Anime Pocket Reviews Ep. 23 – Cowboy Bebop, Terror in Resonance

Welcome to Episode 23! Now, this might not be as interesting on the eye as previous offerings, but there’s an intriguing little mystery flowing through this episode, one that I didn’t even know existed until I started putting this together. Despite being 16 years apart, and completely different genres, these two shows are linked.

Shinichiro Watanabe directs both of these shows. Cowboy Bebop was his debut as a lead director, and its success made his name. Many series later, he is now seen as one of the best anime directors there is.However, he hasn’t directed any anime since 2014, when he did Space Dandy, and Terror in Resonance.

These shows also share a composer in Yoko Kanno. A good friend of Watanabe’s, and a hugely respected artist, Yoko has led the music for both of these series along with other Watanabe works. She also has not done any anime work since Space Dandy and Terror in Resonance.

The double-act can be seen here at two very different points in their career. Later you’ll see their performance as matured professionals, but first, here’s one of their earlier, and hugely successful, works.

Cowboy Bebop Anime Review
Cowboy Bebop (1998-99, S1, 26x23mins)
Space-Western, Action, Comedy
“See you space cowboy…”

In the year 20171, with the earth almost uninhabitable, humanity has dispersed itself across multiple moons and planets in the solar system. With everyone so dispersed, The Inter Solar System Police has set up a bounty system, allowing registered bounty hunters to chase down criminals on their behalf for a sizeable reward, a la the Wild West. The story follows Spike (top left) and Jet (top right), struggling bounty hunters upon their spaceship Bebop. As they travel the galaxy, they accidentally pick up two more people: Faye Valentine (bottom right), a gambling addict trying to escape her mounting debts; and Ein (bottom left), an energetic hacker-child from Earth, who assist their missions.

Basically Plot: Four dangerous odd-jobs travel through space trying to catch bad guys in this irreverent action-comedy, with a hidden dramatic edge.

As far as I’m aware, this is the oldest anime I’ve seen so far*. I often, rightly or wrongly, try to steer clear of things – particularly film – that are in that grey region where they are neither old or important enough to be a classic, not recent enough to be up to the current standard of picture quality. Thankfully, Cowboy Bebop is a classic, and the nostalgia of this show is incredible! An animation style to remind you of your childhood, the slow movements and slightly-off sound are, for whatever reason, a joy to behold. The cold colours shouldn’t suit what is supposed to be an intergalactic adventure, but the sheer creativity renders that argument moot.

Cowboy Bebop appears to start off with the idea of a new story happening every episode. Each time they would go somewhere else to try to capture another bounty. While I don’t necessarily think doing that leads to a very good story, there was something awesome about all the worlds being explored, and the characters – four of the coolest characters I’ve seen, probably – personify that idea.

Cowboy Bebop Anime Review

However, there are areas where this series suffers. As mentioned earlier, the story, in terms of an overall arc running throughout the series, is weak. You don’t ever really get the impression that there’s something deeper going on in the background, so when something does begin to show it’s face at the end you don’t feel invested enough to really care deeply for it. Also, the characters, while cool, are pretty one-dimensional. While the series does try to develop Spike and Faye later on, it does feel like too little, too late. The final two episodes, a two-part finale to the series, are really good, and do a good job in terms of both character development and story, but it feels almost separate from the series I was watching beforehand.

You get the impression from watching Cowboy Bebop that it is a show that was produced to fill a hole, for viewers and TV companies. A show that offers light relief by showing charismatic characters flying around in an action-comedy-adventure. However, I don’t mean that as an insult. I loved this show: the characters are incredibly engaging, the show is full of character and charisma, and it has one of, if not the best intro sequence I’ve ever seen. I think Bebop is a great example of ‘it’s not what you have, it’s what you do with it’.

If you liked this you’ll love: No Game No Life – There’s not really any show I’ve seen so far that does action-adventure with such a cool, mature set of characters. Most adventure titles involve over-the-top, childish people, so this is a little left-field. While NGNL swaps sci-fi for fantasy, it is still led by a charismatic lead character, and both these shows share a fantastic sense of adventure. Yes, NGNL is much more appealing to a younger generation than Cowboy, but if it’s another fun-filled adventure you’re after, you won’t find many better than this.

*FACT CHECK: This is the second oldest anime I’ve seen, having previously reviewed 1995 film Ghost in the Shell.

Terror in Resonance Tokyo Anime Review
Terror in Resonance (2014, S1, 11x23mins)
Detective, Mystery, Thriller
“I thought I’d be taken somewhere out of this world. I got my hopes up a little. But that’s impossible, isn’t it?”

Also known as Terror in Tokyo, the story follows two young boys, named Nine (left) and Twelve (right), who commit a terrorist attack in the city. Interacting with the world online through masked personas and referring to themselves as ‘Sphinx’, the two of them set riddles for the police in order for them to work out the location of the bombs they plant. During the first attack, Mishima Lisa (centre), a young girl in the same class as Twelve, gets caught up in the threat and is forced to become an unwanted accomplice to the two of them. As panic begins to rise, old-time detective Shibazaki is called in to investigate, and quickly discovers links between this case and a case in the past, a case that led to his demotion. However, when the American FBI take an interest in the situation, led by the dangerous Five, who has her own reasons for going after the two of them, Shibazaki is forced to go rogue to discover who these kids really are, and what they really want.

Basically Plot: Two mysterious young children bring chaos to Tokyo, bringing an old, outed detective back into the game.

I was pleasantly surprised by this series. The first thing that strikes you is how well-rounded it all is. A really sophisticated piece of work, Terror in Resonance combines the mystery-based plot with a genuinely interesting, and at times touching story. There’s a real sweetness to this tale, which is something I never expected. Not only that, though – this is an anime series that actually feels like it has something bigger to say. A story about belonging, it tackles some very sensitive issues and is very sophistically written. Over time, the story as a whole emerges as a not-so-veiled attack on Japan’s somewhat subordinate relationship with the United States. References to trying to find Japan’s true independence, along with constant and ultimately impeding US involvement in the case paints a strong political picture, and I thought that it was fantastic (and brave) writing to bring that to the forefront.

Terror in Resonance is a show where everything is working in absolute harmony. The animation, both in terms of the colours used and the sharpness and detail of the scenes, has to be some of the best I’ve seen. Without being remarkable, or edgy, or colourful, it seems to hit exactly the right notes and compliments the story really well. Along with that, the soundtrack to Terror in Resonance must be one of the best all-round selections of music I’ve heard in an anime to date. Hitting those same notes as the story and animation, it is primarily an action-orientated sound, but constant subtle notes of sweetness keep gently reminding you that there’s more to this story than meets the eye.

It might sound up to this point like this is one of the best anime series we’ve seen. Yes, it certainly is good, and it could have been great bar one ultimate flaw. At 11 episodes, Terror in Resonance is probably one of the smallest shows we’ve reviewed on here – for comparison, Cowboy Bebop above is over double that – and it is far too short for its own good. The story builds really nicely, and when the first major twist comes you’re seriously excited to see where the show will go. The problem is, the first major twist comes in the second-to-last episode, and the show has nowhere else to go.

Terror in Resonance Anime Review

Terror in Resonance is a show caught between a rock and a hard place. There was so much depth that could have been explored, depth for every character to delve into, but there’s simply no time to do it in. I was sure at the beginning that Lisa would become one of the best anime characters I’ve seen, but she is barely developed at all. With the story that they presented, if it was a British or American show I can imagine seeing a story like that shown as three, one-hour episodes as a special mini-series, kind of like how the BBC keep reproducing mystery show Sherlock nowadays. That would have suited this show perfectly. Or, make it a full 24-episode series and really put some depth into it. In the end, unfortunately, it’s neither here-nor-there.

Considering what it could have been, Terror in Resonance is still a really good, really intriguing show that tries to offer something different to the overplayed cat-and-mouse detective genre. A beautiful show to watch and listen to, and with plenty of mystery and excitement, along with a strong character set, makes this a show that I would definitely recommend. It’s just a crying shame that it’s not longer.

If you liked this you’ll love: Psycho Pass – Terror in Resonance is good, but as far as detective mysteries go, you won’t find better than the recently reviewed Psycho Pass. Taking a darker, more sci-fi-orientated position than Terror in Resonance, Psycho Pass is another show that delivers mysterious characters, led by a young girl who finds herself in the middle of an ever-growing conspiracy. With more episodes, Psycho Pass is able to build a world around the mystery, leading to an incredibly engaging and enthralling series that I would hugely recommend!

Yoko Kanno

I would never have linked these shows together, so to discover that they were made by the same people, two such important people, is really interesting for me. I absolutely adore the music in both these shows, and I think that is a primary reason for any success both these shows have, so I will certainly have to look out for the name Yoko Kanno from now on!

Yuri on Ice PosterMake sure to follow The Culture Cove to see the best anime reviews before anybody else! Look out for the next episode of Anime Pocket Reviews, featuring winter 2016’s runaway success, Yuri on Ice!

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