Abandoned in the Heat of Summer: Terror in Resonance Episode 3

In the heat of the summer

Out of the gaps between the cluster of burning buildings

We fall down

Terror in Resonance scales back the explosions but dials up the thematic weight in its third episode. If you couldn’t tell already, this is a show with Things to Say about Society.

Shibazaki’s reintegration into the police force is immediately met with resistance. The younger police officers complain about an “old man from the archives” becoming their boss, which reflects not just grumbling at a change in management but a deep-seated generational tension, where in Japan and abroad the old guard continues to hang onto their jobs and power. This frustration seems equally directed towards Kurahashi, who made this decision over their heads without any concern for them. It comes across as an acknowledgement of Japan’s own vertical society, where relationships are defined by the inequality between a senior and a junior (as described by Chie Nakane in her book Japanese Society), with the distribution of power always tipping in favor of the senior. This imbalance was addressed very pointedly last summer with Kenji Nakamura’s Gatchaman Crowds. There, Rui Nomiya created the social media/gaming platform GALAX as a horizontal and equalizing way to develop interpersonal relationships. Terror gives a small nod towards a similar idea, when Shibazaki sees his friend playing a mobile phone game with strangers across the internet. He comments on the young people’s desire to randomly connect with each other, free of the pretense of societal expectations, which is later contrasted by his interaction with the other detectives in the department.  His subordinates try to talk him out of his plan to engage the terrorists by bringing up that, should it fail, it will reflect poorly on his boss, Kurahashi. This comment is meant to undermine Shibazaki’s authority as their new boss and appeal to his sense of pride, yet he bows unfazed in front of Kurahashi and asks him to take responsibility. Shibazaki is unafraid to prostrate himself, because he knows how the system works, and he does not care. He is already an outcast.

Society often defines itself by the contrast between an ingroup and an outgroup, yet this distinction is drawn arbitrarily to benefit the ingroup. Outsiders are ridiculed, persecuted, and pressured to become part of the ingroup, or they are ignored. This societal impetus towards conformity was masterfully embodied by the Child Broiler in Mawaru Penguindrum, where unwanted children were shattered and molded into faceless and unassuming adults, or broken into invisible and ignorable pieces. Here, this sentiment is found expressed in the not-quite-so-metaphysical institution that Nine and Twelve met each other in. Children are told they are abandoned and unloved, and they are given numbers instead of names. We don’t yet know what the institution wanted to turn these children into, but they were robbed of their freedom and their fate simply as a result of being cast out by society (for further discussion, read Emily’s great post about the subject). Although they escaped, Nine and Twelve are still imprisoned by their memories of that place, as it compels their every action.

Abandoned

Shibazaki may be part of the older generation, but he is also an outcast–an excellent police detective who was unjustly sequestered in the archives, doomed to fade into obscurity Although Kurahashi welcomes him back in this time of crisis, his time as a pariah changed him. He looks older, scruffier, and more slouched than his peers. His status as an outsider is further strengthened by his familial connection to Hiroshima. Japan has a special name for the survivors of the atomic bombings: hibakusha. Although they are privy to government support and benefits, they have also historically been victims of discrimination due to public ignorance of the effects of radiation sickness. It may be unlikely that Shibazaki, the grandson of a victim, would have personally been treated as an outsider, but it is likely that he would have been aware of how his grandmother and other members of his family would have been treated.

Lisa emerges as the most obviously and unfairly outcast person. Nine and Twelve are domestic terrorists, and Shibazaki dug too deep into a politically charged case, but Lisa hasn’t done anything to deserve the bullying from her peers and the abuse from her mother. Life dealt her a crappy hand and no person or part of society appeared ready or willing to help her, until Nine and Twelve showed up and singled her out, not as a victim, but as a kindred spirit. In Penguindrum, Shouma gives Himari an apple as a sign of their bond–the bond that saves her from the Child Broiler. Here, Twelve gives Lisa a bomb to share as their “fruit of fate.” The item and its opportunity are dangerous, and his attitude is not altogether altruistic, but he and Nine still chose her and offered her a chance to be someone other than an abandoned child. That’s why she she tries contacting them and, ultimately, decides to leave her current life behind to search for them.

The outgroup is in itself a kind of ingroup, so in the face of an unwelcoming and uncaring society, these people search for each other. Lisa wants to find Nine and Twelve. Nine sees Lisa and is reminded of the girl he couldn’t save. Twelve sees what Nine sees in Lisa but doesn’t want her to come between him and Nine. Nine and Twelve want to find someone who can solve their riddles. Shibazaki wants to find Nine and Twelve and stop them from propagating destruction. These broken people fit together like an unfinished jigsaw puzzle. They are broken because society is broken, full of corruption and animosity, and there is no easy fix. In fact the only people who seem capable of “fixing” anything right now are Nine and Twelve and their trump card.

The threat of nuclear annihilation looms heavy over the series and over episode three in particular. Ominously tall clouds tower over the city in almost every outdoor shot. Time ticks away on people’s wristwatches, in a clock tower, and within Nine and Twelve’s latest bomb. Shibazaki recalls a childhood spent in the eerily silent Hiroshima summers. Nine and Twelve recall the plutonium they stole that winter. Nuclear holocaust shares these seasons: the light and heat of its blast (a smile like the sun), and the dark and cold of its ensuing nuclear winter (eyes like ice). Both bring death. Shibazaki, as a second generation survivor, wants to do anything to prevent another catastrophe like it. However, he’s also aware that it’s been summer in Tokyo for a long time. Its old guard stays inside, stagnant and comfortable, but now Nine and Twelve have arrived. They are braving the heat, coaxing the old and powerful outside by destroying their hiding places. But whether their aim is revenge or revolution remains to be seen.

I’ll pull the last trigger

Winter covers everything

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