Zankyou no Terror, Episode 3

The fault lines in Zankyou no Terror are very, very evident when the focus away from its strengths. One thing I’ve learned from writing fiction is that it’s much easier to write well when writing good characters. Solid characters with depth and emotions of their own naturally support good writing and good storytelling. I said last week that I like the main trio more than I like any of the police officers, and I stand by that this week.

Zankyou no Terror

If I’m being totally honest, I didn’t think this was a very good episode, at least by Zankyou no Terror‘s standards from the first two episodes. The dialogue was pretty stock stuff, and the show’s attempts to fill out Shibasaki as a character, while successful at telling us more about him, did nothing to make him more interesting or more compelling. Shibasaki is not very interesting to watch, mostly because he’s stuck in the pit of being surrounded by lesser intellects. From what I saw this episode, Shibasaki has no actual special attributes as a detective—he’s just been given superior knowledge. He knows more than other people about Oedipus (…really? convenient that he’s so engrossed in Greek mythology…), and so he’s in a place where he is the only one who can solve the riddle. Has the rest of the police station just decided to quit researching the Greek mythology so obviously referenced by Sphinx’s riddles—to the point where they need to pull up a spited detective out of Archives?

Zankyou no Terror

A feat of “great” detective work that any noob in the department could have figured out by using Wikipedia.

This is a problem, because Shibasaki is probably going to be a major character—the antagonist to Nine and Twelve’s protagonist roles—going forward in the story, and so far we’ve just been shown how much he knows, not how clever he is. Here’s hoping Nine makes the next riddle near impossible so we can see if Shibasaki is really a worthwhile opponent for them.

Shibasaki’s “motivations” for taking on the case have potential for making him into an interesting counterpoint for Nine and Twelve, but their presentation in this episode was nothing but telling. We had another character narrate his past to us (“second generation survivor”). Really, the best moment for Shibasaki came at the end of his riddle solving stream, as he forgets his superior attitude and gets riled up. It could have been an interesting moment, but having everything laid out for us beforehand dulled the impact.

Zankyou no Terror

P.S. Throwing in a side of bland professional jealousy does nothing to make Shibasaki more interesting.

But I don’t want to spend all my time talking about the bad (or, less good) in this episode, because there were some quality moments. It should come as no surprise at this point when I say these moments were basically exclusive to our neglected main trio. Seriously, what the heck is up with Nine, Twelve, and Lisa’s (still my favorite character) lack of screen time?

Lisa Mashima’s life sucks. And all she’s done for most of it is just endure, tolerate, suck it up, and move on. But this episode she decides to do something about it. After a truly heartbreaking sequence flicking back and forth between Lisa walking through the hallways of school and her shoes bobbing in the pool, we find Lisa back in the obsessive clutches of her mother, and then packing her bag and running away. Backed by a great musical track, we see all of this without even a snippet of dialogue, just harsh schoolgirl laughter, pool water sloshing, and the shrieks of Lisa’s mother. It’s an interesting moment for Lisa, because until now she’s shown agency only twice—once to save her life in the tower, once to chase after Twelve in the streets—something’s changed in her, and the only thing that’s changed in her life is meeting Nine and Twelve.

Zankyou no Terror

Where is she going from here? Is she running without a plan? Is she looking for Nine and Twelve? Whatever the case may be, Lisa is trying to improve her life. I, for one, hope she’s able to find what she’s looking for.

I also thought this week of Zankyou no Terror provided more evidence for my theory that Nine is the primary driving force behind the terror partnership, with Twelve doing something more like tagging along and acting as moral support. Not only is Nine the one “pulling the trigger” and smiling in the OP, but a lot of Twelve’s lines this episode (not that he got many) were supportive of Nine. Stuff like, “What’re you going to do if no one solves the riddle again?” and “No lying, okay?” is what I’m talking about. In the case of the first line, Twelve doesn’t ask what “we” will do, but what Nine will do. That’s not a partnership. That’s one guy driving the boat and the other standing by him with a hand on his shoulder. In the case of the second, that’s a supportive statement, one that asks to be trusted, supports by implying, “You don’t have to lie to me.”

Zankyou no Terror

Everything leading up to this moment had fantastic soundwork, by the way.

I’m not saying Twelve isn’t as invested in the terrorism as Nine is; I’m just saying that Twelve’s motivations are different. Nine is in this for himself. Twelve looks to be in this for Nine. But we’ll see where things go when the final character from the OP shows up. We caught a glimpse of the bleached white girl in Nine’s flashback and she’s distinctively grown up in the OP. I’m interested to see how she comes into play in the future (I won’t spoil her name, but she voiced by Megumi Han!!!).

In summary, I just want more of the main trio (especially Lisa) and I want Zankyou no Terror to go back its good storytelling ways from the first episode. I won’t lie, my impressions may be somewhat clouded by my annoyance that we got another episode mostly full of the police, but I still think Zankyou no Terror was weaker this week than its been to this point.

Zankyou no Terror

7 thoughts on “Zankyou no Terror, Episode 3

  1. At this point, Nine and Twelve are plot devices designed for events to happen more than characters. The show is aware of this, and that’s why it changes focus to the police side, which is more easily relatable. But it’s true the show needs to outgrow this phase, and fast.

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    • That’s an interesting point, especially as—despite their lack of screentime—Nine and Twelve are still the drivers of the action. They’re the ones planting the bombs, giving the riddles…everyone else, including Shibasaki, is just responding to them. They definitely are skirting the fringes of just being random forces without reason.

      I mean, they’re teenaged terrorists. They’re psyches right now have to be a bit more complex that just, “Let’s blow things up for attention.”

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  2. Pretty much agree with you about everything here. Especially your point about Shibasaki solving the riddles. It’s almost exactly what I was thinking as I watch the episode. I mean, surely he’s not the only person in Tokyo who knows anything about Greek mythology?

    I think the dull, grayscale quality to the colour palette also really doesn’t help make the police any more interesting. It works well with Lisa, given her state of mind,but with the police it only serves to make it that bit more boring to watch.

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    • That’s a good point about the grayscale color with the police and Lisa. I think it highlights well the differences between why I find the police boring and Lisa sympathetic and compelling. All the information that is conveyed about Lisa is done in a unified manner—colors, music, dialogue, visual action, it’s all specifically and intentionally crafted to create a certain mood and convey particular information about her.

      The way we get stuff about the police just feels lazy by comparison. We have people narrating backstories, and people just talking, talking, talking all the time. With the police, the show doesn’t make use of Watanbe’s ability to present things visually, which is a bummer.

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      • One thing I thought was very well done on the police side was actually Shibasaki’s office. It had a very Watanabe composition about it; unpacked cardboard boxes, disorganised shelves, old looking computer… Very full looking and also told us a lot about Shibasaki himself. Maybe the police being boring and lazy looking in comparison is halfway intentional?

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  3. Completely agree with the professional jealousy and Shibazaki’s (looked up) knowledge rather than detective work not adding much to his character, but I liked this episode. Perhaps it was because I watched both E2 & E3 after each other rather than last week and yesterday, but I very much like that they strayed away from Nine & Twelve’s dominating amount of screentime. The story on Lisa in E2 was well done, and the story on Shibazaki managed to impress me. It had emotions to it, as if I could understand the emptiness he recalled and the hatred he feels towards Sphinx. The police jealousy didn’t add much to his character but it was the logical way to go. Young and ambitious detective suddenly gets put under a guy from archives? The reaction is predictable and realistic. Sometimes you need to get the feeling of realism right for a show, and while not flashy or particularly interesting I am of the opinion that that little squabble was perfect to get the job done. After all, we as viewer also hardly know Shibazaki and are skeptical of his abilities as well. Why can’t one of the police men be?

    Not to mention that E1 was a big bang. It was to get the viewers attention, but it was also big to get the police’s attention. Sphinx obviously has more in petto than just playing the terrorists. I assume they want to take revenge on the Japanese government for their past and lost friend, and try to gather attention from the Japanese population before digging up the dirt. That’s what I took from the “cat and mouse game” line Nine oppored as reaction to Shibazaki’s video stream.

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    • Yeah, Nine and Twelve using terrorism to surface dirt on the government seems to be the theory that I’ve seen floated around the most.

      As for characters and screentime and my general complaints, I will say that one moment I did like was when the jealous detective actually acknowledged that Shibasaki was getting results and seemed a bit impressed. That was a nice bit of growth to get from a side-character.

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