Zankyou no Terror – 02 Review
That’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.
Wasn’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!
Oh, 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.
- 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.