There was always one thing missing from the C.V. of Zankyou no Terror, and that was any mention of who the main writer was. We’ve had script credits for individual episodes, a mix of names that may be pen names or newbies and nondescript industry journeymen, but there’s never been a credit for Series Composition – and for original shows that’s especially critical. It might be Watanabe himself, which would make sense as he’s never claimed that title on any show – and also because, frankly, Watanabe’s track record as a writer is nowhere near as sterling as that of a director. And so far, it’s in the writing that Terror in Resonance is falling short of its potential.
I can’t sugarcoat the simple fact that this show isn’t especially ringing true for me. It’s not as though it’s badly written – boring or uninteresting – but the mediocrity in that aspect probably stands out more because of how good the show is technically. For me the problem has gotten worse for two principal reasons, the first of which is that Five isn’t working for me at all. And the second is that Lisa is increasingly being marginalized into a formula moe role, and I’d hoped for a whole lot more from her. There are other issues too, but those stand out at the moment.
I suppose I get where Watanabe (or whoever) is going with Five, but right now she’s basically a mediocre villain from an American comic book. I know Watanabe loves American comics and so do I, but she feels out of place here. The garish lipstick, the nail polish (which she’s constantly applying), the incessant snark – it has all the subtlety of a kick in the head. There’s no drama in her character, at least for me – indeed, if anything it seems as if she’s been placed here to make Nine and Twelve more sympathetic. In the sense that she can be a device to shed more light on their background, that’s a good thing, but I don’t see a whole lot else that’s positive that she brings to the table.
As for Lisa, her quiet, mysterious desolation was easily the strongest emotional component of the show for the first four episodes for me. But it feels as if she’s become exponentially more generic in the last two episodes, and that Tanazaki Atsuki (who I like very much indeed as a seiyuu) has slipped into a kind of Kana Hanazawa impersonation as it’s happened (not coincidentally). If Five’s grandstanding feels out of place, so do Lisa’s textbook Dojikko antics. In short the more we’ve learned about Lisa the less interesting she’s become, which Occam’s Razor would suggest means there wasn’t a whole lot of “there” there with her character all along.
That could still change, of course, but there’s a sense of urgency here because we only have five episodes left. I still don’t have a sense of what kind of story Watanabe (or whoever) is trying to tell here, if there’s any larger point to Zankyou no Terror. Shibasaki is interesting, but everything on the police side of the equation is very formulaic to this point. Nine and Twelve are relatively likeable, but there hasn’t been the kind of introspection about their reckless endangerment of human lives that would really let us inside the reasons why two theoretically decent children would risk so many lives to further their cause. Is this a story about alienation in the modern world? About adolescent angst and helpless rage? Resentment against American meddling in Japanese affairs? Corruption in high places? It’s a patchwork at the moment, but one that hasn’t really been woven into a quilt yet.
Where do things stand now, then? We have Five continuing to bully the cops and her FBI handlers and lead the boys around by the nose. She’s set up a trap by planting a bomb at Haneda Airport and casting (not very convincingly) Sphinx as the culprit. Arata and Touji know it’s a trap, of course, but can’t very well sit by and let the bomb explode and be blamed for it. Shibasaki knows this isn’t the real Sphinx, but the entire police force has been told to stand down – so he decides to do another end-run around the man, and a bunch of his colleagues join him. In the real world of course the terminal would have been evacuated immediately, but Five actually needs human lives at risk in order to draw out the boys, and since she’s in charge of everything there’s no announcement at all. Her game is to turn the entire terminal into a chessboard, apparently in order to finish the game she and Nine were playing when the boys escaped the institution, and she chose not to escape with them.
There were a couple of interesting threads dangled here – Touji telling Lisa he has Synesthesia, and Arata’s “Sanity never entered into it” comment about the institution. And indeed, Terror is Resonance is not an uninteresting series – it’s a show with a lot of potentially interesting elements that simply need to be connected meaningfully. That’s a reason for optimism, because obviously a show like that can make the transition into something really good far more quickly than one which simply doesn’t have much in the tank in the first place. And with one of the best directors in the game in charge, that’s all the more reason to hope it could happen here. But time’s-a-wastin’, so any time he decided to get on it is good for me.