Echoes of the Past: The Historical Context of Terror in Resonance Episode 8

[HorribleSubs] Zankyou no Terror - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_14.59_[2014.09.07_15.15.16]

Shades of Japan’s political history color the entirety of Terror in Resonance, but no place so markedly as its eighth episode. It begins wordlessly in the brief musical prologue, where we see Nine wearing a blue shirt with the year “1960” embroidered above its breast pocket, which itself bears a red-white-and-blue insignia. It’s a seemingly incidental detail, but fashion choices are important in this show, and this outfit heralds a later observation by Shibazaki. Over a drink, Hamura expresses incredulity at one of the their interview subjects treating Sphinx like a pair of heroes, when to him they’re just criminals. Shibazaki’s response is telling:

A long time ago, when I was young, there were teenagers who threw rocks at the riot police and fought against the government. Even though Sphinx are called terrorists now, in a different time…they might’ve been called something else. That’s what I think, anyway.

Protest movements were a matter of fact across the world in the years Shibazaki would have been growing up–the sixties and seventies. But if we recall Nine’s outfit, the year 1960 evokes a very specific set of student protests that took place in Japan, in opposition to the ratification of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan, or Anpo for short. The treaty most contentiously guaranteed the United States the right to maintain a military presence throughout Japan. Whether in the name of pacifism or sovereignty, many Japanese citizens opposed these measures, which would (and did) wrap Japan up in the United States’ conflicts overseas. Thus, Anpo sparked a series of protests and demonstrations throughout 1960, the most significant of which occurred on June 15th. Millions of people across the country participated in demonstrations, including thousands who rallied directly outside of the Diet. Several months prior, protestors had turned the delivery of an anti-Anpo petition into an occupation of the Diet building, which included such diverse activities as dancing and urinating. Perhaps fearing a repeat of that day, police responded with force as protestors approached the parliament gates, and the ensuing violence resulted in hundreds of injured protestors and the death of one college student, Michiko Kanba.

[HorribleSubs] Zankyou no Terror - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_05.30_[2014.09.07_14.57.06]

The Anpo protests were a pivotal moment for Japan. The controversy surrounding the treaty deepened the political divide between the left and right, while also uniting many different groups against a common enemy. People on the right were opposed to the disparity between the United States and Japan, but they were more likely to accept the treaty as a step towards the eventual remilitarization of Japan, which was an important to the nationalists. The left, however, was more universally opposed in the name of peace and neutrality, as well as in solidarity with the socialist and communist factions/states this union with the United States was designed to fight. These left-wing political parties ended up allying with other contemporary movements, including the Federation of Japanese Women’s Organizations, the General Council of Trade Unions of Japan (also known as Sohyo), and a national student association known as Zengakuren. Together, they formed an anti-treaty council that worked from 1959 to 1960 to stop Anpo from happening. Despite their efforts, the treaty was ratified, but their movement was not without purpose.

[HorribleSubs] Zankyou no Terror - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_12.44_[2014.09.07_15.11.02]

Perhaps the most significant achievement of the anti-treaty protestors was the forced resignation of then-prime minister Nobusuke Kishi. Kishi rose to power as a leader of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) after its formation in 1955. While he and his party supported Anpo and the continuing relationship with the United States, he also had history as a war criminal (as had every member of the WWII-era Japanese government, although Kishi managed to avoid any indictment) and possessed strong nationalist and fascist ties. When the Japan Socialist Party (JSP) tried to prevent the Anpo ratification by sitting in at the Diet on March 19th, 1960. Kishi responded by sending the police to forcefully escort the JSP members out of parliament, allowing the LDP to ratify the treaty immediately and without contention. Terror in Resonance doesn’t forget these facts, using clever framing (see above) to illustrate the two-faced nature of its own politician from the Democratic Liberal Party (har har). Not that there’s much to forget: the LDP maintains a majority in the Diet–as it has done for most of its 60-year existence–and the current LDP prime minister Shinzo Abe is the grandson of Nobusuke Kishi.

[HorribleSubs] Zankyou no Terror - 05 [720p].mkv_snapshot_04.14_[2014.08.08_01.38.58]

The ratification of Anpo only served to intensify the protests of the anti-treaty movement. On June 10th, student protestors mobbed the car of US Press Secretary James Hagerty as it left the airport, which eventually led to the cancellation of a planned trip to Japan by President Eisenhower. Contrast this canceled flight to the way in which Five enters Japan–in secrecy and unopposed on an empty runway (see above). Anpo is still in effect today, and Terror in Resonance does not shy away from telling a story in which an American team can swoop in and undermine Japanese authority without any fanfare or transparency. In some ways, it’s a worse situation than the unrest of 1960, since at least in that case the public knew about the treaty and what it meant. Here, the United States operates in the shadows, manipulating behind the scenes with a girl who was herself manipulated via a secret government-sponsored project. Knowledge is power, and each of Sphinx’s attacks have been designed to draw attention towards the people who orchestrated the Terror Broiler. Their fight is not about terrorism so much as it is about recruiting people to their side. Numbers helped the anti-treaty movement–Eisenhower’s security threats and the increased severity of the protests resulted in an irredeemable loss of face for Kishi, who resigned soon after the bloodshed of the June 15th demonstration. Nine and Twelve can only accomplish so much by themselves, even with the aid of plutonium.

terror-1024x575

Students continued to be important members of Japan’s protests throughout the 1960s. The particularly radical tactics of the Zengakuren (who had spearheaded the storming the Diet building and the harassment of Hagerty’s car) sparked debate even amongst their leftist allies, who were hesitant to embrace these more violent means to an end. Thus, these promotional images of Nine, Twelve, and Lisa in student uniforms standing in front of rubble is especially charged imagery. Their youth is not just a consequence of anime tropes, but a reflection, an echo of a history of student aggression against the Japanese government and police. Nine and Twelve were people neither the government nor society cared about. They were children who were plucked from orphanages that couldn’t be bothered to find out where these children were taken to. Protests and social unrest are designed to give a voice to the voiceless, to make the invisible visible. Despite having no say in parliament, students managed to force the resignation of the most powerful man in Japan, the “monster of the Showa era” Nobusuke Kishi. The protagonists of Terror in Resonance are ghosts, but through violence and destruction they make themselves seen and heard. There may be a better way, but then again, there may not be.

[HorribleSubs] Zankyou no Terror - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_15.33_[2014.09.07_15.16.24]

Sources:

http://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/japanese-protest-security-treaty-us-and-unseat-prime-minister-1959-1960

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2010/06/11/national/legacy-of-1960-protest-movement-lives-on/

http://www.zengakuren.jp/wp/

http://ocw.mit.edu/ans7870/21f/21f.027/tokyo_1960/anp2_essay05.html

http://web.stanford.edu/group/sjeaa/journal3/japan2.pdf

http://studiesonasia.illinoisstate.edu/seriesIV/documents/3-Kaplan_001.pdf

http://www.nytimes.com/1987/08/08/obituaries/nobusuke-kishi-ex-tokyo-leader.html

A disclaimer from the author: I am not a historian, and especially not a historian of mid-20th century Japanese politics, so I humbly invite and accept any corrections by more knowledgeable people regarding any egregious mistakes I most likely have made in writing this post. Thank you, and I’ll see you in the comments.

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15 responses to “Echoes of the Past: The Historical Context of Terror in Resonance Episode 8

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  6. Wow I didn’t know that ZnT can be -this- realistic. Though I wonder why the reception in Japan has been lukewarm … Maybe the audience who would most likely appreciate this show (Shibazaki’s age group?) is too old to watch anime…

    • It’s for reasons like this that I really wish I were fluent in Japanese, because I’d love to read what some Japanese anime critics think about this show and what it’s been targeting–whether they agree or disagree with me, or if I’m missing something even more important, or if this show is garbage and I’m dumb for liking it.

      That’s a good point though, that maybe the older generation would understand more about what the show’s getting at. But maybe it’s also trying to direct the younger audience’s attention towards these issues and these parts of Japan’s history. Zantero seems especially concerned with the youth and how they fit (and don’t fit) into this world where the older generation pulls all the strings.

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    • I caught that too! I actually doubt that was in reference to Kishi (Hamura didn’t use the word “youkai,” which was what Kishi was called), but at least it’s a nifty coincidence. And of course, it ties into the more importantly overarching point of deceitful and corrupt politicians who nonetheless wield all the power.

  8. Thank you for writing this post! I know a lot of vague info about the Japanese student protests, but not many details, so reading about some of the direct allusions that TIR is making does open the show up a bit.

    I have to admit that I haven’t been too keen on the last few episodes of the show. It’s still watchable, but it’s been a bit of a letdown compared to the first few episodes. The production design is still amazing, it looks great, and it has some stellar moments (the 60s-pop inspired song at the beginning of last episode in particular). I’d keep watching just for the direction at this point, even if I am a bit disappointed.

    My main problem is that it seems like a lot of the thematic elements are mostly being left unaddressed by the actual plot. They’re still there, but they’re mostly floating around in the show’s ether. Present, but not making much of themselves. There’s still a bit of it, but it feels more like background noise or a bit of extra material sprinkled on to of the actual substance of the plot, which since about 3 or 4 episodes ago has become just about hitting all thriller plot beats and not much else. The first few episodes were also thriller plotting, but it felt like the political/historical themes were being more directly addressed, instead of vaguely alluded to. The first few episodes used symbolism like turning animal mascots into the bombs that would bring down the country’s infrastructure and drawing comparisons between the abducted teenage terrorists and Lisa the neglected, abused child who was drawn to them. The last few episodes have had airport chess and “Lisa can’t cook” jokes.

    But, that said, this post does give me a bit more insight that I didn’t have before. And for all my trepidation, the show could tie it all back together and start addressing the themes more directly again with the last few episodes.

    • Thanks for the compliment! It’s most certainly been a polarizing show for a lot of reasons. The subject matter is touchy to being with, but then you also have people debating the effectiveness of its execution and messages. Personally, I’ve been okay with it abandoning the structure of its first episodes, and I don’t think its more lighthearted and goofier moments have detracted from everything else it’s been doing, but I can understand those frustrations. Like, I don’t think the cessation of the overt literary references has made them irrelevant–the Oedipus myth still colors much of how I view the series (for instance, I think you can draw some nifty parallels between Oedipus and Five, of all people). Between this episode and the first half of episode 9, it looks like the show has shifted into a more overtly political direction, but I dunno. I’m certainly eager to see how everything wraps up too.

      Lisa is another really contentious issue all to her own. My next post might be largely about her. I’m not sure yet. I have a lot of complicated feelings about Lisa.

  9. THIS IS SO COOL!!! I had absolutely no idea that Terror In Resonance was actually trying to depict a past occurence. Thank you so much for researching all these information and sharing it :D I now love the anime much more haha :3

    • Yeah, I mean, the story is fictional and definitely requires some good old-fashioned suspension of disbelief, but a lot of its beats are rooted in very real aspects of society and history. Aside from the stuff I mentioned here, the show’s been obvious about referencing 9/11, the Hiroshima bombing, and the 1995 Tokyo sarin gas attack, to name a few. I think that’s also why Watanabe went with such a photorealistic approach for the show’s aesthetic–he’s not depicting reality, but Zantero’s world has significant ties to reality.

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