This 11-part standalone series is the latest offering from Shinichiro Watanabe, legendary director of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo. Don’t set expectations too high, because there’s no attempt here to recapture the irreverent wit and genre-bending pyrotechnics of those early masterworks.
What you do get, though, is a driving narrative and animation dripping with atmosphere. At the heart of the series is a meaty story to do with a mysterious pair of teenagers who terrorise Tokyo, planting bombs and posing riddles for the police to solve. Kenjiro Shibazaki, a once high-flying cop now cooling his heels until retirement in the archives department, is summoned back to the big boys’ table to try and figure out what’s going on. And he’d better hurry up because, with some stolen plutonium also in the mix, the danger level looks set to escalate.
Fleshing out this tightly woven storyline is an intelligent script and sensitive characterisation that keeps you guessing about people’s personalities and motives. Shibazaki is particularly well-rounded, his reminiscences of growing up in Hiroshima bringing a haunting new layer to the story (and it doesn’t hurt that he also happens to have some way cool facial hair).
The show wouldn’t work unless the bombers were convincingly creepy and threatening, and they are – you believe in their Jason Bourne-like athleticism, their high tech skills, their steely resolve. But at the same time there’s an undercurrent of sadness, because you’re keenly aware that they’re only teenagers; kids who should be enjoying high school, not taking on the whole of Tokyo in some crazy life or death game.
Not that there’s much time to dwell on emotions, with twists coming thick and fast – bold switch-ups that include the appearance of a copycat bomber who turns the tables on the duo. It’s as if you’re watching a hardboiled American TV show like 24 translated into anime. And for once you even get a decent, sympathetic portrayal of the police, who find themselves caught between the terrorists and a shady international agency that hijacks the investigation to pursue its own agenda.
The whole thing plays out over a sweltering summer, evoked in visuals from Studio Mappa that have a gritty texture and cinematic feel, with photo-realistic backdrops and dancing camera angles. This attention to detail stretches to the action sequences, which boast an authentic-looking bomb-dismantling scene as well as some high-octane shootouts and explosions. There’s just a slight let-off in excitement towards the end, but overall Terror In Resonance is a classy and sophisticated techno-thriller; intriguing, thought-provoking and attractively moody.
Clearly indebted to US shows, it seems ripe for a live action remake – you can just picture Kiefer Sutherland or Kevin Bacon pasting on a fake tash to play the grizzled detective.
Review by Julian White