I won’t deny that there are times I wish I loved Zankyou no Terror as much as I admire it. But I do admire it an awful lot. It’s just so relentlessly beautiful in its execution – every episode has moments that leave me just about speechless. The motorcycle sequence, the insert song (Kanno Yoko I’m assuming, but I haven’t seen an official credit – Kanno-sensei insists her English is “poor” and the song’s is quite natural), every frame of Lisa’s nerve-jangling time on the streets – it’s really unassailably brilliant stuff.
Still, there’s a discernible detach to the series, which is no doubt one of the reasons why I find it harder to connect with it emotionally than intellectually. However, it’s now obvious that this is quite intentional – Watanabe-sensei is telling a story about alienation here, and part of his method is to keep us from getting too close to the people on-screen. It would be wrong to make too much of a comparison to Paranoia Agent at this point – that was an overtly surrealist work by a much more avante-garde director in Kon Satoshi – but it’s striking how that story about a different sort of terrorism felt so much more immediate and personal than this one does. Kon and Watanabe could hardly be more different in terms of style and the two series certainly seem to reflect each of them in their own comfort zone. It’s not a criticism of one or the other show – merely an observation on how brilliance in art can be achieved in vastly different ways even in the same medium.
It it makes any sense, even on the intellectual level I find myself much more invested in the process of events in Terror in Resonance than the events themselves. I don’t actually find the riddles laid out by the boys for Shibasaki to solve to be all that interesting, and while the background that pushed them to these extremes has been teased in fascinating glimpses, it’s still far too much of an abstraction to really compel. Even Lisa’s story, the most human and personal in the series, is abstract – we know roughly what she’s dealing with at home and how it makes her feel, but almost nothing of why things have degraded to this degree. It’s almost as if, to this point, Watanabe and whoever is writing the series (if indeed they aren’t one and the same person) don’t consider those questions to be important. Whether that changes and how the transition is handled if it does are going to be crucial factors for the series going forward.
Rather, it’s simply watching the rats in their maze that’s most compelling. The lack of emotional histrionics gives the events of Zankyou no Terror a greater sense of realism, already a strong point with Watanabe’s restrained and incisive direction. It’s interesting to watch the clinical deconstruction of Lisa’s existence, Watanbe’s ruthless portrayal of how unprepared she is to deal with any element of her life. The cat-and-mouse between Shibasaki and the boys is like an exquisitely choreographed dance, and in Watanabe’s hands even the internal politics of the investigation take on a gritty documentary fascination.
I don’t think Shibasaki’s resentful colleague was entirely wrong in his shouted accusation that Shibasaki was enjoying the duel with Sphinx, even if Shibasaki was entirely in the right about the specifics of the impending incident. This is an extraordinarily bright cop who’s surely been bored out of his mind since his exile, and I think he’s getting off on this in a somewhat similar way to what Netero felt in his duel with Meruem. This time around Shibasaki treks to Aomori to try and get inside the heads of his targets, stating quite sagely that no matter how carefully someone covers their tracks, human memories abide. The most interesting comment from the former supervisor is surely that the strange young man told him he was “listening to music from a cold land” on his headphones – an unintentional clue that will likely end up telling Shibasaki more crucial information than all the intentional ones Sphinx have left for him.
It does seem as if we’ve reached another stage of the duel now, with Sphinx having realized they have an opponent worth engaging. Their “attack” this time comes in the form of a different sort of bomb – they hack into the police archives and steal the reports regarding their own case. Shibasaki doesn’t realize what the consequences of failure are as he’s chasing their riddle about the Oracle at Delphi and his own name – one which he solves, only to have his victory annulled because the department didn’t play by the rules – but no buildings are blown up. Rather the boys release the records to the public, ultimately more damaging to their cause but preserving for now the moral ambiguity which Zankyou no Terror seems to be striving to maintain regarding their actions.
Ultimately I still believe this is evolving into Arata and Touji leaving a trail for Shibasaki to follow to the secrets of their childhood, but I’m not so quick to absolve them from judgment. Whether the series itself will continue to try and have it both ways morally or ultimately commit one way or the other remains to be seen, but for the moment it seems that Lisa is the key to exposing something more of who the boys really are. Twelve clearly wants something out of his contact with Lisa that he isn’t otherwise receiving – a sense of connection to humanity, perhaps – but all of their interaction is still couched in terms of keeping tabs on Lisa because she can’t be trusted with what she knows. She’s a wild card here in many ways – I could even see a situation arising where both boys develop feelings for her and this causes tension between them, though it’s not likely. One way or another she’s the catalyst for change in the story, I think, and I expect that to start asserting itself as soon as next week.