Zankyou no Terror – 02 Review

[HorribleSubs] Zankyou no Terror - 02 [480p].mkv - 00001That’s a rather weird approach from Lisa to research the Oedipus-story. Wouldn’t you rather grab the encyclopaedia or even better yet… use the fucking internet?! And if she’s already committed to reading up on the Oedipus-story, why did they show her reading the manga-adaptation?

Zankyou no Terror is daring. That 9/11-imagery from the first episode and then the second episode covers another bombing already, this series really doesn’t want you to forget it’s about terrorism… not that it has become clear what’s actually going on in the heads of Nine and Twelve. I don’t think it’s a great series right now but it’s certainly not generic. From its tone to the fact that it has put two teenage-terrorists at the centre of the story. It’s still interesting to watch… but it’s not very entertaining so far.

The police are in awe of the act of terror that destroyed one of the towers of a skyscraper and they’re also relieved that nobody died during the whole thing. And so they get their “best men” together to find the terrorists and… that’s when the second riddle is released in a video to tell the police where the next bombing will happen.

Not having come any closer to capturing Nine and Twelve (mostly for lack of trying), they ponder what the solution to that riddle might be. They get it that it’s about Oedipus and the sphinx… but they aren’t smart enough after all, or something like that.

The bombing happens – but seconds before it did Shibasaki, the rugged-looking know-it-all working in the archives phoned the police-boss to tell him the real solution. Shibasaki is about to become the smartest, most important police-guy… again.

Also, Lisa’s life sucks.

[HorribleSubs] Zankyou no Terror - 02 [480p].mkv - 00002Wasn’t Lisa already threatened like that in the first episode? I really think she got the message.

I don’t like mysteries in stories. Let me clarify what I mean with mystery in this case: I don’t like it when a story is obviously keeping something from the audience. There’s this weird notion that a revelation will be bigger because the audience had to wait for it a while. And there’s a difference between giving the revelation in bits and pieces and outright refusing to mention it. The former could work if the characters, atmosphere, tone and so on work but the latter NEVER works in my opinion. You can’t just let something happen that makes you wonder why it happens and then NOT tell the audience why it happens. Building up expectations for the mystery-solution VERY rarely leads to a satisfying payoff when the actual solution to the mystery is revealed. A compelling story needs to be understood by the audience. The story needs to convince the audience to buy into whatever thing it has going. But that won’t happen if the audience knows there’s a reason why something’s happening but isn’t allowed to know that reason.

And that’s why this second episode of Zankyou no Terror simply lacks impetus. The first episode set up questions and mysteries instead of an actual plot-hook but this second episode acts as if it expects the audience to be already on-board with the story and its characters. It simply is NOT clear why anything in this episode should matter to the audience.

Maybe it will make sense in hindsight after the last episode but I really hadn’t expected to see this second episode spend that much time with the police-force. Using different perspectives in a story is always a bit of a distraction. You have different characters with different storylines that have each their own pacing and momentum. The storyline of Nine and Twelve is different from Lisa’s storyline and they are both different from the police-force’s storyline but the series has to find a way to unite them. You could do it with a theme or you could do it within the story via locations or events that involve everyone. What happens in this episode instead is the police-force trying to stop the next terrorist-attack but that’s a storyline largely independent of the mystery that was set up with the first episode. Nine and Twelve committing an act of terrorism and dragging Lisa into their little hobby has barely anything to do with the events of this episode. It really isn’t clear how the story has moved forward with this episode in regards to Lisa’s and Nine/Twelve’s storyline.

It also doesn’t help that the storyline of the police-force in this episode wasn’t very compelling. For one thing, there are a lot of scenes where characters just talk about stuff that has already happened without adding anything useful to that topic and then the episode spends way too much time dwelling on the central “riddle” of this episode. It really lacks any sort of emotional resonance as the police-characters don’t show any sort of compelling individuality and their analysis of the terror-acts is boringly rational. It’s really indicative of how the police-force tackled the “riddle” in this episode that nobody even bothered to ask why this is happening. Less than acting confused, these policemen don’t seem to care at all why this terrorism is happening in the first place. They just try to solve the riddle posed by Nine and Twelve in a video.

And the way these policemen tackled the solution of the “riddle” was simply incompetent. I mean, they get it that Nine and Twelve are making a reference towards the Sphinx-story. First of all, I would like to believe that most somewhat educated adults in Japan have at least heard of the Sphinx and Oedipus. Luckily at least one guy at the table knew the reference and what the deal was… which then lead to a bit of an infodump. Is this series assuming that its audience is incapable of looking up references to classic literature on its own? I really feel like this episode wasted too much time clobbering the audience with the necessary information in this case. Also, all this infodumping really leads to just everyone disregarding the reference immediately. For some inexplicable reason having heard the reference everyone thinks that the 4, 3 and 2 in the riddle reference an address or GPS-locations. That assumption is in NO way logically connected to the Sphinx/Oedipus-reference! Of course they ended up at the wrong place with such an inane approach to the “riddle”. And really, that wasn’t even the riddle. The riddle was getting the reference and then trying to interpret that reference – THAT was the riddle. Those policemen didn’t even get this far! Just a little research of the Oedipus-story would’ve led them to the solution!

[HorribleSubs] Zankyou no Terror - 02 [480p].mkv - 00003Oh, I get it! He says that because naturally a lack of patriotism is one of THE reasons to become a terrorist in your mother country! Have these policemen even HEARD of stuff like profiling?

But I feel like this stupidity had to be kinda there. It was inelegant in the way it was portrayed but ultimately the series needed this stupid catastrophe for two reasons: First, because the good guys are not the main-focus of the story and second, because there needed to be a reason for Shibasaki to become relevant to the plot.

Let’s talk about Shibasaki: You have the dysfunctional characterization, check. He has a complicated past, check. Somehow he’s always the smartest guy in the room, check. And he’s eager to do the right thing despite his circumstances, check. In short: He’s the hero of the story. Well, a good story would actually show that the weaknesses that led to his downfall don’t just disappear in the middle of the action. That would be just some trite plot-convenience otherwise but how often do you get protagonists who suck in their private life for many reasons but somehow at their workplace they’re perfection incarnated? It still happens way too often with these character-types. The other thing that would be also kinda stereotypical is for Shibasaki to enter some sort of redemption-arc. I mean, that’s just speculation on my part but you gotta remember: The good guys aren’t the focus here. So, who knows whether there’s enough time to turn Shibasaki into a truly interesting character…

About the character-focus… Since the second episode doesn’t want to spoil Von’s motivations, they’re practically villains at this point. It’s hard to believe that this second bomb-attack didn’t take anyone’s life – and those would be policemen and –women who died there. But I can’t imagine many people following the exploits of genuine terrorists without at least getting a glimpse at their rationale. Also, considering how elaborate those terror-attacks are, it will be difficult to create bombastic scenarios like in episode 01 from here on out. After all, the audience has to somewhat suspend their disbelief for these elaborate terror-attacks that are organized by two teenagers. But that gets VERY hard when they’re forced to watch nearly every step of the plan and its execution. That’s the prive of putting the focus on Nine and Twelve. Especially since Lisa becomes a plothook for the group-dynamic of Von, it’s hard to see how the show could back down from this focus. Yet, if the show wants to keep the why AND how of Von’s terror-attacks a mystery, then the show really shouldn’t have focused on them. I can’t imagine that a compelling main-story could emerge from this narrative approach. There was some really high-speed-action cinematography going on in the first episode at the start and the image of the one tower crumbling did send a message. But those were only glimpses that weren’t weighed down by a causally continuing narrative. The series can’t just spend 70% of an episode hanging around with Shibasaki and the police each time there’s another elaborate terror-attack underway. Naturally this wouldn’t be a problem, if the series had focused on the police-side of things from the start while it would’ve just periodically cut away for a short while to Nine and Twelve.

This series has started out with a lot of self-chosen challenges and this second episode simply hasn’t done enough to make me believe it’s up to those. It also doesn’t help that while Lisa seemed to be vaguely relevant in the first episode, she completely irrelevant this time around. So far… I’m really not impressed with what this series has offered so far… well, maybe except the soundtrack. Yoko Kanno’s music is the most compelling element of this show right now.

Episode-Rating: 7.0/10
Random Thoughts:

  • Maybe you wonder why I refer to the policeforce as police-men generally… well, that’s because in this series’ universe policewomen don’t exist apparently.
  • We learn that Lisa’s mother is divorced and her father has run away. Shibasaki better not be Lisa’s dad…
  • Speculation: Okay, my guess is so far that Nine and Twelve consider themselves superheroes with those masks and the way they avert killing innocents. But rather than serve their righteous cause by directly saving people, they try to send a message. And for that message they need an audience, so that’s why they seek so much attention with their modus operandi. There’s also something megalomaniac about which targets they have chosen and how they dare the police to catch them. At least, that’s how I’ve interpreted the actions of Nine and Twelve up to this point.


About M0rg0th

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Posted on July 18, 2014, in Anime, Reviews, Zankyou no Terror and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. sonicsenryaku

    This is a well-written review with detailed explanations regarding why you feel so strongly about your opinion. I agree with you about certain points but I think there are some points you make that dont quite garner legitimate criticism in regards to how the series is structuring itself. i just want to say going in that this is no way a jab at your opinion at all. I enjoy good, healthy conversation so just think of this as a talk with a fellow anime fan or geek that enjoys the same things you do but has a differing opinion. This is just my interpretation of the way i perceived things watching this ep and how they may differ from yours as well as why i disagree with some of your criticisms. With that out of the way, let’s get into this.

    You make the correct observation stating that the point of the riddle was not figuring out the question but by actually relating the answer to the riddle to the location of the bomb. But then as you say that(and correct me if im wrong as i apologize if i misunderstood), you say that the police could have made this association if they looked up the answer online? how?…looking up the answer on the internet would have only provided them with the answers to the actual riddle (the 2 versions) and not the connection itself. That is the important hurdle that needed to be crossed liked you mentioned. It was Shibasaki who looked online (at least its implied that he did so the people in this series do have brain cells) and came across the second answer, to which he made the connection to the location of the bomb because in the video, nine and twelve said “here’s a riddle to all of you, especially to the police”, making him suspect that the bomb is in a place the police would be located (that was crucial in his deduction), and as the alternate telling of the Oedipus story gives him the numbers 2-4-3, it would somehow correspond to an address location of a police station. And why is it inane to think that the numbers in the riddle is some address. Deciphring the riddle would lead to a location right? so it makes sense that you’d think that anything in the riddle would give some sort of information about the location like an address or a building location. The cops werent wrong for thinking that the numbers corresponded to some address because at the end of the day, the numbers actually did represent an address. The cops were of the impression that the answer to the riddle would reveal some information about a characteristic of the location of the bomb, and given that thought process, the numbers in the riddle would be an address That’s why they thought the answer was the human DNA facility). That’s valid reasoning even if it did not give them the correct answer.

    As you stated, the point of the riddle was interpreting how it related to the location, but going deeper than that, solving the riddle wasnt the answer; Knowing that there is an alternate telling to the riddle is (and trust me, a good amount of people whether from japan or not, do not even know the alternate telling of the riddle), with the order of the numbers being 2,4,3. Assuming its an address and that the answer to the 4,2,3 version of the riddle had nothing to do with the bomb’s location, but rather what nine and twelve said in their video, Shibasaki types in the numbers online and figures out that it has something to do with a police station. So 1. someone did go online and look up the riddle..that person being shibasaki. Two, the cop who was trying to decipher the riddle in the first place figured that he knew the story of Oedipus, so why would he goggle it if he was confident that he knew the story? Like I said. there are a good amount of people who know the story of Oedipus but do not know the alternate telling of the riddle. Speaking of having knowledge of Oedipus, it’s not logical to assume that the story of Oedipus is common knowledge; Japan’s educational curriculum’s are different and since japan isnt as diversified as say the US, not everyone is going to be up to snuff about Greek and Egyptian mythology (that seems like something people in japan would learn through obscurer means…like manga’s about Oedipus hahaha). I hear that the Oedipus story is not that common in Japan so it seems to be a culture-thing that the story is obscure there. That’s like saying that a good sum of Americans should be up to snuff with Japanese mythology, to which as far as my knowledge goes, that’s not the case, even among those who are deemed to be intelligent.

    You mention that the show is trying to be secretive with the “How” and the “why” of nine and twelve’s plans and motives, but the show so far has only kept the secret of the why. As you mentioned already, we clearly see the “how”; isnt that why you then mention that our suspension of disbelief is harder to maintain because we are meticulously being guided through their plans? To which i ask my next question, why does that break our suspension of disbelief. At the moment, the show has only asked us to suspend the fact that we are watching two teenage terrorist, and that their first attack on tokyo ended with minimum casualties, to which that is understandable because the first ep gave you ques that these arent normal teenagers(most likely they were bred at some facility) and that no one got severely hurt. We see everyone leave the building, we see that the explosions where done in timed intervals, allowing everyone to leave the vicinity before finally, the building comes down…to which at that point, no one is within the area to get smashed from the building collapsing. Now the only thing irksome about that is how the plan went perfectly, which requires suspension of disbelief but the steps that went to allowing such a feat to be handled is plausible so that allows one to be able to do; albeit with a bit of groaning. It’s like suspending your disbelief that all of Joker’s plans in the dark knight get executed so perfectly with the exact results that benefit him with no body being able to alter it ever so slightly, which didn’t end up hurting the narrative of the movie as a whole in the end.

    You make the statement that this series seems to be holding back the “why” as a way of artificially trying to build tension with the mystery but i think its within reason to allow the series to gives us at least two more episodes before revealing why these teens are doing what their doing. Quite honestly, the way the this episode went about its events tells me that we are going to learn about nine and twelve’s motives probably within the next 2 eps tops, episode 5 at the latest so that the tension does feel organic. And about Lisa and her dynamic with nine and twelve, I think you were under the impression that we’d get to see more of her with the duo this ep, but the way this ep went about that actually makes things more interesting in my opinion and it fits with what has been layed out for the audience so far. Nine calls Lisa an accomplice, but not because they had any plans of involving her with their scheme; and it’s here that you learn a bit about his character. Nine understands that Lisa is not actually an accomplice but rather a by-standing witness. He only calls her an accomplice because she reminds him of the kids at the institute he escaped from, and only says she’s an accomplice because by calling her that, she’d be more inclined to not say anything as well as it prevents him from needlessly having to kill her. Twelve understands this, which is why he later goes on to set the record straight that she’s not one of them. The way she Lisa twelve if he was keeping tabs on her is almost as if she makes thinks she a part of them to which twelve feels the need to correct her. He essentially tells her he will kill her if she steps out of line because the title of accomplice is nothing more than a title. At the end of the day, he just sees her as a witness with the potential to ruin their plan. The reason they are keeping her alive is because of what she reminds them of. My gut feeling tells me that Lisa’s involvement with the boys will come from her own curiosity regarding what they are trying to do and her just ending up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Overall, I guess where our opinions differ is that i find the show to be great with the potential to be stellar. I agree that it hasnt quite reached that level yet, but i feel that it is laying down groundwork to be that way. I agree with the whole Oedipus manga bit, but you have to also remember that not everyone has a computer at home or internet. Still, it was weird that it was a manga rather than a book or some encyclopedia. I can also get behind your statement of people at the police force not looking up the riddle; but then again one cop did know the story so it wasnt like the others were gonna be like “screw you we’re gonna go look it up anyway” (We tend to accept things as facts from those who seem to be more knowledgeable than we are without questioning it sometimes). Regardless, you wrote a great review and id like to see more of your thoughts regardless of whether they are in line with mine or not : )


    • > This is just my interpretation of the way i perceived things watching this ep and how they may differ from yours as well as why i disagree with some of your criticisms.

      That’s totally fine😀 ! I love hearing different opinions about this series. It is very ambitious with its storytelling after all.

      > I agree with the whole Oedipus manga bit, but you have to also remember that not everyone has a computer at home or internet.

      You’re right with how there was a bit of a logic in how the police got the riddle wrong. And Shibasaki was a little bit smarter. But if this one person in the beginning knew the Oedipus-story (or at least one version) wouldn’t he notice the crucial difference in how Nine and Twelve ask the riddle? And then be urged to do more research on the story? Even if the policemen aren’t smart enough to solve the whole riddle, I would’ve liked to see them act more meticulous in their investigation. In fact, the real obstacle would have been to figure out how the numbers relate to the answer of the second version. Instead, they drop the whole Oedipus/sphinx-angle immediately and follow some random hunch basically.

      > Now the only thing irksome about that is how the plan went perfectly, which requires suspension of disbelief but the steps that went to allowing such a feat to be handled is plausible so that allows one to be able to do; albeit with a bit of groaning.

      The Joker’s actions in The Dark Knight are a good example. Another one would be the way Hannibal is turning the corpses of his victims into macabre artpieces in Bryan Fuller’s TV-series. My criticism, well, more like my fear is… that you could suspend your disbelief in both cases because the story enters a heightened reality where they’re capable of committing these atrocities without any problems. But that only works because you don’t follow those characters around as they manage to complete each step of the plan. Both terror-attacks so far work because the show isn’t meticulously showing each step of the attack. But if this show is really about Nine and Twelve then the series can’t keep doing that. It would have to focus on Lisa’s perspective and the police’s perspective each time Nine and Twelve enter this heightened reality where they’re able to stage these terror-attacks. I mean, this could work but personally I felt like the first episode has set up a plot where we mainly follow Nine and Twelve around with the rest of the cast being more of a side-show.

      > You make the statement that this series seems to be holding back the “why” as a way of artificially trying to build tension with the mystery but i think its within reason to allow the series to gives us at least two more episodes before revealing why these teens are doing what their doing.

      I’m really weary of this kind of build-up. The eventual revelation is rarely worth all that build-up. Also, I felt like this revelation was artificially held back in this second episode because of how nobody even asked why these two kids are doing this. The episode doesn’t even present hints as to what the revelation might be. I don’t know… I just feel like this series lacks energy so far, something that would get the plot rolling.

      > At the end of the day, he just sees her as a witness with the potential to ruin their plan.

      Yeah, but that was already established in the first episode, I felt like. She’s some witness they have to make sure keeps quiet and there’s some sentimental reason for Nine to keep her around. And Twelve fears she’s a bad influence for Nine and that she has the real potential to fuck up their plans.


  2. sonicsenryaku

    Agreed; not to mention you see that potential for Lisa to fuck their plans up wit the way she caught onto their riddle. Im pretty sure that was the case when she was reading the Oedipus Manga hahaha…that still makes me laugh


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