protect you from bombing civilian areas. Blowing up huge airplanes in public airports is ok, but not small apartments.Five: Dammit, I was sure the bomb would take them out.FBI guy: You mean the bomb you sent to the place you saw that girl go in, which you spotted by chance while looking at cameras?Five: Yes, that one. For some reason I never spotted by chance the other two.FBI agent: So why didn't you just tell us to surround the place and arrest them?Five: I was busy polishing my nails. But it's ok, we can still use that girl Lisa as a bait.FBI agent: How original. It's not like we didn't do the exact same thing last episode. And how do you know where she is?Five: By spotting her of course. Something I can't do with the other two. Now go bring her to me, I want to polish her nails too.Nine: Oh no, Lisa is in trouble for the 10th time in this short series. We got to endanger our plans once again to save this completely worthless girl.Twelve: Indeed. She is vital to take up space and poison us with her cooking.Watanabe: I created another masterpiece.Tasteless casuals: Anime of the century! Better than even Momokyun Sword!
During times of political uncertainty, art can effectively unpack the dual threads of hope and worry that run through contemporary public opinion. Shinichiro Watanabe’s Terror in Resonance is one such politically-minded work and also the most plainly political anime that I can recall since Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex finished ten years ago. It is the type of show that some people will love or hate solely on the basis of its politically-charged subject matter. As such, one of the first things we must do in order to correctly judge the series is to understand the political situation that the series aims to address and what it means to say. First, some background: Japan’s current prime minister is Shinzo Abe, a conservative who won a nonconsecutive second term when the preceding liberal premiership was unable to realize any meaningful economic reform. Japan’s economy has typically been second only to the United States, but the 21st century has seen them lagging behind China’s recent boom. But now, after two decades of economic stagnation and economic defeatism, the Abe premiership has been defined by a sense of economic optimism as his policies have seen Japan heading back towards GDP growth and a rising stock market. Of course, Abe’s economic policies are only one part of the politician that he is. Recent months have seen a sharp downturn in Abe’s once-high approval rating as he uses his office to realize more partisan goals. Abe comes from a group of “young” conservatives born after WWII who espouse a sort of neo-nationalism. Many of them see the current state of Japanese foreign policy as weak and subservient to the attitudes of larger geopolitical powers like China and the US. Abe himself supports a revisionist stance on prewar Japanese history, playing up the strength of a nation preparing for war and downplaying the benefits of the pacifist democracy that came after. Specifically, Abe and other right-wing politicians have long sought to overturn Section 9 of the Japanese Constitution which outlaws Japan from carrying out any military actions outside of self-defense. The Japan that Abe aims to create has chosen to define itself in opposition to China and the Koreas, putting considerable strain on the politics of the region and foreshadowing a more militaristic bent to Japan’s foreign policy. Abe saw this through back in July by redefining Japanese defense policy to allow for collective self-defense – a move which considerably increases the power and capability of Japanese forces and, considering the nationalist sentiment that carried it, a worrying sign of things to come for much of the Japanese public that largely takes pride in the country’s pacifism. Terror in Resonance takes a guess at what would happen in an alternate present where the rhetoric and the policies of these Japanese nationalists only continued to gain traction. Watanabe’s hypothesis? A country defined by violence that only begets more violence. Two teenage boys who go by the numbers Nine and Twelve target several high profile Japanese buildings for bombing as a terrorist group called Sphinx. When they take down half of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, the police begin a cat-and-mouse chase to catch the two terrorists before they can follow through on their next bombing. Curiously, the boys have planned each attack so meticulously as to avoid any casualties, which makes the police even more curious about their motives. The case’s main detective, Shibazaki, starts connecting the dots between the targets and the politicians to which those properties are most closely associated. In doing so, he uncovers the truth about a child testing facility – small hints of which we had seen in Nine and Twelve’s traumatic flashbacks. Watanabe aimed to make a show about terrorism because he believed that “Japanese people seem to be under the impression that these are things that happen in countries far away.” Indeed, some of the most striking visual elements of Terror are the devastating yet tactfully borrowed images of modern terrorism, recontextualized to fit a Japanese setting. The aforementioned Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, an iconic Japanese building with two towers, loses one of its spires in the first episode. The next episode opens on images meant to echo the wreckage at Ground Zero. Subsequent episodes recall Oklahoma City, Madrid, and Tokyo itself. The warning here seems clear enough with regards to Japan’s current government: if Japan continues to take a hard-line, right-wing stance, it would only increase the chances of radicalizing a group from within or without the country that might someday respond with violence. The testing facility is revealed to be an unethical military experiment to engineer child savants. Nine and Twelve were lucky enough to survive long enough to escape the program. The other children they left behind all died. When Shibazaki starts looking into the public figures being targeted by the two, he finds a distressingly powerful network of politicians who all threw their weight behind the project. He is able to track down and interview two of the project’s key figures, finding them generally remorseless about the lives they threw away. One of them believed that a long-running post-WWII defeatism still tainted modern Japanese culture. To him, the experiment was simply a desperate attempt to find a uniquely Japanese trump card as an antidote to the country’s post-war humility. The implication that Japanese neo-nationalism might lead to human rights abuses and even human experimentation is a bold one. Still, it is a thread not entirely divorced from reality as Abe’s historical revisionism has infamously glossed over the atrocities committed by the Japanese military in WWII, by the average soldier to the most notorious war criminals. There is a sort of vital immediacy to works of pop culture that reflect the time in which they are made and Terror in Resonance is no different. However, such works only earn a longevity of relevance by first succeeding as works of art before communicating their politics. Unfortunately, it quickly becomes evident that Terror is more concerned with its message than it is with the story or the characters that would give that message any humanizing dimension. One of the show’s immediately noticeable flaws is that the framework of the series is, for lack of a better term, very anime. Secret institutes where they dehumanize children and the traumatized protagonists that hail from such places are a dime a dozen in many anime that try too hard to be edgy. The conflict between Sphinx and the police is also less defined by subterfuge and police work as it is by melodramatic showboating and hokey riddle-solving. For a show with such lofty ambitions, Watanabe plays it completely safe and the show barely ever rises above its tired cliché trappings. It is one thing to start at a familiar place and to end up someplace different, but Terror is woefully short on surprises. The show’s potential for nuance and complexity arguably peaks in its fourth episode – its fifth if we are being generous – but attempting to deliver on that potential in the back half of the series leads to increasingly inconsistent plotting and the erasure of many themes that made the show worth watching in the first place. Now, the surface presentation of Terror in Resonance is basically immaculate. Watanabe’s direction has always yielded fantastic storyboards full of exciting compositions and powerful images. In addition to his tactful handling of the iconic imagery of modern terrorism, the other defining visual theme of the series is the ubiquity of modern technology and social media. The visual vocabulary of the series is littered with facsimiles of recognizable technology such as iPhones, Youtube, Twitter, and much more. The sheer volume and variety of this visual thread adds an air of modern day veracity to the series that may be unmatched by any other filmic work in its consistent accuracy. Terror also finds Watanabe back together with his most famous collaborator, the composer Yoko Kanno. Kanno’s eclectic soundtracks have always paired well with Watanabe’s visual dynamism and her work here is no exception. Unfortunately, Watanabe’s greatest strength – action scenes – is perhaps one of the main reasons why the series fails. Watanabe has always been most comfortable with action scenes built upon black and white morality. As the show comes down from its early peaks, subsequent scripts start working the plot away from shades of grey and deeper into Watanabe’s comfort zone. The action scenes continue to deliver basic thrills in efficient and creative ways but the rest of the series suffers within the simplified shell of what the show once was. When I wrote about the show’s first two episodes back in July, I hoped that the show’s subject matter would be complex enough to earn the images it so boldly invoked. Turns out, it wasn’t, and Terror’s imagery ends up feeling quite empty. With Watanabe and his screenwriters focusing primarily on selling the action and the emphatic weight of Terror’s message, the characters come off feeling like the most incomplete part of the whole thing. Character development is forced to compete for screen time and we get less than even the bare minimum, poured into whatever cracks are left. While the characters all get solid introductions, most of them do not grow beyond the traits outlined in their first scenes. Those that do tend to get too little, too late. For being one of the main protagonists, Nine is basically a static character defined by his taciturn nature and not much else. Shibazaki is given a great deal to do but he is more of a tool of the script than an actual character as he remains constantly unchanged when faced with conflict. Twelve does show some development over the series through his interactions with Lisa, an abused teenager who falls in with the two boys. Their scenes together are more vibrant than any other character interaction in the series but the clumsy pacing of the series protracts the downtime between these glowing moments. Outside of their time together, Twelve is simply Nine’s static foil and Lisa isn’t even worth mentioning. She is typically depicted as dead weight or a background element with no agency and it is difficult to justify her importance as a character in this story. However, though these flaws are ever present, the series still manages five above average episodes and the occasional great moment. What, then, about the other six episodes? In the fifth episode, we are introduced to Five, a young woman who was raised in the same facility as Nine and Twelve. She was adopted by the US military and has become an FBI agent. She arrives with an American counter-terrorism unit to help the Japanese authorities catch the boys by increasingly shady means. She initially adds an interesting sense of malice to the series but her very presence quickly becomes its greatest mistake. Five’s role in the series speaks to the most prominent idea it sets forth. The US has been mostly positive about increased Japanese militarism under Abe’s hawkish premiership, seeing it as a way to grow another military arm in the Pacific. It can be seen how an anti-American sentiment might run through Japanese public opinion on foreign policy, at least, in terms of military might. Five and her FBI agents represent all that is ugly about America’s selfish motivations when it comes to our foreign relations. Five’s arc lasts for six episodes and is by and large the show’s loudest statement. It is unfortunate, then, that this considerable section of the show falls flat – not because what it says it “too much” in any way, but rather because it barely says anything at all. For all the leaden weight of Terror’s commentary on domestic Japanese politics, these ideas are incisive at the very least. However, what the show has to say about meddling American foreign policy is disappointingly facile and honestly, quite boring. For all of its posturing, there is a great deal lost in translation to an American audience accustomed to more scathing criticisms from our own artists. Americans are a self-reflective people and no one is better at tearing into our sins and blunders as ourselves. To a Western audience more literate in America’s self-loathing patriotism in the wake of Vietnam or Iraq, Five comes off as cartoonishly evil when there are other, more darkly complicated ways to portray an American villain. Five lacks any sort of dimension and six episodes of plot only reveal a vague obsession with Nine as her sole motivation. The wonderfully grounded visual themes of modern technology and terrorism are set aside for fantastical action movie nonsense of the sort we get in 24 or the Bourne series – purely escapist imagery that feels insultingly mismatched against the heavy images with which Terror in Resonance began. The world of the series shrinks both visually and thematically, reduced to entertaining Five’s dramatically uninteresting mania. The back and forth between Sphinx and the police simplifies into a staid “enemy of my enemy” sort of plot. After a point, it becomes clear that the series will never return to form, all of its flaws having been magnified by the unwelcome addition of and insistence on its least compelling element. There is clearly much to say about the current, visible trend of right-wing Japanese nationalism and Terror in Resonance tries to cover as much as it can over only eleven episodes. While it starts off strong, its missteps quickly outweigh what it does right, relegating it to the status of an interesting failure and nothing more. Still, it takes both interesting successes and interesting failures to move a medium forward and Terror is nothing if not determined in its earnestness to spread a message. There is a better way to do what the series tried to do but there is an undeniable cultural importance in the attempt to say anything at all. The present relevance of Terror in Resonance may be reduced to a mere footnote as the years pass, but it will be remembered in footnotes, not forgotten in them.
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