Twelve will always have his signature goofy smile even though the world is about to end. Of course, the world doesn’t literally come to an end. But in a way, it did. No one will sit here and defend the two atomic bombings at the end of the Second World War with a straight face. But Fat Man and Little Boy did accomplish one thing: it allowed Japan to start over. At that point in the war, defeat was already a foregone conclusion, but the two atom bombs sealed the deal. In fact, the explosions were so strong, it figuratively knocked Japan back to an infantile state. Japan’s empire-building ambitions went up in flames along with everything else. All that anyone could do was pick up the pieces and rebuild the country. And even though Japan may have felt as though it has been politically emasculated by the US over the last few decades, the country did nevertheless rebuild itself into something impressive and majestic in its own right.
But once again, it feels as though Japan is starting to reach that symbolic age again where it wants to assert its own independence. Like a rebellious teenager, the country no longer wants to listen to its “parent,” i.e. the United States. Japan is tired of being bossed around, and it wants to do its own thing. On paper, there’s nothing wrong with this idea. Should the US really be allowed to meddle in Japan’s affairs forever? One could justifiably argue that the US should have left a long time ago. When the secret American operatives assassinated Twelve at the end of this week’s episode, Terror in Resonance merely echoes what many people have felt for a long time now: the US is only looking out for itself. But although this is a problem — and its a problem that Japan will eventually have to address in the long run — Terror in Resonance wants us to be cognizant of a bigger concern: Japan’s crimes against its own people.
Twelve was originally drawn to Lisa because she was him and Nine. She was also a victim of abuse, both at school and at home. Worst of all, nobody seemed to notice. Nobody seemed to care. Lisa suffered silently as her classmates tormented her at school. Lisa then had no one to turn to when her own mother became an emotional black hole. Likewise, Nine and Twelve suffered from abuse. Not only that, there were others like them. Thirty children in total were taken away to some mysterious institution. And at this institution, the children lost their youth, their innocence and their humanity. They were told that nobody loved them. They were told that they were nothing. They were even told that they had no name. By now, we know the truth. A secret faction in Japan had wanted to create its own race of supersoldiers by inhumanely experimenting on these orphans. Those like Shibazaki had tried to uncover the truth many years ago, but like with Lisa, the rest of the nation was oblivious. There were just too many distractions.
During the Second World War, the Imperial Japanese Army convinced its soldiers to die for the country. Above all else, duty to the emperor and Japan was utmost. Nothing else mattered. Even if the battle was already lost, you were not allowed to surrender. You were not allowed to save yourself. Instead, you had to sacrifice your life and try to take the enemy with you. But let’s be honest: there was nothing noble about what these kids had to do. They were trained to become murderers, and some even became rapists. Like Sphinx, these boys lost their youth, their innocence, and their humanity. And for what? At the time, Imperial Japan claimed it was merely trying to unite East Asia against the Westerners. The slogan at the time was, “Asia for Asians!” In truth, however, Japan and its soldiers were not liberators. Just ask South Korea if you don’t believe me. The point is, you can’t simply trust good intentions, and once again, Japanese leaders were exploiting the country’s youth in the name of good intentions.
Mamiya can sit there and claim that he did what he had to do to help Japan restore its independence. It’s just funny how he had to hide himself from the public eye. It’s just funny how he had to seclude himself in a private estate behind tall walls and a security system. It’s just funny how, once again, Japanese youth had to suffer for the sake of the nation. Yes, the US has politically emasculated Japan for decades now. Yes, Japan desires independence. Yes, the US is only and always simply looking out for itself and not its allies — thanks realpolitik! We should find a solution to these problems. No one’s denying that. But at what costs? At the cost of Japanese youth again? And have we forgotten what the two atomic bombings had done to the nation and its psyche? Do we really want to revisit that nightmare again? Nine and Twelve thus took it upon themselves to remind the country of its history. The atomic bomb did go off in this week’s episode, but it went off in the stratosphere. Unlike their abusers, Nine and Twelve are not murderers.
Sphinx simply wanted the slumbering populace to open their eyes and realize what was happening around them. As the inhabitants of Tokyo poured out onto the streets to evacuate the city, the bomb went off. People stood still and looked up to the sky in rapt attention as the bomb bathed them in a golden, almost divine-like light. It was as if Nine and Twelve were angels, and they had brought God’s judgment down upon Sodom and Gomorrah. Tokyo didn’t go up in flames, but the resulting electromagnetic pulse did shut down the metropolis’s power grid as well as all means of telecommunications. For the first time in a long time, Tokyo had gone offline. For the first time in a long time, you could say that the country was allowed to look inward and reflect on its sins. There were no more distractions. Japanese people could no longer look away and turn a blind eye to the situation. Nine and Five were victims of abuse, and this was their cry for help. In the end, it’s too late to save their souls, but they might have prevented other children from being abused like them.
Again, the world doesn’t come to an end, but Sphinx’s actions nevertheless allowed the country to start over. The country thus purged itself of the evildoers, i.e. Mamiya and his ilk. More importantly, it’s a time to reflect, i.e. “How were we so blind to all of this?” Certainly, Japan’s relationship with the US continues to be problematic, but any proposed solution must be considered carefully. And all too often, those in power are ready and willing to leverage the lives of young people for their own selfish, short-sighted political gains. In a way, the story is about breaking the cycle of abuse. Japan saw and continues to see America as a bully, and in turn, people like Mamiya abused children in a misguided search for a solution to the previous problem. Lisa’s mother had been abandoned, and in turn, she inadvertently abused her own daughter. One can only speculate why Lisa’s classmates felt the need to pick on her, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they had their own troubles to deal with as well. The cycle of abuse will continue if people aren’t willing to make a stand.
One way is to remove yourself from the situation, which seems to be what Lisa had done. But in Nine and Twelve’s case, they can’t just remove all the youths from Japan in order to protect them from people like Mamiya. So instead, they created a loud enough ruckus to give themselves credibility. Otherwise, who would listen to a pair of troublemakers like them? Sometimes, children act out just for attention. That’s exactly what Nine and Twelve did.
Stray notes & observations:
— I’ll give my grade on the series as a whole in the next “Everything Else” post. I just want this post to focus on the ending and the ending alone.
— At first, I wondered if Lisa had called her mom to make sure her mom had evacuated. Turns out she was just trying to seek emergency help for Twelve. I wonder if the relationship between her and her mom are too far gone to mend.
— What I had written in a previous post still makes sense now:
Mukasa wonders out loud, “Anyway, don’t you think Sphinx is lonely, too? They probably just want attention.” It’s funny how the most clueless guy in these stories will typically to hit the nail right on the head. Shibazaki’s corpulent co-worker is right: the boys are an extreme example of attention-seeking teenagers. And as always, the problem on our hands is that they don’t care if the attention they get is good or bad. They just want attention period. They just want to open up a dialogue even if it ends up being an abusive shouting match.
— How do I feel about Nine and Twelve’s deaths? Well, it was a long time coming. Again, an excerpt from a previous post:
Lisa is jealous of the bond that Nine and Twelve share, but not in a malicious way. She just wishes she had someone she was close to. Twelve replies, “Well, we’ve been together for a long time.” He then looks wistfully off to the side. The anime immediately cuts to those white sheets swaying in the wind as Twelve continues to say, “Just the two of us.” We don’t get to see his expression. He sounds resigned as he says it, too. The anime then lingers on the white sheets for a short moment. It almost seems as though Twelve has accepted his and Nine’s eventual deaths, but on the plus side, they’ll die together, i.e. “Just the two of us.” Just earlier in the episode, there’s a peculiar scene where we see Twelve just standing alone on the rooftop, looking to at the sky as white feathers float up around him. There’s something angelic about the scene, almost suggesting that he’s looking forward to the peaceful release that accompanies death. For now, he and Nine have a mission to accomplish, but when they reach their destination, they will be free. In a way, he and his partner have always been prisoners. They were imprisoned at that institute, and even now, they are imprisoned by the memories of their past. For example, Nine frequently suffers from nightmares. As a result, the two boys — Twelve, specifically — may see death as a solace. What’s clear, however, is that Nine and Twelve are always prepared that they may die anytime they go out.
— Plus, I’m not surprised Nine suffered from those chronic headaches immediately after Twelve died. These are the same headaches that had afflicted Five, too. It turns out the music from a cold land was from Iceland. Furthermore, V-O-N means hope… Most of the children involved in the Athena Plan eventually succumbed to the side effects of the drug they had been given, but I speculated last week that these children had simply given up on life. The Settlement stripped them of their will to live, so they had no reason to keep fighting for their own survival. Five was an exception only because she wanted to beat Nine at least once in her life. When she accepted that she couldn’t, she lost hope and committed suicide before her body would give up on her. With Twelve lying dead before him, Nine doesn’t really have much of a reason to continue either. We don’t exactly get to see how he dies, but his vision blurs and it looks as though he falls backwards and loses consciousness. The point is, he no longer had any reason to keep fighting either. It’s telling that he sees three birds flying up to the sky. Does Five finally get to join the two boys?
— It doesn’t really matter whether or not Nine really had more bombs hidden around the country, and I’m inclined to think he didn’t. The important takeaway is that the US doesn’t care.
— Shibazaki represented Oedipus because he was willing to do harm to himself in pursuit of the truth. Unlike many of his peers, Shibazaki was never afraid of the repercussions. He knew his life could be forfeit, but he pressed on anyway. Others were understandably concerned about their own welfare and/or the safety of their loved ones. Still, these concerns can “cloud” our judgment, one might say. Shibazaki turned a blind eye to his own well-being, and that was the only way he could give himself enough courage to press on with his investigation.