Terror in Resonance (2014) Review: A Melody that Ends with a Poignant Crescendo
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.
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.
What do you think? Leave a comment.