Terror in Resonance (2014) Review: A Melody that Ends with a Poignant Crescendo

Sphinx

Terror in Resonance, known as its less exciting, literal title Terror in Tokyo (Zankyo no Terror) in Japan, finished airing a few days ago at a tiny 11 episode count. It has been the original work of the season – if you look past Sword Art Online II, Free! Eternal Summer and Sailor Moon hype. The anime fans who have not caught onto the overwhelming array of streaming websites or have been busy with life, may be wondering if it deserves all the fuss. It has Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop, Space Dandy) involved, so it is clearly on a level of quality above all the silly generic, run-of-the-mill shows. But how well does it fare? The short answer is: it is worth it, although it won’t change your life. Everything about Terror in Resonance (TIR) was solid, but there were a few areas where it lacked a wow factor.

TIR is about two teenagers who set bombs up around Tokyo. However, instead of just letting them explode and laughing away maniacally like any normal terrorist, these boys “Sphinx” decide to publicly display their troubles via Youtube. This bizarre usage of social media to let the world, and the viewer, in on their plans sets up an episodic structure that lasts about half the series. If one wants to watch TIR, be prepared for a somewhat repetitive array of puzzles for five episodes. Nine and Twelve present the viewer with riddles, and this is the type of entertainment one gets for the majority of the series. That, and going back and forth between police staff and government officials who are wondering what it is all about. Many have compared TIR to the psychological thriller Death Note (2006) for this reason. Because of the heavy usage of word games, mythology, and having presumed knowledge of other ideas, I would like to compare the series more to the slice of life, mystery series Hyouka (2012). In Death Note, Light’s plotting is nothing short of genius, and we find this out by the brains of the equally brilliant (and attractive) L. The problem solving aspect of Death Note often comes as a great surprise, and is thrilling to watch. The schemes of LeLouch from the mecha hit Code Geass (2006) bring forth a similar reaction. TIR’s style of plotting is no way near as intricate or as fascinating as Light or LeLouch’s, simply because it deals with word puzzles, rather than elaborate, physical plans.

One of the more interesting characters in TIR.
One of the more unique characters in TIR.

The mystery surrounding the boys’ Youtube videos require a very specific sort of brain and intellect – almost like the mind of Oreki from Hyouka. In the show, Oreki is a policeman named Shibazaki. Because the style is different, the comparisons to Death Note are not accurately placed. The level of adrenaline is not the same, even though bombs are involved. I often found myself forcing to concentrate. It is subtle, subdued and more mellow of an atmosphere. The finer aspects of the story don’t become interesting until the second half where all the revelations happen. Since the show had not blown me away, I was pleasantly surprised by its finale. It was akin to a meditative experience. The mixture of sound effects, lack of dialogue and beautiful animation and colors were captivating and unforgettable. It gave a very similar atmosphere and visual style to the episode Ballad of Fallen Angels from Cowboy Bebop. The turn of events was unexpected but intriguing, as it left some story points unexplained. The strong conclusion pushes the overall story to decent, but the idea of the institution has been done before and prevented it from feeling completely original. The other area where TIR fails to amaze is the characters.

For an 11 episode series TIR does a good job in only focusing in on a select few. Details behind Nine and Twelve felt like it had been done before, and their personalities have been seen in countless other series. Their archetypes and personalities have been seen in other comedy series like Ouran High School Host Club and Hyouka. I constantly felt like I had seen these guys before, and it failed to impress. Calculating, collected, dude with glasses Kyoya Ootori seems all too much like Twelve, and Satoshi from Hyouka had the look and demeanor of Nine. Even a female character who is introduced later on in the series felt like she was Kuroha Shiratori, taken straight out of Eden of the East (2009). Again, it was as though the series was pasting other characters in from other shows. The two characters that were the most interesting and provided much of the entertainment of the series for me, were Lisa and Shibazaki. They had interesting back stories that were more unique and memorable. The interaction between Lisa, Shibazaki and the boys was also very charming to watch and set themselves apart as a class of their own. As many as four writers were responsible for the screenplay, so it is difficult to say who is responsible for these concerns.

These screenplay issues aside, TIR is beautiful to look at. It is part of the slowly growing resume of Studio MAPPA (Tokyo Ghoul, Kids on the Slope). Their work is certainly one to keep an eye out for. The range of movement varies depending what is happening on screen, but when it is needed, it is there with all details accounted for. There are a few beautiful sequences involving explosions and vehicle movement, particularly episodes 1, a motor bike scene from episode 4, and the entirety of episode 11. Character designs by Kazuto Nakazawa (Final Fantasy) are decent, although somewhat unoriginal. Backgrounds and lighting effects are stunning. What is most impressive is the opening sequence with the array of text and background com-positing. Its choice of using lighter colors mixed in with white, swirling backgrounds, with the trance-like song “Trigger” by Yuki Ozaki is reminiscent of another similar marvel, “Cloud Age Symphony” from Last Exile (2003). The music is wonderful too. “Dare ka, umi wo” by Aimer is a haunting ending sequence and really adds to the mood of the series. There are also a number of English insert songs which are sung beautifully and add to the dreary, although laid back atmosphere. Yoko Kanno provides the soundtrack, and while it is not as outstanding as The Vision of Escaflowne (1996), it fares well. Sad or chilling moments are taken care of and sound pleasant enough. The style is slightly mellow and jazz-like, similar to her work with Darker than Black (2007). The most beautiful arrangements are saved for the final episode.

Even though some of the story and character elements are questionable, TIR leaves an impression in its visual, sound and atmospheric elements and the interaction between its characters. It is recommended to those who like mystery and can appreciate its aesthetics, although large explosions should not be the only motivator to watch the series, as acts of terrorism are not the main point of the story. Terror in Resonance was an enjoyable series, but it is no masterpiece or portraying an overly deep message. It simply exists to be enjoyed. Recommended.

Rating:

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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25 Comments

  1. This anime could have been great but…

    Instead of developing the lone female characters, they either made them useless or the villain. This is one of the worse portrayals of female characters in anime I have seen outside the very worse of harems.

    Instead of giving us a deep engrossing story about out-smarting the Man and causing havoc to effect change, it was just two pissed off kids afraid to go to far. Didn’t Lelouch say it? “You can’t change the world without getting your hands dirty.

    Instead of a good ending, they gave us sh*t and expected us to not notice that the writer had apparently stuck is head too far up his ass.

    Instead of the best anime of the year, we got pretentious that choked too hard at the finish.

  2. Deem Dee
    0

    I really enjoyed this anime HOWEVER I feel that it has a lot of wasted potential. It was VERY disappointing that there is a whole world, backstory, organization, and set of characters that are never really explored or even considered for more episodes. In my opinion, this would have been a great show to get a full season.

  3. KaceLie
    0

    Such a great anime that made it to my favourite anime list .. my only problem was Five’s Engrish .-.

  4. I personally had high hopes for this series when I first started watching it, but after finishing it my reaction to it was a mixture of meh and disappointment. It’s not that I didn’t “get” the show either, I understand each character’s motivations for doing the things they did, I just didn’t care for the overall execution. I liked the first 4 or 5 episodes, but as the second half of the series unfolded I felt like the show forgot that it was trying to be a psychological thriller and just let the remaining events unfold in a mostly expected fashion.

    I do appreciate the animation quality of this show. I actually even think that the overall story is actually pretty good as well, it’s just the aforementioned unexpected shift in genre and overall predictability of the second half that drastically reduced my personal enjoyment of the series.

    While I do appreciate this series from a critical standpoint, my personal enjoyment is a pretty large factor and I ultimately felt let down by the end.

  5. Definitely one of the best animes I’ve seen in a while

  6. OverTone
    0

    I’d say the best anime of the year is Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders. The goodness of that show and sheer entertainment value just puts it miles ahead of anything else.

  7. The problem with the story is that the only reason why there are any conflicts at all is because of Lisa. She exists to be a road block and nothing else. It’s also kind of fuzzy what “some” characters intentions were, to try and avoid spoilers. I enjoyed it for the most part, but it was easily the most disappointed I’ve been in awhile. I had high hopes, and Zankyou no Terror never quite lived up to what I wanted from it.

  8. Ji Holden
    0

    I seem to be one of very few who have really enjoyed this anime, especially the ending.
    And I can understand how people often don’t like the role of Lisa, but for a really depressed girl that has nobody to talk to she was pretty convincing imho.

    But I think they should have made a complete episode just about Five, the past in her perspective and her development because there didn’t seem to be a good reason for her to “play” with Nine and Twelve except her past which was shown only for a few seconds.

    • I agree with your comment here, I actually thought she was one of the better characters in the show but they ruined her as it progressed by not giving us a better idea who she was.

  9. I finished the whole series in a couple of days and it quickly became without a doubt one of my favourite anime I have ever watched (not the best necessarily, but regardless, it is still amazing)

  10. dasilve
    0

    And this is a very good review. Keep doing such a great job, all authors of this magazine!

  11. ankyou no Terror was the anime I wanted to hate, but i just could not bring myself to do so.
    1. the sound animation and sound was gorgeous and I loved Nine and Twelve and a good number of the characters until the end.
    2. The only thing I hated about this show was Five, and this one english indie-like song at the beginning of one of the episode. It through me off for almost two episode. So I couldn’t truly hate the show besides its faults.
    Any other problems I had with the show would be spoiler terror-tory!

  12. Symphogear

    Honestly, I highly enjoyed this series and it is probably one of my favorite anime of 2014. It kept me invested from beginning to end with its interesting riddles and mysterious characters. Lisa is probably my favorite character in the show, her lack of understanding the situation and her rather misfortunate personal life make her the heart of the show in my eyes; much the same way Saki is the heart of Eden of the East. She gives us someone to relate to as the story’s mysteries unfold. I also like how Watanabe makes the audience infer the backstories and motivations of the characters rather than having them explicitly stated in a monologue (for the most part at least). Overall, I think it is a pretty damn good show, albeit certainly not a flawless one.

  13. The anime was painfully forced and extremely uninteresting.

  14. Shin Dix
    0

    I finished Zankyou no Terror this morning and I decided to find some reviews of it because I had mixed feelings about it… Yours is the second one I watched. I’m a subscriber, I like your videos, but– Well, the main ‘issue’ is that you’re…personal ethic(?!) is different from mine. (I was kinda disappointed that they didn’t kill anyone, I expect way more violence from them.) Also, Mishima. That girl was so bloody useless, I’m never gonna get over the fact that Twelve chose her before Nine. I understand that he felt needed by her and that was a first for him and that yes, she’s very much screwed and her life is horrible, etc. But this was so empathized, along with just how much of nuisance she is, that I just wanted her gone. She was completely useless and didn’t do anything for their plan. Five was probably worse because she was psycho but then again, Lisa was presented as one of the most important characters with her being in the opening and ending and basically everywhere while doing nothing. Shibazaki was awesome, in my opinion. He did his job and much more; he stood by his beliefs and found out the truth; he was the ideal of a policeman as it should have been but it isn’t.

    Sound and art were beautiful, I’m going to find the entire soundtrack and listen to it for a long time.

    Yeah, so basically, I’m not blaming you for having different views on morals than me, of course, I’m messed up, not you. Just had to rant about Mishima, you’re way too nice with this one… Sorry for the long comment

    • Agreed on most your points. This not killing business is really a cop out. A false morality to show that they are better than their enemies. Sometimes it is the only real option available and other times it’s the only justice that done will ever see.

  15. I felt dissatisfied at the end because I felt like nine and twelve were still very… underdeveloped. I never connected with them, and even after learning their back story, they still seemed so distant, and it wasn’t very clear as to WHY they were trying to blow shit up without killing people.

  16. Though I liked the anime, I’m gonna go ahead and say that it hasn’t really impact me because there are a some plot holes that were convenient and convoluted(yet at the same time not) to the story. Such as why did the our protagonists go to high school? The answer is to implicate Lisa into the story. There are other plot holes, not gonna go into them, but I still enjoyed the series. Simply speaking, I’m giving this a 3/5 for keeping me engaged.

    Frankly, I think that if Zankyou no Terror was a tad longer then maybe it could’ve filled in a bit more holes and such.

  17. Justin Wu

    Like some people have already mentioned, my biggest problem with the show lies in Five – all that jazz and we’re told she did all that just to kill herself in front of Nine so that he would remember her for having “abandoned” her before? Speaking of a huge let down.

    I’m a bit confused by your comparison to Hyouka, since I don’t really understand where the comparison lies apart from requiring prior knowledge from other things? But then isn’t that the same as pretty much any mystery genre? How is Hyouka distinct in this case, if you say it’s better to compare TiR to Hyouka and not, say, Death Note?

    Also, regarding the point of the show having four screenplays at some point, I thought it’s a pretty common thing in the industry? I mean, I don’t really expect one person to do all the scripts nowadays…

    • Jordan

      Yeah the thing with Five seemed rushed and strange.

      The comparison to Hyouka was more in terms of the mood and atmosphere of the show.

      It is common for multiple screenwriters to appear in shows. I guess I found it interesting with TiR because it is only 11 episodes anyway.

  18. This was a fun watch, as well as a fun read with your review. I’ve been doing this for 4 years now, but I really like what you had to say on the finer details of the series. I myself should bring up more things like the color choices, sound design and screen play for my own reviews. When this series first surfaced, I was afraid that there was going to be back lash because of the possible 9/11 imagery. Yet surprisingly when I started doing research on it, nothing really came up about it. It made me think that maybe our society has finally grown up and is able to look media such as this for what it really is. That or nobody payed much attention to it…

    • Jordan

      Thanks for your great comment! I’m honored that I’ve affected your reviewing criteria XD I never really made the 9/11 connection with this show. There isn’t any similarity between the two events at all.

  19. CriticalOtaku

    Nice review, Jordan! I had similar thoughts about the show–I actually couldn’t keep going past episode 5 because of how similar it seemed to so many other anime before it. Visually it was definitely stunning, and personally I don’t mind stories that don’t have much going for them in terms of plot development, but only on the condition that the characters prove unique with complicated motivations and conflicts. It really is a shame the direction the show chose to go in. It could have been a real gem

  20. psychedelicreme
    0

    I loved this series, but it’s also difficult for me to explain why because the characters are so bland. But I can also understand that, because the plot is meant to be bigger than the characters. The scenes with Twelve and Lisa almost seem like filler, and I think that’s just the role they play; some sort of romantic getaway from the reality of Nine and Twelve’s plan. Sadly, though the anime wasn’t groundbreaking it was still extremely visually appealing. I wonder if the creators were aiming to create a bland feel sometimes, to try and make it look like something ordinary, which would flow well with the plot because of the irony or juxtaposition with Nine and Twelve’s wish. Nevertheless, it was definitely something I enjoyed, though not something I might be able to write an essay on if I tried to.

  21. What? Having an emotionally stirring plot that challeneges a PG media and mature thematic messages and visual rhetoric, Zankyou no Terror is a beautiful piece of work. It’s gripping, dramatic, and (no pun intended) explosive. The art is gorgeous, the music is stunning (thank the heavens for Yoko Kanno), and the plot is daring. Although the realistic aspects of it are severely lacking and the characters could have been fleshed out a bit more, I found myself overlooking it. Apart from the anime as a show, the message it carries is so wide-ranging and applicable to today. No one disccusses the over- abundance of technology, political corruption, or WMD after this show like they should. I empathize with many of the points made, but don’t understand how anyone could not be somewhat moved by this anime.

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