Those of you who are regular visitors to the site may remember that we had a great deal of praise for the opening episodes of Terror in Resonance, and I'm sure you are dying to know whether the rest of the series lives up to those high expectations. Well, I have some good news and some bad news.
Let's start with the bad news: Terror in Resonance is unfortunately a victim of it's own promise - it was always going to struggle to keep up with the pace of those early episodes, and struggle it does. That said, the series still shines, but in slightly different ways to what you might expect from the opening episodes.
At only eleven episodes in length, this short series is crammed to the brim with content. Shinichiro Watanabe provides a masterclass in visual storytelling: Not a single scene is wasted (even in the opening and closing animations), every last frame of animation in the series serves a purpose. Visually, Terror in Resonance is in turns clever, subtile and brutal. It is consistently beautiful and a joy to behold, taking realism to levels you will likely not have seen before in animated serial form; perhaps even in animated form full stop, with the exception of the likes of feature length animation such as Motoko Shinkai's The Garden of Words. If a picture paints a thousand words, then Terror in Resonance represents an epic of considerable length. This method of storytelling is wonderfully subtle and credits the viewer with the intelligence to work things out for themselves, something all too often lacking in the medium of animation these days. However, this also poses something of a problem for viewers of the series, especially those for whom Japanese is not their native tongue and who rely on subtitles, as you need absolute concentration to follow events fully on-screen. Some very important concepts are portrayed in this manner - blink and you may miss something crucial to your understanding of the series. While we are on the subject of languages, some of the English in the series is simply terrible. Five and her American colleagues often speak English, but clearly none of their voice actors are native English speakers, which makes for some exceedingly cringeworthy dialogue in places.
Terror in Resonance tackles some difficult subjects head on - terrorism, Japan's post war emancipation by the Americans, nuclear weapons and even current hot topics such as Japan's institutionalised children and it's "lost generation". However, ultimately the series shies away from the big questions it poses, always remaining topical, but steering clear of any attempt to answer some of the bigger political and social questions it raises. Raising such questions without answering them, while likely infuriating for some, is (I believe) intentional and provides a neat symmetry with certain events in the series and motivations of some of it's characters.
The main problem with Terror in Resonance is it's treatment of the female cast members - they are largely wasted and in some cases barely even window dressing. Be warned, we may touch on some brief spoilers to discuss this specific issue, so read on with caution.
The appearance of Five is particularly problematic, her replacement of Shibasaki as the main antagonist in the series is akin to Near and Mello replacing L in Death Note - they are a well intentioned but much less interesting foils for their respective protagonists, although thankfully in this case Shibasaki is not entirely usurped and continues to play a pivotal role. This is much to the series' benefit, as throughout these episodes Shibasaki remains by far the most interesting character. The mysterious Five's dynamic with Nine is perhaps the series' most disappointing and underdeveloped aspect, which falls flat for the most part but is redeemed slightly as the series draws towards it's conclusion. Lisa's character is also criminally underutilised and at times she seems only to exist as a means of getting our two main protagonists into trouble. This is a real shame as the early episodes hinted at a complex and troubled character who could have played a much bigger role than just being along for the ride.
I am unable to wind up this review without mentioning the horrors of trying to use Wakanim, the service which streams Terror in Resonance to the UK. On top of the problems mentioned in our earlier review, there were a multitude of issues across these latter episodes. For example, one episode was AWOL until after the next episode had aired, and another had terrible sound problems which rendered it unwatchable in HD. Thankfully I hear that Wakanim is getting an overhaul to iron out some of the problems that have plagued the service recently, so with any luck we should not see these problems repeated in the future.
To summarise then: Terror in Resonance is brilliantly directed, exceptionally well animated, has an excellent soundtrack and some spectacular stand-out moments. The series is a wonderful cat and mouse game which sports one of the most poignant endings you will have seen for some time, but something is lacking; a little je ne sais quoi keeps it from achieving the promise of the early episodes and prevents me awarding it the perfect 10 the opening episodes achieved.