Random Rant: Lisa Mishima (Terror In Resonance)

Terror in Resonance is a 2014 anime series produced by studio MAPPA and directed by the same person who brought us Cowboy Bebop (Shinichiro Watanabe). It’s well known for having excellent animation and an equally excellent soundtrack. The story follows Twelve and Nine, two young terrorists with a secret purpose behind their criminal acts. Detective Shibazaki is the keenly intelligent man who tries to catch the perpetrators. But the story isn’t only about the terrorists and the detectives. There is another main character: Lisa Mishima, the subject of today’s rant.

Initially, I planned a post that was a full-on, passionate defense of this character. But after re-watching the anime, I was forced to accept that I don’t have the grounds for such an article. So instead of being completely defensive, this rant will also highlight the weaknesses in the way Lisa’s character was written and developed. That being said, I still like Lisa. There is a strong dislike for her among most fans of Terror in Resonance. Let me say just say a few things about that, and how I don’t but into such crap.

When re-watching Terror in Resonance, I found comment sections on a certain streaming site that were extremely toxic; all were full of burning, unreasonable hatred for Lisa. Now, I understand that these comment sections on certain sites are toxicity magnets where the scum of the fandom gather. Still, the I suspect that there also reasonable fans who feel annoyed at the character. But why? Some people don’t even know why they were frustrated. So I will explain several problems with her character and the way it’s written that contribute to this issue. But let me restate loud and clear: I don’t hate Lisa, and if anyone in the comments is hateful, then their comment will be deleted. This post will also include some interesting and positive things about Lisa.


Lisa’s Annoying Character Elements

To start with, part of why Lisa is annoying is because she’s overshadowed by the other characters and the main plot. Terror in Resonance is a somewhat brainy anime, and the main characters Twelve and Nine are geniuses. Their enemy, Five, and detective Shibazaki are also highly intelligent. They are knowledgeable, quick to make plans, solve problems, and intuitively understand new information. Because anime like this is relatively rare, it attracts fans who are looking specifically for “smarter” content and gifted characters. But then there is Lisa, someone of average intelligence with a subtle and emotional subplot. People watch the anime to see the boys, not Lisa. That’s what I meant by her being overshadowed.

Speaking of Lisa’s level of intellect, it’s quite possible that she has learning deficits such as a developmental disorder. In any case, she seems less intelligent than average. She does a number of particularly stupid things over the course of the anime. Whether or not she does have some kind of mental disability, lower intellect is not exactly a valid reason to hate a character. However, I can understand the more reasonable argument that Lisa’s lacking intellect creates a sense of disbelief that she would be accepted by Twelve and Nine. (Personally, I think the contrast is really neat.)

This section isn’t supposed to be for character defense, so let’s get back to the main topic. Two of the strongest reasons why fans get annoyed with Lisa are her uselessness to Twelve and Nine and her personality. People conflate these two things a lot but I view them as separate issues. I don’t really understand hating characters over their personality, unless of course their “personality” is mostly a collection of negative traits. But that isn’t the case with Lisa. Despite not understanding the logic of that, let me talk about Lisa’s personality and what viewers have said is annoying about it.

The character of Lisa stands in stark contrast to much of the other content and characters. In terms of personality, she’s quiet, nervous, flighty, and highly emotional. She’s like a scared little mouse. Meanwhile, Nine is courageous, stoic, and emotionally detached. While Twelve is sociable, charming, and keenly aware, Lisa is introverted, awkward, and unobservant. It’s quite a contrast to switch scenes from characters like Nine or Shibazaki to a scene of Lisa. For some people, it’s just too much of a contrast. Lisa’s character feels out of place to some people. That much makes sense to me. What I don’t understand is hating on characters for having relatable issues like anxiety or stress-induced mood swings.

As much I try to vouch for Lisa, there’s no denying she’s useless to Nine and Twelve. She genuinely desires to be useful to them once she joins them, but she has no practical skills. In fact, she usually just causes extra trouble for them. Once the boys agree to let her help with a mission, Lisa does carry it out successfully, but gets captured afterward, creating immense problems. She is also the one who drives Twelve and Nine apart for their biggest mission. I think it’s reasonable to get annoyed with a character who is so useless to help the other main characters.

We’ve already gone over several good reasons why Lisa can be annoying, but I have another. That is the weakness of the way she is written into the story. One can argue that Lisa essentially exists as a plot device. She’s important because she contributes the romantic subplot needed for Twelve’s character growth and humanization. In addition, Lisa’s own most powerful character moments happen in episodes 1 and 4. For the remaining episodes, it seems like nothing happens. Technically, there is a continuing character arc for her, but it’s so subtle that it can be missed or ignored. Now, this should actually make people angry at the director and original creator, not at the character. I suppose you can’t really expect logic from haters, though.


Lisa’s Importance and Character Insights

We’re finally done with reasons why Lisa is annoying, so now let’s change perspectives. We’ll look into why Lisa is still an important character and why I like her. Insights into her life will also be given. In fact, that’s how we will begin. In order to appreciate the character more, it’s essential to understand what her life is like and what she’s going through.

Lisa is an emotional highschool girl, so that alone predisposes her to extra stress and reactivity. She lives alone with her mother, since her father left them. This brings us to the first of Lisa’s issues. Her mother is mentally ill, often hysterical, and extremely possessive. It’s hard for anyone to deal with a severe case of a mentally ill family member, but it’s probably the worst when a child’s parent is psychologically unstable. The kid is likely going to suffer. That’s what we see happening to Lisa. Her mom spams her with texts and calls on her phone all day whenever she is away from home, even at school. At home, she hysterically rants at Lisa about being away from home. She sometimes yells in Lisa’s face and on at least one occasion kept grabbing and shaking her. Imagine dealing with this every day.

In addition to her nightmare of a mother, Lisa also deals with bullying at school. In Lisa’s first scene in the anime, she is being bullied into jumping off the diving board into the pool even though she’s terrified of heights, and is wearing her school uniform. Apparently the bullying is pretty consistent, because we see Lisa going to eat her lunch in the outside bathrooms to be alone. She doesn’t seem to have a single friend at school. It’s certain that she is alienated from others and feels out of place. That’s part of why Twelve showed interest in her. She is a social outcast.

Now that we know what Lisa struggles with, it’s about damn time that we give her some credit. She is not a “special” person, but she works with Nine and Twelve. Rather than thinking of herself as a hostage, she longs to be useful. And for an average person in a peaceful country, she’s quite brave. She was not traumatized by the terrorism or the danger of being with the boys. It’s only natural for her to be emotional and timid when she has dealt with the problems I described above. It’s refreshing to have a normal character with normal flaws and vulnerabilities. I’d be less impressed with Terror in Resonance if every single character was a genius. So in my mind at least, Lisa is amazing.

Next we’ll talk about Lisa’s contributions to the story of Terror in Resonance and its underlying themes. I mentioned in the previous section that some people think of Lisa as plot device. Personally, I believe there’s more to her than that. But even if there wasn’t any more, Lisa’s role in the story would still give her character immense value. Like I said before, she’s imperative to the character development of Twelve. But let me give a bit more detail on that topic in case it’s not clear.

Twelve is an anti-hero regardless of how much fans adore him (and I also adore him). Something was needed to show that this boy is still human and very capable of loving others despite his crimes and dangerous mind. Lisa is that something. Because he fell in love with Lisa, Twelve had a much more powerful character arc. And that’s not her only important role. The last thing Nine says before dying is, “Remember us… remember that we lived.” Lisa is necessary for granting that wish. While Detective Shibazaki will also help in remembering the boys, he will do so from a respectful but distant perspective. On the other hand, Lisa carries the burden of remembering the boys on an emotional and personal level. You can see now how valuable this girl is in Terror in Resonance.


To illustrate what I mean, I’ll need to go over Lisa’s character arc. In the first episode, she’s miserable dealing with her mother and the bullies. The stress is so intense she becomes nauseous and can’t even eat her lunch. She wishes that everyone would disappear. But once she gets caught up in the first Sphinx attack, Lisa is forced to choose life or death, and she seems surprised at her own exclamation of not wanting to die. So she joins Nine and Twelve as an accomplice. But something is odd here. Although she feels intimidated by them, there is something more prominent than her fear. Lisa is entranced by the boys– even thrilled.

Later on, Lisa reveals what she was thinking with her line, “In that moment, I thought I could break free. I thought I’d be carried somewhere out of this world.” What is this girl thinking? She’s happy to be in a terrorist attack and experiencing hope because of it?! I think this odd way of thinking is extremely fascinating. We see it continue when Twelve tells Lisa he will kill her if she makes a wrong move. Instead of appearing frightened, Lisa looks at the boy as if in awe. It’s not that she wants to be killed. It’s that she’s captivated by the free lives of the boys. (Well, and she’s attracted to Twelve, too.)

Unfortunately for Lisa, she had to go back right back to her miserable life after the first attack. She was driven so mad by it that she ran away from home. Twelve kept tabs on her. When Lisa was about to be caught by police, he zoomed in on his motorcycle and took her along for a high-speed ride. This is where we see one of Lisa’s most interesting moments. She breathes in the rushing air, enjoying the exciting moments. When she asks Twelve if he is going to destroy the whole world, she does so in a voice of eagerness. Twelve seems to find this funny, and laughs, which makes Lisa laugh too. This is the first and only time we hear a genuine laugh from Lisa in the anime.

What exactly is the meaning here? It means that, like Twelve and Nine, Lisa is also an outcast who doesn’t care if society goes to hell. In fact, even without knowing the hidden motives of the boys, she wants to help them with their destructive missions. Tired of an oppressive life where nobody really recognized her, Lisa is excited for freedom and the chance to prove herself. The motorcycle moment in episode 4 was when Lisa finally got a taste of adventure and liberty, and decided to help Twelve however possible.

After that, Lisa’s character arc quiets down and becomes much more subtle. Her main concern is to be of use to Twelve and Nine. This is another form of tying to gain recognition. She becomes braver, although she causes a lot of trouble by getting captured. When Lisa realizes that she is driving Twelve and Nine apart, as well as making their missions harder, she leaves them. This leads to her being captured again, and Twelve has to come save her. The Farris Wheel scene is an important one, where Lisa hears Twelve’s love confession. She becomes suddenly and completely calm, and tells Twelve to run away since she is alright now. I believe that means she finally got the kind of recognition she needed.

As you can see, the journey of Lisa reflects the themes of child outcasts making their mark and seeking recognition. It’s just as important to the story as the journeys of Twelve and Nine. Lisa is clearly a psychologically interesting character who has more going on than what’s apparently obvious. And don’t forget her other uses described previously, such as being critical for Twelve’s character development, and taking on the task of remembering and honoring Twelve and Nine.

To sum it all up, Lisa can certainly be annoying, but is still a crucial and rather engrossing character. It is my hope that your appreciation has increased not just for Lisa but for the wonderful work that is Terror in Resonance. Thanks so much for reading through this anime rant. Take care, and come visit again soon!


PATREON

2 comments

  1. The thing I dislike about Lisa is, quite simply, she is completely useless in every practical sense. Yes, she is part of the boys’ story, showing they can still care, but that’s where the accusations of her being a plot device come in. She herself does not really contribute anything to them or their cause. No brilliant insights, no skills to help in a crisis, no domestic skills, not even a reliable shoulder to cry on, if I recall correctly. She’s just kind of… there. And that’s it. It made the time spent on her seem wasted in some way.

    Liked by 2 people

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