After all the calling and searching, Terror in Resonance‘s fourth episode finds its broken quartet drawing closer to each other. Two parallel threads resonate: one connecting Shibazaki and Nine, and the other connecting Lisa and Twelve. The series’ first great emotional climax arrives as these relationships are finally reciprocated and these characters break through to each other. Watanabe precipitates these moments with his eye for detail, as he continues to layer on echoes in theme, plot, and visuals.
Shibazaki’s visit to Aomori is one of the most significant echoes in the episode. Aomori is where Watanabe chose to begin this story, with a heart-pounding assault on a nuclear fuel reprocessing facility in the dead of winter. Our return to it is a calmer affair, as Shibazaki probes people’s memories in the middle of summer. This seasonal dichotomy reveals a different side of Aomori. Whereas the wind howled and the factory moaned in the winter, here in the summer it is still and sweltering. In Shibazaki’s mind, the windmills cease to turn, and beneath the cover of snow is rust. The specter of the nuclear facility and the deathly quiet of the summer must remind him of his own childhood in Hiroshima. Thus, his desire to know how Nine felt stems from a desire to know himself better. If Nine was able to find some respite in his music from a cold land, perhaps Shibazaki can find some relief from the summer heat as well.
Nine too is aware of this connection between him and Shibazaki. The first thing he does when he hacks into the police’s database is look up Shibazaki’s profile. He then proceeds to structure the next riddle entirely around reaching out to Shibazaki. Shibazaki responds in turn by obsessing over the riddle. He doesn’t spend any time at his newly-assigned desk this episode, and withdraws instead to the familiarity of the archives while the rest of the police track the bomb with surveillance footage. He and Nine again form a mirror image–two men sitting in front of a computer trying to find each other. The younger police officer compares Shibazaki to the terrorists, and the audience knows there is truth in that. Beyond their shared experiences as societal outcasts, the visual language of the previous two episodes implied that Shibazaki solved the first two riddles not simply by knowing the Oedipus story, but by looking into himself (note his reflection in the blank computer screen [episode 2] and in the camera’s lens [episode 3]). Here, this subtext is made text as Shibazaki acknowledges the Delphic maxim of “know thyself” and answers the riddle with his own name.
Meanwhile, Lisa wanders the streets of Tokyo. Despite escaping her mother’s grasp and the jeers of her classmates, she finds no comfort on her own. Most of the episode takes place at night, and she spends most of her time imprisoned in this darkness (see above). First caught in a rainstorm, she spends the night in a cramped alleyway. The framing either reinforces her status as an outsider, or communicates how, even in her newfound freedom, she is boxed in by other people. Her phone is her only hope of salvation, the hope that Nine and Twelve might contact her again. Yet, ironically, her phone also acts as an unceasing reminder of her mother’s oppressiveness. It’s the chain that tethers her.
However, Twelve does track Lisa through her phone. Just as Shibazaki follows Nine’s trail through Aomori and then the internet, Twelve follows Lisa’s trail throughout the city. He pieces together that she must have run away from home, and he tries to appeal to Nine with this further piece of commonality between them. Despite his friend’s protests, Twelve makes contact with Lisa and nonchalantly tells her to go home, again waving around the vague threat that she knows too much about them. But this time Lisa lashes back (the tight closeup of her mouth is an uncomfortable reminder of her mother’s outbursts, again suggesting her influence is not something so easily left behind). She’s sick of other people patronizing her and sick of deluding herself. She admits the futility of her actions, that she just wanted to go somewhere else, to not be constrained by the rules of a society that cast her out. Twelve receives confirmation that what he first saw and felt in her was indeed familiar–the sense of abandonment, the desire for escape. Thus, he arrives as her light in the darkness and whisks her away from the police on his motorcycle, just as he did in episode one. Who knows if falling into his life again is the best thing for Lisa, but her desire to see the world destroyed is so heartfelt, so triumphant, that it feels like the right course of action.
Twelve’s liberation of Lisa runs parallel with Nine’s liberation of information. From the beginning, Sphinx have presented themselves as sentai heroes: agents of justice whom we would normally expect to fight terrorists, not identify as them. Interestingly, however, after their horrendous first attack, their subsequent efforts have become less and less destructive. Yet this diminuendo of explosions has been paired with a dramatic increase in their profile. They’ve come a long way from making a YouTube video that some guy slacking in the police archives happened to watch, to becoming a national news item plastered ironically on the side of building. The initial blast fades away, but Sphinx have capitalized on the memetic nature of how people consume media, using their riddles and mysterious identity to propel themselves into stardom. It’s an all-too-familiar pattern, how the perpetrators overshadow the victims, and how the media dresses up the story to be more sensational than thought-provoking. Terror illustrates this disconnect between media and reality beautifully in this shot, with the stark contrast between the glossy veneer of the news station and the dilapidated state of the television itself.
The rapid declassification and consumption of the police’s sensitive files also brings to mind people like Julian Assange or Edward Snowden–whistle-blowers revered as heroes by some, and despised as traitors by others. The pursuit of truth is noble, but whipping the public into a frenzy via the threat of a nuclear attack is a difficult thing to balance it against. But this youthful kind of anti-establishment sentiment pervades all of Nine and Twelve’s actions, and they themselves call out their own age in this week’s message to the public. Watanabe confirmed in an interview this week that there is indeed reason why he chose to make these terrorists teenagers:
The series also includes themes of adolescence, or rather, the youthfulness of the teenage years and their immaturity and instability, but with the feeling of constantly being on edge and challenging everything. I wanted to depict those ideas in this series, and I think everything gets mixed together in Terror in Resonance.
Nine, appropriately, indulges a bit in his childish side and has some fun with the police. He taunts his pursuers with a laughing Von-tan and chooses to leak the information on the police department’s own public relations Twitter page, itself modeled after the real life Tokyo Metropolitan Police Deparment’s public relations Twitter. Terror even has its own version of the Tokyo MPD’s mascot Pipo-kun, here spelled sardonically as Peepo-kun. These echoes of reality persist and entangle the series in our own experiences.
The word “Von” resounds like a dull thud in the distance. The three children of fate unite, staring down society, while Shibazaki stands uncertain in between. At least one more player remains to be seen in this story, but time is running out for Sphinx, and their games are likely to become more dangerous very quickly.