First things first, let’s address the elephant in the room. The first half of the episode is a very extensive exposition dump regarding the Athena Project. Shibazaki and Hamura have tracked down Souka Aoki, a former director of the Ministry of Health and welfare. Luckily, the old, lonely widower is more than willing to confess his sins. As suspected, the Athena Plan had hoped to create “humans with abilities beyond the norm.” This would apparently be accomplished by artificially inducing the Savant Syndrome in young children; some Japanese pharmaceutical company had accidentally created a drug that could do such a thing. Unfortunately, the experiment eventually proved to be foolhardy: “…the new drug was only effective on developing children under the age of five.” I’m curious as to what Aoki means by this. Are there a batch of successful trials on children under five? In any case, the harrowing implication here is that the Athena Plan would’ve continued, but the US caught wind of it and ended the plan. Still, America did not put anyone on trial nor did they hold anyone responsible for the Athena Plan. In return, they got Five. So in summation, the Athena Plan had experimented on twenty-six children, but only three survived. I don’t think I need to say who those three are.
An interesting exchange occurs at the end of the exposition dump. The hot-headed Hamura yells at Aoki, leveling the charge that the latter and his ilk are not human for what they’ve done to the twenty-six orphans. Aoki does not defend himself; in fact, he paints himself as a weak, ineffectual pawn: “I couldn’t go against the orders of the person in charge…” The old man knows what he did was wrong, but at the same time, he wants to pretend as though there was nothing he could do to help those children. He’s not completely wrong, either. It seems that several people have been permanently silenced in order to keep the Athena Plan from coming to light. Hearing Aoki’s excuses, however, Shibazaki couldn’t help but Godwin this whole shebang up: “I’m sure the people who performed the selection of inmates at Auschwitz said the same thing.” Sure, we could bring up the Nazis, but why go outside the country? Japan has its own sordid, little history regarding human experimentation. Not only that, America has had a history of turning a blind eye to obvious war crimes.
During a World War II, Japanese researchers had done horrific, barbaric things to people under the name of science. More relevant to the subject at hand, however, is the fact that “[m]any of the researchers involved in Unit 731 went on to prominent careers in post-war politics, academia, business, and medicine.” Like with the Athena Plan, the US caught wind of Unit 731 and their crimes against humanity. The US believed, however, that the data acquired by Unit 731 was useful even if it had been obtained immorally. As a result, most of Unit 731 researchers were not put on trial for their crimes. I can’t help but wonder if the same had happened here. In exchange for a super genius like Five, America simply shut the Athena Plan down and nothing more. In any case, I don’t think the Terror in Resonance‘s writers are dumb, so I don’t think they’re deliberately ignoring the Athena Plan’s very obvious parallels to Unit 731. At the end of the day, it just isn’t prudent for a cartoon to be throwing accusations left and right at its own country, especially a country in which some politicians — not all, mind you — had tried to censor history textbooks.
But that’s enough about that. Let’s turn our attention back to our heroes, Japan’s wannabe terrorists and their groupie Lisa (I’m being facetious, of course). When we last left off, Nine begged Twelve not to leave. He knew that any attempt to save Lisa would lead them right into Five’s very obvious trap. Unlike Nine, however, Twelve seems to have been harboring doubts about whatever it is that they intend to do. He even broached the idea of calling the whole thing off. We still don’t know what Nine wants to accomplish, but we know it has something to do with the “object” they had stolen from that facility at the start of the episode. Well, we finally learn this week that this “object” isn’t just a bunch of raw plutonium lying around. Rather, the two boys had stolen a prototype atomic bomb that Japanese researchers had been developing in secret. Considering how Japan is still the only nation on this planet to see the effects of an atom bomb firsthand — two, in fact — should this prototype atom bomb and its research ever come to light, the public outcry would be enormous.
America has its reasons for wanting to secure this bomb, and we can sit here all day and speculate about it. What’s interesting, however, is how Clarence is slowly starting to get fed up with Five’s myriad games. So rest assured, detractors; even her own partner is starting to have his doubts about her. Sure enough, Five straps a bomb onto Lisa, and sticks her in an amusement park. When Twelve arrives to save Lisa, he finds himself having to defuse a bomb as the two of them share a rather romantic ride on the ferris wheel. Clarence can’t help but wonder if any of this is necessary. After all, he only wants to retrieve the prototype atomic bomb, not indulging in Five’s convoluted and contrived scenarios. Still, the setting is not without its merits. The ferris wheel, the insert song, the closeness between Twelve and Lisa, the way the full moon that peeks out from behind the clouds at just the right moment — if not for the bomb on Lisa’s chest, it would seem as though the two of them are on a date!
Watching Twelve risk everything to save Lisa’s life, Five starts to get a painful headache. On a literal level, she’s likely suffering from the side effects of the drug she had taken as a child. Y’know, the one that had killed all those other children? Yes, she’s survived for this long, but who’s to say she won’t eventually succumb to the ill effects of the drugs? Maybe her days are numbered, and she’s playing all these games with Nine and Twelve because she needs closure. But that brings up the other thing I want to talk about. It can’t be a coincidence that her head starts to hurt as she watches how Twelve genuinely cares for Lisa. Lisa is in a lot of physical pain, but how much emotional pain is she harboring as well? After all, one of Nine’s flashbacks made it seem as though he and Twelve had abandoned Five. They could’ve escaped with her, but they didn’t. She was left behind at the Settlement, and she had to watch all of the other kids eventually die. In the end, she was taken away to a foreign country, isolating her even further from the two people who would even come close to knowing her pain.
But even then, Five is not in a team with Nine and Twelve. Compared to Five, Lisa is a nobody. She’s just some random girl who got caught up in this whole mess. Nevertheless, Lisa got to run around with Sphinx. And here we are, watching Twelve put everything on the line — his life, his relationship with Nine, Sphinx’s original goals — for Lisa’s sake. The way he defuses the bomb is almost intimate; it’s like he’s performing surgery on the girl, and she is completely vulnerable to him. And as it becomes obvious that he won’t defuse the bomb in time, they confess their sins to each other. If this isn’t romantic, I don’t know what is! But what about Five? Does anyone out there even care about her? It’s not like the US really cares about her. She’s only a tool that they can use to get what they want. And it’s clear that Sphinx doesn’t really care about her, yet they seem to care about Lisa. As a result, Five gives Twelve a difficult choice: if the latter wants to save both himself and Lisa, reveal the location of the prototype atom bomb and thus betray Nine. In fact, Five relishes the opportunity to taunt Twelve: “Nine will not forgive you, you know. He’ll never forgive you. You’re a dirty, little traitor.”
Still, Five’s target has always been Nine. She has focused on him ever since she returned to Japan, and it’s now obvious why she has her sights on him. Five has engineered this whole scenario with Lisa and the bomb just to make Twelve betray Nine. And for what? Why is it so important that Twelve betray Nine? It’s simple: Five wants Nine to know what it feels like to be betrayed. Five wants Nine to know what it feels like to be left behind and abandoned by a friend. Five’s games may seem unnecessary. They may also seem unrealistic. Hell, they seem crazy. But of course they seem crazy, ’cause I don’t see how anyone could go through what Five had gone through, and not end up a little crazy. Nine and Twelve managed to escape from the Settlement, but not only that, they had each other. When the two boys escaped, Five was alone. Whenever Nine had his nightmares, Twelve was always there to ask him about them. It’s likely that Five has her nightmares too, but does she have anyone to talk to? Does she have a partner in crime? The answer to both these questions is no. Five has no one. So she’s come back to Japan, but she doesn’t care about some stupid bomb. She wants her revenge.
Stray notes & observations:
— I like the contrast between Shibazaki and Hamura. Shibazaki still jots down notes like some hard-boiled detective. Meanwhile, Hamura relies upon technology. Hamura is young and hot-headed. Thanks to his experience, Shibazaki stays calm through it all. At the end of the day, however, they want justice. Shibazaki gives Hamura one more chance to turn and run. After all, he’s still young. He’s got his whole life ahead of him. Does he really want to endanger himself in this vast government conspiracy? Hamura visibly shakes as he puts down his recorder, but he eventually steels himself. Anyway, my point is that I like how they’ve handled Hamura’s character development. He hasn’t just faded into the background like I had expected.
— Shibazaki demands to know the identity of the person in charge of the Athena Plan, but that man is already dead. In fact, it was the politician that put Shibazaki’s career in jeopardy in the first place. So what now?
— On the ferris wheel, Lisa seems to have come to terms with her need to be needed. She tells Twelve to leave and return to Nine’s side, since Nine needs him more than she does. Is this true? Well, Lisa doesn’t really have anyone to return to. Still, I’m more impressed by the way Twelve finally takes responsibility of the situation. He never should’ve talked to Lisa in the first place, and Nine even warned him not to. He’s thus responsible for her ending up in this predicament, and it was nice to see his character own up to it. As I’ve been harping on for several posts now, the Settlement tried to strip these kids of their humanity. Five’s blatant disregard for the lives of innocent people is likely the result of their efforts. At the same time, Twelve’s compassion and remorse shows that the Settlement wasn’t entirely successful.
— Couldn’t Twelve lie about the location of the bomb? Five has no way of knowing if Twelve is telling the truth until her people get to the location. If he’s afraid that Five will kill them both if he lies, then he has no reason to think she’ll let them go if he tells the truth.
— I’m surprised the bomb is just hidden in some high school locker. Don’t they do regular locker checks everywhere?
— The countdown turning green was kind of lame.