Aside from airing the 9th episode on 9-11, there is very little wrong with these last 3 episodes. THIS IS GOING TO BE LONG!
I’ll start off by saying that these last 3 episodes don’t completely save this anime from disappointment. The characters still remain as blank slates with very little influence over the story. The subplots from before do nothing but hinder how the main plot line is supposed to progress. And the social statement over Japan’s defeated government trying to scheme under the power of other nations, particularly the US government, starts to become less subtle as it starts taking priority over storytelling. However, they manage to tie up all the loose ends it almost left open and gradually brought back the sense of awe that was missing from ep 5-8 until the very end.
Episode 9 starts off dealing with the pesky mess left by the middle episodes, answering questions with too many hints and continuing from the disaster Lisa got trapped into. Revelations such as the Athena program involving drugs to make 26 artificial Savants or the stolen plutonium actually being an armed bomb seem like cliche twists, but the lack of exaggerated deliveries made me think less about whether they were surprising and more on their relevance to the story. This is explained later on, because the main focus of this episode was the 2nd half involving Twelve and Lisa. Considering this situation was partially Lisa’s fault, I was shocked by how much I was cheering for Twelve to free her. Thanks to some delicate shots and a memorable rendition of “Von”, I could feel the emotional connection between these two even without prior context. Moments like these are what got me hooked on this show’s first 4 episodes, and the result was a moving scene that left me with both relief at Lisa’s rescue and despair that Twelve gave up on Nine to do so.
With those two out of the picture, episode 10 decided that the only way to keep the plot going is to focus on the two remaining players: Nine and Shibazaki. While Nine walks into police capture like John Doe in Se7en, Shibazaki goes to meet the man responsible for the Athena program. Ultimately the program was invented as a last resort for Japan to claim a sliver of its power before their shameful defeat at WWII, and that obsession with the glory days resulted in the bomb that Sphinx stole. Considering how complicated the preparations were, the actual reason behind it is simple, pathetic, yet relevant considering how governments today stubbornly deny their mistakes. More importantly, Shibazaki’s response to all of this perfectly symbolizes his role in the story; a man who ignores all hindrances for the sake of searching the truth.
Meanwhile, Nine sticks to his plan by threatening the police with an atomic blast in exchange for a press conference. Along the way, Lisa convinces Twelve that Nine still needs him, Five chases after Nine with her dying breath, and Twelve helps in Nine’s escape. What it all leads up to is Five revealing to Nine her motive for interfering before killing herself. And while it doesn’t make her involvement in the plot seem any less forced or her desperate search for Nine’s attention seems any less shallow, it fits considering her lack of social acceptance and serves as great foreshadowing for how this will inevitably end in their death.
And then we get to the final episode, which honestly doesn’t shine until after the promised explosion. Of course Nine uses the press conference as a giant fire alarm and of course he detonates the atomic bomb in the stratosphere to cause an EMP blast.The government doesn’t have any power when it comes to stopping it, so they spend most of their time trying to land all the aircraft crossing Japan. Sure it’s all presented well with believable evacuation measures building up to the most gorgeous fireworks display this world will ever see, but we all knew that this was coming and we knew this would be pretty.
What really got to me was the aftermath, returning focus to our four main leads and their role after the story is over. Aside from seeing Nine and Twelve enjoy the childhood they never had with Lisa, we finally see the reason why they went with this terrorist plot. It was never a passion for them to see the world burn; they just wanted the 26 children robbed of their life to not be forgotten by history. It was a desperate cry that only went to such extreme lengths because of how stubborn the government was and how uncaring society was without close threats. Even when the US government executes them to avoid blame for Five’s actions, Shibazaki’s role as the seeker of truth and Lisa’s role as their personal connection is what kept this plea alive. It may have cost Japan’s international trust, but in memory of two desperate boys, both Shibazaki and Lisa hope that their world will learn from this tragedy and create a better tomorrow.
And honestly, that is what won me over about this anime. It wasn’t all the social commentary about how the Japanese government has stagnated, how the US is adamant on leaving nations in their debt, how all nations try to hide nasty secrets, or even how society reacts to terrorism or how dangerous nuclear power can be. What won me over was the human aspect they rarely scratched upon, but nailed it when it did. Everyone in this story was making a desperate stand against struggles they knew wouldn’t end well. From the schemers that hid their tracks to the victims seeking revenge to the passerby caught in between, there was no one in this show who didn’t see a pitiful end coming. But regardless of the result, they all did their best hoping for a better tomorrow. VON means hope in Icelandic language, and it could not be a more fitting word to describe this show’s intent; to believe in hope regardless of what suffering you go through.
To me, Zankyou no Terror is very similar to Suisei no Gargantia from last spring. While retrospectively good and saved by a strong conclusion, they both suffer from a lot of wasted potential by drastically changing what was working fine. One wonders how perfect this could have been as a 6 ep OVA or a 2 hr 30 min movie, but there’s no question that it’s the boldest entry in anime this year. It lost the chance to be Anime of the Year, let alone Anime of the Decade. However I’m glad I watched it, I’m glad I wrote about it, and I hope anime fans everywhere are willing to at least try it.