This is part of a series of re-posts of older reviews on 100 Word Anime. The original review came out in July 2016 and can be found here.
We’ve seen a lot of these movies, series, books, etc of late that seem to look at the underlying causes of terrorism and what makes someone villainous. These stories look at motive and reason and also the injustices that exist in the fundamental structures inherent within society that so many people accept without question. They make us think for a moment and then we carry on with our lives with very little changing. And Terror in Resonance isn’t an exception. While watching it there are a myriad of questions and thoughts that can come to mind (provided you aren’t put off by the overly contrived plot, which I know does put some viewers off) but afterwards there’s little left other than a feeling of ‘oh, that happened’ and this anime is one that for whatever reason becomes swiftly put to the side.
Perhaps this is because the subject matter really is something that a lot of us feel is just too big for us to do anything about individually. Maybe it feels too far removed, like someone else’s problem. Or maybe it really is something we’ve become desensitised to and while the events in the anime are shocking in their own way, what we see on the daily news is so much more confronting. Whatever the reason, for all that I enjoy Terror in Resonance for what it is, part of me feels like it is a conversation starter that never really got the conversation started.
Terror In Resonance (or Zankyou no Terror) follows Nine and Twelve, our teenage terrorists as they plan and act on their terrorist plots. However, what it doesn’t do is glorify their actions or make the audience feel these characters are the modern day Robin Hood’s. Their actions are acts of terrorism and destruction and while the characters themselves are cast in sympathetic lights at times, their actions are not. That I think is what made me pay attention. This isn’t the V for Vendetta story where we set off fireworks and have an orchestra playing while demolish a building. This is serious and the actions and their consequences are serious and playing it that way, it makes me actually want to know more about the two responsible and why they are acting the way they are. Not to excuse their actions, but just to understand.
And the picture that is painted as this series goes on is bleak even if it is a little predictable. Government experimentation on children and the ongoing consequences for those involved (who survived) sits at the heart but it is more the cover-ups and the way power is abused that drive our characters. And not just the would-be terrorists. Even our detective has been at the mercy of power battles within the government and department and while he still continues to try to do his job, it is obvious that he frustrated with the corruption surrounding him.
To be honest, in the two years since I first reviewed this, I feel the themes and ideas being discussed by this anime are even more relevant now than they were. Again, the anime is a little ham-fisted in its delivery and part of that is probably due to the limited episode count in which it had to paint this incredibly bleak picture across the Japanese political landscape, but realistically these are ideas that most people in most countries have found themselves needing to discuss. Okay, maybe not the secret child experimentation (at least I really hope not).
However, the anime is aware that we need a way into this story of terrorist and police and government agencies, and so we have Lisa. A normal school girl who has been swept up in events (or so we would say if we didn’t take a closer look). Lisa allows herself to be swept away by events and she does so at first with reckless abandon because she has given up on society. Bullying, emotional insecurities and an unstable family life have pushed her to the edge. She is already ready to break but has no means of escape from this life. Her encounter with Nine and Twelve give her a slim ray of hope and she jumps on it. If Nine and Twelve were actually blood-thirsty murderers this would be a truly terrible development but in this instance what we see instead is a girl learning the bigger picture of injustice in the world and slowly finding who she is and what she needs to stand for.
That isn’t to say she undergoes some amazing character transformation and comes out the other side a shining example of morality. Lisa simply has to put herself back together again and learn how to live in the world. She very easily could have become a random victim of the violence or cover up, she could have become crazed with the idea of revenge of murder or direct action, and she could have simply been pushed far enough that she would end her own life. Instead, she faces the tragedy around her head on and learns to deal with it. This is an ongoing mission and we end the series with Lisa’s journey only just beginning but the events of the story have left a lasting impression on her being.
In short, Lisa is the character that the anime is asking us to be. The one who observes the tragedy, gets briefly touched by it, and faces it head on in an honest and frank discussion and thinks about where things should go after-ward. It all would have been so much more affective if Lisa had been a slightly more compelling character but as she is the stand in for the essential by-stander it really does make sense that she is a bit of flat and passive individual for a lot of the series.
Alright, I’ll admit the plot kind of flails at times. Too many coincidences, lucky guess and random events hold together what is meant to be a masterminded series of events. If you think about any of the encounters between Nine, Twelve, Five and the police you will find plot holes and be able to point excitedly and say, ‘see!’. Certainly, by mid-way the plot is questionable but the ending at least offers a clarity that is rarely found in anime.
And far be it from me to criticise anyone for criticising. I’ll admit plot holes are a problem, particularly in a piece that is built around mind games and the like. Honestly, Five is the character I find most problematic in terms of believing their actions (more believing that the government behind her allows her actions) but she does serve a fairly important turning point in the series so we’ll give it a pass, suspend disbelief, and get on with the show.
I’ll defend Terror In Resonance on this point. I feel the themes and characters are by far the strength of the series and they shine. The plot is simply there to hold it all together and move us from one question to the next and to push the characters to the next part of their journey. That may be a terrible justification but ultimately the story itself isn’t the point here. It very much feels like this anime wants us to take a good and hard look at the processes, corruptions, societal pressures that push people over the edge and to really think about how we, simply by accepting these things as normal, are more or less complicit in maintaining this status quo. Or at least, that’s what I got from it while watching and I understand that other viewers will just see that vaguely messy plot that is reliant on a lot of contrivance and won’t really engage with the questions the story seems to be asking.
However, while the plot may be hit and miss, the music and atmosphere of this show are perfectly matched. It sucks you right in and doesn’t let go. I find this series absolutely binge worthy.
In terms of a recommendation, I really feel this is a great story for discussion. There are so many views on the issues raised and as a conversation started it works very well. That said, it is dark and violent and at times distressing, so people who aren’t big on that should probably avoid. Also, it isn’t quite as clever as it would like to be at times (the airport scene being a great example of this). But, like two years ago, I still think this one is worth the watch and I continue to enjoy this anime immensely more for what it tried to be even if it didn’t always succeed.
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