Still holds the promise to be great, but it’s definitely reached a dragging halt here.
One of the major issues I have with this middle part is the introduction of Five. Ignoring the fact that she’s only been characterized by her obsession with Nine, her role in the story seems tailor-made to stretch the plot. Even while cornering Nine and Twelve with the possibility of human casualties, she spends more time dangling that carrot on a stick rather than fishing out these criminals by the mouth. Because of this, she seems less like a legitimate threat to their plans and more like a fatal annoyance. She doesn’t have plans of her own, her beliefs are a total mystery, and putting her in charge of a terrorist hunt seems counter-productive considering she causes more damage than the ones she’s hunting. I guess this is meant to serve as a metaphor for America’s lack of restraint for countering foreign terrorist actions, but depending on a psycho to catch a psycho is one thing; providing that psycho with live explosives is another.
Another problem is that they never escalate from the previous conflicts. After humiliating the police and having the so-called accomplice officially join, the story loses its way when it comes to delivering surprises or digging deeper into the plot lines it started with. Five’s involvement could be argued as a way to keep the show from becoming formulaic, but that just proves that this show is bad at distraction. More hints and questions should progressively be brought up while slow moments should focus on character development, aesthetic subtlety, or exploring themes. Instead the fast-paced moments simply pull the characters into forced events, slow moments solely focus on finding answers, important details are blatantly told to the audience, and character development is always kept at a superficial level.
With a plot that refuses to progress is a lack of action left for the characters. Lisa gets sidelined to a point of annoyance where her involvement with the terrorists is restricted to cooking bad food or getting kidnapped. Considering how natural her entry into the world of terrorists in the first 4 episodes, it pisses me off that the writers couldn’t think of what to do with her aside from run away and get caught. Meanwhile Nine simply complains about how things aren’t going according to plan, and Twelve either gives Nine some pep-talk or serve as Lisa’s savior. It’s too bad considering the plan Nine has seems close to being revealed and Twelve has a genuinely touching romance going on with Lisa, only to be held back by lack of screen time or chemistry. The only character that seems to get continuous development is Shibazaki, mainly because the rebellious cops are the only ones trying to progress the plot considering the terrorists simply stick to plans and the government is trying to cover its muddy tracks.
It’s a shame too because there’s still a lot of great moments mixed along with the stretched story. I may have complained about Five as a character and plot device, but her involvement did create a fascinating situation. There’s a painful sense of irony in the fact that the terrorists have to prevent damage, the government is trying to cause chaos, and cops have to put their job at risk to protect people. Having the plot progression focus on the cops definitely brought some much needed answers, and the lack of on-screen chemistry between the terrorists doesn’t mean that the few moments shown don’t work. The visual direction and music are stunning as ever, and there’s still a tangible sense of realism in this world and its hinted message on a stagnating Japan.
The problems that I’ve mentioned have already brought my expectations down a notch. Rather than progress off the high point it reached, it’s slowly gliding down to a dull, predictable end. I really hope that the last 3 episodes bring this show back to the lofty heights it came from, because otherwise this is a slow burn with no payoff.