Zankyou no Terror – 06

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I want so badly to love Zankyou no Terror, but wanting isn’t enough.

There was always one thing missing from the C.V. of Zankyou no Terror, and that was any mention of who the main writer was.  We’ve had script credits for individual episodes, a mix of names that may be pen names or newbies and nondescript industry journeymen, but there’s never been a credit for Series Composition – and for original shows that’s especially critical.  It might be Watanabe himself, which would make sense as he’s never claimed that title on any show – and also because, frankly, Watanabe’s track record as a writer is nowhere near as sterling as that of a director.  And so far, it’s in the writing that Terror in Resonance is falling short of its potential.

I can’t sugarcoat the simple fact that this show isn’t especially ringing true for me.  It’s not as though it’s badly written – boring or uninteresting – but the mediocrity in that aspect probably stands out more because of how good the show is technically.  For me the problem has gotten worse for two principal reasons, the first of which is that Five isn’t working for me at all.  And the second is that Lisa is increasingly being marginalized into a formula moe role, and I’d hoped for a whole lot more from her.  There are other issues too, but those stand out at the moment.

I suppose I get where Watanabe (or whoever) is going with Five, but right now she’s basically a mediocre villain from an American comic book.  I know Watanabe loves American comics and so do I, but she feels out of place here.  The garish lipstick, the nail polish (which she’s constantly applying), the incessant snark – it has all the subtlety of a kick in the head.  There’s no drama in her character, at least for me – indeed, if anything it seems as if she’s been placed here to make Nine and Twelve more sympathetic.  In the sense that she can be a device to shed more light on their background, that’s a good thing, but I don’t see a whole lot else that’s positive that she brings to the table.

As for Lisa, her quiet, mysterious desolation was easily the strongest emotional component of the show for the first four episodes for me.  But it feels as if she’s become exponentially more generic in the last two episodes, and that Tanazaki Atsuki (who I like very much indeed as a seiyuu) has slipped into a kind of Kana Hanazawa impersonation as it’s happened (not coincidentally).  If Five’s grandstanding feels out of place, so do Lisa’s textbook Dojikko antics.  In short the more we’ve learned about Lisa the less interesting she’s become, which Occam’s Razor would suggest means there wasn’t a whole lot of “there” there with her character all along.

That could still change, of course, but there’s a sense of urgency here because we only have five episodes left.  I still don’t have a sense of what kind of story Watanabe (or whoever) is trying to tell here, if there’s any larger point to Zankyou no Terror.  Shibasaki is interesting, but everything on the police side of the equation is very formulaic to this point.  Nine and Twelve are relatively likeable, but there hasn’t been the kind of introspection about their reckless endangerment of human lives that would really let us inside the reasons why two theoretically decent children would risk so many lives to further their cause.  Is this a story about alienation in the modern world?  About adolescent angst and helpless rage?  Resentment against American meddling in Japanese affairs?  Corruption in high places?  It’s a patchwork at the moment, but one that hasn’t really been woven into a quilt yet.

Where do things stand now, then?  We have Five continuing to bully the cops and her FBI handlers and lead the boys around by the nose.  She’s set up a trap by planting a bomb at Haneda Airport and casting (not very convincingly) Sphinx as the culprit.  Arata and Touji know it’s a trap, of course, but can’t very well sit by and let the bomb explode and be blamed for it.  Shibasaki knows this isn’t the real Sphinx, but the entire police force has been told to stand down – so he decides to do another end-run around the man, and a bunch of his colleagues join him.  In the real world of course the terminal would have been evacuated immediately, but Five actually needs human lives at risk in order to draw out the boys, and since she’s in charge of everything there’s no announcement at all.  Her game is to turn the entire terminal into a chessboard, apparently in order to finish the game she and Nine were playing when the boys escaped the institution, and she chose not to escape with them.

There were a couple of interesting threads dangled here – Touji telling Lisa he has Synesthesia, and Arata’s “Sanity never entered into it” comment about the institution.  And indeed, Terror is Resonance is not an uninteresting series – it’s a show with a lot of potentially interesting elements that simply need to be connected meaningfully.  That’s a reason for optimism, because obviously a show like that can make the transition into something really good far more quickly than one which simply doesn’t have much in the tank in the first place.  And with one of the best directors in the game in charge, that’s all the more reason to hope it could happen here.  But time’s-a-wastin’, so any time he decided to get on it is good for me.

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  1. q

    Glad to see you got up the post on this so quickly, I've been waiting to comment on it. Let me start by saying this episode was by far the worst of the series and it greatly disappointed me. Watanabe Shinichirou is my favorite director in all of anime, and I felt that this show would blow my already high expectations out of the water. The first five episodes were a great start, and then we get presented this horrible one, which has me second guessing everything I thought this series could be.

    In my opinion, this episode was the most boring out of anything we've seen thus far, mainly because of all the dialogue. This was the only episode where I was actually checking how much time was left, while every other episode went by in an instant. There are likely several things said in this episode that will prove to be relevant soon, as much of it simply doesn't connect with anything based on the info we know. After a lot of the dialogue in the first 7 minutes or so, there was setup that led everyone to the airport. The mood got very suspenseful and it seemed as if there would be a huge convergence with Nine, Twelve and Lisa, the police with Shibasaki, and Five with the FBI who are all essentially trying to catch someone. Nine and Twelve are attempting to get rid of the bomb by knowing Five will want to play a game (for some reason that is already setting up to be very unbelievable or realistic). Shibasaki and his colleagues are going to look for the bomb themselves because they have a suspicion that the bomb squad who failed to defuse the bomb on the train is also going to do nothing in the airport. Five is working for the FBI to track the terrorists down, but she also has her own personal vendettas against Nine and Twelve. The aforementioned is almost certainly going to happen in the following episode, but I expected some kind of development that wasn't so dull.

    Instead of a huge, action packed event following the suspense, we get some kind of chess game going on that is extremely difficult if not impossible to follow from the perspective of the viewer. One can assume that Five, Nine and Twelve understand it because of their enhanced minds as what we can guess is from their human experimentation as children, but it is very deflating when you expect a big event at the airport, and it turns out to be a chess game that no one watching can properly understand.

    I can kind of see how Zankyou no Terror can be an 11 episode series. There is a lot that has not been developed, but I feel much of the show is predictable at this point. Nine and Twelve are trying to expose the place they were in as children. While Shibasaki is attempting to dissect the terrorists, he realizes there is much more that they are trying to communicate. It's rather obvious that he's going to go down the same path that caused him to be fired/reassigned by the police force years ago. Five is likely seeking revenge after Nine and Twelve left her behind when they escaped the human experimentation place, and catching the terrorists almost seems like an added bonus for her.

    While watching the previous five episodes, I was in pure awe at how masterful Zankyou no Terror was being put together. This episode was probably still a good one in the eyes of most, but to me it was a huge and disappointing step down from what we were already given. Episode five was just so suspenseful while still preparing an eventual confrontation with Nine, Twelve, and Five. The mostly boring content in episode six could very well be clever setup, but that has yet to be seen.

  2. q

    To further comment on your post, I'd like to point out a few things. I feel Five is not supposed to be much of a villain. She is rather annoying to me, and that is exactly how she should be portrayed. Five has likely been brainwashed by these people and convinced that the facility was good. She is an annoying obstacle in the way of Nine and Twelve's exposure of the real criminals, the people who were funding and operating the human experimentation facility that they were all at as children.

    You mention that you expected more out of Lisa and that you were hoping she would not just pan out as your typical moe character. I would love to ask, why do you think she needs to be more than that? She is supposed to be a typical outsider (like us as viewers) looking in on two terrorists who are destroying a city. Her shyness, fear and desolation before two terrorists who threaten her life makes her behavior seem believable. I'm confused as to why you were seemingly looking for additional backstory on her. Lisa's "desolation" is not mysterious at all, her father left and the tough times have clearly impacted Lisa greatly. Plus, it does not help that her mother is suffering from severe depression and borderline psychosis. Regardless, that is not what this series is about by any means. It's centered around Nine and Twelve's desire to expose the rich businessmen and/or government figures who put together the child experimentation project. I suppose the desolation could be used as a tool to relate Lisa to Nine and Twelve, but at this point Lisa still looks like an outsider to the two terrorists even after they agree for her to do a mission for them.

  3. s

    I agree; Lisa not being more than that doesnt make her less interesting. I feel like it will be what she does in the situation she is in and how she finds meaning in interacting with the boys is how her character will show her depth (there doesnt need to be a lot going on in the background with her character to make her engaging; it's her psyche and how she acts on things is what will define her character).

    The first five eps of Zankyou has done a great job delivering its tension with meticulous directing and while ive found the writing of this series to be just good rather than great, i certainly find it engaging rather than falling short as Enzo puts it (no show with writing falling short has so much going on underneath the seems, but its easy to miss if you're not keeping an eye out for it). I do think that the writing needs to start connecting the pieces together though or make it apparent that the pieces will start being connected very soon otherwise the writing will certainly not build on its strengths. That would be my only real complaint with the writing but im sure next ep is going to give us that so i have no problems.

    Oh and i think Five works as a villain at the moment because of the fact that she's not really the villain. She a tool and the fact that i can see that makes me more interested in what happened to her to make her become the tool and who are the ones pulling the behind her (she's really just a brainwashed kid in a candy store). See, these are the answers that need to start taking shape within the next ep or two and in a way that will push the writing from being good to great. With superb directing all around, all we need is a great-quality writing to make this series soar. So far, i still believe its the most engaging series of the season, and with five eps left i definitely feel that this can get to a certain level of superb. I will confess though that ep 6 felt like a slight dip in quality (animation inncluded though its was just slight so the series still looks damn good); the ep was good, but not as great as the other eps before it

  4. H

    I thought that this episode was more of a breather than anything, it definitely looks like things will start ramping up next episode. I didn't see anything amiss with this episode, though- in fact, I liked it more than a few of the earlier episodes. I think Five's character and personality were nicely done- she's definitely a little (or maybe more than a little) mad, but her personality brings with it a lot of intriguing questions. Why is she fixated on Nine and not Twelve? Nine implied that she chose to stay behind- why? Would the other kids who went through the entirety of institution's conditioning have turned out like her? I don't think she'll suddenly become sympathetic, but answering some/all of these questions will give her a different kind of depth. Her outlandish look definitely sticks out compared to the muted/realistic appearances of the rest of the cast, but I think it's to show how she's the one who really kicks the plot into action despite appearing out of the blue- and it fits considering that she's essentially an manchild (woman-child, I mean. She can't be older than 21…). As for Lisa… what we're seeing here is her behaving normally; she's so much happier than before (kind of tragic seeing how the the boys are wanted criminals), and taking steps to escape the exact desolation you described in your review by trying to fit in. She herself admitted that she was jealous of the brotherly bond the boys share, and that she felt left out. I suppose I'll have to disagree with with you on her being a less interesting character now.

  5. s

    I dont think there was anything inherently wrong with this ep either. It's a dip for me only because the ep started to play as if some sort of light would be shone on the background of nine, twelve, and the facility from which they come from but then the ep took a different turn and decided to set up an elaborate game. That sort of made the ep feel a slight weaker in narrative cohesion. At this stage in the narrative, this is when integrating some answers along with the mysteries being built by the series accompanied by the high stake mind games would make for a superb thriller rather than just a great or good thriller and overall,to which Zankyou is at the moment. The narrative forsook that chance to capitalize on answering some of its mysteries for building up an elaborate game, which is also good but not as good as if the intrigue built by the first five eps started getting some answers.

    As an ep following ep 5 which introduced another bumpkin of the institute nine and twelve are from, the logical narrative direction would be to start shedding light on all this. That's my true reason for feeling this ep was slightly weaker than the rest (but Zankyou no terror is a great show so far that its not necessarily an insult). What happens in ep 7 can alleviate this though; such is the curse of watching the series weekly. I recently rewatched all the eps of Zankyou to confirm my suspicions regarding how this series is told, and man its truly effective when you watch it continuously as so many things make more sense. Zankyou feel like an episodic movie to me and i certainly stand by that more than ever after re-watching the eps all at once for this week's ep

  6. You mention that you expected more out of Lisa and that you were hoping she would not just pan out as your typical moe character. I would love to ask, why do you think she needs to be more than that?

    Because I'm not crazy about typical moe characters? Because I expect better than that in a Watanabe show? Effectively, both she and Five feel like devices more than characters to me, and this ep was a step in the wrong direction. Say what you will about Five not being a real villain because she's a victim, or whatever – that really isn't the point. The issue is how she works in narrative terms. Functionally, she's the foil, the adversary – and for me, she's not working.

  7. R

    The issue is how she works in narrative terms. Functionally, she's the foil, the adversary – and for me, she's not working.

    That's what I was being concerned with since last week. At the moment, it's as if she is there to simply there to give the obligatory "challenge" for Nine and Twelve, instead of actually adding to their story. Considering that she is from the same institute, her character should have been able to add another dimension to that storyline.

  8. s

    I personally dont get the assertion that Lisa is a moe character or a typical one no less or the argument that Five is not an effective villain (by no means is she a standout villain so far but she definitely works for where the narrative is). Id understand if these two characters where being used as reasons to push plot points but they actually feel organic to the story. Five has purpose to the story, connections to the characters, and a personal goal in mind (her personal rivalry with nine). The only thing that she needs narrative-wise is a bit of fleshing out which is what the remaining episodes are for. In narrative terms, you say five doesnt work as a villain, but what exactly do you mean by that?she has not committed any narrative wrongs to make her an ineffective villain nor is there enough info about her at the moment to make the judgment that she wont become an intriguing foil. Right now she is just completing her mission and its clear that she is soon going to step out of the background that she's been in from this ep and last and really become a presence nine and twelve have to face; but again, that doesnt make her any less effective (maybe it's the choice of words that's throwing me off).

    I guess at the end of the day, there isnt enough information in my opinion that supports your assertions about these two characters. Lisa being clumsy doesnt make her a "typical moe character". Id understand if they took those qualities to the extreme and made her a bumbling klutz and an object of sacchrine pity ever step of the way, then id completely agree with you, but at the moment i dont think what she's portrayed is enough to even consider Moe. Like i said, the assertions you've made about five not being an effective villain or Lisa being "moe" dont seem to support what is being portrayed in the series. But i can sort of see why you would feel that way so i guess its just a matter of differing opinions and how you're perceiving the flow of events in relation to how maybe i or others are seeing it.

  9. q

    @Enzo: I'm not crazy about them either, but with the way Lisa is presented in the series, there's not much there to be developed. She's not interesting to me like Nine, Twelve and Shibasaki who all have mysterious backstories. Lisa is absolutely a device, and I suppose you can put that on the writers. I don't doubt Watanabe's ability to create a great all around series, and he probably has something lined up to make Lisa more important.

  10. R

    Well, I guess some of my concerns last week are starting to happen. They even did that whole "impersonate Sphinx to lure the boys out" plot, which reminded me a bit of that stunt L pulled out in Death Note (not that they are exactly similar). But I did find this episode to be still very much engaging. Though I gotta say that i was weirded a bit by Megumi Han's heavily accented English. Considering Five probably lived in America for at least five years, shouldn't she not have any accents?

    There are also some interesting dialogue here, such as when Twelve jokingly asks why they have to stop the bomb if they are the terrorists. It seems that there is still some naivete left within the boys.

    As for Lisa, I actually find her more interesting in this episode. Her, shall we say, "moe antics" really highlighted her search for a place to belong to in the company of the boys. More so with her decision to actually help them. But I will have to cross my fingers as to where the series takes it from here.

    And I share your worries about the fact that there are only fivce episodes left. I am hoping that this particular "game: does not get stretched beyond the next episode.

  11. C

    I'm not sure I can even call that an accent. I've heard plenty of Japanese accents before, and like any accent from other countries/languages, they're intelligible. Hers is more like someone who doesn't know how to speak English trying to speak English. 😛

  12. m

    Will there ever be a time when English spoken in anime isn't butchered to the point of ruining the scene it's in? And that goes for any other country of origin accent. That's the only spot dubs are vastly superior to subs. Any English speaking or other accent from foreign characters is actually spot on (or at least close enough to not be annoying). Whenever I hear English being spoken I think "why would you put that in there and not get an actor that can actually speak the language correctly?" More to the point, why don't any voice actors learn English? I feel like that would be a major boost in their chances at landing some of these roles.

    Unfortunately for Japanese people (and really all Asian country citizens) their accent when speaking English sounds almost identical to the way Americans who have mental disabilities sound when speaking English. Which makes it hard to take them seriously. Before anyone freaks out about that comment I in no way am making fun of Asian countries or people with handicaps I'm just saying the accent is too similar.

    Yeah this episode really dropped all remaining hopes I had of this show getting better. I said last week how much I hated 5 and how the writing was weak and becoming like the show Spiral. I'll prob watch one more and drop it if it doesn't change, haha or maybe watch it all bc there's only 5 eps left. I agree with you about Lisa being "moe" and all actually giving off the feeling of searching for a place to belong. I don't mind her being "moe", but even if her storyline was perfect I don't think it makes up for 5 and what she has done to the show. I don't think they can do much to wrap this show up in an entertaining way with 5 eps left. Maybe it was my misunderstanding of what the show was supposed to be, but I expected a lot more from it.

  13. m

    My favorite part was the "You're kidding." What was supposed to be playful and mocking sounded utterly soulless.

  14. Z

    More to the point, why don't any voice actors learn English?
    – Why not German and French too considering how often those languages end up in anime?

    I feel like that would be a major boost in their chances at landing some of these roles.
    – Considering the track record, and choice of Han, I doubt lack of skill in English is considered a barrier to employment.

  15. maverick, I've sat in on high school English classes and discussed language with a great many Japanese. I can say, with certainty, that the Japanese on the whole understand English far better than most Americans understand Japanese (including Americans living in Japan).

    The issue is this – the amount of time spend practicing speaking is minuscule compared to the time spent on grammar and writing (which I think it a huge mistake). Add to that the fact that the Japanese are, as a rule, extremely sensitive to public embarrassment and thus reluctant to speak English publicly. Finally, English and Japanese are about as disparate as it's possible for two languages to be in terms of pronunciation. Italian and Spanish are far easier because the vowel sounds are far closer. Add it all up, and speaking English up to a standard you might find sufficient is a very difficult thing for a Japanese person to do.

  16. s

    That is very correct; English is much more integrated with the japanese school curriculum than japanese is in American schooling; I mean how available is it to take Japanese as a language in American schools?…not much from what ive seen and read. The problem is the lack of time practicing how to speak it fluently which if you think about it kind of makes sense; In terms of a subject, what easier way to be give a discrete evaluation of a student if you evaluate how they write the language rather than how they speak it.

  17. That may be, but I ascribe it more to a philosophical difference in the way language is taught. I certainly spent more time practicing speaking than the Japanese students I saw. I think it creates a major gap because the ability of Japanese to write English and to use it in practical terms (which means speaking it).

  18. By which I mean, when I was taking Spanish in junior high and HS.

  19. m

    I didn't mean to imply that it would be easy for them, or that they are doing anything inherently wrong. It's just why choose to have the characters speak English and then not have an actor who can pull off the part. It's tantamount to having an actor who has no acting skill bc it sounds too fake and forced. Just throw away the English lines. I also agree that there seems to be WAY too much emphasis on grammar and the technical parts of English taught to Japanese students. When I took Spanish in college we had 101 which was grammar, 201 which was written, 301 which had nothing but Spanish spoken during class, and 401 which was much more in depth speaking. I laugh when I watch an anime and they have a line about a rule of English and I have no clue what they are talking about. It occurs to me that most Japanese HS students probably know the rules of English better than me.

    As far as the difficulty of speaking Japanese/English for each native side I completely understand why the transition is so hard. Spanish/French/German/etc all have almost identical alphabets and sounds so I could read any of their languages without being too far off, even if I didn't know what it meant. I just was pointing out how it's unfortunate that the particular accent that native Asian language speakers have when speaking in English sounds so bad. Most Americans would agree that French/British/Australian/German accents sound really cool and guy/girls tend to find those accents cute in the opposite sex. I went on a date with this Aupair from Thailand and we talked about how she (and ppl in her country) find the accents of Americans speaking their language to be cute, but unfortunately Americans don't usually find their accent cute. If there was such thing as French anime, no one would complain about French accent sounding English. Which is a shame, but it really is grating to hear.

  20. H

    The show initially advertised sophistication and subtlety, and seems to be slowly boiling down to base elements.

    Five (and amurika) has suddenly high jacked the narrative a bit. Lisa isn't doing much for me either. The boys (well at least 12) seems oblivious to any irony on their part. I feel a little manipulated into feeling certain things towards characters suddenly. Did someone hand Shibazaki the script? he's always so on to it.

    Chess board terminal does change things up a bit, but also feels like the show is going off the rails somewhat.

  21. z

    I don't understand why the boys have to play into Five's game. Why couldn't they make another video denouncing the fake and answer the riddle with the airport location? If the bomb still went off at that spot, shame on the police for their incompetence! But government incompetence and conspiracy is kinda what Sphinx is all about, so they should have been prepared to continue their mission despite interference from those they are trying to expose.

    Also, yes, Lisa has become an annoying baggage character. She can't do anything without klutzing up. Ugg.

  22. I think that's a fair question, except that the problem is that the boys didn't know exactly where the bomb was – only that it was at Haneda, and they assumed the police easily figured out that much. Nine also said that if they made an announcement it wouldn't be believed, which I think is debatable but at least they addressed the question.

    Broadly speaking, I would agree that the whole thing has the whiff of drama for plot convenience about it.

  23. C

    This episode could only remind me of Death Note, only more contrived and with less emotional connection to the characters.

  24. Z

    At this stage the more time spent with Shibazaki the better. His type is a rarity in anime these days.

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