As of now, this is already “Anime of the Decade” material.
Having only experienced the teamwork between “Shinichiro Watanabe” and “Yoko Kanno” in Cowboy Bebop and Macross Plus, I tried to keep my expectations low considering how none of their other works were considered as great as Bebop (including the latter). But right from the opening action sequence to the very first bomb, this show proves that it’s at that same level of brilliance both in terms of writing and presentation. The visual direction and music is the best these two have been in years, effortlessly maintaining a tense atmosphere without exhausting the viewer (namely me). Twists are deliberately paced and exposition is expanded upon without halting the plot. It’s like the show has full confidence in what it has to reveal, so it doesn’t try to desperately grab your attention by shoving its contents in your face.
Despite how it seems like a surefire way to success, terrorism is not an easy issue to approach in anime.With teenagers put as the perpetrators, this show could have easily used terrorism as an excuse for non-stop destruction or an illustration of a character’s over-the-top insanity. Instead, Zankyou no Terror takes a page off of Patlabor 2 the movie when it comes to this issue by focusing on the effects of terrorism rather than the destruction. While we do learn how elaborate and destructive these attacks can be, the lack of casualties brings up the fact that the idea of terrorism is far more shocking than the victims. It’s not the fact that a building blew up that society grew into panic, but how unprepared they were for such an attack and how vulnerable they made themselves until something happened.
But really it isn’t the detailed plotting or breathtaking presentation that imbues life into this story; it’s the characters and layers of mystery. Sure the side characters don’t amount to much aside from everyday co-workers/peers, but all of the main characters can hold their own story. Nine and Twelve are of course the stars of the show. Their brilliance and motives are compelling mysteries on their own, and the chemistry they share despite contrasting personalities(calculation vs action)offers convincing evidence that these two know each other just as well as themselves. There’s certainly a level of mischief in how they provoke the police to try stopping them, but what makes them terrifying is the sheer confidence they have. Both are smart enough to hide their tracks and have others do their work if possible, but they’re bold enough to set the bombs by themselves and even let the public anticipate their presence.
And yet even with these two giants standing over the rest, Shibazaki and Lisa offer some fascinating arcs of their own. From his backstory as an investigator to his direct challenge against Nine and Twelve, Shibazaki comes off as a brave and intelligent soul who manages to serve as the police’s only chance at fighting the two. He’s a brilliant thinker for sure, but we learn that his stubborn nature to seek the truth has cost him his career in the past. Yet even with these consequences being dealt, he boldly dives into the danger of playing with terrorists if it means the prevention of one more explosion. This means playing by their rules and somehow finding a way to strike back.
Lisa, on the other hand, portrays the view of a lonely outsider in awe of the terrorists. Her progression from an uncertain accomplice to a fascinated follower is something that’s hauntingly identifiable. Whether it be the constant isolation at school or her insecure and obsessive mother, Lisa is a character who has lost her attachment to the world she lives in. So by the time Nine picks her up after running away from home, it’s quite believable that she’d be laughing at the prospect of her world going into flames. Nine and Twelve may steal the spotlight of the show, but it’s these two characters that seem to imbue it with the most humanity.
While all this is going on, several mysteries start to surface involving the terrorists and government. Why are Nine and Twelve stealing plutonium at the beginning of ep 1? What is the point of having these terrorist plots linked to the mythology of Oedipus and the Sphinx? What are these other children that we see in this facility Nine and Twelve grew up in? Are Kurahashi and the government somehow part of the motive for these attacks? Will Lisa ever play a bigger role in the schemes to come? The amount of unanswered questions here may sound distracting, but the sheer brilliance of these mysteries is that the main plot can still go on without immediate answers. We don’t need to know the reason why Nine and Twelve can plan so far ahead because the show already demonstrates how they did it and how devastating the effects are.
If there’s any aspect of this show i’m slightly worried about, it’s that the realistic tone sometimes lead to a drop in momentum compared to the first 2 eps. Sure they use the time to build-up characters or set-up the story, but it’s certainly not as exciting compared to when the timer is set for explosion. Then again, this feels like a nitpick compared to all the great things provided here. I’ve been disappointed by stories with great promise before, but I haven’t felt so confident in a show’s greatness since Fate Zero and Shinsekai Yori. This post has taken quite a long time due to personal reasons, but it’s by far one of my longest written and I can’t wait to write more on this again.