Zankyou no Terror – 02

Zankyou no Terror - 02 -11 Zankyou no Terror - 02 -17 Zankyou no Terror - 02 -28

Am I the only one who says “You’re welcome” every time I see the title of this series?

Well, there’s just no doubt about it – Zankyou no Terror is anime royalty.  While I still find it to be more a cerebral than a visceral experience (less so than after the premiere, though) what an experience it is.  This series reminds me a bit of Kon Satoshi’s Paranoia Agent, which coming from me is high praise, and it’s no coincidence – that was a Madhouse series from the time when MAPPA founder Maruyama Masao was the dominant presence there, and his stamp is all over this show as well.

Like Paranoia Agent, Zankyou (dou itashimashite) no Terror is the work of a superlative director, and these series are about as cinematic as it’s possible for a TV anime to be – like watching a 22-minute movie play out every week.  The great missing piece of information here is still who’s writing it – perhaps it’s Watanabe himself, which wouldn’t be a shock as the material he’s written as well as directed has tended to be more intellectually than emotionally-driven.  There’s a coldness to Zankyou no Terror, a sense of remove – and I think it works very well with the type of story it’s telling.  But that remove seems to disappear when the camera focuses on Lisa, when everything becomes more gut-level and unhinged.

I take some issue with the fact that there were supposedly no casualties in the collapse of the Tokyo Government Building (half of it, anyway).  This could be a plot point, of course – but if not, and it’s an attempt to cast the teen terrorists at the heart of the story in a more morally ambiguous light, I think it’s a failed one because fire alarms or not it’s absolutely incomprehensible that there would have been no fatalities (or even serious injuries) in such a disaster.  Not to mention that Nine and Twelve unmistakably killed several people in stealing the plutonium from the Aomori processing facility.  If the story is to be cast in a morally grey light once the revelations about the boys’ past are revealed, so be it and all the better – but let’s not deceive ourselves about the nature of what they’re doing in Tokyo in the moment.

We have a story, then, that’s developing on two parallel fronts.  There’s the chess match brewing between the boys and the “First Division”, who’ve been put in charge of catching them.  And there’s Lisa, who gives the events in the series a personal impact.  “You’re an accomplice…  But you’re not one of us.” Twelve tells her, fittingly for a girl who clearly feels alienated from the rest of the world.  Her mother has been abandoned by her father and now seems to be quite unbalanced, frighteningly possessive about her daughter, and she seems to be either bulimic or pregnant.  Lisa is the human face of Zankyou no Terror – only when she’s on-screen do I feel rather than think the story, and I believe that’s quite by Watanabe-sensei’s design.  His direction in her scenes is starkly different – much more claustrophobic and immediate, all close-ups and unexpected voices and events.  Touji’s interest in her is fascinating – he’s toying with her, clearly, and enjoying the disorientation he causes her, but he sees something in her than connects with him in a way I would assume very little has.

Shibasaki is clearly destined to be the opponent in this life-and-death game, the most capable brain in the ranks of the “good guys”.  There’s a lot of political intrigue here, naturally, with the police and military quite concerned with not being blamed for whatever else might go wrong.  The First Investigative Division is put in charge and their leader, Kurahashi, is clearly enough of a veteran to be wary of being made a scapegoat.  But he seems a genuinely capable and responsible sort, and he definitely has a prior relationship with Shibasaki – even pleading with him to “come back” at one point (after sharing confidential information with him).  Why is Shibasaki toiling away in the basement with the archives department, and why does the notion of coming back cause him to break out in a cold sweat?

It seems fitting that the Sphinx is a recurring theme of Zankyou no Terror, because this is a series that’s very good at riddles.  Touji and Arata’s second Youtube video (yes it was them in the first one, my mistake) offers a message to the police in the form of one of the Riddles of the Sphinx: “What walks on two legs, then on four legs, then on three legs?”  Kurahashi correctly makes the connection to the Sphinx, and correctly (based on pronunciation) to the Greek and not Egyptian legends, which connects the riddle to Oedipus (which itself is likely connected to the boys’ dark past).  But everyone makes a crucial mistake and interprets the riddle in 4-2-3 form (four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon and three at night) which is not what Arata says in the video.  Shibaraki connects this to an alternative version of the riddle which concerns Oedipus himself (which I confess I’m not familiar with, and therefore cannot verify is an actual thing), and warns Kurahashi that this implies an attack at the Roppongi police building – but to late to prevent the explosion or clear the building.  I’ll be very interested to see whether this event is likewise implausibly said to have caused zero casualties.

This really is a fascinating battle of wits and wills playing out here, and for the most part it hews close enough to reality to make events in the series that much more unsettlingly realistic.  I have no idea how feasible it is to use thermite bombs to cause phreatic explosions in a terror attack (there’s always the part of you that wonders if this kind of thing might give real bad guys ideas) but the explanation given by the forensic investigator makes it sound utterly plausible.  I’ll have to use the term “master class” again because that’s really what MAPPA is giving us here, just as Kon-sensei and Madhouse did with Paranoia Agent.  It’s a privilege to watch this kind of brilliance express itself through anime, and we’re lucky to have visionaries like Watanabe and Maruyama to keep the tradition alive.

Zankyou no Terror - 02 -8 Zankyou no Terror - 02 -9 Zankyou no Terror - 02 -10
Zankyou no Terror - 02 -12 Zankyou no Terror - 02 -13 Zankyou no Terror - 02 -14
Zankyou no Terror - 02 -15 Zankyou no Terror - 02 -16 Zankyou no Terror - 02 -18
Zankyou no Terror - 02 -19 Zankyou no Terror - 02 -20 Zankyou no Terror - 02 -21
Zankyou no Terror - 02 -22 Zankyou no Terror - 02 -23 Zankyou no Terror - 02 -24
Zankyou no Terror - 02 -25 Zankyou no Terror - 02 -26 Zankyou no Terror - 02 -27
Zankyou no Terror - 02 -29 Zankyou no Terror - 02 -30 Zankyou no Terror - 02 -31
Zankyou no Terror - 02 -32 Zankyou no Terror - 02 -33 Zankyou no Terror - 02 -34


  1. s

    First, I loved paranoia agent so kudos for making the comparison; one of madhouse's best work. And I agree with you that when Lisa comes on screen, that's when the more human element of the show rears itself; Even so, there's human details even in the intellectual engaging parts of the series that serve to give us information about the characters.

    Dont you just feel bad for Lisa? Not because of the situation she's thrown into but just because of how it seems that she just let's the world walk all over her? Atsumi Tanezaki does a fine job portraying this very weak person. Bright girl though; I dont think it was a coincidence that she was reading that Oedipus manga; I think she figured out the boys riddle, which may have been why she hid the manga (or maybe she was just shy) when twelve showed up, and why he got a little fiesty with her later on.

    Oh n technically there were casualties from the terrorist attack last ep; 27 people were injured but there just werent any fatalities or people who died…..I guess i can buy that seeing the position of the civilians in relation to the attack last ep

  2. K

    Casualty in the context of a terrorist attack means death.

  3. s

    No, casualties in any context even terrorism refers to anything from death, wounded, or missing persons (it's a common mistake that people usually think casualties has one definition in a certain context). Fatalities actually imply death more so than casualties. A non-fatal injury is a casualty so in the case of Zankyou no terror , there were casualties and no fatalities

  4. However you want to parse words, that there were no deaths or serious injuries based on what we saw happen is either an intentional plot point or an unintentional plot hole. It's utterly inconceivable.

  5. s

    No way they can just say after this weeks events that there were no serious injuries next week. I saw debris fly past people this time unlike last time where it was the shock wave and smoke that hit the civilians. We'll know for sure what's up after the next ep. What is clear that this guys are willing to kill if they have to if it is in line with their goal. At this moment, targeting the powers of Tokyo appear to be their main goal.

  6. m

    It's very weird that there would be no deaths when a large building collapses in a major city. You would assume at least a few firemen/policemen would likely be around when it fell. More important is the fact that it's just flat out dumb in the context of the story. I don't care what morals someone has, they aren't committing acts of terror on civilians, but refusing to kill anyone. That's nonsense. Especially given how willing they are to kill Lisa for no real reason, and how they've killed people before when taking the plutonium. When someone is threatening to kill someone just to mess with their head, and is committing acts of terror than they aren't so noble as to avoid killing anyone in their bombs. That's a serious issue for me with this show. I have no prob with MC who are terrorists, and not even remotely good people, but I don't like this "they aren't all bad" bullshit Watanabe is doing. It's really poor planning or writing or whatever you want to call it. He's forcing conflicting mentalities on the MC so they don't seem so evil….they're terrorists not good people. End of discussion. I like the show, but the back and forth between morality needs to stop, or go somewhere that makes sense quickly.

  7. J

    I'm pretty sure the lack of deaths is to show that the first bombing was a warning to make the government realise that VON have control.

  8. K

    The second answer to the riddle is real, though definitely obscure compared to the one everyone knows.

  9. w

    I read that there are indeed two answers. I haven't read Oedipus 's story— I only know him from the term Oedipus complex (I'm a psych major, heard it countless times). ^^

  10. j

    Do you know the source, Kurama Hitsugaya? I can find neither hide nor hair of that version, though there is a second version unrelated to feet or numbers floating around (to which the answer is 'day and night'). The 2-4-3 version can't be from antiquity because it relies on Oedipus meeting the Sphinx after his blinding rather than before his marriage to Jocasta, though admittedly nobody ever says it is classical. I'd love to know where it comes from.

    (Between this and Uta's Latin tattoo written in the Greek alphabet, it's been a good day to be a classics student watching anime.)

  11. B

    Yeah, the fact that only 27 people suffered minor injuries kind of bothers me. It's rather weird when you consider that the staff has gone to great lengths to make sure that almost everything else is as painstakingly realistic as possible. In addition to what was said in the comment above, I've found out (via prowling on Internet forums) that the explanation on thermite and pheratic explosions actually holds some merit. I speculate that there seems to be some kind of escalation in the way their attacks are being carried out- first, they blow up the building after making sure everyone's been evacuated, and then they blow up another building without caring about the people inside.

  12. w

    Read something about thermite having something to do with pyrotechnics and possibly having similar reactions or whatever with black powder/gunpower. Phreatic stuff meanwhile, connected to volcanic eruptions or something to do with molten ground stuff. As what I can remember in ep 1, it did look like the walls melted first before they exploded—which may be the phreatic stuff and then thermite stuff. Pretty meticulous of them.

  13. R

    For your amusement, thermite is actually easy to make, since all you need is aluminum powder and rust (iron oxide). or sand,which are very easy to obtain. And once mixed in the right amount, this can burn at a high temp (reaching around 2600 degrees Celsius). For comparison, concrete melts at only around 1000 degrees Celsius.

    On the other hand, phreatic explosions happens when water is instantly heated into steam and trapped such that the increased pressure causes it to explode.

    So basically, the kids intentionally placed the thermite bombs near the pillars and under the sprinklers, such that when ignited, these melted the concrete and then activated the sprinklers, which instantly created steam and caused the explosions.


  14. That's what I mean by worrying about giving the bad guys ideas…

  15. R

    Pray, Enzo, that there is no anime fan in the terrorist networks. But then again, this is very much "basic" stuff, considering the loads of info that can be taken from the net.

  16. n

    Knowing the ingredients hardly guarantees a good dish. And even knowing the cooking procedure does not guarantee a good end-product, speaking from experiences. I'm sure bombs are the same! 😉

  17. w

    @Roger: Thanks~ I forgot about the sprinklers. Of course, that was the phreatic whatever. I was thinking about either ground or water…Oh well never mind lol.

    Anyway, I hope no one tries this in reality even if it might sound quite an experiment…just nope.

  18. w

    Few people dying/hurting may be plausible…judging by the time Twelve arranged the toys around the building while there was a fire alarm.

    I love this show. I love that it works well even with the coldness. I'm more interested with knowing what VON means though (and I don't think it's connected to German naming). Possibly the name of where they came from? If Twelve and Nine are their code names there…

    Oh well it will be exciting to know their pasts and motives. I'd like to see/hear more of Lisa's perceptions. As she is the odd one out in their group, it will be interesting to see how she'll develop.

    Thanks for the review~

  19. A

    They did have over twenty minutes to evacuate the building, and here in the UK at least when buildings are evacuated you normally move away from the building to a safe distance, whether it's that old favourite a 'suspect package' or a fire.
    So there's a good chance people would have been far enough away not to get caught up in the first explosion and its shower of debris. The low casualty count may be improbable, but not impossible and I'm prepared to let that ride.

    It's definitely a cinematic kind of show – the opening of the first episode would not have gone amiss as the opener to any action thriller, and really I find myself thinking the only reason to do this as anime rather than live action is because the effects are cheaper.

    This is top stuff.

  20. s

    Even if they had evacuated the building, the section of the building collapsing should have killed a bunch of people, but again because the boys timed the collapse of the building properly, the area around the building had been closed off around the time the piece of the building actually fell off, all of which was orchestrated, which i can buy because when i watched the ep i didnt actually see anyone get hurt severly and i even questioned if anyone got caught up in the carnage. Not to mention my disbelief is suspended even more by the fact that they released the youtube video warning of the attack, which proves it was an orchestrated attempt to lessen casualties. This attack on the other hand was not, and it seems like people got hurt this time around.

  21. R

    Hey, is it true that Al Qaeda is the one financing the series? hehehe! Kidding aside, I must say, the level of detail that they do here is just disturbing (by the way, to those not familiar, Tor is an actual program you can download to surf the net anonymously). With regards to the Sphinx riddle though, I think this one is completely made up for the series, as there is no mention of that other "version" used in the story from anywhere else.

    I am half and half with regards to the "zero casualty" plot though. It is plausible, but it often has to do more with chance rather than pure design on the kids' part.

    Also, I find it odd how easily Nine managed to slip that bomb in to the police station without being suspected. none of the officers even bothered asking "Hey guys, who ordered the noodles?"

    Overall, the series is definitely nicely paced and is packed with intrigue that definitely gets me to watch, with the big question of: what is Nine and Twelve really up to? And what's the deal with Lisa? And I definitely had to laud that musical score. It really is something very fitting.

  22. n

    (Weird… I thought I already posted this comment.. anyway, I'll post it again)

    If this was done a couple of years ago, say… 2010, I wouldn't believe that it was impossible to track these two boys. With the advent of html5 videos on youtube, it's now possible to upload and view videos in tor browser without using flash. Flash has this vulnerability to show your ip address even if you're using the tor network. BUT I wouldn't say it's really impossible to track them down. There are still some things you can exploit, though, that'd involve working with google (as their the owner of youtube) hahaha

    I was actually about to say, "wait… don't you need flash to use youtube? then, it's not impossible". Good thing, I searched a bit.

    Anyway, kudos to the staff for being meticulous.

  23. S

    Loving Lisa so far and her music is great too.

  24. H

    "The great missing piece of information here is still who's writing it – perhaps it's Watanabe himself, which wouldn't be a shock as the material he's written as well as directed has tended to be more intellectually than emotionally-driven." I think I saw somewhere that it was all but confirmed that the name in the credits either refers to him or the whole team but I can't remember where I saw the tweet on it/their info so I can't source it….

  25. Well, it's definitely a fake name but there's no guarantee it refers to Watanabe himself or to the entire staff – it could be Satou Dai ghostwriting for all we know…

  26. a

    Enzo, I just want to add a third possibility about Lisa's nausea problem. Besides it being bulimia or pregnancy, maybe it could be some anxiety disorder? I know one of the symptoms is nausea.

    In the first episode, the with Lisa in the bathroom with her lunch, she only upchucks after she gets her mom's spamming texts. It makes me think that she's reacting to her mom's overbearingness more than some ill conceived notion about her appearance.

    If the writers wanted us to believe that Lisa was bulimic or pregnant, I think that they would at least show more hints about those. So far we've only seen how overbearing her mom is, which leads me to think anxiety disorder or some kind of stress.

  27. s

    It's definitely anxiety; after my first viewing of the premiere, i assumed she might have extreme anxiety with a mix of agoraphobia because of the way she always seems to be running to a bathroom in some way of avoiding people, crowds, and open spaces but after some thinking, it became clear to me that she just suffers from anxiety. Her mother causes her distress and due to her bullying, she is always wary wherever she goes that her "enemies" are just around the corner, which is why she always seems to be sneaking around as if hiding from someone. At least if she's in a stall, no one can see her and no one would want to enter. In there she feels safe and she can shut everything else out. Not to mention she stays out afterschool even though she has no friends just as a way to not go home.

  28. H

    That debriefing scene was so authentic! Lisa is a bit of a trudge in the mud, but I'll keep an eye on that one. Shibasaki is my fav so far.

Leave a Comment