Kaito IshikawaReina UedaMari DoiShinichiro Watanabe
Terror in Resonance
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2014: T
Also known as: Zankyou no Teroru
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2014
Director: Shinichiro Watanabe
Actor: Atsumi Tanezaki, Kaito Ishikawa, Soma Saito, Megumi Han, Shunsuke Sakuya, Ai Takanashi, Airi Ootsu, Aki Nagao, Ayano Taira, Ayumi Tsunematsu, Binbin Takaoka, Chisa Horii, Daisuke Takahashi, Eiji Takeuchi, Hideaki Tezuka, Hiroshi Naitou, Kairi Satake, Kanji Obana, Keisuke Aigasa, Kenji Sugimura, Koichi Masuyama, Kunpei Sakamoto, Mari Doi, Masaaki Fukuchi, Masashi Nogawa, Midori Matsuo, Mitsuaki Kanuka, Naoko Kaneta, Reina Ueda, Ryuichi Kijima, Ryunosuke Watanuki, Satoshi Yamaguchi, Shigeki Maegawa, Shinpachi Tsuji, Shuuichirou Moriyama, Takanori Hoshino, Takashi Aoki, Takaya Hashi, Takehiro Hasu, Takuya Inagaki, Taro Yamaguchi, Tomohiko Nakashima, Uki Satake, Una Sahara, Wataru Komada, Yasuhiro Takato, Yoshiki Nakajima, Yoshimitsu Shimoyama, Yuji Hashinaka, Yuko Hara, Yusuke Kuwahata, Yutaka Aoyama, Yuuko Noichi
Keywords: anime, noitaminA
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 11 episodes
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=15974
Website category: Anime 2014
Review date: 8 October 2015
It's an anime by Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop, Space Dandy) in which the protagonists are launching a series of terrorist attacks. Directed by Watanabe, written from a story by Watanabe. He had some things to say.
It's a fiercely political piece, although this is Japanese politics and so some explanations might be required for a Western audience. The current Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abo, has nationalist sympathies and has promoted people to important positions who deny or downplay Japanese war crimes in World War Two. (His grandfather was a Cabinet Minister during World War Two.) Despite being in the middle of a crucial program of economic reforms, he's burned a lot of political capital trying to force through a rewrite of Article 9 of the Japanese constitution (the one which bans war). As it happens I agree with him on that particular issue, since I believe it makes sense for Japan to be able to contribute meaningfully to international peacekeeping missions, come to the aid of allies if attacked, etc. However this is, obviously, a topic that arouses strong emotions. Pacifism is deep-rooted in Japan and it's possible that Abe might have hamstrung himself politically over this.
I also think it's damaging for him to be the man forcing it through, especially with the strong-arm methods he's been using. The neo-nationalism he's associated with is poison, both morally and in terms of international relations.
Watanabe is discussing all that and more. Neo-nationalism is in the mix here, damaging children as old men try to "restore Japan's pride". It's also unhappy about aspects of the Japan-America relationship, appearing to take the position that American forces should withdraw from Japan. (America has had a military base in Okinawa since 1945. Its removal would probably be a terrible idea, since China's current behaviour makes it all the more important for America to be able to back up its mutual defence treaties in the region. However those soldiers' presence there has always been controversial, to put it mildly.) I don't personally agree with everything in this show, but I think Watanabe's created an important, angry piece of art and I think what he's saying about terrorism and politicians deserves a wide audience.
Choosing terrorists for his protagonists is obviously an extreme tactic. Admittedly these terrorists want to say something specific and are going to considerable lengths to avoid fatalities, but they're still doing terrorist things in a terrorist way. They plan and execute Tokyo bombings. Ep.4 even provides a handbook, as government experts take us step by step through everything you need to blow things up. Much of it is legal and uncontrolled. Some of it is illegal, but available from Russian or Chinese websites for a dollar. All this is true and accurate.
Then there's the imagery. Ep.1 has bombs bringing down a skyscraper in the middle of Tokyo. What would be the most emotionally charged things to associate with terrorist outrages? A plane, perhaps, if you're American? The Tokyo subway, if you're Japanese? They're both here. Oh, and a nuclear bomb, bringing things full circle.
And the politicians... oooh, the politicians. They wouldn't actually object to seeing the terrorists caught, but it's not clear that that's a priority for them.
There's one resonance that I suspect is unintentional, though. When the Americans show up, their agent (Five) keeps singing "London Bridge is falling down" and her minder has a British accent. However I don't think the UK fits into the picture, thematically, and I can see an explanation for both of the above observations. "London Bridge is falling down" is an obvious choice of lyric, especially for someone as twisted as Five, while the British accent is just more anime Engrish. At least that minder can act (unlike cameo examples here) and doesn't sound like a Dalek with katakana-English (unlike Megumi Han). By anime standards, in fact, the accents here are pretty good.
This isn't a cuddly show, but it's warmer than, say, Death Note. We're being kept at a slight distance from the characters, but there's a strong human angle to the interactions of Nine (ice-cold), Twelve (bubbly) and Lisa (a girl who gets tangled up, to Nine's displeasure). Nine's theoretically correct in what he says, but it's the brutal way he says it that drives Lisa to her most damaging mistakes. Meanwhile Twelve's instincts are both wrong and right.
Lisa is a crucial character, by the way. She can be funny in her earnestness, but if you think about it, she's also horrifying. She's a lost soul who gives herself to two terrorists because... well, more or less because one of them spoke to her nicely. "I can't handle the bombs yet, but I'll do my best!" As it happens they're trying to avoid fatalities, but I'm not sure it would have changed anything for her if they hadn't been. There's something terrifying in what we're being shown with Lisa.
Oh, and the animation is breathtaking. Watanabe's doing the opposite of what he oversaw in Space Dandy and is pulling things tight with animation that looks like live-action. (This includes things like focus depth, tiny camera movements, heat haze, etc.) Characters' faces are more expressive, but the terrorist action looks real. This is all-important, obviously.
It's an intelligent, angry show and I don't think it should matter whether or not you agree with some or all of Watanabe's politics. It's not just showing a one-sided terrorist rampage, with Nine and Twelve facing opposition every bit as clever as they are. (Not all of that opposition is as careful about people's lives as they are, by the way.) I love genius mind battle stories. It's saying all kinds of things, as in the comparison with 1960s student protests and the police's early dismissal of the idea that there could be any thought at all behind the terrorists' actions. I want people to watch this show, although I hope no one's under the impression that it'll be giving you warm fuzzies.