Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of LN adaptations, I shall fear no mediocrity, for Watanabe Shinichirou is still making anime.
It’s going to be difficult to talk about this show for a couple of reasons. The first is that it’s masterfully done, just top to bottom quality. Animation, music, atmosphere, plotting… even the characters, who are more interesting than they are likable, but in a world of teenage terrorists and literary cops, I’m okay if the story connects more intellectually than emotionally (for now, anyway).
Plus we’ve got Lisa, a sharp emotional presence in a landscape of cool intellect, and Nine/Arata, who continues to show flashes of a haunted man under his calm demeanor. The characters may not be fully revealed yet, but they do seem to be fully formed, so I wouldn’t be too surprised if this “weaker” link strengthens itself as the series goes on.
The other reason TiR is a tough show to discuss is because each week I feel like I’m watching 24 minutes of a particularly long film, and a film riddled with mysteries, to boot. The series is so carefully put together that I’m confident all the parts will form a whole in the end, but for now, talking about the first three episodes is a bit like trying to solve a puzzle with only a third of the pieces.
The main purpose of this first trio of episodes seems to be to introduce the players and move them into place. So who are our players? Well, in this corner we have Nine and Twelve, teenage members (leaders?) of “Sphinx,” a terrorist organization who leave bombs in key locations around the city and send video clues to the police, encouraging them to solve the riddle before the bomb explodes.
And in this corner we have Shibasaki, a police officer banished to work in the Archives because he poked the wrong political beehive during a case 15 years ago. (Dangerous, selfish authority runs rampant in this world – just look at Lisa’s mother.) Now he’s back on the force and working to stop the boys. Honestly I think he’s the least interesting character in this cast (his story is a little too common, at least for now) but he’s a well-executed figure, even if he does seem like more of an archetype than the rest of the cast.
And then, standing just outside the ring is Lisa, an isolated wild card who seems as horrified by the boys’ actions as she is captivated by them. Trapped between an abusive, obsessive mother and a pair of dangerous terrorists (who nevertheless spared her life), Lisa seems the most adrift but also the most compelling of the bunch, and I look forward to seeing what choices she makes and how those choices affect the rest of the cast.
Beneath the plots and mysteries run a few recurring elements and themes – riddles, Greek mythology (particularly the tragedy of Oedipus Rex), identity, interpersonal connections (or lack thereof), and of course fear, as the shadow of the stolen plutonium looms above the city. The possibility of a nuclear attack is a constant source of tension for Shibasaki and the police force, and the audience feels that tension like a noose growing ever tighter around the characters’ necks.
This isn’t a pleasant series by a long shot, but it’s tense and smart and intriguing, and it seems to know exactly what it’s doing. I could take some guesses about where the story will go next (I suspect Shibasaki’s old case will somehow tie in with the boys’ past), but honestly, watching TiR unveil itself is such a pleasure, I don’t even really want to speculate. Instead, I’ll just sit down, lean back, and watch a master go to work.