This review has been a long time coming. This was a highly anticipated series, boasting high production by MAPPA, music by Yokko Kano, and being a passion project by Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, Space Dandy). Not only that, it promised to be an answer to the many right-wing propaganda anime being produced (like Mahouka or GATE). Clearly, this should be a new masterpiece.
Well, it was instead a dumpster fire.
You see, this was to be a character study on two characters who became terrorists due to programs run by the Japanese government to create a better breed of youth to improve the nation (a goal given militaristic undertones to imply their true goal). I said was because, as is, the series follows two bland, personality-less teens causing mischief and property damage (seriously, they make it a point to show the two getting everyone out of the buildings they are going to blow up) and the police playing along (they’re not, but the ending makes them fall on the side of the terrorists, who were “misguided but right”) and trying to catch them. Caught on the terrorists’ side is a normal (read: dull and uninteresting) teenage girl who feels as drawn to them as Edward to Bella (and yes, that’s the closest comparison I can make). As the police places an old detective (the closest thing to an interesting character in this show, but woefully incompetent regarding the duo’s riddles (yes, they leave riddles)) to follow the breadcrumbs that they are leaving, will they manage to bring down the nation that turned them into what they are? (No, because it was never their plan for anyone to get hurt because they are so tragic and misunderstood and I hate this so much.)
In case you couldn’t tell, Watanabe (who also wrote the series) wanted to make sure we sympathized with the terrorists by following the Hollywood hero rule: a hero loses sympathy if he kills someone. Beyond the fact that that’s not a true statement, it undercuts the protagonists’ status as terrorists. They were closer to being freedom fighters, except without personalities. The girl who follows them is equally bland, following the leads because the audience needs an avatar for figuring out their thought process. The character who shares the same backstory with the leads (because of course there’s a third one) is a cartoon villain who belongs in another show, one where she doesn’t seem as out of place. The detective is somewhat interesting, but he largely seems tangential to the main story, existing to spell out Watanabe’s political leanings through his search. If you noticed that I didn’t name any characters, its representative of how much of an impact they left.
This is not helped by the art aesthetic, which is “realistic ” (read: grey and brown). For as well-animated as it is, the show looks dull and uninteresting. The music, similarly, is uninteresting, resembling Yoko Kanno’s take on blockbuster scores that just kind of blends together. They technicals are good, but it’s to no effect. It’s all sound and fury, no impact. It makes me lament the talent that went into this, being wasted on what must’ve been a good idea at the time.
Furthermore, if you want to see this same topic (terror and reactions to a right-wing, nationalist Japanese government and the consequences of that ideal), it exists. The same ground was tread by Penguindrum, which was also a character piece which looked at the harm that Japanese nationalism causes to the younger generations. When the topic has been done better, it makes the failings of this show seem larger. If you want to see this topic, I see no reason to watch this.
At the end of the day, Terror In Resonance is just a failure. If Watanabe focused more on exploring the ideology and thought processes of the protagonists, this could’ve become a powerful series about terrorism. As is, we can only look at it as a good idea botched by the worst possible execution.
Terror In Resonance is available on blu-ray and dvd by Funimation and is streaming on their website and Hulu.com