I was worried coming into this episode, as the popular opinion on the streets (read: Anitwitter) seemed to be that this episode wasn’t very good.
I disagree. This wasn’t my favorite episode of Zankyou no Terror, but it was more that serviceable. (EDIT: Apparently the ruckus has to do with believability problems with FBI allowing a bombing to take place under their command. Y’all are too grounded in the real world.)
This episode we saw the return of (better) visual storytelling to Zankyou no Terror, as well as giving us a number of parallels and contrasts on which to ponder. There were also a TON of facial expressions this episode, most of them revealing small details in tiny moments that are easy to miss.
I will admit, I was pretty worried about where this episode was heading when they took almost four minutes of screentime for recapping the previous episode, and while I don’t excuse that choice, I forgot that it happened pretty quickly.
The chess game got underway pretty quickly, but it’s not the chess game that was really important here—it’s what it represents and how it draws everyone who’s important to this story (including a Shibasaki who smiles in delight when he realizes Sphinx is in the airport), finally, into one single whirlpool of intrigue, anger, and twisted camaraderie. Yes, Shibasaki, whether he realizes it or not, has grown found of the chase with which Sphinx has provided him. And, even better for him, the knowledge that the images showing up on the airport screens are coming on police orders give him an excuse to say the line he’s been wanting to say since the time he was banished to the archives: “It looks like we’ll be better off looking into the movements of the police.”
We also got a lot of information about Five this episode. It’s clear by her reaction to losing track of Twelve that this is a game she wants to play with Nine, and Nine alone. Five is nothing if not selfish, and she wants her game uninterrupted by outside forces—and she wants desperately to win.
Eyes have always been a focus in Zankyou no Terror (really, in anime in general), but especially so with Five. And in this episode, there were three distinct moments with her eyes that really caught my attention. The first of these (left) comes right after Lisa creates the distraction in the bathroom and the screens flicker. Five’s eyes move away from the central monitor, just for a moment, and Sphinx’s plan succeeds. But Five glances immediately back to the main monitor, where her game with Nine is ongoing. That’s the big takeaway for me. After giving the orders to capture Twelve, Five zooms right back into her game with Nine—it’s where her attention and selfishness lead her. The second one (center) is actually impossible to convey with a still shot, but it’s a tiny moment of frustration eking out in the form of a subtle eye twitch from the impeccably collected Five. She wants to play, but she similarly doesn’t want to lose. The final shot (right), are some damn good crazy eyes, as Five kisses Lisa’s school ID—oh, yes. She knows she’s been replaced by Lisa and she’s absolutely livid.
Five’s not the only one who’s pissed at the end of the episode. Shibasaki, in the aftermath of stopping the bomb, seems to have fixated on Sphinx once again and pounds his fists on the glass of the control tower, seeing Sphinx just barely out of his reach. I think that’s pretty interesting—Shibasaki seems to be content to have both the police and Sphinx as his enemies, despite the fact that he should already recognize that his interests align more with those of the terrorists than his employers. This puts Shibasaki at an interesting crossroads: does he help Sphinx and follow through on the investigation he was forced to quit long ago, or does he continue to pursue the kid terrorists due to his rage/fear about the plutonium?
So, that was a lot about Shibasaki and Five and the overall craft of the episode, but you should know by now that I can’t write a Zankyou no Terror post without writing about Lisa and the boys.
Lisa truly is one of them now. We’ve known Five was pretty emotionally involved with her for a while now, but even Nine falters in his icy regard for Lisa when he realizes that Five has taken steps to eliminate her. It’s not enough to keep him from initially making the utilitarian choice to evacuate the airport and sacrifice Lisa, Five’s horror at the suggestion forces Nine to reconsider and enlist Shibasaki’s help—Shibasaki’s duty, as Nine quips on the phone, is to protect the public. But Sphinx is an inherently personal group, and Nine can’t deny Twelve’s (dare I call it love?—not yet…) affection for Lisa.
We got some of Twelve’s most expressive faces ever in the boys’ conversation outside the airport, first in his anger at Five’s actions to kill Lisa and second in his horror at Nine’s suggestion that they sacrifice their new member to save those in the airport. I’ve never really talked about this before, but I think facial expressions are a huge (and easily neglected) technique in anime to convey both information and express human emotion. Even cold, impersonal Five is made more human through her face and eyes.
On her end, Lisa finally becomes a willing and active agent in Sphinx’s schemes, serving her role as a decoy and cementing her presence with them on the airport luggage cart. We see a moment of indecision, but these instances have been growing shorter and shorter each time Lisa encounters them—and this time she takes action quite quickly. Is this why Sphinx wins this game? Because they, unlike both Shibasaki and Five, who are both still solo guns, are a team and act like it?
In the end, Sphinx probably still lost the battle, as they will most likely be framed for the bombing and Five’s going into berserk mode over Lisa. But, for now, they’re together—they are the family they’ve each been searching for all this time. Who will make the next move? Will it tear them apart?