I wonder if I will be able to make it to the end of the episode notes for this show without running out of words to praise it. This was another great episode from Zankyou no Terror, and the most impressive thing is that it was great in a totally different way than last episode. The visual storytelling here is of a quality unlike anything I’ve ever seen in anime before (really, a good season for that, if you include Argevollen)—and man does it make the entire show better.
I want to start off this post by noting that the character designs for Nine, Twelve, and Lisa were distinctively less harsh this week. The angles of their faces and even their expressions were much more childlike than we’ve seen them before in this show. Compare this shot from the second episode to the picture at the end of this paragraph and you’ll see the difference immediately. The first Nine is dangerous, threatening, in control. The second one has a much softer face, and one that is displaying a wider range of emotions than we’ve seen from him before. Obviously, I’m using specific situations to back up this point, but it wasn’t just the character designs that lightened up—it was, at least for the first part of the episode, the show’s tone, as well.
I noted back in episode 2, during the Mentos Green Tea Cola scene, that Twelve and Lisa were super cute together. There was more of that this week, and I think it goes to show that Lisa has a very peculiar and fascinating effect on the two boys. When she’s around, they automatically act much more like the kids they are (I mean, let’s be honest, she’s pretty cute and she at least tries to cook), even managing to squeeze a hilariously rote tsundere line out of Nine. And it’s not a coincidence that a clear (to us) reference to Lisa pops up in the next Sphinx video, as Twelve jokes, “I’m looking for a girlfriend who can make bombs and good food.”
Lisa is, whether she or the boys know it, already hugely influential on these two terrorists. While this section of the episode didn’t reveal anymore to us about Nine and Tweleve’s motivations (we got that later on), it did some amazing work to humanize all there of them. I’ve liked Lisa from the start, but she was so well-intentioned and hapless this episode that it was as if last episode’s freedom moment on the bike had truly released her from the bonds of her pass. She obviously wants, very badly, to stay with these two boys no matter what. And that, on its own, says a ton about Lisa as a character, what she thinks about her past, and what she wants to do with her future. (Oh, and Lisa gets all the best music in this show.)
So, there was all that, and I haven’t even yet touched on the real heavy parts of the episode. But it’s important to note here that none of the Lisa scenes were pointless or wasted time. She’s a wonderfully relatable foil character to basically everyone else in this show, a leaf tossed around in a storm, just doing the best she can to find somewhere to belong.
Guess who showed up in episode 5? Five, of course—along with a portentous line that certainly carried the promise of more than just bad weather.
Five’s appearance raises a metric ton of questions, the first of which is: why is she opposing Nine and Twelve? Up to this point, Five has been more or less shown to be a child who was friends or maybe allied with Nine and Twelve in the place where the grew up. Clearly, that’s no longer the case, as she storms through Nine’s firewalls and hacks his computer with an ease that immediately reminds him of her. Nine’s head ringing along with child-Five’s haunting refrains, “Are you ready?” pretty much confirms that the connection between the two was less than amiable, and she clearly outmatches Nine in all the fields in which he outmatches the police.
Her interference (most likely including the shutting down of cellular service across the entire city) with Nine and Twelve’s plans does some amazing work in opening up expositional opportunities for Nine and Twelve to reveal their motivations in more detail than they ever have before.
As suspected by the non-existent body count thus far from Nine and Twelve’s plots, they don’t actually have the intention of killing anybody. Shibasaki looks to be on the trail of uncovering why they are doing what they’re doing, which is a nice little twist allowing us to understand Nine and Twelve slowly along with Shibasaki.
Equally relevant is the political balking that’s going in the upper ranks of the police. Coupled with Five’s appearance, it’s obvious that someone has reached the conclusion Shibasaki is still grasping for already and taking very strong steps—or, perhaps, very deliberate inaction—to shut down their efforts before their plans is successful. While Nine and Twelve’s desperate efforts to defuse their own bomb before anyone is hurt were incredibly tense (the direction is so competent it’s almost invisible), the truly fascinating element to come from this episode is the new alliances that have been set by the shady actions of the upper levels of the police.
Sphinx and Shibasaki now form a sort of oppositional team, opposed by Nine and Twelve’s one-time playmate and (seemingly) the rest of the government. It is here that I want to again return to my discussion of the character designs. It was not only during their time with Lisa, acting like true high school boys, that Nine and Twelve’s designs appeared softer and less adult. Even in the midst of their rush to stop the bomb, we got shots of Twelve looking utterly bewildered, like someone totally out of his depth.
Nine and Twelve are no longer the aggressors; they’re no longer the smart ones. They are outmatched, in danger, and they’re at the edge of not knowing what to do. Contrasted with Five’s very adult (or at least pseudo-adult) make-up in a horrifyingly vivid purple, Nine and Twelve are truly the children in this game. They’re now put in the unenviable position where they either can make the riddles so difficult that only Five can solve them—but there’s no guarantee action will be taken if she does—or to make them easy enough that anyone can solve them. Shibasaki, as well, now must decide which force he must oppose, and whether or not he can oppose one by opposing the other. The game is just getting started.