After a bombastic first episode, Terror in Resonance adopts a more procedural style. Police gather to investigate in the aftermath of the building collapse, while Nine and Twelve, now officially branded terrorists, send them on a city-wide chase in search of the next bombing location. The narrative doesn’t move forward so much as expand, giving the audience a taste of the cat and mouse game that Sphinx and Tokyo will play, while introducing mythological allusions and fleshing out its characters in small but important ways. It’s an episode concerned with reaction as opposed to action, and after the call of the first episode, the characters have much to respond to.
Almost half the episode is devoted to introducing a new main character: the police. Although the most important members are arguably Kurahashi, the chief of the First Investigation Division, and his colleagues, a point is made of introducing the various police departments as one mass of people gathered in an auditorium. This is in line with the show’s commitment to realism, as one would expect so heinous an attack to prompt many large meetings of many important people. The rows and rows of computers and blocky PowerPoint graphics strike me as a slightly tongue-in-cheek way to evoke the feeling of a stuffy presentation. However, special attention is devoted to portraying the police and government officials as a single, monolithic, and uniform entity of similarly grim-looking middle-aged men with similar haircuts and similar suits. It’s difficult to sympathize with terrorists, but it’s also difficult to sympathize with these bureaucratic cutouts, especially when we have guys in shady smoking zones discussing how best to keep the public uninformed. Alternately competent and bumbling, the police do have the law on their side, but nothing’s been done yet to make any of these characters as compelling as the others.
Lisa isn’t allowed much room for growth in this episode, which is disappointing, but after the shock of the first attack wears off (and the raised stakes of the second attack sink in), I look forward to seeing what she does. That’s not to say her screentime is wasted here. After an unambiguous picture of her not-so-rose-colored school life, we see that her home life is even worse, with a psychotic and abusive mother waiting at the door. While her mother’s, ah, intensity came across rather pulpy, it does add weight to Lisa’s wish for everybody to disappear. The framing of her mother’s introduction is particularly great; we first see her as a glimpse of a dark figure between the crack of a door in an otherwise empty kitchen. The camera then chooses to focus on tight closeups of her hands and mouth. It feels spooky and claustrophobic, and honestly I think the oppressive atmosphere alone would have sufficed to communicate that Lisa doesn’t feel welcome at home. In fact, throughout the episode, Lisa finds herself drowning in the darkness of a street at night, an unlit room, and the shadow of an alley. I love the deliberately placed establishing shot of the school overpass, an echo of the one Lisa choose to destroy. She can’t escape her actions, and her seemingly coincidental reading of Oedipus comes across as yet another hint towards the shared feelings and perhaps shared history she and the boys have. The ominously tilted camera poises her to fall completely into the boys’ story.
While everyone else plays catch-up, Nine and Twelve sit comfortably in their abandoned warehouse and waste no time exacting their next attack. Their characters should be pretty obvious to the audience now, and the episode goes so far as to color code them: blue for the cool and collected Nine with his icy stare, and red for the fiery fun-loving Twelve and his sunny smile. But both of them have small moments that hint at development. Twelve is the more impenetrable of the two, especially regarding what he thinks of Lisa. While Nine expresses no concern over the possibility of her ratting them out, the happy-go-lucky Twelve chooses to seek her out and deliver a death threat (after, of course, teaching her why Mentos and cola don’t mix). While Nine may feel some sympathetic camaraderie with Lisa (which Twelve expertly susses out of his friend’s silence), Twelve might only care about one other person: Nine. He’s perceptive and dangerous, and I don’t think we’ve begun to probe beneath his sparkling veneer. Meanwhile, I love Nine’s subtle grimace when he loses Rock-Paper-Scissors, which goes a long way towards humanizing him. More significantly, after having his eyes singled out in the first episode, his role as an observer is further explored. By planting cameras in the Roppongi police station, he observes the goings-on of the building and its surroundings from his laptop. This may be so he can choose the right moment to set off the explosive, but if we remember how he took a picture of the collapsing building, we have to wonder if there is something voyeuristic in his actions. The first time we see him smile is with the video of the smoking police station reflected in his glasses. Sight also factors into the Oedipus myth, and that Nine takes pride in his sight could be a portend of things to come.
Finally, Shibazaki gets the most important slice of development. From his interactions with other characters, it’s pretty easy to tell that he used to work with Kurahashi, and he was a great detective, but something bad happened, and now he’s trapped in the humdrum archives. That “something bad” is the most interesting and most enigmatic part of this story, but since our other main characters are damaged in some way, it no stretch to posit that Shibazaki is damaged as well (whether that was the cause or effect of his discharge remains uncertain). The episode plays this up, pointing Shibazaki towards the looming darkness, focusing on his anxiety, or using the scene composition to draw parallels between him and Nine. I think the most important shot of the episode is the one capped above, when he solves Sphinx’s riddle. While the police and their databases answer the riddle incorrectly, Shibazaki finds it in front of a blank computer screen. He arrives at the answer of a blind man by metaphorically blinding himself. He answers “Oedipus himself” while staring into his own dark reflection. Shibazaki seems like someone who can see what other people cannot, or is willing to see what other people will not. Another cast-out person on the fringes of society, he may share enough experiences with Nine, Twelve, and Lisa to be a formidable adversary.
Stray observations (because if it’s good enough for the AV Club, then it’s good enough for the Anime Club):
-The creators are definitely not shy of evoking 9/11 imagery.
–Tor is a real thing, not only used for secure web browsing but also for accessing the deep web. This was most famously utilized by the experimental hip hop outfit Death Grips in an online treasure hunt they set up for fans (the “treasure” was instrumentals for their album The Money Store [also Death Grips are a great band you should listen to them]).
-The lack of any fatalities from such a catastrophic building collapse is a pretty big suspension of disbelief. I guess it drives the point that Nine and Twelve weren’t seeking casualties and made sure the building would be evacuated, but I’d appreciate the moral ambiguity of some blood on their hands. I suppose we’ll find out next episode if the Roppongi bombing is similarly miraculous.
-Plenty more twinning/echoing to be found–two pronunciations of “Sphinx,” two illustrations of the Sphinx (contrasting significantly in demeanor), two similar but different riddles…
-This episode also ends almost exactly like the first. “Call & Response” indeed.