Tokyo has been lulled into a sense of security in an alternate version of the 21st century. However, two teenage terrorists known collectively as Sphinx are about to prove this notion false when they bomb a government office building. Who are these young terrorists, and what do they hope to achieve? Both of these questions and more will be answered in Terror in Resonance, one of the most controversial shows of the summer season.
For its entire first half (and a large portion of the second), Terror in Resonance focuses on the attempts of detective Shibazaki to figure out the locations of the explosives planted by Sphinx before the bombs detonate, with only cryptic clues left by the teens for him to puzzle over.
The tension this builds and the interestingly clever ways that Shibazaki solves the riddles make for an excellent experience. In the latter half this is downplayed slightly, but is still an important element in the overall structure.
There are not clear sides in the conflict of Terror in Resonance. Three main groups more or less form, but who is in the right and who is in the wrong? While the show can occasionally go into black-and-white moral choices, oftentimes the 'right' decision is not clear, which makes sense considering the protagonists seem to have a nasty habit of bombing public buildings. I think that the show questions the societal norm's 'correct' moral behavior, since the protagonists are terrorists fighting for what is clearly a noble cause.
(For those of you that have finished the show, notice how the director Shinichiro Watanabe indirectly criticizes the recent movement to remove the portion of the Japanese constitution that bans war.)
The soundtrack for Terror in Resonance is absolutely beautiful. Kanno Yoko, the composer, really outdoes herself this time. It ranges from terror-filling tension to a moving harmony between piano and violin. Not only is the music itself wonderful, it also fits the mood of the show like a glove. Every single moment the soundtrack comes in during screen-time is greatly enhanced by it. I think that the versatility of sounds that permeate the show are an excellent addition, and perhaps is its strongest area.
Suspension of Disbelief
One of the issues of Terror in Resonance is that it shatters the suspension of disbelief with many minor plot holes. However, I find that the director of the show (Shinichiro Watanabe) manages to take these cracks in the story and more or less cover them up with directorial tricks that actually prevented me from noticing most issues until after the discussion about it in last month's podcast, and because of this, I have a lot more respect for him.
Several extremely odd events seem to be occurring in Tokyo, but no one really notices! One of the most spotty areas of Terror in Resonance's story-line would be the minimal consequences following important events. If your government suddenly took out cellphone towers in the area owned by private companies without an explanation, would the citizens just act like nothing happened? No, no they wouldn't.
The Japanese cooperation with the American government is on the level of absurdity. They would be willing to allow a bomb to go off in a public train? EVEN IN AN AIRPORT? The Japanese even silence and suspend Shibazaki and his officer friends (who seem to be the only people in Tokyo that notice anything abnormal) when they attempt to interfere on behalf of the public. While Five's agent buddy does acknowledge that the airport incident put them on slightly worse terms with the Japanese, I am dumbfounded why they would ever allow the American government to be so arbitrarily obtrusive. Additionally, Nine and Twelve seem to have conflicting morals. I understand that they don't want to kill anyone unnecessarily, but the lengths they go to to prevent deaths at times (such as disarming the train bomb on site) are absurd. While I can understand preventing needless deaths, the very nature of bombing public buildings is that people can get hurt or die. For whatever reason, they don't seem to understand that. Towards the beginning, they also threaten to kill Lisa is she doesn't cooperate. Why would they be willing to kill her but no one else? They were either lying (which seems out of character) or they are huge hypocrites. Sound character development dictates that character progression must make logical sense to the viewers, and in this case it doesn't.
While the story itself seems to be paced reasonably well, the sense of time in the show is incredibly disorienting and fragmented when actually thought about. How large is the time-frame? Several days, weeks, maybe even a couple months? These temporal elements are left out altogether.
Several minor plot points, such as the school Sphinx attends as part of their cover, are also forgotten or left out. Fortunately, the main story-line still seems to take place over a believable amount of time, so this can be mostly forgiven.
The Minor Details
A large amount of the elements that are supposed to drive the story are gone, such as precursor events. Minor plot details are sometimes completely forgotten, such as the school Sphinx is supposedly attending as cover which we see them attend once. For those that wish to avoid spoilers, skip the rest of this section.
Nine and Twelve were both raised in an institution that seems to have motivated their actions. However, although we later learn where they come from, we fail to be informed of specifics such as how they escaped, what they did after that, or why they chose to become terrorists.
Five works with the American government, and not only is the explanation for how a subject of a Japanese experiment began working with America absent, we also are never enlightened on the reasons why Five is so eager to beat Nine, other than "he always would beat me when we were kids". Mere insanity arguments do not account for this either, as an insane person would not be willingly given so much power in a foreign government.
Perhaps the best way to explain my issue with characters in Terror in Resonance would be that it really didn't feel like there were any. I have said before that character development is a relative term, and often characters only need to be developed to the level of others within the story. However, this show has caused me to tweak this theory. While the above statement is still true, it only works if the show acknowledges the level of development it hopes to accomplish, and achieves it. Terror in Resonance fails to do this. It attempts to set us up with intriguing characters to drive the story, but character development ends up ranging from archetypal to nonexistent.
Characters such as Detective Shibazaki, a brilliant but misunderstood sleuth whose skills of detection got him demoted when he discovered government corruption, and Nine, one of the terrorists who cleverly comes up with the plans and is an expert hacker, both fit classic, almost archetypal designs used frequently. Despite these stereotypical backgrounds, surely they could create their own identities as the show progressed though, right? Unfortunately, those descriptions will be pretty much all that you will learn about either of those characters throughout the eleven episodes, because the plot skips entirely over character development in favor of a story, which, as I have already explained, has its own set of issues.
( SPOILERS CONCERNING THE CONCLUSION, skip ahead of this section if you wish to discover it for yourself)
The concluding portion of Terror in Resonance doesn't make any sense. First, I would like to point out the unexplained and HIGHLY convenient deaths of both Five and Nine, who succumb to something (presumably an after-effect of the experiments performed on them) at highly tense moments in the show. As for Twelve's death, why did the American government want to kill the Japanese terrorists? Their goal was seemingly to reveal to the world that Japan had been attempting to build an army of super soldiers and ultra-powerful atomic bombs, so why did they kill two of the test subjects? They not only could have served as evidence, but also had the same goals and could have potentially cooperated. The writing here just seems especially sloppy, and little time seems to be put into considering whether anything that happens is actually consistent or plausible.
I managed to enjoy Terror in Resonance despite its many, many flaws. While the plot progression can be nonsensical and characters are poorly developed, it does manage to create a story interesting enough to hold my attention. I can't recommend this to everyone, but it does merit an audience. Just don't look into it too much, or the cracks will begin to show through.
Terror in Resonance is available for streaming on FUNimation.
Thanks for reading! Was there something I didn't cover? Was I completely wrong? Let me know in the comments and I'll make sure to reply.