An original creation with a unique premise by the legendary Shinichiro Watanabe. Music by the equally legendary Yako Kanno, who previously had worked with Watanabe on two of his biggest hits: Cowboy Bebop and Kids on the Slope. It sounds like the making of the next big classic in anime, and yet, it’s never mentioned when talking about Watanabe’s works.
Was it unable to meet the hype? Was it overshadowed by Space Dandy, another Watanabe work that was released the same year? Was it just not good?
This is a review of the wonderful strengths and critical weaknesses of Terror in Resonance, the forgotten, glossed over, black sheep of Watanabe’s works.
What is it about?
Terror in Resonance begins with mysteries and unknown motivations. A terrorist duo uploads a cryptic video warning of a terrorist attack in Japan that would occur the following day. The threat goes by mostly unnoticed, with many falsely assuming it’s a prank.
The next day, as warned, a black-out in the area forces civilians to evacuate the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.
Both of the terrorists plant bombs throughout the building but are seen by a troubled girl they interacted with earlier. Before the bombs are set to go off, they give her the option to either die or become an accomplice of their terrorism.
In fear of dying, the girl agrees to become an accomplice. The bombs go off and the building collapses, establishing the terrorists as a force to be reckoned with.
What follows is a cat and mouse game between the police and the terrorists, who egg them on with additional cryptic videos and riddles. All the while paranoia spreads and any sense of order in Tokyo has been decimated.
As the police continue to get closer to figuring out the intentions of the terrorists, the girl who joins them struggles in figuring out if the feelings she has resonate with them and if she has a place in society.
There Isn’t Much Anime like Terror in Resonance
I think it’s important to point out how unique Terror in Resonance is. While there are plenty of animes that might focus on a rebellious group, or perhaps a terrorist attack that leads to war (see most Gundam series that), there isn’t one with the focus that Terror in Resonance has.
If you’re only looking for anime that share a singular aspect with Terror in Resonance, that’s simple enough because you can draw parallels to just about anything. But, if you’re looking for an anime that comes close to the same presentation, you’re not going to find one.
Before I go further into it, I think it’s important to warn people there are going to be spoilers throughout. The above is a quick run-through of the first episode, which itself is already mostly explained in the general synopsis.
If you’ve never heard of it before, but think you’ll be interested in it, I do recommend that you give it a watch! My personal opinion is that it has a very strong start and loses a lot of steam as it approaches the end, but as popular as that sentiment is, it isn’t shared by everybody.
Where to Watch
If you are interested in watching the show, you’ll be happy to know there’s a couple options available! Terror in Resonance can be watched on Hulu with the Japanese dub, or on Funimation for free with the Japanese or English dubs.
If you’re more interested in hearing my take on it, then please read on! The first aspect we’re going to cover is introducing the characters.
Nine – One of the two criminal masterminds behind the terrorist group known as Sphinx. He attends high school under the name Arata Kokonoe. He’s a calm genius, but suffers from nightmares stemming from his past.
Twelve – The other half of Sphinx. He attends high school along with Nine, under the name Toji Hisami. He’s a lot more lively than his aloof partner, and some might see him as the more childish/less mature one.
Lisa Mishima – A troubled girl who goes to the same school as the two terrorist members. She initially meets them when Twelve interrupts a group of girls bullying her. Facing problems at school and at home with an overly-protective and emotionally unstable mother, Lisa keeps to herself.
Certain events lead to her becoming an accomplice to the terrorist acts, causing her to take a deeper look at herself.
Kenjiro Shibazaki – A promising detective who used to hold a higher position, but now works in the records division. His interest in the cryptic videos left behind by Sphinx and his ability to solve their riddles leads him to join the agency that’s working towards stopping the terrorists.
Five – Someone with a connection to the mysterious children Twelve and Nine, she now works as an FBI operative. She acts as a foil to their plans and begins to play her own games with Sphinx.
An Incredible OST
Before we even touch upon what happens in the show and what the strengths are, I have to go over the OST. The reason for that is very simple: it’s a soundtrack composed by Yoko Kanno. And as expected, it’s incredible.
The soundtrack brings this show to life. When you look at the work she’s done for Kids on the Slope, Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell, etc., it’s all wonderful music that keeps you bobbing your head and smiling at the upbeat action.
Yoko Kanno’s composition for Terror in Resonance is a little different. The series is dramatic and suspenseful, and the music compliments this by commanding each scene. It elevates the anime to heights it wouldn’t reach without it, and it’s worth mentioning and listening to, no matter the show’s shortcomings.
Visuals on A Different Level
Artistically speaking, there’s no limit when it comes to art and animation. There’s a wide range of looks for anime and there can be total knock-outs that have opposite styles.
But, I do believe there is a particular divide in quality between, say, movies/OVAs, and shows. Usually it’s easily explainable as a difference in budget and time for the production involved.
Taking that into consideration, I can confidently say that Terror in Resonance presents itself with a much higher quality of visuals in comparison to other shows. It’s absolutely gorgeous by itself and when it pairs with the fantastic music it amounts to an incredible experience.
It doesn’t have the fantastical cosmic colors of Space Dandy, nor the bright pop present in Carole & Tuesday. In fact, it often looks very realistic and bleak (which matches the characters). But the lighting and art style lend itself well to this realistic world and it’ll never fail to take your breath away.
Where the TV Series (Eventually) Fails
There was a lot of hype for the show going in. With Watanabe and Kanno involved, how could it not? The show garnered more hype after two episodes premiered ahead of the television broadcast at Anime Expo and Japan Expo in 2014.
When the show began its broadcast and everyone could watch it, the hype remained strong. The visuals and soundtrack were consistently praised (episode four’s bike scene with the track “is” garnered a lot of attention) and the mystery surrounding the characters and the plot was incredibly enticing.
It’s with episode five (appropriate as it’s the introduction of the character Five) that the show unravels. Perhaps it’s because the veil of mystery begins to lift here. In my opinion, it’s because this is when inconsistencies within the series start.
When this “game” that our terrorist protagonists play is just between them and the police, it’s at its most simple and powerful. The addition of more “players” makes for a grander and more intense/action story, but it loses impact along the way.
When the Americans and Five throw themselves into this game for the second half of the series, it becomes a lot more chaotic. Everything that happens after this seems to lend itself to feeling overly intense, which goes against the feeling it had before. Even the characters seem different within the second half of the series.
At the end of the first episode, we’re left feeling uneasy about Nine and Twelve. There’s an obvious sense of the unknown for each, but we can tell that Nine is more cold and serious, while Twelve is goofy and extroverted.
However, while you can deduce their intent to not explicitly harm anyone with their bombs, both seem fairly detached when deciding if they should save Lisa or leave her to die. It seems that they are actually willing to let someone die in these attacks.
Considering nobody dies from this initial attack, but people are harmed, there’s nothing that goes against this heavily implied character detail.
And then in episode five, Nine is caught in one of their own explosions as he tries to save people. It totally contradicts their actions and implied ideals. If there’s anything viewers don’t appreciate, it’s inconsistencies.
You try to make an argument that’ll make sense. Maybe they don’t mind sacrificing a couple people, but an entire train’s worth is too much. You try to think of something that explains how they didn’t break character.
But the rest of the show only further complicates this when cryptic videos posted on the internet with Oedipus Rex riddles turn into public games of chess at an airport. Five’s total indifference to involving civilian lives as she attempts to imitate Sphinx pushes her to the new role of a character who will do whatever they want to win.
Meanwhile, Nine doesn’t mind if Five kills Lisa, but Twelve is vehemently against it (even though he cheerfully has her unknowingly hold a bomb in the first episode).
Flashbacks revealing the past during the remainder of the show are great and provide wonderful character motivations, but everything feels detached from present events.
I would never say that Terror in Resonance was a bad anime. In fact, I believe it’s pretty entertaining! It’s gritty, serious, and I always wanted to see the following episodes. But it suffers from not being nearly as good as Watanabe’s other works, and for feeling like two different animes at the same time.
You know when an anime is based on a manga, but it catches up to the manga and suddenly the second half of the show feels totally different? That’s the feeling I get from Terror in Resonance, only there’s no cop-out for being based on a manga.
I think the show was planned out from the beginning. They knew where the plot was going to take them and they executed it. It just evolved into something else that people didn’t want. It’s not a bad show, it just feels conflicted.