Warning: *Major Spoilers Ahead*
残響のテロル is an alternate universe to the present, one in which Tokyo is devastated by sudden terrorist attacks and the only hint to the perpetrators are bizarre videos uploaded to the Internet. These videos are taped by a duo who have dubbed themselves “Sphinx” – an appropriate title as they leave the world dumbfounded with their cryptic hints as to the location of the bombs, much like the riddles of their ancient mythological namesake. With the police powerless to stop them, paranoia spreads across the nation while the two youths (Nine and Twelve) plot the next step towards their ultimate goal.
First and foremost, I would like to clarify that this anime is NOT pro-terrorism, nor does it condone the act of terrorism. Admittedly, it features terrorist-like behaviour and coupled with the title, most would assume it to be so. However, anyone who has watched it would have clearly seen that the detailed planning of the bombings includes ensuring that nobody loses their lives. Take for example the incident in the shopping mall. The duo could have easily placed explosives around the building and blow it up, killing everyone within it. However, they use a thermite-based bomb that would trigger the sprinklers and buy enough time to evacuate the building before the bomb detonates. Still not convinced? Then look at the train incident where they risk their own lives to save the people in the train from their time bomb when their plans inadvertently go awry. They only carry out these acts of ‘terror’ to bring to light the identity of the corrupt government officials who once conducted child experiments on them when they were orphans.
Moving on, I would like to point out the fantastic character development throughout the series, especially seen in Twelve, Nine and Shibazaki. Sufficient background is provided to explain their actions and their mindsets; and their relationships with other characters are well-developed too. Although many people have commented that Lisa seems like a useless character who does nothing but entertain Nine and Twelve, I feel she plays a vital role in the entire show. Her character parallels Twelve and Nine: they have all been rejected by society — even by the ones that they love — yet they still crave a human connection with whom to share their sorrows. Rather than arising out of a fantastic child experiment, Lisa comes from a dysfunctional family (something not unheard of in our society) and this allows the viewers to better empathize with her and in turn, the duo.
However, the introduction of Five is a little odd as she is an extremely unrealistic agent deployed by the U.S. government. Yes, she fulfils the intellectual qualities expected of an agent amazingly well but her psychopathic tendencies as well as her fantastical schemes make her appear unbelievably childish (c.f., the chessboard simulation in the airport, and when she intentionally lets a train full of people explode). Throughout her arc, she tries to kill Twelve and Nine and this has elicited much dislike and hate for her from the viewers (myself included), yet she is able to gain some sympathy from me as her arc comes to a close. Originally depicted as an insane, cold killer, we begin to understand Five’s motivations as just another lonely human being that tries her best to convey her emotions and hold on to her humanity, yet resorts to violence because being a victim of the child experiments, she can not know any better [so why do Twelve and Nine? Hmm… Ed.].
All in all, the anime does a fantastic job of weaving its main character threads into a strong psychological thriller. Even seemingly insignificant details, like the word, “VON” the duo spray-paint in the factory where they steal the plutonium bomb in episode 1 is eventually revealed to mean “hope” in Icelandic. After all, their extreme measures are their only “hope” to get the society that has rejected them to finally acknowledge their existence. At the end though, it is a melancholic closure to the duo’s lives, while Shibazaki and Lisa are seen reverting to their normal lives, as if emphasizing the futility of an individual’s resistance against society.
This anime presents themes relevant to our society and makes its audience reflect upon them. Coupled with great BGMs composed by Yoko Kanno, it has been one of the most affecting and emotional anime that I have seen thus far (with Death Note a close second).
And now, some samples of my favourite ZnT OSTs by Yoko Kanno :