Terror in Resonance is a fine anime in terms of directing and tension. It’s not hard to see how it excited thousands of viewers into calling it anime of the year back when the first episode aired. That still doesn’t make up for its undeniably amateurishly handled script when it comes to mystery stories. Personally, I didn’t need to wait for the show to be over before I knew it wasn’t as good as they were hyping it to be. The cracks were obvious since the very pilot and kept getting bigger with each new episode. The reason why everybody else didn’t want to admit to that is because the director was Watanabe of Cowboy Bebop fame. There is no way for Watanabe to mess up, even if anything else he made besides Bebop was average. Well, damn, he did, what a shock. So for those of you who are in constant denial while hugging your huge anime pillows, allow me to show you with very basic example of good storytelling why Terror in Resonance is not that great after all.
Both the title and the premise of the story allude to acts of terrorism. Even the two main characters’ nicknames are an allusion to 9/11. And here is the thing; there is no terrorism in this show. There is no political statement behind the bombings because the two terrorists do not reveal them until the show is over. They don’t even have demands for not going forward with the bombings; a thing which no terrorist ever does. If there is a statement, there is no reason not to reveal it right away; something which of course they didn’t because that way the show would end in 2 episodes. Hell, the very fact that these so called terrorists are making sure nobody gets killed in the explosions and only target buildings makes them hooligans. These are in fact acts of vandalism. The show ends, a dozen mass explosions occur, and there are zero casualties. They even treat the whole thing as a game where you need to follow the rules and have fun. I mean, solve riddles to stop the bomb??? That is both not practical and eventually has nothing to do with their goal. They could have said “We do this for that reason” and everything would be solved right away. But no, the scriptwriters needed to fill 11 episodes somehow and thus made it seem like the so-called terrorists are wasting time by fooling around with these riddles, even they clearly had a limited amount of time left.
Also, the population is not terrified by them. You literally see nobody looking scared; everybody is out in the streets having fun. When looking at the bombing videos and the riddles of the terrorists, they are laughing and treat them as entertainment. Even in the final episode where they know the whole city might blow up and they will all die, they look surprised, not scared.
Again, no terrorism exists in this show. Not even in the epilogue, where the city recovers from the EMP and one of the most hideous experiments in recent history becomes public which completely ruins their image to the world, they are just looking at the screen puzzled, not worried. How will we fill the terror if nobody feels the terror?
Not even the police are not afraid of them; they are mostly angry that a bunch of kids make them look bad instead of feeling they are capable to kill them all and hack into all their secret files. Therefore the show passes as pretentious for presenting you the theme of terrorism but otherwise not handling it as such.
The setting of the show is presented as the real world and is animated as realistically as possible to make you think the show takes place in our reality. Only it does so on a very superficial way, since as soon as science gets in the way, nothing makes sense. Thermite doesn’t work as they show it, secret agencies don’t stop bombings by bombing themselves civilian areas, Americans don’t speak in terrible engrish, people don’t stare at nuclear explosions without getting blinded, and EMP pulses are enough to kill anyone who has a pacer in his heart or is in life support in hospitals, thus contradicting the attempt to not kill anyone.
Also, besides that cop at the archives, everybody else in this show is unable to do basic research. For example, the so called terrorists are giving riddles in their public videos that nobody besides the archive cop seems able to solve. And that is completely stupid if you think we live the age of information where you can google something and find the answer in seconds. The riddles are not super smart; they are based on existing myths. Everybody can solve them by a simple visit at Wikipedia. And yet nobody (besides that one guy) seems to do the obvious. Thus, even when the so called terrorists wanted the population to figure out what their intentions really were through the riddles, it would be impossible. They can write it on their foreheads and they will still fail to notice it, since they don’t do the most simple and easy thing everybody would do to figure it out.
The Police are Useless
The police officers aren’t really doing anything in general. They are all passive, stupid, and useless, as they pretty much are in most stories for the sole purpose of making the main characters seem super smart for doing something everybody can do with a simple visit at Wikipedia. And this is not limited to just solving riddles, they are also acting as if they can’t make the most basic profiling imaginable with the evidence they have so far. If you have videos of the criminals, with their voices and a clear room in the background it is more than enough to make a hell of a detailed profile of them. You don’t sit on your ass waiting for the next video riddle to appear. Hell, they are not even increasing patrols or security measures, something which is the first thing any sane department would do, even if the threat were a bunch of pick pocket urchins. Hell, they are so stupid, they are looking for hard copies of a case the terrorists hacked into digitally. They could have simply found it on their computer instead of looking for hours in the archives. Furthermore in the very few cases where they do try to do something right by having briefing meetings to find the terrorist base, even that is used to make them look stupid since the (not really) terrorists make them fall for traps they deliberately placed for them to fall in.
Even the single one guy who is a super detective is unable to do the obvious as well. Even when he pretty much has revealed that all he needs to do is look into a myth to find the answer to a riddle, he doesn’t do so until out of nowhere he looks at a guy playing a videogame and saying completely irrelevant things. He then magically finds the solution. And this is done multiple times. This is not how actual detectives do their work. They do not look at something irrelevant and all of a sudden get light bulbs of divine intervention to solve mysteries. They use the facts and the direct information they have in front of them in order to logically solve a mystery with simple deduction procedures.
The way things are revealed in this show are not limited to lame eureka moments but also to lazy exposition methods. The simplest form of exposition is to have one character not knowing what is going on and having another character explaining what happened, so in turn the audience can be informed as well. And this is why we have the background stories of everybody being revealed by simply having two people talking about them. “Oh, didn’t you know what is going on with him? Here, let me monologue for 5 minutes.” Although this method serves its purpose, it is very slapped on. It lacks talent and effort and passes as very amateurish for a story that is supposed to be a mystery that is slowly revealing itself. It feels like it’s not about connecting the dots and examining clues, but more like revealing stuff they knew all along by just flapping their mouths. Furthermore they spend so much time in briefings where they explain stuff by talking and not only they are scientifically incorrect but also means nothing in the longrun.
They gotta waste those episodes somehow, remember? And then they constantly do that annoying thing we see all the time in shonen, where they have to state the obvious or point at things and ask “What is that?” for more infodump to happen by talking instead of just showing stuff.
Flashbacks are also a method of exposition. They are showing us the past of a character without having a guy simply talking about it. They are best used when something that happens or is said in the present triggers them to begin. But in this show no such thing happens. We get glimpses of the two so called terrorists out of nowhere. Nothing triggers them; they reveal stuff about them with no foreshadowing or excuse, thus they pass as amateurish once again. It would make sense if they were triggered by the arrival of a character named Five in the middle of the series, but no, the show is showing us flashbacks of a character they think is dead, only to reveal she’s alive after all, and the flashbacks were in fact foreshadowing for the revelation of a character that shouldn’t even be there.
I could already predict what the rest of the show will be about after episode 3. I mean, really, it was obvious what the terrorists wanted to do thereafter. A good mystery story is revealing itself slowly, constantly keeping you interested to find out more. This anime didn’t do that. It overused its already lazy exposition gimmicks to the point it revealed all the major plot points in its first quarter. All there was left was an almost fatalistic procedure because it became that predictable. And the only reason it took 11 episodes to play out exactly as I predicted was only because they wasted half the show running after Lisa or Five, characters whose role was to derail the plot and waste time.
Then we get to the characters: As much as I liked its aesthetic presentation, I can’t say I was remotely interested in its characters. None of them were special to remember, outside the lazy attempt to make the investigator and the so called terrorists to appear super smart when in reality they are just average people amongst retards. Everybody else was either background decoration or completely undeveloped and more of a hindrance than a vital part to the plot.
That stupid bimbo Lisa the two terrorists befriended for example did absolutely nothing but causing them trouble. Why were they so interested in that troublemaker? She was there only to be kidnapped or assaulted every 10 minutes, so the (not really) terrorists had to constantly endanger their plans to save her, just so she can take up space in their apartment and poison them with her awful cooking. She existed to simply waste episodes by being in them.
Five was the biggest problem, a character who is presented right away as a one dimensional psychotic bitch we are supposed to hate. She was there as nothing more than the evil version of the two terrorists and was allowed by the American secret agencies to go around doing hideous things, which somehow would help them capture the other two. Well guess what, not only they failed to do so, but the stupid bitch was also causing more trouble than helping them in their work. By the time she was out of the picture, more damage than good was achieved because of her, and literally half the show was wasted while she was in it, derailing the plot from its main objective.
Shibazaki is a cool fellow and the most promising of the bunch but he too eventually becomes nothing but a plot device to keep the story going. He serves as the worthy antagonist in solving the riddles alright, but as it turns out the riddles were pointless, and as soon as the secret agency popped into the story he became a passive observer and a peon to the plans of his targets.
There are also lots of side characters, each one serving an interesting side story to further flesh out the cast, but are left as nothing but decorations. This includes people like Lisa’s crazy mother, or Shibazaki’s daughter, or the politician who orchestrated the experiments on children.
Then of course the writers try to apply the rule of cool-
What further ruins this show is that it is not serious or well written as most in the community think it is for some impossible to excuse reason. It is made to be flashy and entertaining. There is no real tension, no real mystery, no real depth in its characters. It is all in all a rule of cool show about two brats making adults look bad while the population doesn’t care if they are blowing up buildings. It’s about them laughing while escaping the authorities on their cool bikes. It’s about them outsmarting the police because they are good at playing chess; even if the animators don’t even know the rules of the game. It’s about their nemesis being a shallow psychotic narcissistic schoolgirl that the audience is meant to hate right away. It’s about the Japanese politicians thinking that the best way for Japan to get over its losing mentality from WW2 is to return back into thinking they are the master of Asia, and threatening the world with their hidden nuclear arsenal. All that are not deeper or smarter than watching an average fighting shonen where a bunch of stupid boys solve their problems by punching things.
In the longrun most of what happens in this show doesn’t matter. The (not really) terrorists could simply hack into the police archives and give them all the information they need to investigate the place they wanted them to go to. But instead of doing something so simple they blow up buildings and throw around riddles that could be easily misinterpreted. They try to excuse it as if they wanted to gather the attention of the world before actually revealing the truth but that is bullshit. Detonating a nuclear bomb is more than enough to attract everybody’s attention. I mean what would the media around the world say? Oh, a nuclear explosion over Japan? We don’t know who did it, so we don’t care.
Five the psycho bitch was completely slapped on, doing things that completely ruined the plausibility of the whole show. She basically makes the police place bombs, blow up places, and makes the (not really) terrorists to run around for hours while playing chess with completely broken rules instead of just… capturing them. She knows who they are and where they are but doesn’t just send the police to capture them, she just bombs the place, thus erasing all the tracks of them while still failing to stop them. And of course she never gets arrested for causing more damage than the actual threat because we need to stretch the story even more. And when finally shit hits the fan, she just says it was all a game, shoots to death her colleague, and kills herself. Well, that was pointless…
Lisa was also supposed to have her side story, something about wishing the world to burn because she was bullied in school, and her mother was pushy. Yeah, so legit reason to destroy the world. Also she was supposed to be the human factor to keep 9 and 12 sane but that part was completely thrown to the side, as she was busy causing trouble and needing to be rescued in every episode.
So was the romance that was hinted at a few points. So was the whole point of being the human element to a couple of guys who would die in a few days, regardless of her being there or not.
Shibazaki could have been the real star of the show, going around solving riddles and exposing the human experiments. Yet even he became pointless once the nuclear explosion happened and everybody was looking into what happened. All his research went to waste.
If you remove Five, the whole series doesn’t need more than a movie’s worth of duration to tell the whole thing. And if you remove the pointless riddles, it doesn’t need more than a couple of OVAs. The characters were literally overcomplicating everything with pointless riddles and bombings and running in airports, and saving useless schoolgirls, making the story to be essentially 90% filler. And to think that at least all time was used to flesh out its characters? It wasn’t! The show ends and you have no reason to think a single one of them wasn’t a forgettable stereotype. All you will remember are explosions, some weird riddles, and cool camera angles.
Also, Watanabe is not God
This doesn’t have to do that much with the show as it has to do with the hype around it. Can we please stop losing our shit every time the name Watanabe pops up? The guy made one super successful show (Cowboy Bebop) followed by a so-so show (Samurai Champloo) followed by a run of the mill romance show (Kids on the Slope) followed by random fan service episodes (Space Dandy). And now he made this unfortunate piece of work, but nobody besides me wants to admit it because Watanabe is God and those who disagree must die. There may be no real terrorism in the show itself but the anime community is terrified shitless to admit this show being obviously very flawed. Are you men or ostriches?
Same applies to Noitamina, and for Pete’s sake, do you even check rosters? The Noitamina timeslot never produced a single good sci-fi title. They suck at everything that has mystery, or supernatural, or technology. They are good only at romances for middle aged women. I knew right away this show would be bad by this simple fact. Plus, the trailers showed a couple of snotty looking teenagers blowing up buildings while talking to cell phones. How hard was it to smell the failure? Did everybody forget Eden of the East already?
All there is in this show are pretty visuals and none of the main elements it was going for. It is a better show to your average harem but calling it a good detective story about terrorism? Not even close to that! Before it even a semi guilty pleasure like V for Vendetta is a masterpiece of storytelling.
Let's end this with a joke I wrote about episode 8:
Nine: Dammit Lisa, stop cooking, you made the apartment explode!
Lisa: No it was a bomb that was mailed to me!
Twelve: And what did you do to save our base?
Lisa: I ran out while holding the ladle.
FBI guy: Five, stop blowing up places. Not even my connections can protect you from bombing civilian areas. Blowing up huge airplanes in public airports is ok, but not small apartments.
Five: Dammit, I was sure the bomb would take them out.
FBI guy: You mean the bomb you sent to the place you saw that girl go in, which you spotted by chance while looking at cameras?
Five: Yes, that one. For some reason I never spotted by chance the other two.
FBI agent: So why didn't you just tell us to surround the place and arrest them?
Five: I was busy polishing my nails. But it's ok, we can still use that girl Lisa as a bait.
FBI agent: How original. It's not like we didn't do the exact same thing last episode. And how do you know where she is?
Five: By spotting her of course. Something I can't do with the other two. Now go bring her to me, I want to polish her nails too.
Nine: Oh no, Lisa is in trouble for the 10th time in this short series. We got to endanger our plans once again to save this completely worthless girl.
Twelve: Indeed. She is vital to take up space and poison us with her cooking.
Watanabe: I created another masterpiece.
Tasteless casuals: Anime of the century! Better than even Momokyun Sword!
I can't believe you took the time to write that shit.
Fuck off ThatAnimeSnob, your reviews are shit.
Good director, good composer, good visuals, above average character design, but such a shitty show. I may need rewatch it because it was too ridiculous for me to take seriously last time.
I don't care man, I just really love Twelve. The rest of the show can go to hell for all I care.
Except the OST.
You missed a very nicely done Ferris wheel scene.