“But you know, terrible food has value in a sense too. I mean, do you even remember the food we ate in that place? I can’t remember the taste of it at all. In that place, eating was just another task.”
– Twelve regarding Lisa’s burnt cooking, Terror in Resonance, episode five
Lisa Mishima is no cook. This does not deter her from a dogged attempt to make herself useful by providing Sphinx with sustenance. Food is often used as a shortcut for building an emotional connection with another person. If one wants to get to know someone better, they share a meal with them. If one wants to show how much they care about someone, they prepare a meal for them.
Through food, Terror in Resonance gives its audience a read on Twelve’s emotional state. Previously, while in the institute, Twelve couldn’t taste the food. It looks to be standard cafeteria-style fare, likely with little to no taste. If one is numbering children instead of naming them, dressing them in the same white uniform, and expressing the desire to eliminate any and all hint of individuality in each of them, then it is reasonable to assume that one wouldn’t bother to spice up their food.
Lisa’s food tastes awful, but at the very least it tastes like something. As the three children gather around a table to eat, the food brings them together. The conversation is not anything scintillating – as one might expect, it involves how horrid the food tastes – but they talk directly with each other. In scenes shown at the institute, the children ate in silence, placed equidistant from one another. Twelve describes eating in the facility as just another task while eating with Lisa in a dirty apartment, regardless of food quality, is shown to be something he values. His effort to stay distant from Lisa quickly disintegrates the more time that he spends with her.
In the same episode that Lisa, Twelve, and Nine share a meal, Terror in Resonance reintroduces a fellow student of the same institute: Five. Five was first seen in Nine’s dream in episode one, and reintroduced in episode three in the first flashbacks to the Child Broiler-like facility that Nine, Twelve, and Five all attended as children.
Five is someone who easily could have been a friend, or accomplice, had she managed to escape with Nine and Twelve. Terror in Resonance shows Five stumbling just short of a chain link fence that both boys presumably climb to leave the facility. The last image that Nine has is of Five on the ground, spattered with blood and disappearing into flames.
Presented as a distant, cold, and whimsical figure, Five offers a comparison to Nine and Twelve. If Nine and Twelve had stayed in the institute, they may have ended up more like Five. Contracted by Shibazaki’s higher-ups, Five is capable of keeping up with Sphinx. However, unlike the two boys, she is more than willing to allow the explosions that the boys promise as punishment for failing to solve their riddles.
“What do you want to do? At this rate, in a little over an hour, we’ll be mass murderers.”
– Twelve, to Nine, on the late response from the police, Terror in Resonance, episode 5
As the pieces slowly come together on Shibazaki’s end in his investigation of the sites that Sphinx has targeted, it becomes clearer from the boys’ conversation with each other that they do not want to kill people if they do not have to. This makes them fundamentally different than Aum Shinrikyo, the Japanese cult that perpetrated the 1995 Sarin Gas Attacks on the Tokyo subway, or Aum’s anime counterparts in the Takakura parents of Mawaru Penguindrum.
“We can’t do anything about it. We can’t save them. It’s a frozen world. They become invisible. They will never amount to anything.”
– Kenzan Takakura to his son Shouma, Mawaru Penguindrum, episode 20
In episode 20 of Mawaru Penguindrum, a young Shouma Takakura questions his father on the Child Broiler, and invisible children. All Kenzan has to offer him is rhetoric. He has already given up on this world and is prepared to destroy it in his upcoming acts of terrorism. In contrast, Shouma simply reaches out and befriends Himari, thereby saving her from the Child Broiler by coming to care about her as a person. His father is too jaded and too far gone to see how the simple answer of befriending someone or loving someone can validate their existence, effectively removing their invisible status. Instead, he only sees one solution: destruction.
Nine and Twelve do not see destruction as their only option, but wield the threat of it as their primary weapon. Even their first bombing – before Sphinx becomes a household name, and their warning videos instant viral sensations – is prefaced via social media. Additionally, they ensure that the fire alarms are set off prior to the main blast, evacuating occupants in an orderly fashion. It is no accident that there have been few, if any, Sphinx casualties because they have organized their plots as such. This makes Twelve stumbling upon Lisa a true accident, and their initial saving of her life makes more sense in light of episode five. Nine tells Lisa that she is an accomplice, and that this was her own choice; however, he chooses to save her. He presumably couldn’t save Five in the past, but he can save Lisa now.
Lisa continues to occupy a nebulous space between friend and stand-in for the boys’ past experiences. Their meal together is both awkward and adorable, serving as a vignette of what could be. Although Nine is none-to-please with Lisa’s presence, Twelve seems to care more for her by the minute. This is paralleled by Nine’s flashbacks and reaction to Five’s reentrance into his life. She is not only one who could have been a friend and is now opposing them, but she’s willing to kill innocent people in the process. Meanwhile, in befriending Twelve and Nine, Lisa has the power to end their status as an invisible beings. Perhaps even burnt, awful-tasting food can act as the fruit of fate.