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The morally ambiguous world of Terror in Resonance

It’s always exciting when a new anime starts airing in Japan. But this anime, about the challenges faced by two young terrorists, is a different breed of exciting.

Terror in Resonance is the new bad boy on the block. Created by Shinichiro Watanabe (who is also responsible for Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo), the series is distinctly amoral, and seems to dance along the lines of good, bad and outright reprehensible as it progresses.

Twelve and Nine
Twelve and Nine
image © MAPPA Animation Studios

First aired on Fuji TV on July 10th, Terror in Resonance (or Zankyou no Terror in romanised Japanese, literally Terror’s Echoes) follows the story of two teenagers, simply named Twelve and Nine, who are insanely talented at whatever they put their minds to. Unfortunately for the residents of Tokyo, their current preoccupation is orchestrating terrorist attacks around the city. These attacks are accompanied by cryptic Youtube messages, containing clues to solve where the next attack will be.

At first the series seems to follow them almost exclusively, but soon not only has an ordinary schoolgirl been dragged into the fray, but a down-and-out police investigator who, after beating the department he used to work for at solving the latest riddle, becomes emotionally invested in the case. There’s also some shadier characters that come into it later, but we’ll leave that for your viewing pleasure. We have no idea what is on the horizon for Twelve and Nine, but some new rivals and some teasing flashbacks to why they don’t have proper names hints at more intrigue and complexity to come.

It’s difficult to place this series morality-wise because there doesn’t seem to be a clear message. The main two boys are obviously bad, but their reactions are different, angry and emotional even, when someone sabotages their explosion to injure a civilian against their intention. The schoolgirl has an abusive family, and those scenes clearly carry the message that abuse is bad, and once she starts hanging out with Nine and Twelve, she sort of starts healing mentally, like it’s a good environment. Apart from all the chaos and destruction they’re creating, of course.

The investigator is the only character you could really say is ‘good’, so far, although even that is called into question when he antagonises the terrorists on live TV in a moment of rage, instigating more violent crime from them. What’s particularly interesting (and a little jarring to the flow of the story) is the inspector’s encyclopaedic knowledge of world mythology – something that’s relevant for solving the terrorists’ riddles. The kind of information that would usually take a mythology enthusiast a scour of their shelves takes him mere seconds. Nonetheless, it is very hard to find fault with this show.

One word of advice – it may be hard to watch some of the episodes because of the content, although that sort of goes without saying when it’s a terrorism show, really. But particular situations do mirror situations that have happened in real life, and it’s not Four Lions kind of funny, it’s a bit more like something David Fincher or Darren Aronofsky would make, so be sure you know what you’re getting yourself into.

Recently we have seen an influx of beautifully animated shows with harsh and sometimes distasteful plots – Attack on Titan, anyone? – and this latest offering from Watanabe merely adds to the pile. You don’t see us complaining though; it’s a combination that really works. And what’s nice about Terror in Resonance is that its animators have focused hard on the physics of their world. Explosion patterns, cloud and dust physics – it all corresponds to reality. Even in things as simple as the background – the prevailing wind direction as seen from the shape of the top of a cloud provides clues as to what direction a smoke trail from an explosion will go. Not the most important of details, but it’s this kind of tiny, almost inconsequential thing that makes the case-solving aspect of the show more real and believable.

Smoke cloud mirrors the prevailing wind direction as given away by background clouds
Smoke cloud mirrors the prevailing wind direction as given away by background clouds.
Image © theglorioblog.com

Another thing that is bound to make you happy is the realistic representation of the Internet. We’re so used to seeing computer screens in films with either terribly outdated, or overly futuristic appearances. User interfaces that are so overly simple it makes anyone with basic IT skills laugh, or pictorial-based designs, or something that looks like it’s come straight out of The Matrix. But this series gives us screen representations we know and understand. You recognise the browser styles, the desktop designs, and even whether someone’s using an Android or an Apple phone (all animated cleverly to avoid accusations of copyright infringement, of course).

Is this a screencap from Youtube? Think again - it's all part of the animation!
Is this a screencap from Youtube? Think again – it’s all part of the animation!
Image © theglorioblog.com

Anime wise, in terms of storyline progression you could draw extensive comparisons to Satoshi Kon of Perfect Blue and Paranoia Agent fame, as well as Tsugumi Ohba of Death Note fame. Stylistically it is very much like the aforementioned Attack on Titan, as well as The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.

At the time of writing, Terror in Resonance is now up to its ninth episode so why not catch up with everything so far and give it a shot?

 

Main image © MAPPA Animation Studio

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