Zankyou no Terror – 09

Zankyou - 09 -6 Zankyou - 09 -8 Zankyou - 09 -25

Like Zankyou no Terror in miniature, this episode was a tale of two halves.

It’s hard not to wonder when watching this series just how good it might have been if Five had never been introduced.  Probably not a masterpiece, as there were still some holes in the writing and it never really connected emotionally, but a darn sight better than it’s turned into since she showed up.  Rarely (though not never) do you see a case where so many of the problems of a show can be directly laid at the feet of a single character.  Not only has Five made Zankyou no Terror a whole lot less believable, but he’s made the main cast (less Shibazaki) a whole let less effective as characters by her impact on their stories.

We’re definitely getting some glimpses of what this series might have been, and the A-part this week was a prime example.  Apart from Hamura’s annoying and unprofessional outbursts it was pretty riveting stuff.  Shibazaki’s interrogation of Aoki Souta (Hashi Takaya) was one of the best scenes of the series.  It was beautifully framed, deftly written, and gave us a taste of just how interesting this premise could have been if the series had stayed focused on it.  The Japanese government testing out the most brilliant among the nation’s unclaimed children and trying to turn them into a secret weapon using an experimental drug?  It’s probably never happened, but it’s not so far-fetched that it doesn’t have enough resonance (no pun intended) for a fictional story.

I totally bought this scene, right down to Aoki’s reasoning for finally coming clean – indeed, being relieved at having the chance to do so.  The conspiracy, Nine and Twelve’s irresponsible plan to expose it, their duel of wits with Shibazaki – whose own life was coincidentally derailed by the conspiracy – perhaps slowly turning into an alliance against the forces that have mistreated both of them.  That’s a pretty damn good basis around which to build a psychological thriller that touches on the sense of alienation in modern Japanese society.

So why then did Watanabe or whoever’s writing this series not stick with that – why push it aside so far that it can barely even see the back burner, and turn Zankyou no Terror into a conventional Hollywood fantasy?  Who knows – laziness, perhaps, or a distrust in the audience to find that premise compelling enough without padding it out with a lot of flannel – or a desire to get in some subtle-as-sledgehammer broadsides against American imperiousness and Japanese spinelessness.  The second half of this episode epitomizes the derailment of this show every bit as well as the first half does its potential.  The ferris wheel scene is gorgeous – incredibly beautiful and overflowing with Watanabe’s boundless sense of style.  But the content is so silly that the scene feels utterly false, and every time Five opens her mouth it’s a reminder of just how absurd everything about her character and what she’s being allowed to get away with is.

Despite all my reservations, I still care about the premise Zankyou no Terror established in the first five episodes, and the first half of this one gives me hope that it will command enough attention in the final two to carry the show to a successful conclusion.  I liked Sphinx better when the boys were brilliant and a bit menacing than the basically hapless dupes they’ve turned into, and if we see a return to form for them that will go a long way towards salvaging the finish.  It’s easy now at least to see why the Americans are so interested in what they’ve been up to, with the knowledge that what they’ve stolen is a full-fledged A-bomb developed by Japan in secret.  I can’t see any way Five’s direct involvement in the resolution can be a good thing – I’m certainly not interested in seeing her redeemed.  But if she’s incidental and the focus is on Sphinx, Shibazaki and they secret they now all share, Zankyou no Terror still has a fighting chance to end on a strong note.

Zankyou - 09 -7 Zankyou - 09 -9 Zankyou - 09 -10
Zankyou - 09 -11 Zankyou - 09 -12 Zankyou - 09 -13
Zankyou - 09 -14 Zankyou - 09 -15 Zankyou - 09 -16
Zankyou - 09 -17 Zankyou - 09 -18 Zankyou - 09 -19
Zankyou - 09 -20 Zankyou - 09 -21 Zankyou - 09 -22
Zankyou - 09 -23 Zankyou - 09 -24 Zankyou - 09 -26


  1. E

    It's unbelievable that the FBI agents haven't reported Five to the white house, lol.
    Last time she almost killed hundreds of innocents on the airport.
    And before that, passengers in the bullet train.

  2. K

    Like the USA gov doesn't always do that to the innocent civilians all over the middle east (Iraq, Afghanistan, …) to achieve their goals what ever the costs !

  3. I'm no naif when it comes to what the U.S. government is capable of. But the way some have taken this series as a platform for over-the-top diatribes is just more evidence to me that its political commentary is completely unsubtle and very silly. What you're seeing around Five bears so little possible connection with reality that it serves no use in terms of meaningful criticism.

  4. F

    I was going to type that (though not so eloquently), yes the US does get involved in the shadier side of things every so often (more times than not depending on where you're looking on a map) but the way they portray it here is ridiculous. If the anime hadn't been viewed in such a realistic way from the beginning it wouldn't matter in the slightest but because of the nature of it I can see why people might draw those conclusions.

  5. H

    I'm sorry Enzo, but I disagree with a lot of your sentiments about this show. I think it all boils down to the fact that Zankyou never really struck me as being realistic in the first place, so the direction the show took didn't bother me as it did so many others. I also think Five's a pretty interesting character once you get past her theatrics and dissect the info we've been given about her. The narrative acknowledges the absurdity in her actions, so I think there's a point they're trying to make about her insanity.

    But hey, different strokes for different folks.

  6. H

    And this is episode 9, not 10.

  7. A

    I agree, now we know the full backstory I see Five as being a victim, not a villain. She's a tragic figure.

    Anyway, right from the opening scene of the first episode this show's had 'hollywood thriller' written all over it, and I'm still amazed anyone was surprised by that.

  8. s

    yeeaaaaa…I kinda have to agree with helen here; this ep in its entire whole first or second half..especially the second showed why watanabe is such a tour-de-force as a director in anime. In my opinion, having five construct that whole ferris wheel scene doesnt take away from the "realism" of the series (there are quite some scenes that have already arguably questioned the realism of this series enough).

    Five is just an absurd out of control person so it would fit her character to do something like this; and even if it wasnt five and say it was some compelling and riveting villain, had that person orchestrated this Ferris wheel scene, it would have still been just effective in regards to the realistic tone this series is trying to have.

    Absurd situations can happen in realistic settings, heck that's life if you think about it. The only time when absurd scenarios dont work in realistic settings is when it completely lacks any sort of realism in general, to which the ferris wheel scene had plenty of and it was a beautiful scene showing the genuine care twelve has for Lisa. I think the fact that the series decided to show that twelve and nine arent these invincible geniuses, but still children is great and i never felt that the series ever made them look like they were hapless. The fact that they are losing control of the current situation and have not been having things go their way just illustrates how in the end, they really are just two guys on their own with no way for being able to fully control every single variable like they think they could in the beginning of the series. It's actually quite the smooth transition in narrative to see the once great technical geniuses fall from grace because of a few mishaps. This show still has directorial effort plenty of tv anime on dream; my only complaint is that i did hope that the narrative would have really capitalized on its build-up and psychological drama a lot better than it had

  9. m

    The directing was gorgeous. The story, though…

    I think when we talk about "potential" and being disappointed, for me it's the utter lack of interesting development in the three main characters. I had a lot of hope for Twelve to be more menacing beneath that angelic smile, and for Nine to turn out to be the "good," or rather nicer guy underneath his cold surface. Instead, these characters remained what they were face-value. Twelve is a real nice guy, Nine is a kuudere, and Lisa is a moey damsel-in-distress.

    Disappointment doesn't even capture it.

  10. S

    I for one, totally agree with your assesments of Five, and how darn annoying of a character she is.

    Every time that character appears on screen, I cringe and get ready for the big sighs that follow soon after.

    I don't think its just the realism aspect of the series that suffers, but the friggin believability. In no situation would Five be allowed to call the shots and do the kind of things she doing… But suspending disbelief for a second and saying that she can….

    What she's doing is just cliche "psychopath" stuff. Nothing interesting, or with any added depth to it. She's just a child throwing a tantrum and attacking everyone because things aren't going her way. Her whole plan to manipulate twelve is just… boring.

    I'm also with you Enzo, on the whole two halves thing. I found the first half of the episode very interesting, with the twist that Shibazaki's old case was actually related to the current conspiracy.

    I think Zankyou no Terror was always meant to be about two parrallel stories, one of the Sphinx boys and the other being Shibazaki. Its just sad that the boys got stuck with such a truly weak antagonist.

    In the end, I think Zankyou just…as you said, derailed hard after the first five episodes.

    Honestly, I think it would've been better if the time that Five gets on screen would've been reallocated to developing Lisa a bit more.

  11. R

    I was genuinely intrigued by this episode, particularly of the whole Athena Plan story and that reference by Shibazaki to the horrendous Josef Mengele of Auschwitz. I do get why they didn't reference the Japanese Unit 731 instead, as it might hit way too close to home on this one.

    In particular, what really intrigued me is why that plan focused on the savant syndrome and tried to induce it artificially, considering the issues that patients of such condition faced. Was it genuinely intended for progress, or for profit, or worse, simply due to the delusion of creating superhumans? As a side note, it is actually possible to induce savantism in real life through non-invasive means though for only a short span of time (the work of Allan Snyder comes to mind). It's also intriguing as to why researchers resorted to using psychological abuse in order to keep the kids inline. No wonder Hamura would react that way during the investigation.

    One thing I find amusing is the US "intervening" to stop the project, considering the real-life United States' no so clean track record with regards to human experimentation (such as the nefarious MK-ULTRA). Also, Japan secretly building an atomic bomb is rather unsettling, considering the real life country officially abhors any form of nuclear weapons. And that also ties in to the fact that Shibazaki is a second gen nuclear bomb survivor.

    Which brings me to Five. The backstory does give some light to some of her peculiar behaviors, such as frequently polishing her nails. It is possible that she might be autistic (a condition closely associated with savants), likely due to the effect of that drug, which also brings some interesting light to Twelve's synesthesia and begs to ask what kind of mental condition Nine has. And she is clearly dying. Still, the whole laughing villain part seen in the previous episodes really detracts from making her a really intriguing character.

    My whole point here is that ZnT has tons of elements that would have made it a really intriguing piece. If only it had not resorted to pulp fiction theatrics in the middle part.

  12. Japan secretly building nukes is easily one of the least preposterous notions ZnT is floating. Especially given the nature of the people running the country at the moment.

  13. R

    Okay, I am listening. As an outsider, I am intrigued by that statement. Would you mind elaborating a little?

  14. R

    Incredibly right wing and, from an outsider perspective, I sometimes have to tilt my head and just question their seeming lack of an ounce of common sense. Also, a lot of them *cough*ShinzoAbe*cough* are in the mindset of strengthening the Japanese military, which was demilitarized following World War II. Basically military expansion.

    So nukes, not a thing but not super far fetched really.

  15. H

    I liked the first half better than the second. I blame Lisa for making both the story and characters less effective though. I mean, how has she developed or influenced the betterment of the story at all? Five at least cranked it up another level (for better or worse), Lisa is just a narrative stain. I want her to die nao! >:I

    I felt a lot more for her when we weren't forced to care about her petty existence…

    /downfall rant

  16. E

    I'm an avid watcher of Steven Universe. I find the premise not-so-innovative and an attempt to win over Western fans of Eastern media, but it has good execution and it offers a refreshing simplicity. It's easy to enjoy.

    But whenever the Internet audience decides to comment on Steven Universe, they're more often than not damning Steven (the character) as being "too annoying", that "you're forced to like him", "everything revolves around him when he doesn't deserve a second glance", and ending with the damning "the show would be better off without him". He's the titular character, and people would prefer the show without him. And I strongly disagree. The "Steven and the Stevens" episode, where Steven has an epiphany about how annoying he can be, felt to me more like an answer to the fans' complaints (despite it being produced before them) than a self-awareness episode.

    I like Steven. He's an important part of the show and his energy isn't annoying to me.

    This also applies to Five and Lisa, of Zankyou no Terror. They're not exactly favorably written (Watanabe doesn't seem like a writer that gives a damn about proper female representation whatsoever), but they have a purpose and it shows. Lisa represents Japan and Five in turn stands for the Athena Project, in terms of showing how Nine and Twelve are influenced by them. Lisa, like ZnT's Japan (especially the background police), act weakly and submissive, are incompetent in their endeavors, and make terrible mistakes. But they're the human side of the equation, the most human of the show in contrast to Sphinx, Five, and even Shibasaki.

    Five is an extreme savant, fixated on a subject (Nine and Twelve) and unwilling (or unable?) to let go; it's an example of how Nine and Twelve could've ended up had they not escaped (if they were still alive). She's intended to be the way she is and the rest of the cast isn't oblivious to how problematic she is, as even Clarence calls her out on her excesses. Five also serves as a parallel to Shibazaki, in my opinion, as they're both unable to focus on anything that isn't the task they've decided to do, and both are obsessed with Sphinx (though Five knows them and Shibazaki doesn't).

    Both girls aren't the best written female characters, of course; but they're necessary to the narrative of the show and wanting them out of it would just mean wanting an entirely different show. It's clear that Watanabe has something against female characters, but one can ignore those concerns and enjoy the show for what it is without a problem. It's still my best liked show of the season.

  17. s

    watanabe doesnt write women favorably????? One of the things people liked about cowboy bebop was the fact that faye was genuinely a bad-ass female character; not to mention that Watanabe's few works are usually known for good strong female characters. But yea im almost positive Watanabe is not writing this series at this point…this is not his writing style at all… all. I could be wrong but all his past works have had a distinct "watanabe-ness" about them and this doesnt have it. His directing prints on the other hand are all over this, obviously.

  18. E

    Faye always seemed to me as a badass in a world of badasses, and somewhat downplayed (especially in some episodes). And I'm more talking of recent stuff, including Space Dandy.

    It shows a whole lot more in Terror because of the severe lack of female characters, and the roles they have. It's also pretty painful to see an exclusively male police force when every show around that involves police these days at least tries to keep a good balance of gender.

  19. s

    watanabe doesnt write space dandy (he's only written for 3 eps total in space dandy if memory serves me right); then again he didnt write most of cowboy bebop either but that's besides the point; on the directorial side of things, most of the shows watanabe has worked on has showed some proper representation of female characters, even space dandy has done so with scarlet. I wouldnt say that the lack of female characters in Zankyou means he doesnt represent them properly, at least nothing that i have seen so far from has given me that impression, but that's just my take; even his recent works does not have evidence that says otherwise.

  20. B

    i am so saddened by what could have been. we have so much that could have been and no where near as much eps left to cover them. i wanted to be emotionally invested in the main three. especially as they started living together. maybe it was too much to think but i wanted to become somewhat as a family. i kept hoping for lisa to toughen up and become more badass but obviously the writer ad something against her because he was determined to make her a weakling. yeah thanks for that what mr lame-o. and then you have 12 who should a hint of a darker side but that was never explored much after he turned into a complete fluff after falling for lisa.

    what i really wanted was more flashback scenes to 9 and 12 past. the past obviously molded them into who they are today, and they talk about it so much, that i didn't understand why they didn't go into more detail about it and perhaps share what 9, 12, and 5 relationship was like. shibazaki was one of the more interesting characters, and again he seemed to have this really interesting back-story, which also hasn't been shared in much detail. like does the writer not give a crap anymore or what?

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