Shelf Life Terror in Resonance
by Paul Jensen, James Beckett,
I've been writing episode reviews for BBK/BRNK this season, and it's been an interesting little series to follow. The show uses CG character models instead of more traditional two-dimensional drawings, and it doesn't always work from an aesthetic standpoint. The industry has gotten better at using this style of animation over the years, but the technology still isn't at a point where it can convey the same level of emotion through facial expressions or body language. I've found that I tend to be more interested in how the show tries to work around those shortcomings than I am in the actual plot. I suspect it's the same kind of enjoyment that some people get out of playing video games that haven't been finished yet. There's fun to be had in watching the medium trip and stumble its way towards a new way of doing things.
All right, enough of my artsy ramblings, we've got more important things to do! Welcome to Shelf Life.
Jump to this week's review:
Terror in Resonance
On Shelves This Week
Synopsis: Curse-resistant high school student Haruaki receives a cursed black cube in the mail from his father. The cube turns out to have an alternate, human appearance in the form of a mysterious girl named "Fear."
Extra: Don't get the wrong idea from that synopsis; this 2011 series is apparently more of a romantic comedy than a supernatural horror story. Our coverage is mostly limited to an Anime Spotlight preview, but you can check the show out for yourself on Funimation and Hulu.
Those Who Hunt Elves - Complete Collection [Sentai Selects] DVD
Sentai - 600 min - Hyb - MSRP $39.98
Currently cheapest at: $25.99 Right Stuf
Synopsis: An actress, a martial artist, and a high school student are transported to a fantasy world populated by elves. They must find the pieces of a powerful spell, which have been tattooed onto the bodies of several elves, in order to return home.
Extra: Not only do we have an old review of a previous release, we've got an honest-to-goodness review of this show on VHS. It's not a particularly awesome series, but I do love the idea of dropping three people and a tank into a fantasy setting and letting chaos ensue.
Synopsis: As aspiring filmmaker Kaito and his friends plan to make a movie over their summer break, but the arrival of a beautiful girl who may or may not be an alien stirs up plenty of romantic tension within the group.
Extra: We've got a full series review here, a Shelf Life review here, and the first of several installments of The Stream here. If you'd rather watch than read, you'll find the show on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and The Anime Network.
Synopsis: Keiichi thinks he's found a welcoming new home in the rural town of Hinamizawa, but things take an ominous turn when he stumbles across the town's dark history. Suddenly, it seems like his new friends might not be as harmless as they seem.
Extra: Well, would you look at that? We reviewed this set just last week on Shelf Life. How convenient! You can also check out reviews of previous releases here and here. You can watch this season online on Hulu.
Shelf Life Reviews
For this week's review, James takes a look at the explosive thriller Terror in Resonance.
The show focuses on two teenagers, known only as Nine and Twelve. Though seemingly polar opposites in personality, the ostensibly happy-go-lucky Twelve and his stoic counterpart Nine are lifelong friends whose mysterious pasts and technological expertise fuel their exploits as the terror-group Sphinx, who use carefully crafted explosions and public declarations to spread their mysterious messages to the people of Japan. A shy young girl named Lisa is roped into all of this madness by pure happenstance, and all the while a headstrong detective named Kenjiro Shibazaki is the only member of the Tokyo police force with the wits and determination to track Sphinx down.
A techno-thriller setup like this is fairly familiar stuff, but the passion and artistry with which it is executed elevates Terror in Resonance to an entirely higher level. What could have easily been a pulpy, mindless affair is transformed by strong and impassioned writing into a genuine political treatise, one that pulls few punches in its willingness to explore the darker sides of domestic and international Japanese politics. Japanese pop-culture, and anime in particular, has utilized the country's collective nuclear trauma as thematic and aesthetic fodder for decades, to be sure. Terror in Resonance simply plays with that familiarity, using it as a foundation upon which to explore the contemporary issues Japan faces as its more jingoistic political voices gain traction and favor in sections of the public eye.
To have the show focus on terrorists that are also teenagers could have been a quintessentially anime gimmick, but the youthfulness of its protagonists plays a central role in Terror in Resonance's power, both as a mystery-thriller and a cautionary tale. The exploits of Twelve and Nine twist and turn in such a way that is often compelling and thought-provoking, sometimes brushing up against the barriers of maudlin proselytizing but never losing enough of its edge to stumble completely. Even if the show's political ambitions might leave you feeling a little cold, the pure storytelling on display is almost always enough to pull you along all the same.
I say almost always, because not everything in the show is capable of living up to its own sky-high ambitions. Being only eleven episodes long, Terror in Resonance speeds along at a breakneck pace, and while this is great for keeping the larger plot and characterization moving, it sometimes leaves other characters and story threads feeling less than complete. Lisa's character probably suffers the most for this. She occupies a vital role, offering a humanizing link into the lives of two teenagers who blow up buildings for a living, but her part as an audience surrogate undercuts her part in the overall plot of the show. The show takes far too long to get her involved on the action, and in the end her actual presence in the workings of the story feels rather wasted. I understood what the show was doing with her on an intellectual level by the end of the series, but more often than not those points failed to hit quite as hard on an emotional level. Similarly, the only other major female presence in the show, a character whose role I won't spoil here, is given quite a lot of buildup that doesn't quite pay off in the end. I loved her design and many of her individual scenes, but she ended up feeling more like a footnote to the story than a proper, fully realized player in it.
Still, when the story works, it absolutely works, and it doesn't hurt that the writing is bolstered by some exceptional visual and audio elements. Studio MAPPA's animation work here is exemplary, and the crew's direction produces some scenes that could be ripped straight out of a feature-length studio work. Likewise, both the Japanese dub and Funimation's English track offer the kind of confident, consistent character work needed to make such a tightly wound script sing. Aaron Dismuke and Christopher Bevins are great as Twelve and Nine, lending the appropriate mixes of sympathy and mystery to the parts. Robert McCollum nails the noir-gumshoe vibe of Detective Shibizaki, and Jad Saxton works hard to retain Lisa's melodramatic spirit while maintaining enough of the character's dignity to make it through her many, many crying scenes.
Technically, Funimation's Blu-Ray set is superb. The high-definition transfer really highlights the show's color palette and fluid animation, and the 5.1 audio tracks for both the Japanese and English dubs are crisp and clear throughout. The set also offers a nice bevvy of extras, including cast commentaries and interviews to go along with the usual trailers and clean opening/ending sequences, which can be found on both the Blu-Ray and DVD versions of the show. Overall, the quality of the Blu-Ray transfer and the nice selection of extras sweeten an already appetizing deal, and makes Terror in Resonance an easy set for me to recommend.
And honestly, this absolutely is a series worth checking out. An emotionally charged and politically resonant tale of disenfranchised youth and the explosive measures they're willing to make to get the attention of the country that failed them, Terror in Resonance works on a thematic level as much as it provides pure, compelling entertainment. Its few plot-related hiccups can't prevent it from being one of the most solidly produced and thought-provoking series I've seen in years, and it's an absolute must own for any lover of the medium.
That wraps up this week's review. Thanks for reading!
This week's shelves are from classicalzawa:
"I'm classicalzawa, and I've been collecting since maybe 2002 or so. I sent in pictures a number of years ago (probably at least 6?) but I'm well overdue for pics as is. And I like to take more detailed pics so I can see every little thing on my shelves! But I always seem to have something in the mail, or my friend is lending something out from me (she certainly is in these pics, like the rest of A Silent Voice or Blue Exorcist), and I keep trying to wait for it to be more "complete", but alas, it will never be complete anyway, might as well take pics!
My room isn't terribly big, but it's certainly terribly packed, I've long since run out of room on my shelves, so I've resorted to a number of comic short boxes and now, just stacking the things on the floor (but still very neat and orderly). I also play video games and read American comics too. My first anime that I bought was probably Outlaw Star, which I still have. For manga, I have no idea, but I don't believe I own it any more (I am constantly culling parts of my collection left and right, believe it or not)
I definitely enjoy collecting anime and manga, and I (almost) never pay full price for anything. After I discovered a comic shop near me has frequent half off sales, I swear things only got worse from there as I get about 85% of my new manga releases from them. And then got addicted to American comics too. I prefer manga to anime though as I find I can read it faster and in more places so I can take them with me to waiting rooms and stuff. I'm not picky about genre when it comes to manga, but with anime, I just love my scifi and giant robots. My favorite manga is Banana Fish, and my favorite anime is Princess Tutu (which goes completely against my main genre of scifi and robots). I'm not big into collecting any sort of figurines or plushies though.
The cutie mixed in with those pics is Butters. All of the manga I have is actually hers, as she has rubbed her fur against them, claiming them as her own by marking them with her scent. Seriously though, she's a very nice cat and is a-ok with the incredibly nerdy hobbies of her human. As long as she can still sit on my lap while I watch anime or read comics (making the latter very difficult, not that she cares). She is the most precious part of the collection though.
Hope you guys enjoy the pics, but you won't enjoy them as much as I enjoy living with the collection!"
Your collection is so vast that I had to stitch some of your photos together just to keep the gallery from overflowing with images. That's pretty impressive! Thanks for sharing!
If you've got a collection of your own and you'd like to share it with the world, send me your photos at [email protected]
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