Terror in Resonance – Review

Time for another review! This time I got a chance to revisit one of my favorite shows from 2014, and actually found it even more enjoyable in retrospect. Knowing from the start that the thriller stuff would be kind of silly made it easier to focus on the show’s actual strengths; its plot is functional and sometimes over-the-top, but that doesn’t really take away from the show’s strong ideas or gorgeous execution. The show feels filmic in a way only KyoAni shows tend to match, and it’s kind of astonishing how gracefully the show’s ideas are illustrated, considering this is the same show that also features friggin’ airport chess. Its weaknesses ultimately feel almost inconsequential to me; it’d be nice if this show were actually perfect, but it’s still really damn good.

You can check out my review over at ANN, or my episode notes below!

Terror in Resonance

Episode 1

God. The lighting, colors, background, shot framing, sound design… all of it’s just so far above the level you expect from anime

Great, rich, intentionally saturated colors. Strong directorial voice. Backgrounds that feel grounded but also beautiful, like a particularly well-shot live action film. A soundtrack that’s capable of many moods by one of the best composers in the business

Great animation, and again, the heavy colors are so good

This fantastic POV shot from the snowmobile

And the very strong OP. Damn this is a good show

The lyrics warning of desperation, self-destruction, immolation. Feathers rising at the end, a beautiful nuclear winter

Shots that use bleached lighting to beautifully convey the summer heat, the oppressive atmosphere

Lisa’s the girl

“This is what they call bullying”

And the boy jumps into the pool

A bright smile and cold eyes

Jazz tracks led by percussion, low-key guitar melodies

Sphinx make their first pronouncement

Shibasaki is the detective

Dramatic shots on the roof where the stars are tiny, again emphasizing the atmosphere and the city

Lisa takes her lunch in the bathroom

Distorted guitars for the flashback to the facility. Everything is grayed out except for the light of the fire behind them

Nine is the solemn one, Twelve is the smiler

“All of those children were weak. That’s why they died. We were weak too. That’s why we couldn’t save them.”

More lovely shots transposing nine against the city. The city itself feels like an antagonist

Lisa getting constant texts from her mother. “I wish it’d all disappear.” Everyone is isolated

And the ominous green light of the emergency stairs, used to make Twelve’s smile even more intimidating. Great lighting

Another percussion-led jazz track with nice synths

Very few shows have such a sense of clear lighting as this. The outdoor scenes feel sweltering

“Are you trying to make me relive that moment?” “I thought maybe this could help you stop having that dream.” The terrorism reflects emptiness on a small scale. And the escape is creating a family

Nine giving Lisa directions is an exciting sequence

“Fly away, Lisa.” the voices echo in her head. She wants to escape this world, and takes the leap

And the building collapses, an obvious echo of the towers

“Remember. You chose this path, not us. There’s no going back.”

Episode 2

Even shots clearly designed to echo the ground zero moments of 9/11

This show is so sharp and ambitious. I really wish it landed everything

“Are you planning to leave me just like your father?” A broken home, and more specifically, a home that has been abandoned

Homura, the energetic young cop

No casualties

A scientist discussing the thermite reactions that blew up the buildings. Kind of a weird sequence?


More saturated lighting

Another unique track for Nine’s invasion of the police station. Synths and weird, distorted strings

Shibasaki and his old-fashioned ways

Sphinx give them the actual, traditional sphinx’s riddle, which seems a little obvious

Lisa’s voice seems a little off

The show’s adult characters actually sound the best

It’s from the story of Oedipus, who unknowingly killed his father and married his mother. For a story where the young destroy the older generation in propagating their violence

The show’s character animation is quite strong. Good body language for everyone

“You may be an accomplice, but you’re not one of us.”

“We need you back. I’m sorry.” The actual plot is kinda weak tea – somewhat underwritten thriller stuff. Everything around it, though, is quite nice

Episode 3

“Wish I had a nickname like that. Wish I had a nickname period.” The dub script is solid. Firm but personal for the cops, slightly immature and sometimes playful for the kids

Shibasaki is moved to being Homura’s boss

Shibasaki talks about growing up surrounded by old people in Hiroshima. The heat keeping the elderly inside

“Second generation victim of the bond. Must be hard watching a couple kids play around with nuclear weapons.”

More gorgeous shots with great lighting in Lisa’s school

Shibasaki feels like they’re intentionally leaving behind evidence

Homura annoyed even at being praised by Shibasaki. Good character acting

Lisa is so isolated by her life that even a terrorist feels like a friend. And of course there’s a bigger message there

“That’s probably sphinx’s problem. They’re just lonely and want attention.”

“I usually assume kids these days play these games to avoid dealing with people. Guess people are still making connections”

Lisa runs away from home

“A name is a gift of love, but you have been abandoned. Love does not exist in your world.” Lol

Shibasaki answers the riddle on a stream. They’ve found a direct connection

Shibasaki gets mad and directly scolds them

Shibasaki got burned for chasing a political leader, and had to accept the transfer to archives for the sake of his family

Episode 4

Dear lord, gorgeous shots of the light reflecting on the rainy pavement

“What can I say? I like bad boys.” As Lisa walks off the screen

All of the bomb parts are easily available. There’s something of an emphasis on how terror isn’t something you can just prevent people from creating

A shot of Lisa stranded behind bars on a stairway

“You really think a couple of kids could pull off such a complicated stunt?” Not believing in the young

And Shibasaki walks along the street in the heat. Shibasaki uses little technology, and is clearly a representation of an older time

Nine listens to “music from a cold land,” according to a former coworker

God, beautiful palettes for these backgrounds

Nice shots of the cops hiding in the shadows

Nice eerie strings

“I needed to be there in person to see the same thing they saw.” That individual connection

The new Sphinx video hits, and is promoted everywhere. Now they’re hot on social media

“This is the first time those two have made any kind of request. They want us to play.” Making that connection, even through violence, because it’s the only way they can be heard

Twelve is out following Lisa’s moments via her phone. Even connection is through surveillance

Oh man, now they’re playing chess. Lol

“Trapped your queen. You should have sacrificed her”

“They gave us a puzzle, and said not to cheat”

God, this show’s art direction is so damn good. Great use of soft focus, too

Lisa’s voice actress is doing well in this scene

Talking about being carried away. “Things don’t just work themselves out”

Shibazaki found the answer was his own name, but the other cops broke the rules, so they send out the investigation reports

Great rock/percussion track for this moment

And then there’s that gorgeous, transcendent moment of Twelve and Lisa escaping on the bike. A lovely low-key folk track as Lisa takes a deep breath and feels the wind on her cheeks. A moment of really believing you could escape it, that you could destroy it all and be free

Episode 5

“Lisa isn’t that different from us”

And Five arrives

Again contrasting Shibazaki’s paper and pencils against the computers of his teammates

Lisa’s garbage home cooking

“Even the crummiest food is worth something”

A moment of family

Homura’s started to following Shibazaki’s lead

Twelve poking at Nine for actually trusting Shibazaki to understand what he’s saying

And Shibazaki does – he figures out there’s a connection between the officials tied to the bomb locations

“These kids just want to watch our reaction. Not make a point”

But someone’s interfering with their deactivation signal

The Americans, and Five, who are willing to escalate in order to smoke out their targets

Great music track for this climax as well

More shots almost too viscerally evoking a terrorist bombing

Episode 6

Five is dramatically overacted, but considering her character…

The sound of a shower become overwhelming. Such strong sound design

FBI requests are now to be prioritized

“I think she just likes playing the game”

Nine is willing to play the villain to push Lisa away

The feathers rising up as Twelve stares at the sky

Shibazaki worries about the FBI backing the terrorists into a corner

Five sets up her own bomb to force Nine and Twelve to disarm it. The airport sequence

Shibazaki is joined by Homura in his attempt to stop the bomb. There will always be some good cops

And Lisa joins Nine and Twelve in their mission

Ooh, great shot of Five’s eye as she sees her targets

AIRPORT CHESS god this was a stupid idea

Episode 7

Lisa’s movements into Nine and Twelve’s world are probably the most compelling thing here. It’s easy to see what would bring her to assist them, regardless of their goals

Nice animation of Five scanning all the cameras to find the outlying variable

Also a nice guitar track for this sequence

And a great spinning shot of Five getting caught by Nine

Man, this plan is so absurd. The Americans are gonna BOMB THE AIRPORT

Nine calls Shibazaki for help

Another great rock track. This soundtrack is so damn good

Five’s eyes are fantastic

Episode 8

And now it’s a light vocal-driven piano melody, like a Beatles song

Shibazaki’s OFF THE FORCE

Shibazaki visits his daughter for once

Lisa dumping pocky into her curry

Five sends Lisa a bomb

Great animation of the explosion

“In the end, all they want are results”

Twelve suggests they stop their plan altogether. Now that he has something tying him to the world, he no longer is easily willing to give it all up – the opposite of Lisa’s path

“A detective using extortion? You should know your place.” “Funny how one can change when they’re about to be fired.” A direct parallel between Shibazaki and Sphinx – when he has nothing to lose, he’s able to actually challenge the system

And then Homura underlines this, saying he’s able to lose this job

They start checking out orphanages, looking for the gifted children that were taken away

Sphinx actually has a fan following now

The kids become ghosts

And when Shibazaki seeks more help from another cop, they emphasize his wife and kids, demonstrating how the ties we hold make us complicit

“Sphinx may be called terrorists now, but in a different time they’d be thought of as something else”

Great shots contrasting the mirrored designs of Lisa and Five

“You don’t honestly think those boys have a future, do you?”

“Twelve. Don’t do this.” “I’m sorry, Nine.”

Episode 9

“When you get to be my age, visitors are few and far between.” After all his crimes, he’s left alone in the end

And the death of his wife means he can tell the full truth. There’s nothing left for him

The Athena plan was intended to create reliable savants

Most of the children died

The US government became aware of the program, shut down the program, and took Five

“I’d like to think they’re still alive, enjoying their lives before the drug’s side effects take over.”

“I stopped being human a long time ago. I was a pawn, a cog in the machine.”

The head of the project was the one who got Shibazaki demoted

The use of lens flare and soft focus is so good

Five continues to be ridiculous

This great intimate scene of Twelve disarming the bomb on Lisa. The only moment they get this close, mediated by violence

And yeah, these shots are so close and gentle, in spite of them being all focusing on bomb defusal

This piano and vocal track is great, too

“It’s okay. This isn’t your fault”

“I knew it would be dangerous, getting to know somebody. But…”

Oh damn, they actually took Japan’s first atom bomb

And once again the choice is presented of challenging the system or saving those you care about

Episode 10

Nine turns himself in

And demands to speak to Shibazaki

Twelve blames himself for betraying Nine

“It’s funny how kids turn into adults in the blink of an eye”

Nine requests a press conference in order to turn over the bomb

It seems like Nine used the earlier bombs to establish trust

Shibazaki heads off to his final battle, assuming he’s going to die

“He’s mine. I won’t let anyone else have him”

The old man who masterminded the plan speaks, talks of Japan being a defeated nation

The plan was intended to rage against the “unhearing father” of the United States, and created a new generation of rage-filled children in turn

“Sphinx came back to commit patricide”

Twelve runs away, bringing Lisa to an amusement park

“I need to see their future, with my own eyes”

“I have no right to face Nine”

Five: “The only reason I was able to survive until this point was because of you”

9 thoughts on “Terror in Resonance – Review

  1. No notes for episode 11?

    Thanks for the glowing review, by the way. ANN at large doesn’t seem to enjoy this show very much for the same things you (and I) seem to be able to largely ignore over the actual ideas and feelings on display, but I guess that’s to be expected. Watching this show actually got me really interested in Japanese politics and now I own a few too many Japanese history books. Not the worst way to come out of a cartoon I suppose.

    For the review, did you get the standard or limited edition? And if it was the limited edition would you say it’s worth getting that or should I just stick with the regular release?

    • I actually just watched episode 11 straight through this time, instead of pausing to take notes. It’s a dramatic episode!

      As for the review, it definitely makes sense to me that this would be a divisive show, and that I would like it more than others. The show’s weakest elements are its plot beats/thriller bits, and most people care about that stuff far more than I do, whereas Resonance’s strengths are exactly the things I respond to in media. I don’t think my copy is the limited edition, though – it doesn’t say anything to that effect on the packaging, and only comes with the video extras I mentioned.

    • I would argue that the show’s problem is not just absurd plot. I think Draggle said it best: ” it feels like something is lacking. It doesn’t have a tenth of the thoughtfulness or tension of Monster. Eden of the East had an underlying goofiness which made it much more entertaining. And a show like PSYCHO PASS doesn’t pull its punches with the social criticism aspect.”

      The anime is still pretty decent, and I don’t believe the hate is justified. However, if you are interested in Japanese history and politics, I’d rather recommend Concrete Revolutio and Gatchaman Crowds.

  2. I remember watching this in a biased light because a friend of mine kept hammering down on the loopholes and inconsistencies in the plot. Reading this makes me want to pick it up again and see if I can enjoy it without the unnecessary side comments.

    Just remembering the transcendent bike ride and the intimate bomb disarming sent goosebumps down my back – which is a good thing.

    How would you say this compares to Aku no Hana? Although it doesn’t have the political ramifications that resonance does, I think the concept of emancipation from a system that ties us down also presses quite strongly. Plus, it was quite divisive as well. Do people really just don’t like these kind of shows in general?

    • I think it’s less that people don’t like these themes, and more that people don’t like shows which don’t prioritize plot in general. Terror in Resonance’s weaknesses all lie in the one thing most media consumers actually engage with, and Aku no Hana is almost entirely atmosphere-based instead of plot-based. Almost any show like that is going to get a lot of hate.

      • Interesting you put it that way. I remember excitedly showing the show to a friend, but he couldn’t get himself to watching it because he was a little put off by the theme (i.e. violence and terrorism). And that’s surprising coming from a guy who loved Cowboy Bebop!

        But yeah, I’m rewatching Aku no Hana now, and the atmosphere element is definitely something hard to explain to people who would otherwise think it’s an excuse to extend airtime. But atmospheric pieces haven’t always been negatively received. Grave of the fireflies is one particular work I can think off the top of my head that was well received, has pretty morbid themes, and was well received.

        People just engage with media in weird ways, I guess.

        Before I forget, great article! I’m gonna re-watch this now after I finish up Aku no Hana.

        • Oh, I didn’t mean everybody receives those types of shows negatively – Aku no Hana is quite well-liked among critics, for example. But the general anime audience trends towards classic genre story preferences – action/adventure, fantasy/scifi, and thrillers. Stuff that falls outside those bounds generally doesn’t get embraced by the general audience.

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