Lazarinth from Fantasy and Anime asked why I don’t like Terror in Resonance. Terror in Resonance is a fairly popular drama anime, so why does it deserve a Bad rating? Coming at it from a Japanese perspective, it seems like a very different kind of anime – a dark thriller with a very foreign concept. As an intro to terror-themed shows, it’s probably fine to watch. As an anime, however, it’s plagued by several structural flaws, both in the underlying source material and in the execution. Really, the show appears to have been written (or as re-written by editors) as something that was afraid to take risks – afraid to take the anime to the dark places it promised.
*WARNING – MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS*
Purpose: Bad. Where the anime begins and where it ends are in two wildly different directions. Actually, this divergence marks its descent from Excellent to Bad. It starts on a pretty strong note, making the anime appear to be a terror-themed drama, with the main focus on the villains. With that particular focus, it was setting the anime to be almost like a cat-and-mouse game, made all the more intense by limiting the viewer (mostly) to the bad guys. The closest comparison would have to be found in Death Note. Unfortunately, Terror in Resonance wasn’t what it promised to be. Ultimately, the path the story took ended up undermining everything that happened earlier. That’s not to say that this particular structure itself was bad, only that the way it was used was bad. As the story looped in against itself, the actors’ roles in the story became unfocused. As that happened, the various elements started to collapse in upon themselves, resulting in something of a mush.
That aside, the anime’s ultimate message takes a little bit of digging around, plus a helping of context. Ultimately, the anime’s something of a commentary against Japan’s more recent move to try to re-militarize itself to keep up with the “big boys”.
Characters: Bad. The characters were all flat, although the main characters ended up folding in upon themselves. The single worst thing that they did to the character development was the “twist.” Essentially, they decided to turn the main characters from appearing bad to appearing not-so-bad, then “good.” In doing so, they negated all of the early character development, and then reversed it. That’s not to say shifts in perspective or appropriately humanizing the “Bad Guys” is wrong, quite the opposite. It’s rare to see an appropriately humanized villain, humanized so that the audience thinks, “you’re not wrong. I understand why you did what you did, but you’re doing it in a bad way.” It’s the way Terror in Resonance tried to accomplish this task that made it truly Bad. The entirety of a single character, Lisa, was designed to humanize our main characters. Unfortunately, it wasn’t handled in any delicate way. Part of the problem is that Lisa’s also a bit of an awkward foil that artificially creates character conflict, both external and internal. So, we get little bits of forced character dilemma within the context of goal-oriented “terror”, contraposed over a little bit of mystery and cat-and-mouse game. In other words, those particular character relations, both in the role they served as well as what they were ended up being, were out of place for the setting and the story. The other bit of the equation, the cop, also failed spectacularly in this regard. Of course, he was set up as a hard-boiled, down-on-his-luck detective who ends up being the “cat” of the story. His role is supposed to be that of a clever detective, finding the right clues to catch the bad guys. Instead, he gets to find the solution that was basically spoon-fed to him, making him sadly unimpressive as a detective, ruining the setup. Another large problem with the characters is the noticeable lack of a villain. Sure, we get a sort of antagonist, 5, doing some bad things, but due to the setup of the “twists,” you’d be hard pressed to find a villain. (other than America, perhaps). Again, the characters devolve into mush, having no clear role in the story other than the fact that they end up being sort of mannequins mouthing lines on a fairly straightforward trajectory.
World: Weak. This is a prime example of a setting that is completely robbed of any vitality due to flaws in other elements. The main culprit is the astounding lack of terror. There’s an awful lack of anything that creates any sort of tension or exigency outside the first little bit of the anime. There’s no reason why our terrorists need to be stopped, other than rampant property damage and some slightly scared citizenry. Beyond even that, everything that happens has an startlingly nonexistent impact on the setting – bad stuff happens, but the world keeps turning on, unimpressed. Even the terrorists’ ultimate goal was very small. The issue was something that didn’t really impact anyone other than the main characters and a double handful of others. While it could be described as “not very nice,” it lacked the necessary quality to warrant the terrorists’ actions.
Plot: Bad. The plot is fairly straightforward – bad guys who aren’t really bad do some bad things to bring light to a particular issue. The saddest part is that the plot actually had some really interesting potential. I know what they were doing – they were trying to bring things into a little bit of a moral gray zone. Normally, this is accomplished by perspective shifts. You have events that change the viewer’s understanding of a situation. Instead, the plot required a wholesale re-writing of the characters to change them from “Bad” guys to “Good” guys. But how did they do this? By introducing the not-really-good “good” character. Now, you instead flipped both the situation and the characters on their head. So you have the formerly “bad” characters (who never were really bad) who now have to stop the “good” character from using the “bad” characters’ actions to actually do bad so the “bad” characters don’t get blamed for doing bad things. When you strip away all the niceties of animation and reduce the plot to what actually happened, it really ends up being nonsensical. Even at that, most of the plot elements ended up being contrivances of convenience that forced things to happen. Frankly, there were more holes than plot, which contributed to the mushy happenstance. This, in turn, robbed greatly from both the overall story and the setting.
Storytelling: Poor. This anime is an example of what happens when you write a story with an extremely dark subject matter but are afraid to take any risks whatsoever. The result is that you stray away from exploring the darkness, using it only as a general setting for some bad things to happen. In other words, the story was using a difficult subject matter without adequately dealing with it. But a much more fundamental problem arises when you ask, “but what story were they trying to tell?” Rather than clearly focusing on what they were doing, they allowed the characters’ stories to blend together without supporting each other. That aside, another of the largest problems with the storytelling was that the anime consisted almost entirely of telling rather than showing. The biggest (and clearest) offender in this category is anything involving the cop trying to catch the terrorists. That ended up robbing any strength and tension in the cat-and-mouse game. Basically, we got a story of Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs instead of a tense hunt.
Pace: Poor. The pace is another sad victim of other weaknesses. Since much of what happens involved rewriting characters that were already developed, the pace suffered. In order to do the rewrite, you have to then re-develop the characters, which is something that can’t easily be done in a short period of time. In addition, we get bizarre lulls in what’s happening that ends up being a surprising amount of filler, given the anime. In the end, the errors stack up to get in the way of a proper pacing growth.