Terror in Resonance was the big name of the summer, coming from Shinichiro Watanabe. The reactions to the series varied from over-enthusiasm to satisfaction to total disappointment. The newbie inexperienced anime fans were the ones to hail it as masterpiece ignoring all the blatant problems the work had, but I can’t say I don’t understand their feelings about it. After all, that’s why I include it in the 12 days of Christmas.
Americans were once again only the villains and FBI acted in unreasonable ways, letting a girl do what she wants despite endangering so many lives. The mental chess played between the kids wasn’t really explained. We had Lisa suggesting Twelve should let her die and make a run himself… while they were suspended over 50m midair. In the last episode only Twelve got shot while Shibazaki and Lisa were left to live, although logic would dictate that they Americans had all the reasons to silence them as well. You would also expect Lisa running towards Twelve and panic once he got shot, but no, no reaction. The list can probably go on.
Lisa was a clumsy incompetent doormat who was a victim of psychological abuse and the anchor of sanity for Twelve. Five was the sassy anime-ish villainess with yandere tendencies towards Nine who for whatever reason decided to take her life in front of the person she was so frantically chasing after and wanted to harm. The female characters of this story were there as stereotypes and only to move forward/mess up the plot or act as supporters/antagonists of the men. I mean the only other female characters were Lisa’s mother, Lisa’s classmates and Shibazaki’s daughter and wife. Not one of them stood as a well-crafted character on her own right. At least Lisa’s narrative could be amended with some small fixes and one more episode about her.
BUT unfortunately, the series collapsed under the weight of the bad script.
And yet, Terror in Resonance excelled in the visual and aural section and in putting political issues on the discussion table.
I greatly appreciated the way summer was presented, stifling, scorching, merciless and lonely. The first three screenshots above are from the first episodes while the latter two from the end. The series generally utilized high contrast between white and black, big shadows, slightly grainy images to create discomfort and imitate the heat.
The first and second screenshot use perspective to lead the gaze to the sole subject (here: Shibazaki as a kid and as an adult) while the composition is focused on the center. This emphasizes the smallness of the subject and its confinement from its surroundings. The third frame is tilted and focused on engines that usually produce a lot of noise making the viewer a bit uncomfortable with their stillness. The fourth and fifth focus on places that were heavily emotionally charged in the past -the ferris wheel where Lisa was trapped with a bomb and the fence from the institute Nine and Twelve climbed when they escaped. Now both places lie motionless and quietly abandoned. The mood and the colors are different though. Especially in the fence shot the blue is vivid and joyous, not muted like before. The sun is also directly seen. When I saw it on my screen I felt elated and relieved. I felt, like maybe, we’ll get a good ending for the kids we so cared.
Going a bit backwards in the last episode, there are more eye-catching scenes. Just after the bomb has exploded. The ‘camera’ shows us all the busy city and school landscape we’ve encountered in the past now devoid of any life, with only a few signs of what occured -e.g. the dropped bicycle. The ‘shots’ are accompanied by a soft sweet music and despite all the casualties, all the agony and panic this revisiting of sceneries is soothing, signifying a new start like a reset button was pushed.
The use of color is also exceptional. SeHNNG notes on the cinematography of the series that “Blue has been coded as a distancing structure, green as a placeholder, and orange as an uncomfortable tone.”
Again in the last episode, this coding seems to stand true but I think it’s also slightly changed. Blue is a cold color and keeps appearing in moments of emotional numbness: moments before the explosion when Twelve was talking about the orphanage and we’re shown Nine all alone in Tokyo Tower; Shibazaki and others in the police headquarters in front of the screens trying to figure out the impact of the bomb and prevent it; and the start of the blinding explosion.
Red, orange and yellow although still tied with danger, they now bear a warm cathartic effect. There’s something almost religious (note: I’m an atheist) and overwhelmingly awe-inspiring which is no longer that much scary. I know it sounds preposterous but just look at how Twelve and Lisa slowly hold hands, look at the faces and hands of the populace.
Green now is a blatant signifier of hope now. Twelve thanks Lisa under a tree for being there for him, for making him remember what human warmth means, while both of them hope that the world won’t end for them shortly. Moreover, green washes over everything after the explosion and a stunning aurora is observed. Hope for the truth to be revealed and for a brighter future.
My most favorite scenes are the following (sorry for the bad quality):
- Bullying pool scene: the first scene that really caught my intention. I really liked the small ‘camera’ movements to give off instability and the inner turmoil Lisa was going through. Moreover, I’m romantic deep down and the phrase “It was a hot summer day that I saw a smile as warm as the sun and a gaze as cold as ice” totally stole my heart. Sheer poeticness.
- Five on fire scene: This is simply chill-boning. Indeed nightmare material. The way the flames lick Five’s hair, her Scream-like face and the explosions is such a strong imagery.
- Lisa running away- motorcycle scene: The ‘camera’ work is excellent. There’s a ‘show, don’t tell’ strategy at the start of this particular episode where Lisa’s feelings of despair and isolation are depicted both in her facial expression and her small presence in a crowd. Then her feelings that have been bottling in explode towards Twelve and we see the background moving while there are close-ups and distant shots. A sense of being trapped gets effectively across this way. Finally, a dizzying liberation. Just for a few seconds you really want to let the world burn like these kids. Oh, and Is is playing in the background. The one song that I’d choose if I was pressed to give an answer about my top song from the series.
- Ferris wheel bomb detonation scene: Twelve apologizes for getting her involved in their plans. The ferris wheel’s lights are cold and dazzling. An otherwise normal dating setup is twisted because Twelve and Nine got twisted and Lisa found herself in the middle of their mess. What is really special about this scene is how tender it is directed: Twelve cuts off the bombs’ cables with a lot of precision, he touches Lisa’s voice to calm her, and the moon is watching them.
As with Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, Terror in Resonance‘s OST is very tightly knit with the story and is largely the reason the series arouse and kept holding a high place in its fans’ hearts. It carried and supported as much as the visuals. I’ve been listening to the first OST and crystalized constantly since their release -again and again and again, like a chant or a prayer to beauty. I, who usually avoid electronic music, didn’t skip a single track. It’s really something unparalleled and unique. It’s ruthless, sorrowful, melancholic, hopeful. It speaks of imminent danger and of sweet waiting. It didn’t matter a thing if I couldn’t understand the islandic lyrics. The ED song was another very good one; very haunting.
Talking about the acoustical part of the show, we should mention the seiyuu, too. Their voices suit each character and their performance is very good. Lisa’s timidness, Twelve’s jolliness and Nine’s sincere mourning are well-reflected in their voice.
Let’s not forget the show’s reference to Japanese history, to these dark shameful folds of its past, and surprisingly even to the country’s present. Vestenet did a great job on researching and presenting us everything from the smaller hints to the more apparent references (and not only; you can read all his commentaries on Isn’t it Electrifying?). Here is a small excerpt from Echoes of the past: The historical context of Terror in Resonance episode 8:
But if we recall Nine’s outfit, the year 1960 evokes a very specific set of student protests that took place in Japan, in opposition to the ratification of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan, or Anpo for short. The treaty most contentiously guaranteed the United States the right to maintain a military presence throughout Japan. Whether in the name of pacifism or sovereignty, many Japanese citizens opposed these measures, which would (and did) wrap Japan up in the United States’ conflicts overseas. Thus, Anpo sparked a series of protests and demonstrations throughout 1960, the most significant of which occurred on June 15th.
[…] Anpo is still in effect today, and Terror in Resonance does not shy away from telling a story in which an American team can swoop in and undermine Japanese authority without any fanfare or transparency.
Students continued to be important members of Japan’s protests throughout the 1960s. […] Thus, these promotional images of Nine, Twelve, and Lisa in student uniforms standing in front of rubble is especially charged imagery.
And another excerpt from Speaker of the Dead: Terror in Resonance episode 10:
Well, it turns out that very recently, the current prime minister Shinzo Abe convened with his cabinet and decided to reinterpret article 9 more loosely, so that it would allow Japan to fight abroad and expand its military presence. Sound familiar? What’s even crazier is that this decision was made this July, which, if you’ll recall, is the same month Terror in Resonance started airing. Either the series’ writing was extraordinarily prescient, or they decided to add that detail in light of the recent events. Regardless, it’s a politically provocative inclusion.
Closing this post (sorry it’s on a lighter note), I couldn’t not mention how hard I shipped the OT3 Nine x Twelve x Lisa! My sweet babies for whom I cried rivers.
I might not be able to highly recommend this series, but it was no doubt one of the highlights of the year, a series that in one way or another stayed with me. And worse than Psychopass it is not.