First things first. If you haven’t seen Terror in Resonance, go do that and then come back so we can rave about the bike scene. But anyway, I want you to imagine an open book. The words are written in black ink, etched onto a smooth, cream-tint page. It’s a poem, very plainly written. Now, visually, you would tell me the letters are black. They’re written in black ink so they’re black, but what if I told you that this isn’t the case for everyone? What if I told you that every “I” could be perceived as a rich yellow color, and every “E” a pea-tone green?
In theory, this sounds like a neurodivergent glitch—for someone to be able to recognize a letter as a color it wasn’t written in. But tasting sounds, feeling sounds, and seeing a haze of color when people speak are all real conditions. It’s called synesthesia—where the mind fuses two or more senses together to create an otherwise unrelated reaction to stimulus—and about 2 to 4 percent of the population has it.
If you were to ask me what color the letter “A” was, I would tell you red because I have grapheme-color. Franz Liszt, the famous composer, would have stepped up to his podium and demanded the orchestra play, “a little bluer.” And actually, that is Twelve’s condition. He opens his eyes and sees voices in a vast array of colors. For every scream or laugh or whisper there is a new tone, designated to each individual person.
Considering the plot, this fits seamlessly for Twelve. He’s a terrorist, playing one side of the duo known as Sphinx. In episode 6, we learn his capability is an everyday occurrence, as he turns to Lisa and tells her gently, “your voice is a pale yellow.” It’s rare, he says, and she gives him no comment on it in return. It’s likely that he could have used his synesthesia in the past, as his own perception of people is probably doused in a horizon of shades. Remembering someone for him could be as simple as watching the sunset—for every tint he could have a voice assigned—but interestingly enough, the writers keep this from us.
We’re never told whether or not Twelve uses it. We only know that he sees Lisa’s voice in pale yellow, and that he knows it’s rare for him. We do know that he has an exceptional memory since he’s able to recall the exact placement of cameras. He also seems to be somewhat of a sensory genius, which makes his synesthesia even more fascinating.
To say that this show has a lovely way of defining loss and affection would be an understatement. We probably don’t think of affection in shades other than red, and whether or not it was platonic, something wonderful happens when you realize this tidbit about Twelve. Through all of his strife, there were most likely times where he needed to search for others in dark rooms or streets otherwise filled with strangers. To think that he might find people by a burst of orange or a faded blue worming through a sea of other colors does something to you on a second watch. He may only call Nine by a number—since he was raised in a children’s institution where they stripped them of standard names—but he’s able to pinpoint people by colors no one else is able to see. In that way, he wins against the institution. They’ll never be able to take Lisa’s voice from him.
It’s possible that those with chromesthesia feel this way. At least for me, with grapheme, I’m always happy to grant others the knowledge of which color their names are. In terms of everyday life, it’s nice to think that humans aren’t as ordinary as we perceive them to be. We do have powers. We’re just still discovering them.
Lauren is a 23-year-old cosplayer and writer from Chicago. Her favorite shows include Wolf’s Rain, Terror in Resonance, and Samurai Champloo. If you can’t reach her for whatever reason, she’s probably reading or figuring out how to turn her kendo skills into functional ones. She’ll be back in a minute.