Technology in today’s age is practically ubiquitous and is a part of modern day living yet with so many new tools at our disposal and the relevancy of social media, secrets are harder to keep these days as so much of what we communicate and show of ourselves now live forever within the online space.
Sony’s hacking scandal in 2014 was deemed an act of terrorism by the American government, an act that robbed Americans of their privacy and saw many leaked emails and documents from Sony’s top film producers, as well as several Sony’s unreleased films, make their way onto the internet for the entire world to see. The hack, allegedly caused by North Korea in response to the release of the Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy The Interview, sent Sony into public relations hell and proved to be something of an eye-opening experience as it gave a new face to terrorism.
Terror in Resonance, the latest anime series from Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo creator, Shinchiro Watanabe, plays like an extension of that hacking scandal and further espouses on how terrorism has transformed in the information age.
Like Watanabe’s other less-talked about series, Kids on the Slope, his new series is something of a departure from what brought Watanabe to the dance. Known for fusing several different genres and styles into a uniquely charismatic work, Terror in Resonance forgoes these qualities as well as Watanabe’s episodic storytelling in order to focus on material that is not only quite politically streamlined but also very clear in its continuity. There’s a clear structure within the framework of Terror in Resonance and for a series with only thirteen episodes to its name, benefits from having a story that’s short and self-contained.
Never one to shy away from big settings, Terror in Resonance is arguably Watanabe’s most ambitious project given that it’s his only series set in the modern era and one that’s arguably more edgier due to its focus on the very real threat of terrorism. Terror in Resonance concerns a mysterious terrorist group called Sphinx whose attacks on the city of Tokyo begin to cause social unrest. They taunt authorities through video recordings uploaded to the Internet and give away clues that could potentially aid them in finding their next target. In actuality, the masterminds behind Sphinx are two genius-level teenaged boys who refer to each other as Nine and Twelve. Their mysterious past is what motivates them to commit these necessary acts of terrorism.
The series starts off strongly, one of the strongest I’ve seen in any anime series in recent times, and does a marvelous job creating an exciting amount of tension between Sphinx and the authorities. The ideas that Watanabe explores and the battles that Sphinx and the authoritative forces they’re made to deal with across the series’ first five episodes are nothing short of astounding and deeply satisfying as a viewer.
Terror in Resonance unfortunately cannot maintain the momentum established by its first five episodes. The appearance of a new character by episodes six and onwards steers the series into a different direction, one that doesn’t ever realise the untapped potential that Watanabe’s series could have exposed. A game of one-upsmanship between Sphinx and Five, a character who works against the boys and has a history with them, unfolds but doesn’t have the same level of intrigue or satisfaction that its previous five episodes did so well to establish.
As for the characters that populate this world, they’re not as engaging as some of Watanabe’s other famous heroes. Watanbe’s strength as a director has always been with his characters; he’s able to work with a small cast in the face of a scenario that’s rather big in scale. Here, however, his characters feel ill-defined and their relationships are loose at best. Lisa, a teenage girl who gets mixed up with Sphinx, serves little to no purpose within the series. Her own backstory with her mother doesn’t have much weight to it and, within the context of everything else going on in the world of Terror in Resonance, just feels like unnecessary filler. Meanwhile, Five and Nine’s relationship is loosely defined despite Watanabe’s intention to consistently show Five’s obsession with Nine and Nine’s hesitation and fear of Five.
It seems that in the midst of finding something substantial to commentate on, Watanabe lost focus on what made the first half of the series feel special. Terror in Resonance had a lot of potential but its efforts to become something more than its high concept scenario of teenage terrorists are ultimately futile. It tries to be as fun and taut as something like Death Note but in all honesty, the series falls off the rails by this point and kills off any interest one may have had going into it.
It’s a damn shame too as Terror in Resonance truly does have the potential to be something that could be as intelligent and incisive as a Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex or even an Eden of the East. Restricting itself to the confines of a lesser, more generic anime series, Watanabe’s series lacks the drive that made its earlier episodes stunning works. Given what’s happening and has happened in recent world news, Watanabe’s series could have been a solid reflection of what terrorism means today.
Terror in Resonance is currently available to stream in its entirety over at Madman Entertainment’s FREE streaming service, Anime Lab.