In the city of Tokyo, a terrorist attack throws the public into chaos and confusion. Despite damages and minor injuries, no one is dead. Two culprits upload a video on the Internet. They call themselves Sphinx. Their actual names are Nine and Twelve – two teenage boys who shouldn’t exist. While their goals are vague and location unknown, they want to wake up the world with their actions. To make matters more complicated, a quiet high school girl named Lisa is roped into their plans, uncertain of her fate in the hands of these two masterminds.
Writing about Terror in Resonance is difficult as it’s one of the few Watanabe anime that’s pretty forgettable. At least, that’s what I thought at first. After a lengthy second viewing, I’m glad to say that it exceeded my expectations. While not as flashy as his previous series and probably not the strongest, the amazing production values of studio MAPPA and Yoko Kanno’s musical score still stand out and elevate this production above many others. Kazuto Nakazawa (whose character designs can also be seen in the thriller anime B: The Beginning) gives this anime a simple, grounded look resembling the real world.
The series brings its best foot forward right from the start. I remember seeing the anime’s promo image from when it first aired. It was provocative and controversial because of how Nine, Twelve, and Lisa were pictured alongside a building resembling the 9/11 Twin Towers. That image along hooked me into seeing what this anime was all about. It certainly feels like there’s something inspiring with this show, despite it rocky premise. Maybe it’s unravelling the mystery surrounding Nine and Twelve or watching close bonds being forged in all the craziness. The anime mellows out its thrilling elements with some calm, soothing moments in between.
The characters of Terror in Resonance make up the intrigue of the series. We have the emotionally distant and stoic Nine and the open, carefree Twelve. On the surface, Twelve seems like the more optimistic one, but isn’t afraid to threaten anyone that comes between him and Nine. Together, they form the terrorist duo Sphinx and their calling card are the letters V-O-N.
Involved with their terrorist acts is Kenjiro Shibazaki – a grizzled detective working as an archivist after losing a case he had. Unbeknownst to him, it ends up connecting with the motives of Nine and Twelve. To make matters more complicated, another character named Five arrives with the FBI to track Nine and Twelve down. Five is a worthy rival to Nine and plays the role of the antagonist pretty well. She’s highly intelligent, but sociopathic, and I wish the anime went more into their history, as we only get vague recollections of their past. She’ll do anything to get close with Nine and engages in a desperate chess match that leads to an explosive conclusion. The cast participates in this game of cat-and-mouse and the episodes leave just enough anticipation, where twists and turns are gradually revealed.
Roped into all of this is another key player named Lisa. As a civilian high schooler, she’s limited by what she can do with Nine and Twelve, but the overall plot focuses on her as much as them. Lisa’s family life’s a mess because of her unstable mother, prompting her to leave home. She also endures bullying from her classmates at school and gravitates towards the isolated Nine and Twelve. Twelve particularly forms a connection with Lisa through the show. He knows the purpose of what they’re doing, but gradually questions if their actions are worth the risks involving Lisa. One of the anime’s weaknesses is how her role diminishes after the first few episodes and she’s unjustly treated as an observing background character. I think the story would have benefited from having her more involved in some capacity.
Yoko Kanno’s music is just plain excellent and draws inspiration from Icelandic rock music. It makes for a perfect pairing between animation and music, like where the insert song ‘lolol’ plays while children are running towards a fence as flames inch closer to them. It’s an intense experience that often haunts Nine in his dreams and reappears constantly in the anime.
Another great scene in Episode 4 involves Twelve and Lisa. While they’re riding together on a motorcycle, Pop Etc’s song ‘is’ plays as they ride through the nightly city. Lisa asks Twelve if he and Nine are going to destroy the world, to which they both laugh. It’s an inspirational and beautiful moment because it brushes off all reason to the situation, allowing Twelve and Lisa to simply bask in the moment. If I had to use several scenes to describe what Terror in Resonance is all about, this is one of them.
Terror in Resonance is a great show with a very provocative premise, but lackluster plot execution. Although the first half of the series gets off to a great start, I feel the second half falters because of its abrupt conclusion and leaves some plot threads unresolved. Despite that, I feel the conclusion is very touching on its own, considering the tragic fate of Nine and Twelve. In the end, they never wanted to destroy the world. They just wanted to go out with a bang and show everyone something they’d never forget.