Episode 9 of Terror in Resonance tells two stories: one in which Shibazaki and his young ward Hamura interview a man connected to Sphinx’s past, and another in which Twelve has a romantic Ferris wheel encounter with Lisa. We can assume that both stories take place at roughly the same time, but rather than integrate the two, the show chooses to split the episode down the middle and devote one half to each. In a show that deals thematically with echoes and resonance, this conscious use of symmetry seems to beg the viewer to lay these two halves side by side and compare them. Perhaps this is not the intended reading, but a particularly interesting point emerges.
Let’s talk about the two big reveals of the episode. The first comes from Aoki, who discloses to Shibazaki and Hamura the origin and methods of the Terror Broiler (which now unfortunately has a real name: the Settlement). It’s nothing that comes as much of a surprise–the government was just trying to create super-intelligent humans and was willing to sacrifice children to do so. The most interesting tidbit is how the program reached an abrupt end by the hands of the American government. On the surface, this seems just and heroic, but it’s colored very differently when we consider Japan’s complex relationship with the United States. Both Anpo and article 9 of Japan’s own constitution (drawn up after World War II with the help of the United States) forbid the state from maintaining a standing military capable of war, while also allowing the United States to maintain a constant military presence in Japan. The aims of the Settlement had obvious military applications vis-à-vis the creation of super-soldiers, so it can be assumed that the United States shut it down not out of altruism, but simply because Japan was not allowed to do so. What the Settlement did was evil, but the sole fruit of its experimentation was gobbled up by the US without any regard for ethics.
The other big reveal is the true nature of what Nine and Twelve stole in the first episode. Up to this point, we’ve assumed it to be plutonium, and that Nine and Twelve have possessed the know-how to turn it into a nuclear weapon via their super-smarts. Turns out it already is a nuclear weapon–a prototype of an atomic bomb developed in secret by the Japanese government. And now the United States is here to retrieve it. Doesn’t this sound familiar? Nine and Twelve didn’t steal an atomic bomb; they liberated their kin. Both are weapons created behind closed doors by Japanese nationalists who desired to see the remilitarization of their country at any cost. These police and politicans are the people whom Nine and Twelve have been fighting, using acts of dramatic violence to draw them out of the shadows. Sphinx’s vendetta may be more personal than anything else, but the political implications are still there, especially when right-wing Japanese nationalism is still making waves. The United States’ intervention, however, doesn’t help so much as it complicates and obfuscates the matter. Both the United States and many Japanese citizens don’t want Japan to develop nuclear weapons, but the reasoning differs. Japan is a country uniquely haunted by the specter of nuclear devastation both in past and recent memory, while the United States simply doesn’t want any outside or inside threat to challenge its most important ally in the Eastern hemisphere. Nine and Twelve are at least willing to threaten the Japanese government with a taste of its own medicine, but the FBI won’t let them do so, because it would rather take care of everything itself, which ironically includes using Five, who in her own way gets a chance to strike back against the people who subjected her to the Settlement. It’s a complex web of ambitions and relationships, and it’s difficult to know who, if anybody, is in the right.
I can’t help but root for Nine and Twelve, however. They’re the karmic retribution the nationalists deserve, even if they’re heading down a destructive and ultimately self-destructive path. As Terror in Resonance winds up, I think there is only negligible improvement to come at the cost of great tragedy, but even that is worth the struggle.
Stray observations (bringing this back because this post is late as it is and I want to watch the 10th episode already):
-Even for someone who thinks the rest of it garbage, I can see that Ferris wheel scene as justifying the existence of the show. Framing the defusing of a bomb as an intimate scene between two people is so simultaneously beautiful and fucked up that I have to consider it a stroke of genius. Twelve’s delicate, careful movements and Lisa’s spectrum of emotions congregate wonderfully, and my favorite shot of the whole episode is the way the Ferris wheel slowly tilts off its axis as Twelve has to decide between killing Lisa and betraying Nine. Surely his mind at that moment must look something like the bright and complex latticework.
-Lisa has been associated a lot with the color yellow, down to her outfit in this and the previous episode. It’s curious, then, that in this episode Five changes her outfit from the blue she’s been wearing to yellow.
-While not quite as obvious as in Mawaru Penguindrum, the concept of cycles ever-turning and ever-unchanging is buried in Terror in Resonance (see the above relationship between Sphinx and the “stolen plutonium”). This episode backs it up with plenty of imagery concerning circles and wheels, the most obvious of which is the crux of the episode’s second half.
-My second favorite shot of the episode (a pair of shots, actually) is that of a young Nine and Twelve staring at the ashes of another lost friend drift into the sky. There have been plenty of shots in this show of children trapped behind fences, peering beyond the mesh. Now we know what they’ve been seeing in the distance.