This Terror in Resonance review contains spoilers.
“You can die where you are, or become an accomplice. Your choice.”
Terror in Resonance is perhaps not exactly the show that you’d expect to get out of Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, and the currently airing Space Dandy), although it’s exactly as creative as you might expect it to be. The new ultra-modern, drenched in fear take on terrorism is perhaps the perfect counterpoint to Watanabe’s other series on the air. Watanabe has been out of the game for awhile, and while Space Dandy is a show that ignites the senses with vibrant colors, silliness, and insanity, Terror in Resonance could not be a starker contrast.
As soon as the show starts, you’re presented with some absolutely gorgeous, crisp animation. There’s an action set piece that takes place on a snowmobile to kick everything off, and between the beautiful falling snow, and the frenetic, zipping animation of the snowmobile, the episode really starts off strong in spite of the dourness of the tone (and an elegant motorcycle chase towards the end of the episode bookends things nicely). Characters are drawn with a pallid appearance, almost drained of life, rather than the bombastic energy coursing through everything Space Dandy.
The show isn’t afraid to start big though, with this expertly done snowmobile chase constantly shifting perspective from a beautifully frantic first-person view of the vehicle, fixed security footage, and more, as it gives it everything it’s got. At the same time, right from this opening scene, where our terrorist protagonists (who are named Nine and Twelve, by the by, operating under an organization named “Sphinx”—stifle your Venture Bros. comments) gleefully play ball with hand grenades, the score (done by the always ultra-reliable, Yoko Kanno, of Bebop fame) is instantly engaging, suspenseful, and mirrored effortlessly to the action on screen.
The opening theme, “Trigger” however is not nearly as catchy as some of Kanno’s past efforts (and gets nowhere close to the majesty achieved by Cowboy Bebop‘s theme “Tank!”). On the other hand, a dream sequence (that claims to be recurring, and it better be, because it’s awesome) showing Nine and Twelve as children features some wonderful Kanno scoring, that if they just used that song for the intro, there’d be no arguments here. The ending song, “Somebody, the Ocean” is a little bit of an improvement, and the usual soothing, melodic calm down that’s to be expected with an end credits song.
Moving past the aesthetics though, this premiere, which depicts teenage terrorists having decimated Tokyo in bombings, one which produces a very September 11th-y shot of a skyscraper explosion, obviously isn’t afraid to push the envelope and go for broke. In spite of the bleakness going on here, the show is presenting a really interesting perspective from Nine and Twelve, as terrorism is being masked in the guise of teenage shenanigans. Actions like bombs being hidden in Kururin plushies (is nothing sacred?!) highlight this weird mix at play, while the realistic, ultra-modern angle is pushed with Nine and Twelve responding through YouTube videos and social media, with their bombs being activated through iPhones. But the series is downright cruel and brutal at points, where children are just as expendable as everyone else, and death is present at all times.
The premiere covers familiar ground with Nine and Twelve being haunted by dreams that goes hand-in-hand with a mysterious past that is hinted at. The series chisels some refreshing originality out though when Lisa Mishima, an innocent girl that goes to the same school as Nine and Twelve, joins forces with them at the end, in a nice unexpected Breaking Bad-ian twist. It seems like Lisa has absolutely no idea as to what she’s getting in for, other than some dreamy terrorists that are into her.
“Falling” does an effective job of setting the stage and establishing the stakes of what’s going on here. We’ve merely seen the tip of this super weird terrorism iceberg, and the first episode does have you craving more to see what’s really going to go down here.
I’ve got the feeling that Nine and Twelve may be some sort of childhood experiment escapees (although this conclusion feels so inevitable, it’s hopefully a lot more complicated than that), with the each of them (and Lisa included) seeming to have some sort of special “powers.”
It’s just interesting that most shows of this nature, whether it be Neon Genesis Evangelion, Death Note, or even Escaflowne, seem fairly content in merely introducing the players and just hinting at what’s going on in the premiere. Since this approach is fairly par for the course, there’s nothing being held against Terror in Resonance here, but it would have been nice to see this episode move things a little more forward. Perhaps even getting into their next terrorist attack, or some sort of test for Lisa to prove her allegiance. We barely get a glimpse of Shibasaki, a police officer investigating the terrorist attacks and slowly getting onto Sphinx’s trail, and we really don’t see much of Lisa, but they’ll surely be developed in the weeks to come. The glimpse of the next episode seems to hint that Lisa’s mother may be more than over protective of her, but in fact unhealthily obsessed with her and them staying together forever. If Terror in Resonance continues to offer up these off-kilter touches to an already disturbing story, there’s no doubt that this show will become a classic just like everything else Watanabe touches.
And if not, you can just close your eyes and listen to Yoko Kanno’s orchestrations.