How Great Music Can Elevate an Anime

The anime’s outstanding soundtrack, OP and ED work as an emotional commentary for the characters’ journey, turning the show into a masterpiece.

Famous for her music writing for film, TV and animation, Yoko Kanno has worked with some of the most celebrated Japanese directors, including Hayao Miyazaki. Before composing the soundtrack for Terror in Resonance, Kanno had collaborated with director Shinichiro Watanabe on Cowboy Bebop and Space Dandy. Her music is simply unmissable.

In Terror in Resonance, music participates in the story almost as another character. Contemplative, mournful and insistent, the score shapes moments of emotional height as well as characters’ thoughts and feelings. It’s even part of Nine’s story — a small detail that nevertheless reveals a lot about the young man he is and used to be.

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Icelandic Music Inspired the Show and Its Characters

Terror in Resonance Lisa and Nine listening to music

According to an interview by OtakuUSA, the idea for Terror in Resonance came to director Shinichiro Watanabe while he was listening to Icelandic band Sigur Ros. His vision of two boys standing next to the ruins of a city was turned into an anime series, and his passion for Icelandic music was passed down to Nine, one half of the protagonist duo. When asked what he is listening to, Nine replies, “Music from a cold land.” Perhaps finding a strange sort of solace in the mournful music of an unforgiving place, Nine keeps listening to it until the day he dies.

Regardless of whether Icelandic music can actually be heard through the show’s soundtrack, it is evident that the care put into composing it far exceeds the average anime’s. The OP and ED alone stand out as pieces with eerily dark tones, with catchy tunes discarded in favor of disquieting progressions that complement and emphasize the anime’s restless and mournful heart.

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Music Informs the Characters’ Journeys

Terror in Resonance Lisa and Twelve

One needs to see the anime and truly immerse themselves in it to understand the power that the score has to elevate the story. However, a few examples can be singled out for their intensity. At the beginning of Episode 8, while a sleeping Lisa lies on the sofa and Nine and Twelve stand on the terrace looking out at the city, a tranquil song plays in the background, offering a nostalgic and oddly peaceful commentary to the scene that provides a stark contrast to the dark tone of the rest of the series. It’s a moment of calm before the storm — an almost ironic metaphor for a life that the characters will never experience — and the melancholy undertones are proof of it.

Conversely, religious-like voices sing along to the notes played by an organ just before the atomic bomb goes off in the final episode. When the explosion happens and light fills the sky, a calm, solemn song is the only audible element — it doesn’t sound sorrowful, but rather celebratory. Nine and Twelve have finally arrived at the end of their journey. An interesting detail that might go unnoticed is the presence of music in the temporary post-apocalyptic tech-free world that is the last allegory of the show. In an environment stripped of its modernity, headphones are the only remaining element of technological advancement, and music the last safe harbor for a young man who is about to die.

Sometimes violent, sometimes peaceful, the soundtrack of Terror in Resonance accompanies the audience on a journey punctuated by loss and grief. Sweet moments exist side by side with terrifying explosions of anger and pain, and the music is there to interpret and elevate them, showing that a great score can indeed sublimate a work of fiction and turn it into something absolutely unique.

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