ANIME & MANGA - Review
11:00 - 31st July 2016, by Andrew Osmond

Terror in Resonance

You want Terror in Resonance to be great. Partly it’s because this 11-episode series is directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, the heavyweight behind Cowboy Bebop. But mostly it’s because Terror’s opening is great, involving the bombing and razing of a Tokyo government skyscraper by two boys replaying 9/11 without mass murder. It’s spectacular, preposterous and outrageous, swaggering with cinema-level production values. The show’s a stunt which, like the boys’ terror spectacles, can’t sustain itself and starts looking slipshod and sloppy under the flash – only to pull another insolently brilliant move at the end to bring the audience cheering to its feet.

The boys, their backgrounds mysteries, are named “Nine” – severe, with glasses – and “Twelve” – a smiley, goofball type. They announce their terror acts in advance online, seem anxious to cause media-sexy destruction without killing anyone, and wear robot helmets in seeming tribute to Daft Punk. However, one character sees them unmasked – Lisa, a schoolgirl at the scene of their first bombing. After they save her, she’s perversely fascinated by the boys’ actions – not surprising given her abusive home life – and throws in her lot with them.

The visuals hit instantly: beautiful realistic scenery porn, crowds of animated extras, and glorious action scenes. (As well as the collapsing skyscraper, part one serves up a heist scene in snow, slick with its own zip.) As well as the buzzy sense of being in an epic action film, an anime 24, it’s a joy to see even minor conversations shown against densely-composed, moving backgrounds. The last instalments feel subdued in places, closer to TV, but even then the higher values kick in with a well-storyboarded suspense scene or the striking imagery of the last episode. The main let-down is not sight but sound – feted composer Yoko Kanno’s score isn’t so special.

But the visuals only strengthen the viewer’s discontent, barely relevant at first but slowly growing, that Terror’s story and characters aren’t up to scratch. True, there’s a supreme provocation in the idea that boys might “appropriate” the imagery of terrorism without a smidgen of apology for the extreme bad taste. For all the later plot reveals, Terror does for 9/11 what the boys in Graham Greene’s story The Destructors did for the legacy of the Blitz – they reclaim destruction as fun.

But so much else is threadbare. The scenes of Nine and Twelve taunting police with riddles are B-movie hackneyed, and the familiar plot of school-age kids fighting the world starts to feel dreadfully silly. The boys’ backstory is more B-movie fare, failing to resonate with the main action or anything real. The characters are well demarcated in the first episode, but barely grow from then on; Lisa’s story is a wretched waste. The show feels somewhere between Death Note and Eden of the East, but it lacks the literal magic of the first or the daffy absurd comedy of the second. Terror’s remarkable resemblance to a live-action film is a constant reminder of how bad it would be in real live-action.

But it would still be enjoyably bad, and individual suspense scenes – on a subway train or a ferris wheel – are taut and exciting. And then there’s the terrific ending, with another moment that’s grandstanding, swaggering, wondrous and history-disrespecting. That scene pays for all Terror’s problems, just by itself.

The presentation is near-immaculate; the story and characters have deep flaws; the chutzpah of the beginning and ending make this a milestone.
SCORE: 4/5
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