First Look: Terror In Resonance

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Alternative titles: Zankyou no Terror, Terror in Tokyo
Anime original by MAPPA
Streaming on Funimation

Premise

Two mysterious boys known only as ‘Nine’ and ‘Twelve’ start attending a Tokyo high school, but are secretly plotting a large scale terrorist attack. However, things don’t go exactly as planned, and a reticent girl named Lisa is forced to become their accomplice.

Aqua’s verdict: Terrific

There is a lingering, grimy tenor of threat pervading through Terror in Resonance — a leering dread which wisely averts the usual showmanship anime adopts in favour of mystery and ambiguity the likes of which we rarely see. Terror in Resonance is the first proper anime thriller since Eden of the East, eschewing the bloodshed and relentless hysteria of similar shows for a frantic and sporadic style devoid of contemporary clichés. Subtle hints of character depth stem from Lisa’s vulnerable acquiescence and the terrorist duo’s almost caricatural emotional single-mindedness, which isn’t exactly uncommon in sociopaths. Yet Terror in Resonance‘s biggest strength is that these people aren’t characters you want to be. It’s not an escapist fantasy, glorifying terrorism as a means of “sticking it to the man”. Nine and Twelve’s humane quirks and intriguing backstories make them fascinating, but not once does the show try to convince you of the fact that they’re in the right. They’re less like the lovable rogues from director Shinichiro Watanabe’s other works or the wacky psychopaths from lesser shows and more like Light Yagami from Death Note: they’re clever, charismatic and intriguing, but deep down, you know you shouldn’t be rooting for them.

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Terror in Resonance knows this, and plays out this strength to its fullest advantage by driving the thoroughly broken Lisa into Nine and Twelve’s claws. The relationship between these three will be what defines the show, and whichever choices Lisa will make further down the line — join the Sphinx  boys or oppose them — could make for some utterly enthralling television. She is by far the strongest new anime protagonist of the season, whose twisted inner turmoils (Abusive mother? Eating disorder?) are brought to life by gorgeous facial animation and strong voice acting by my absolute favourite upcoming voice actor Atsumi Tanezaki, probably best known as Asako Natsume in My Little Monster. Watanabe’s directing plays off the blistering contrast between the quiet, subtle drama scenes and the paranoid, neurotic, Bourne-like action sequences, using a faux hand-held camera effect and first-person perspective to create a show that is truly unlike anything out there right now, a feat that is only strengthened by Yoko Kanno’s haunting soundtrack. Layering endlessly looping samples on top of each other, Kanno ditches the jazz she is best known for in favour of a less prominent electronic ambient score befitting of Terror in Resonance‘s restless atmosphere.

The first episode of Terror in Resonance is a thrilling watch from the very beginning to the very end, owing most of my excitement to the fact that it dares. It dares to show, rather than tell. It dares to portray complex characters with pervasive issues, without resorting to tired conventions or clichés. It dares to retain focus without becoming self-indulgent. It dares to show violence without pulpy excess or escapist trivializing. It dares to be the exact opposite of everything I have come to hate about anime over the past few years: compelling, poignant, emotionally investing and made with dedication and skill. Yet Terror in Resonance will need to make good on all of its promising potential, no matter what it chooses to become. The noitaminA time-slot, sadly, is as known for its failure to deliver on awe-inspiring first episodes — yes you, No. 6 — as it is for the alternative masterpieces it likes to brag about. Terror in Resonance has everything to end up ranking alongside the brand’s best, and it’s hard for me to temper my excitement. It will probably only reveal its true face and value around the very end, but if anyone can make me lust to find out, it’s Shinichiro Watanabe.

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Zigg’s verdict: Numbers Game

We weren’t given a huge amount to go on in this first episode, but what we did get was more than enough to pique my interest. What really drew me to Terror In Resonance was the remarkable mood it manages to convey. There’s an undercurrent of deadly menace that permeates the entire episode, be it the cold indifference of Twelve or the bullied passivity of Lisa. Anime is normally pretty bad at subtlety but here the plot is expertly drip-fed in between establishing scenes and character moments, and the result is a story which says very little but had me glued to the screen. It’s ambitious too — terrorism is no laughing matter and the brief flashbacks from the boys seem to indicate there’s some sort of human experimentation going on here too. Shinchiro Watanabe has a fine pedigree but has never done a contemporary drama before, let alone one this dark and controversial, so it remains to be seen whether he can reign in his subject matter. It’s beautifully shot though, and Yoko Kanno’s score adds considerable punch. It’s the kind of show we don’t see too much anymore – defiantly grim, serious and current-affairs focused. Even leaving aside all its other strengths, that’s enough to keep me on the hook.

Iro’s verdict: Cautious Optimism

Full disclosure: I saw the first two episodes of this at Anime Expo last week, and I enjoyed it a fair amount. Nine and Twelve are compelling protagonists, with just enough hints dropped to give them more depth than their otherwise cliche personalities might indicate. Shibasaki, this show’s apparent hero antagonist, is similarly just grizzled and mysterious enough for us to want to know what his deal is. The sense of mystery surrounding everyone’s circumstances and the ‘Sphinx’s’ methods reminds me quite a bit of Eden of the East, which was part fascinating sci-fi mystery and part tired romance. Thankfully, even with the painfully generic audience surrogate Lisa being dragged into the mix, there doesn’t seem to be much indication of tangled relationships on the horizon. I look forward to seeing how things will develop, but count me among those who are skeptical of the show’s capacity to stay interesting without resorting to cheap tricks or nonsensical solutions.

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Gee’s verdict: Structurally Sound

With Watanabe in the director’s seat and Yoko Kanno composing, Terror in Resonance is the reunion of two ridiculously talented individuals. Theoretically everything about it should have me excited, and yet I can’t help but feel apprehensive about it. Watanabe does an excellent job of crafting the world for us, utilizing some truly excellent direction and shot composition. Right off the bat, I was instantly reminded of the intrigued curiosity I felt when I first watched Eden of the East. Nine and Twelve have the potential to be interesting characters, even if as of now, they’re basically just the well-worn archetypes of, “cool-headed glasses guy” and, “happy-go-lucky sociopath.” Still, Terror in Resonance did a great job with Twelve’s characterization. Despite his lighthearted attitude, his dialogue and actions were composed in such a way that it never felt quite right. It made the slow reveal of his inner demons feel both natural and intrinsic to the character.

Of course, throw in the fact that they’re fucking terrorists and well, you’ll have to forgive me if I’m a bit skeptical. While this episode seems to have conveniently been utterly devoid of bloodshed (as stupidly impossible as that would be when you’re blowing up a damn building), I can only imagine that if they keep this up, it’s going to get harder and harder to sympathize with our protagonists. Watanabe has done rogues before, but modern day terrorism is a different kind of crime, and one I’m not sure I’m entirely ready to get behind. In the end, I suspect it may be my previous experience with Eden of the East that has me somewhat skeptical of modern day thrillers. Many of them have lofty goals and genuinely interesting premises. Few of them end up delivering on their promises. Despite that, Terror in Resonance has done a satisfactory job of grabbing my interest for now. With Space Dandy being Watanabe’s outlet for his signature style and humor, we’ll have to see if Terror in Resonance will be the proper catalyst for his drama and gravitas.

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Marlin’s verdict: Never Forget

This show hit a lot of good notes. There’s a nice sense of foreboding to the whole thing. Every scene with the chipper Twelve just feels off, in a good way. It reminded me of how sociopaths are generally seen as happy people, because they try to fake certain emotions so that people will like them. However, on closer inspection, you can tell that it is really an act. I worry that a show like this might become a little melodramatic, but for now I think it’s setting the right tone. I do wonder if they will show their actions specifically killing anyone soon though. I assume the evacuation was meant to remove people from the bombed building, but obviously they can’t keep going on this vendetta without accruing some kind of body count. Their talk about the girl seems to imply they have the nerve to kill, but I have to wonder if the show would actually let them go through with it.

One thought on “First Look: Terror In Resonance

  1. Watanabe coming out in full force for real this time. The characters writing cinematography and just about everything was great, especially the music (Yoko Kanno). I guess it wouldn’t be anime without the token transfer student, even getting a window seat as well. dat snowmobile escape from the facility was awesome, gonna be pretty nihilistic from the looks of things. hope to learn more about these intriguing characters in future eps. for now this is a great start.

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