After Nine’s announcement, Twelve and Lisa anxiously wait for the atomic bomb to explode, while the police desperately try to evacuate the city. However, Shibazaki is doubtful whether Nine would actually try to kill anyone.
Terror in Resonance ends on a bang, followed by a whimper, though oddly enough it’s the latter having the biggest lasting impact. While the detonation of the nuclear bomb results in a nice, atmospheric scene, the subdued reunion between Nine, Twelve and Lisa takes up the majority of the screen time until an unfortunate twist brings an end to their happiness. While the first half sees Nine completing his plan, it’s Shibazaki’s confrontation with the trio after the bump that serves as the show’s climax. No big surprises here, Sphinx’s motive was indeed to get the media’s attention, only without some criminal back-up, no one’s going to believe your story. It never came to an outright team-up between the two rivals, but in the end, Shibazaki does get to strike up part of the credit for exposing Project Athena, and it never feels cheap. He gets his time to shine in the first half, which is arguably more about his attempts to save people than about Nine’s resolve. It shows he’s willing to put his relentless pursuit to rest in favour of more pressing matters — a nice callback to his tragic failure years ago.
In contrast to the high-tension first half, the second half almost feels like a different show altogether. The nervous atmosphere the show is known for cuts loose and makes way for a relaxed, almost pastoral vibe, showing Nine, Twelve and Lisa finally being able to live the normal lives they wanted. Despite somewhat lacking characterization for the three of them, it’s chock full of heartwarming moments, which evidently makes the tragic resolution at the end of the line all the more shocking. It’s a bit of a bummer Nine’s mysterious fatal disease was never further delved into, but in the end, the Sphinx duo’s deaths come out just at the right end of cheap. They feel just credible and touching enough to be truly poignant, rather than shocking for shock’s sake — though the notion of killing off a character who’s dying anyways feels flakey to say the least. In the end, it’s a bit disappointing the epilogue leaves us with so little answers surrounding Nine and Twelve’s history, their condition, or even Lisa’s fate. Save for her brand-new mullet, the girl’s left all on her own once again, and without an anticipated role as lynchpin to be remembered by either. Luckily, Terror in Resonance itself did manage to be memorable, though more about that in the final thoughts below.
- Sorry for the episode review being not up to my usual standards, but it’s a very busy week and this post has been delayed for long enough already. Check out my final thoughts for some more cohesive reasoning.
- At this point, Lisa not being Shibazaki’s daughter is a bigger twist than if she actually turned out to be. I loved the little talk between the two at the end, though it’s pretty disappointing we don’t get to see if her situation has been changed at all. Did she reconcile with her mother? Is she still being bullied? That stuff’s important!
- I once again called bullshit on the high-altitude nuclear explosions, and was once again proven entirely wrong – such experiments have indeed happened, and do indeed cause an electromagnetic pulse that can black out an entire city. Additionally, a large electromagnetic pulse (usually caused by solar storms) colliding with the earth’s magnetic field is what causes visible auroras, which is why the northern lights randomly appear in the skies after the explosion from the bomb clears up. Science!
- Clarence commanding snipers to take out Nine and Twelve to keep Five’s crimes in the FBI’s name a secret, instead of making them known to the world, seems to imply that the FBI proper did have something to gain from keeping Project Athena under the rug. It’s a bit ironic that a project to forever render Japan independent from other superpowers would accept funding from the States, but on the other hand, the feds have been known to unconditionally support hyper-nationalist regimes…
The first half of this episode goes about as expected. Shibazaki and the rest of the authorities attempt to find and stop Nine’s atomic bomb. Meanwhile, Twelve and Lisa just sit around in a park doing absolutely nothing of note. Surprise surprise, the bomb goes off and everyone is okay, because of course. I honestly can’t say too much about it because despite Watanabe’s absolutely stellar direction this episode, there’s not a whole ton else going on in the first part. The true message Nine and Twelve were always trying to get out into the world was that they existed and that hopefully someone would pay attention, and they succeed.
It’s the second half where things start to fall apart for me. Nine, Twelve, and Lisa hanging out like regular kids was gratifying to watch as a good bit of closure. The ending with American (because of course America has to be the real bad guy in a Japanese work of fiction) helicopters showing up out of nowhere and shooting Twelve felt terribly out of place and completely unnecessary. It doesn’t help that the internal logic behind the actions make no sense, especially since they decide to leave both Lisa and Shibazaki alive. The events of the ending just feel so out of place and like a blatant attempt at shock value that it’s hard for me to accept it as a good direction for the narrative to have taken. I’m not saying that Nine and Twelve should have gotten away and lived happily ever after with Lisa, but one can look at something like Metal Gear Solid 4 for an effective conclusion to a story about a character with a shortened lifespan. Nine and Twelve have already won. With maybe days or only weeks left to live, killing them just seems like a lazy way to paint America as the true villain and absolve the Japanese of any responsibility.
There was a lot of impressive direction in this finale that makes up for some but not all of the problems this show has faced with in its run. I always thought the atom bomb was a threat, something they never were actually going to use. The reveal that they instead used it as an EMP is surprisingly realistic. I’m surprised they even had people evacuating by air since even if the threat was a ground-level nuclear blast, there would still be a resulting EMP. I guess in a panic, people will want to try and flee no matter if it actually makes sense. It’s a nice way of showing Shibazaki’s priorities. In too many cops and robbers stories the cop will pursue justice above the safety of others. Here, we see Shibazaki put aside his feud with Sphinx in order to help the people he’s sworn to protect.
Some may find the ending cheap, but if you remember the fact that the Americans could still be mobilized was foreshadowed in the talk about the EMP blast. They specifically said the only aircraft with the proper equipment to resist an EMP strike would be American military aircraft, and in the end we see that very aircraft used to find our heroes. It makes sense that they would know its location too, as Five would obviously have told them it while she was working for them. I do find it weird that the felt it was okay to just let Shibazaki and Lisa go, but I guess there is some logic to it. Shibazaki has hard evidence and testimony about Project Athena. As for the American involvement in the Sphinx Incident, he only has his own word against the U.S. Government. It would be far smarter for Shibazaki to simply reveal what he knows and undermine the dangerous radicals in the Japanese government than to risk his credibility on something he doesn’t have all the answers for. This will also fulfill Nine and Twelve’s goal to be remembered, which in a way means everyone wins. In the end, that’s what we see happening.
Aqua’s Final Thoughts
Over the course of these past few weeks, I’ve written a lot about Terror in Resonance as a whole — about its haunting, raw atmosphere, its excellent soundtrack and its intellectual themes which sharply undermine the rampant nationalism that’s been on the rise in Japanese fiction these days; but also about its wonky script, its lack of characterization and its lousy villain. That should make it easy to summarize my thoughts on it, but the late release of this post should tell you that the opposite is true. Based on my gut feeling, Terror in Resonance is a show that, taking in mind the aforementioned flaws should never be anything above average. Yet to me, it’s significantly better than just the sum of these parts. It serves as a prime example of how dedication and excellent production can salvage a meddling script. I’ve always been firmly on its side because it aims to embrace everything I love in stories — augment entertainment with intellect, deliver a strong message and let visuals and music do the talking for it. Terror in Resonance may have made messes of various degrees of severity of everything but the latter, but it has one thing going for it that few other anime can claim: a heart.
It’s when losing track of this heart that Terror in Resonance makes its biggest fumbles. It reduces an initially lovingly crafted, complex heroine to a clumsy, pathetic damsel in distress whose actions only serve to cause trouble. It attempts to shake up its formula by introducing an antagonist whose comical, card-carrying villainy contradicts its earlier subtleties. Its plot takes a daring turn around the halfway point, but as the plot holes, bizarre decisions and pacing gaffes start to pile up, it slowly loses track of the tight focus it initially maintained. Terror in Resonance expects too much and delivers to little — it assumes you to care about its characters just like that, to theorize their motives and relationships, and to fill in the blanks in its cat and mouse game, all so it won’t have to do so itself. Its short runtime is partially to blame for that, and Terror in Resonance could have been the classic its phenomenal presentation deserves with a few more episodes under its belt; but it the end it must be blamed for culling the wrong intricacies from a screenplay that feels a lot more massive than it turned out. Cutting the already out-of-place Five and the FBI entirely in favour of more character development for Nine, Twelve, Shibazaki and especially Lisa would’ve resulted in a stronger, more focused show, bereft of its unfortunate shortcomings.
Luckily, Terror in Resonance reaches moments of sheer brilliance at a more than acceptable rate — dense, clever mythological motives, subdued, heart-wrenching quiet moments and brief moments of socio-critical depth mark the show’s absolute high points. It’s these moments that made Terror in Resonance such a special show for me, the brief glimpses of it being everything I would ever want out of a story. A struggling, depressed protagonist fighting her desire to make the whole world go away. An outspoken stance against the frightening jingoism seen in franchises like Mahouka, Terra Formars or Kantai Collection. A story where music plays a pivotal role in setting the scene. For everything Terror in Resonance did wrong, I will remember it for how often it resonated (ha ha) with me, helped by an impeccable presentation few other anime can match. Shinichiro Watanabe’s innovative, cinematic directing and Yoko Kanno’s haunting soundtrack give the show an audiovisual identity few other shows can match. It’s a flawed, broken gem in a gorgeous wrapping, but one that stands out by its own merits, and not simply by actually achieving what should be expected of all its peers. Nevertheless, the unexceptional standards to which the medium is held certainly work in Terror in Resonance‘s favour. It’s far from bereft of the medium’s trademark flaws, but at least it’s proof that there’s still hope left for anime.
Gee’s Final Thoughts
Terror has always been a bit of a roller coaster for me, with some disappointing lows, excellent highs, and a whole lot of middling parts throughout the whole thing. For me, it’s the perfect example of a great premise and concept hamstrung by its shoddy writing, but saved by its excellent direction and production values. Watanabe directing Terror was at the best he’s been in a long time, with some truly excellent shot compositions and just overall framework of the narrative. It is a shame that the narrative he had to work with was so inconsistent. Between Five amounting to absolutely nothing and both Lisa and Shibazaki being a whole lot of wasted potential, it is a shame that Terror ended up this way. Both Lisa and Shibazaki were potentially some of the most interesting characters I’ve seen this season. Lisa’s inherent weakness and issues made for a strong potential to give her legitimate agency and development. Meanwhile, Shibazaki’s cynicism with the system and history with nuclear warfare could have been an amazing catalyst for an antagonistic relationship with Nine and Twelve. Unfortunately, Terror doesn’t make good on any of those, and it’s disappointing.
It doesn’t help that Nine and Twelve are completely flat as characters. While I usually don’t advocate filler, I feel Terror is a show that would have benefited from a few more episodes, if only to flesh out Nine and Twelve as people. When Twelve was killed, I didn’t even care about him personally and I was more concerned about the framework of the narrative. This isn’t to say Terror in Resonance is a truly bad show, but it’s one that failed to capitalize on its potential. Watanabe’s gorgeous directing, Kanno’s competent (and occasionally brilliant) soundtrack, and the impressive visual fidelity made it an easy crowdpleaser. But these traits alone can’t save a show that hinges on the strength of its narrative and the satisfaction of its conclusion. It’s an anime that needed better pacing and a better writer working with the ideas it had. It’s a shame that as time passes, I will probably only remember Terror in Resonance because I wish it had been more memorable.
Marlin’s Final Thoughts
I definitely had a love-hate relationship with Terror in Resonance ever since about the third episode. While the first few episodes between Sphinx and Shibazaki were starting to get repetitive, I still liked the chemistry in that rivalry. I was also still very frustrated with the idea of these terrorists painted as noble rogues instead of, violent criminals. While the introduction of Five did give us a chance to see the two in a better light, the show decided to take it too far and make the new villains so campy that they felt transplanted from some far worse show. Every addition five and her crew gave to the show, minus the finale, only served to hurt any narrative development that had been going on at that point for Nine, Twelve, and Lisa. Every bit with them just seemed like the equivalent of watching a looney toons character come out with a mallet it was that forced and ridiculous. As Aqua has already said, the further depreciation of Lisa’s character after Five’s introduction only made matters worse. Every reason we had to care about Lisa started to shrink up as she devolved into a putzing dunce the show seemed to believe only useful as a damsel in distress. All of these problems combined really hurt the experience, and while I enjoyed the ending it’s impossible to forget them when looking at the show as a whole.
Still, there were things I enjoyed by the end. Watching Shibazaki use his smarts to work his way around the system and gather info on Project Athena was always fun. Shibazaki was always the true underdog in the story, so watching him get small victories even at the cost of his professional career was satisfying to see. The ending also did humanize Nine and Twelve a bit better than they started in the beginning. The only problem I had with that is that their childhood was so messed up that they shouldn’t even be able to function so well even with someone as dysfunctional as Lisa. I suppose we didn’t get enough of their backstory to determine just how their personalities were developed. Considering they were meant to be used for the country, I suppose they could have been taught how to be personable. In the end, they managed to push that thought to the back of my head with a great scene as Nine and Twelve show Lisa their erstwhile home. Many shows have great build up and then end on a whimper, but while Terror has in it many flaws, I believe it put together a solid finale, something not even many well regarded anime can say.