Fashion, whether it be a conscious or unconscious choice, is a huge part of how people present themselves and how people perceive others. A tuxedo and a pair of overalls will communicate different messages to the same person, yet both of these outfits will also communicate different messages to different people. Costume design is thus of vital importance in the visual arts, and especially in animation, where every line and every color must be carefully budgeted to communicate an idea both artistically and efficiently. Director Watanabe reunited with Kazuto Nakazawa (Samurai Champloo character designer, Kids on the Slope OP director) to provide the character designs for Terror in Resonance, and the variety of clothing these characters wear (and don’t wear) reflects much about their personalities and ambitions. Terror in Resonance has made a habit of using minutiae to communicate, and in episode 5 clothing speaks the loudest.
The character for whom fashion and presentation emerge most blatantly as part of their presence is our new addition to the Terror crew, Five. Aside from Nine and Twelve, Five is the only other known alum of the Terror Broiler (my affectionately Ikuhara-esque name for the nameless institution), and her chilling ruthlessness might provide a glimpse into the kind of person Nine and Twelve might have become had they not flown from the institution. The camera deliberately avoids focusing on her face until the end of the episode, and instead chooses to focus on her clothing and body language. As she languidly strolls down the airplane’s stairs, she wears what resembles a school uniform, but a highly stylized one curiously matched with bike shorts. All this accentuates her bust and hips, and her femininity is further emphasized by the tall, frilly wedge heels she wears, her earrings, and the repeated shots of her painted nails. She seems to want to present herself as a full-fledged Adult in league with the other Adults, but the slightly seifuku look and her off-kilter stockings are both rather childish touches. Try as she might, at her age she’s still on the border between childhood and adulthood, and she’s not in league with these men so much as she is being used by them.
Five’s look is also mostly monochrome, with small splashes of color. Black and white further align her with the old, serious-looking, and powerful men in suits who employ her services. Her blue undershirt, however, reminds us of Nine, with his cold stare and blue glasses. While Twelve has so far appeared unaffected, Nine continues to be haunted by memories of Five, so perhaps that link goes two ways, as Five continues to obsess over chasing him. She paints her nails pink, with the exception of the pinky on her left hand, which has the same red-white-blue pattern we’ve seen on Nine’s wristband (also on his left hand). It’s likely this pattern ties back to the Terror Broiler in some way, but the trio of colors also resonates with the trio of numbered characters. The show has previously linked Nine to blue and Twelve to red, and Five with her shock of white hair sits in between. But there’s another color that can be found between red and blue, and Five’s lipstick and eyes both pop with an intense violet.
Shibazaki has only ever worn one outfit, but it says a lot about him and the way he fits in with his surroundings. With his slacks, shirt, and tie, he wears what is required of him to fit in with the other members of the station. However, it’s the bare minimum, and the way he wears it is key. His shirt is rumpled, his top button is open, his tie is loose, and his hair and beard are unkempt. Contrast his appearance with someone like Kurahashi, who wears a suit and tie, and who buzzes his hair short for a simple, clean look. Shibazaki’s current appearance can even be contrasted with his police file photo, taken before his ostracization while he was a full-fledged detective. There, he more closely resembled the neatly-kept Kurahashi. Now, Shibazaki exhibits little desire to return to those days. In this episode, we can already see his tenuous relationship with Kurahashi fracturing, as Kurahashi’s position keeps him silent and Shibazaki’s intuition leads him to investigate the police. He finds an unlikely ally in the young detective Hamura, but Hamura’s spiky hair and lack of tie similarly differentiate him from the older, more conservatively-dressed squad. Shibazaki also has glasses and wears his watch on his left hand, both of which link him visually closer to Nine than anyone on the police force.
Nine and Twelve have undergone the most costume changes of the cast. This fact alone implies a lack of a concrete identity, something which the Terror Broiler likely stole from them while it shoved all of its subjects into identical white frocks. But their experience as discarded children provides them with the means and knowledge of being invisible, which happens to be very useful when planning and enacting bombings. Their disguises have been deliberate: a quiet factory worker, a high school student, a delivery person, a mechanic. These are the working class, the young, the easily-ignored. If this were a society that looked out for such people, it’s possible that these attacks could have been circumvented, or, rather, that there wouldn’t have been a need for them in the first place. Instead, we have children dressing up as sentai heroes and threatening violence, because that’s they only way they can be seen and heard.
Outside of their chameleonic activities, Nine and Twelve’s casual wear is surprisingly normal. They each possess a different style to match their personality, which is a tiny detail, but it’s important when considering the dress code forced upon them in the Terror Broiler. Nine favors cool, dull colors like blue and grey, although his blue-rimmed glasses make an attention-grabbing statement. Twelve prefers brighter, louder colors, and even his sleepwear includes a goldenrod band t-shirt and mismatched striped pants. The two of them wear matching watches, but other than that their fashion choices stress their individuality. Special attention should be paid to Twelve’s pants in episode 2, which in lieu of a back pocket have something far, far superior.
Glasses play a curious role, as we see Twelve don them for the first time in this episode. By their nature, glasses distort what our eyes perceive. Ideally, they refract light juuuust enough to compensate for faulty eyesight, but if one were to try on prescriptions at random, glasses would more often than not make the world even more difficult to see. Twelve puts his on as he tries desperately to prevent the bomb from exploding, symbolizing his desire to continue to see himself as the sentai hero, not as a mass murderer. This episode’s dialogue confirms that Nine and Twelve see these attacks as a means to an end, not as an assault on innocent people. Nevertheless, they are still orchestrating outrageous acts of destruction, and these are dangerous tactics they’re utilizing. Their altruistic delusion is shattered when Nine fails to stop the bomb. The explosion rips the glasses from his face, forcing him to see what he and Twelve have been doing without the veneer or distance he once had. Shibazaki, however, is able to wear and remove his glasses freely. He can understand Nine and Twelve, but he also sees the grander scale, the sanctity of life, and the terror of annihilation.
When we first meet Lisa, she is wearing her school uniform, which is mirrored in this episode by our introduction to Five. But whereas the camera lingers on Five’s extravagant shoes, it focuses on Lisa’s lack of them, recapitulating this imagery in episode 3. Likewise, Five’s uniform is form-fitting and striking, while Lisa’s is looser and blander. Five flies in from above. Lisa is threatened by the embrace of water below. These characters’ outfits and framing set them up as another pair of reflections. Both are girls for whom society provided no love, but they find refuge by taking different paths. Five assimilates herself into the upper echelon where money and power lie. Lisa, however, seeks out and finally unites with her fellow abandoned children, Nine and Twelve.
Aside from her school uniform, the only other outfit we had seen Lisa wear prior to episode 5 was her plain orange dress. As with Lisa, it was something that easily faded into the background to avoid attention. But in Nine and Twelve’s apartment, she is able to relax for the first time, and as such we see a different side of her. She takes off her clothes and enjoys a bath, in contrast to the clothed swim that was being forced upon her in the first episode. Nine comments to Twelve that she seems shameless, but really it’s a sign of how at ease she feels with the two of them. She spends the rest of her time in the apartment recovering from her fever in a comfortable-looking grey hoodie and sweatpants. I’m inclined by their bagginess to think that these are actually Nine or Twelve’s clothes that they’re letting her borrow, and if so, this is the simplest and kindest gesture they’ve made towards another person in this entire series. There’s no theatrical pretense or riddle. It’s just one human clothing another. One human cooking for another. Three unloved children coming together as family.