So Space Dandy was easily one of my favorite anime of the year. It had its ups and downs, but the ups were extremely high and the downs were still rather good compared to most other anime. Shinichiro Watanabe had yet to make a bad show as far as I was concerned, so when Terror in Resonance was announced for the summer, of course I was hyped. Everyone was hyped. The show had high production values, music by Yoko Kanno, and had the potential for a strong politically-charged message. So what did we get? “These are no ordinary terrorists. These terrorists have something to say!”
Maybe it’s because as a American who’s spent most of his life living in a post-9/11 world, but if you’re going to have a show be about terrorism, I expect it to say more than just “terrorists have something to say!” Because all terrorists have something to say. In fact, the entire point of terrorism is to use extreme measures to get a message across. 9 and 12, the boring teenage genius protagonists of Terror in Resonance, are no different from other terrorists. The show wants to be critical of Japanese society’s treatment of children, but all it gives us is a cliche child experiment plot with no actual critical analysis to speak of. 9 and 12 are not interesting or developed characters. The show goes out of its way to make them as moe as possible and refuses to give them any darkness or humanity. They blow up buildings and airplanes, but no one gets hurt or killed! 12 falls in love with a girl who’s there just to be kidnapped a lot. The show introduces American villains to give us more reason to root for 9 and 12. The show ends with 9 and 12 being gunned down by Americans just so we can feel sad. Terror in Resonance is more concerned with us liking its protagonists than it is with giving us anything to critically think about. By having the Americans act as villains, the show shoots itself in the foot. It does what many post-World War II Japanese movies and TV shows have done: shift the blame to the American government, not the nationalist Japanese government.
The growing nationalist sentiment in the Japanese government has been terrifying. This year, we got two different anime with the potential to criticize the nationalist movement, but ultimately they both backed down from saying anything truly critical. The Wind Rises originally was going to end with Jiro’s death and with more remorse for his involvement in World War II, but was changed to a happier ending with him living. Terror in Resonance might have been more effective had it cut out the Americans entirely and focused more on the Japanese government’s involvement in 9 and 12’s development, but ultimately holds off saying anything that would piss them off. As a result, Terror in Resonance is limp and ineffectual.
I think I’ve seen some people argue that this show was supposed to be an argument against Japan’s growing nationalism but I have a hard time seeing that myself. (I mean, if you take the larger police force as a stand-in for the general government and squint, since we are supposed to root more for Shibazaki than anyone else, maybe but that’s still stretching it a bit too far IMO)