Terror in Resonance and Playing by the Rules

zankyou no terror, terror chess, chess in the airport, five and nine play chess, five, terror in resonance episode 7

Monopoly is, and always has been, a boring game to me. Growing up, my brother and I would try to spice things up by playing something we called “Mafia Monopoly.” This is a fancy way of saying that we slipped each other money beneath the table and made clandestine deals with one another in an attempt to gang up on my parents and end the game in under an hour. Our parents turned a blind eye most likely because they wanted to spend time with us, even if we were dirty rotten cheaters. Similarly, I had another friend who would say the classic, “Oops! I dropped my cards!” after melodramatically performing the act before slipping extra cards into his hand. We put up with it because we liked him as a friend, even though he was a horrid card player.

When Five lays the groundwork for her chess match with Nine, she presumably also sets the rules. It is the job of Nine and Twelve to respond accordingly. She chooses the playing field. She sets the stage. She decides the goal. Unlike the rules of Monopoly – or the game she is modeling her interactions with Nine after, chess – the rules are hers to construct and break as she pleases. This makes the chess match in episode seven of Terror in Resonance a bit of a boring game for the audience; however, the parry and riposte from Sphinx and Shibazaki speak to the crumbling of established rules within the series.

terror in resonance, zankyou no terror, terror in tokyo, fire alarm, orderly exit

Sphinx have always relied on the general public to follow the rules. This is something that they take advantage of in their attacks, often to ensure the least amount of injury possible. In their first attack, they ensure that the fire alarms go off and citizens exit in an orderly fashion, relying on them to do so. When Twelve initially hands a stuffed animal to Lisa, he tells her not to let go of it until he says so and she complies. They also set the rules of their own interactions with the police through their riddles, and rely on someone within the force to solve them. Their trump card is the plutonium that they stole from Aomori, and the police are more than well aware that it’s still in their playing hand.

shibazaki, zantero, zankyou no terror, terror in resonance, shibazaki and hamura, hamura, terror in tokyo, shibazaki and the police at the airport

“Then, Mr. Kurahashi, please take responsibility if anything happens.”

– Shibazaki, Terror in Resonance, episode 3

The police have their own set of rules to follow. Exemplifying Nakano Chie’s “vertical society” the police consists of unequal relationships that strain once the outcast Shibazaki is brought back into the fold by Chief Kurahashi. This makes it impossible for younger members of the force like Hamura to protest his inclusion and counsel. However, there is an undercurrent of struggle as to whose rules to follow: Sphinx’s or the police hierarchy. In spite of being a senior member in age, Shibazaki has been firmly labelled as a social outcast. It’s no wonder that the younger Hamura balks at Shibazaki’s reappearance, initially going against his advice – the advice of Sphinx themselves – in the fourth episode, causing Sphinx to leak all of the police’s investigation reports.

Five’s arrival acts as the catalyst for Hamura’s change of heart. Chief Kurahashi has no choice but to follow the orders from his superiors – again, the structure works from the top down, even with Five and the Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST) overriding it – even when such inaction guarantees civilian casualties. When Shibazaki refuses to follow societal rules and chooses to follow the rules of Sphinx, he gains a small following that begrudgingly includes Hamura. With the revelation that the police are the ones setting the trap, Hamura sets aside his own adherence to rules and fully acquiesces to Shibazaki, earning him the withering look above.

“This is the last stage, Nine. Can you clear it?”

– Five, Terror in Resonance, episode 7

Five cares not for rules other than her own. She uses preestablished rules much like Sphinx, relying on others to follow them in order to achieve her own personal goals. While Nine still has the recurring nightmare of Five disappearing into the flames, Five saying that she arrived to settle their score reveals that all of her involvement is personal. Unlike Shibazaki, whose focus is on the nuclear threat, Five simply wants to toy with Nine and Twelve in spite of her presumed position with NEST, an American organization formed to research and neutralize nuclear threats. In response to Nine pointing a gun at her, she calmly outlines the information that she knows, and subsequently reveals her next move, altering previous regulations that she had set. Five will continue to move the goalposts provided that it suits her, and has been given quite the arsenal to do so. She also shows little to no care for what the end result is, challenging Nine to clear her obstacles. In spite of asserting that Nine and Twelve are more vulnerable having found a friend in Lisa, she is expressing her friendship with the boys throughout the episode in her own warped fashion.

Five, Terror in Resonance, Zankyou no Terror, Terror in Tokyo, Five with Lisa Mishima's school ID, zantero

The series falters a bit for this, as we are not the targets of Five’s game. My parents suffered my brother and I sliding each other money under the table presumably because they were rewarded through spending time with us. We have no such attachment to Five, and continues to create her own guidelines only to move them. Watching someone cheat repeatedly hardly makes for an interesting viewing experience. However, it matters a great deal in-universe to Nine, who still harbors guilt over abandoning Five at the facility. Ultimately, this is the reason why he chooses the more difficult path of saving Lisa, mirroring his actions in the first episode.

3 comments

  1. “This makes the chess match in episode seven of Terror in Resonance a bit of a boring game for the audience;” That and we have no bloody clue how they were even playing that game of “terror chess”, as someone else pointed out sure they can run around to different parts of the airport but how is 5 supposed to know which piece they moved? I get attached to sports shows since I know the rules that the characters have to live with and overcome to succeed, without that here then the game feels oddly impersonal, more so than I think the writer(s?) intended and only contributes to my growing grumpiness that this isn’t the kind of show I was promised.

    1. Yeah, my purpose in writing this is to say that while Terror in Resonance still doesn’t break the in-universe rules it set for itself, the series still sacrifices audience engagement for presumed thrills. At no point did I feel that Nine, Twelve, or even Lisa were in any serious danger.

      Additionally, as you say and I said in this post, because we are not privy to the rules it makes the game complete nonsense to us. For me, it’s not a matter of “could Five have figured out which piece they moved” but the question of why the writers would drag this out so long. If it was supposed to be suspenseful, it failed and a lot of this has to do with the fact that we are unaware of the rules.

      For me personally, when Terror in Resonance succeeds, it does so by creating an attachment to its characters, from Sphinx to Lisa to Shibazaki. In taking a more impersonal approach to episode seven, the series faltered a bit. That being said, I’m not nearly as angry about it as others, and believe that the series still has some interesting things to say.

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