An interesting thing happened with Zankyou no Terror this week. The series got sillier and less believable, and became considerably more engaging in the process. That whole heart/head equation that I’ve been talking up with this series is by no means an either-or situation – some shows are able to connect in both areas, and a great many more manage to do neither. But so far, with this one they do seem to have an inverse relationship.
However you choose to look at it, even if there were elements of this episode of Terror in Resonance that irritated me, on the whole it was probably the most entertaining episode of the series. We can start with Lisa’s impact, because that’s what the episode did. Her relationship with Nine and Twelve is easily the most conventional part of the series, but also its most recongizably human. This is fairly normal stuff for the most part – she’s a runaway with nowhere to go, lonely and desperate. Twelve gets emotionally attached and ends up bringing her home, where her physical collapse pretty much precludes getting rid of her despite Nine’s misgivings (which as we shall see, are not misplaced). It’s practically a slice-of-life comedy.
Except it’s not, because as we know life with Arata and
Taichi Touji is anything but normal. And Lisa’s charming clumsy mistakes can have pretty serious consequences, like nearly blowing up the apartment by playing with what she shouldn’t have. When she turns her attention to cooking, she nearly burns the place down. Lisa has an innately sympathetic quality to her, and she does bring a level of connectedness Zankyou no Terror when she’s on-screen that the show otherwise lacks. But I’m ready at this point to start actually getting to know her a bit – at the moment she’s used more as a device than as a real character.
There’s no question now that Arata and Touji are being painted as victims and idealists who prioritize never killing anyone. I don’t question their victim status but the notion that they could have done the things they have with no one being killed – and that they could believe it was possible – stretches credulity a lot. Nevertheless that’s what we’re asked to accept, and this week the bomb is inside a fire extinguisher on a subway car on the thinly-disguised Marunouchi Line. The “FEZ 5889” riddle is a bit of a softball, but that’s on purpose – the boys want to make sure Shibasaki solves it in plenty of time to disarm the bomb and everyone can be safe and happy. And they want him to connect the fact (which he does) that the placement of the bombs is connected by the heads of the agencies that were targeted – all members of “Rising Peace”, a group supposedly created to further connections between political leaders and the people, and now peopled with numerous corporate titans and heavyweight politicians.
Well, that’s an obvious crossroads moment if ever there was one, and dots are starting to be connected. Shibasaki finds himself at odds with the secretive powers that be once again, especially when they commandeer the investigation and order that the First Investigative Unit leave the removal of the bomb to them. It soon becomes clear that no one is removing anything, and both Shibasaki and the boys go off their respective deep ends at this notion. As this is happening all wireless communication mysteriously goes down, leaving the boys unable to disarm the bomb remotely – and they launch a desperate campaign to do so physically, with Twelve racing towards where the car is likely to be and Nine trying to hack into the subway operator’s systems and pinpoint the exact location. Why, they’re actually heroes!
As absurd as that is – and I do think it’s pretty absurd – it does make for pretty rousing stuff. And it all seems to be the work of Five (Han Megumi) who’s blown into Tokyo in the company of a blonde English-speaker (did I hear an Australian accent?) and commandeered the entire police operation. Five is pretty out there in shounen villain territory by first impressions – it seems as if she was an inmate of the same institution that the boys were, and she knows Nine’s moves – she’s one step ahead of him and manages to hack into his system as he’s trying to hack into the subway’s. There may be deeper motives for her wanting to let the bomb actually explode – perhaps to force the boys into the role of murderers or turn the public against them – but without question the most immediate is to lure them into the trap of exposing themselves by trying to stop their own terrorist attack. Frankly, they don’t earn a whole lot of credibility points by playing right into Five’s hands, and in the end it’s Nine himself that ends up arriving on the scene just as the bomb explodes, shielding a dozing women with his body (so noble!) in a blast that really should have killed him.
Taken collectively, for me all that means Zankyou no Terror has gotten considerably more outlandish and the three main characters all leveled down in terms of competence. Yet it was also somehow more fun than any of the earlier episodes, and Five’s presence does frame the central mystery in what seems like a very interesting light. And maybe seeing the boys stumble about a bit humanizes them in a productive way, though I find their horror at the idea of “becoming mass murderers” utterly preposterous. But maybe there’s a silver lining even in that, and for all their freakish abilities Arata and Youji are typical teenage boys who think they know everything and have a completely unrealistic notion of how the world works. As for that institution – surely connected to Rising Peace – Five’s presence suggests a breeding and training program for super-kids to serve the super-elites (which she’s currently doing, seemingly) and a profound desire to keep that hidden from the general public.