Zankyou no Terror, Episode 10

Well, this is pretty much the definition of putting all your eggs in one basket. If Zankyou no Terror can put out a fantastic episode next week, the show will have sold me. If next week ends up in the dumps, the whole show will suffer the repercussions. To be honest, I’m torn about this—endings are always critically important to me, but this almost seems to be a case where the ending is going to be disproportionately important to the other 10 episodes that came before.

I kind of wish things weren’t this way. But they are. Anyways, the episode.

Zankyou no Terror

The detectives were wrong this time—Nine may be a criminal, but he’s a one track mind without any ulterior motives besides the ones he’s expressed. It was apparent immediately by the frighteningly serious look on Nine’s face that this was the final stage of the plan. I have to wonder if the process would have been the same if Five had not appeared or if Twelve had stayed with him, but either way he’s holding a trump card much stronger than the demands he’s making. This is the constant danger of obsession (and Nine is certainly obsessed)—that you can lose perspective. This has been Nine’s world, his isolation, his revenge, for a long time. And now he’s steeled himself to do whatever it takes, even if that means wiping Tokyo off the face of the planet.

As Shibasaki says, kids can become adults in the blink of an eye, and that is the point to which Nine has come. Of course, the funny thing about becoming adult is that you’re no less capable of making awful decisions than you were as a kid. Except when you’re a kid, you can plead ignorance. When you’re adult, that excuse disappears. Nine has taken that step, because the moment he removes his mask he takes full and personal ownership of his actions. I’m reminded of World Conquest: Zvezda Plot and how masks were a symbol of childhood. Without his mask, Nine is no longer a child. He has decided that, for him, the stakes are the revelation of the Athena plan or destroying an entire city and himself. That’s not a child’s decision.

Zankyou no Terror

That, for me, is the most devastating thing about this show. Nine, Twelve, Lisa, and even Five should still be children. They should have never been here to begin with. It’s an terrible, tragic thing that things have come to this point. And, to some degree, they still are, as Twelve pouts like a child in front of lake, he and Lisa go on a date, and Five speaks of Nine as a child would of a toy. When Shibasaki shows up at Mamiya’s house and announces that he’s come on behalf of the 26 children who disappeared…it’s not only for those children who perished in the experiments. It’s for the three remaining children who have had their childhood violently truncated.

It’s enough to make me tear up as I sit here and write this post. Despite the scorn I often see contemporary society heap upon innocence, I still consider it to be an incredibly valuable, beautiful thing. Children are potential incarnate, innocent beings with the ability to become creatures of incredible strength, goodness, and creativity. Comparing them to weapons, inherently destructive and inhuman inanimate objects…that’s yet another tragedy. This isn’t about the potential to become something useful. It’s about the potential to become something good. Just being good ought to be good enough, but the Athena Project was all about turning goodness into utility. That is the tremendously sad context of Zankyou no Terror—that three children who could have been just good had to be mutated into solely useful existences.

Zankyou no Terror

That, I think, more or less covers the first half of the episode. But I’ll come back to this idea of innocence when we get to Five’s final scene. Twelve’s reaction to the news that Nine has surrendered is more than a little heartbreaking, and his immediate suggestion to Lisa of going to the amusement park indicates a desperation for escape that his words later confirm. Lisa’s reaction to this is equally sad, as even of Twelve’s falsely happy face can’t distract her from the reality that someone she cares about (despite Nine’s lack of expressed affection towards her) is in need. Her reflection on her own emotions when Twelve came to save her and her confidence that Nine would feel the same way despite Twelve’s betrayal is a cognitive motion we haven’t really seen from her before. It’s an understanding of humanity beyond herself, and that’s not something you can do when you’re totally disconnected from others.

Zankyou no Terror

And now, it’s time to talk about that final scene between Nine and Five, which I think is a sad case of wasted potential in this show. I know Five’s always been a point of contention for a lot of people in this story, and while I never felt she was a terrible addition narratively, I do desperately wish someone had thought to do some serious character writing before putting her on screen. While I’ve mostly focused on the aspects of Five that I felt were consistently and relevant in my past write-ups, this episode was a jarring reminder that Five’s always been a bunch of contradictions, and not in a good way.

I’ve always seen Five as a misguided child. From the chess game, to her possessiveness of Nine, to the juxtaposition of her blindingly white hair (white is, of course, a traditional color indicator for innocence) and her violent personality, to her singing of “London Bridge,” to her jealousy of Lisa, this has always been the best part of Nine as a character. Sadly, it was never well-reconciled with her psychotic villain persona, but this has been the side of Nine that I’ve focused on and in which I think dwells the most potential. “You should steal the things you want,” she tells Clarence, which seems to me to be a statement of naivety. It’s, of course, never that easy.

Zankyou no Terror

All of this is just to say that the final interaction between Nine and Five really didn’t make much sense at all. Five more or less just monologues a bunch of scattered lines that don’t amount to much of a statement on anything at all (I dunno why she was holding Nine at gunpoint) or at all build to her suicide. Disappointing? Yeah, very much so. And even so, her facial expression as she stands amidst the flames struck me far more than any of her words had and far more than I expected to.

Five should be pitied, and not just because her character was messily written. The one thing I was able to distill on an emotional level from her final minutes on screen was that she was a person desperately searching for something totally out of her reach. Whether that was connection with other human beings or simply a desire to live a full life, Five was never going to be able to find the thing she wanted. And why? Because her potential to become something good was destroyed by the experiment. That’s what I think, amidst all the nonsensical blundering of the writing, we can find in Five’s character.

Zankyou no Terror

And so, that leaves us at the end of the episode with Nine removing his mask publicly (something he would have done either way) and an atomic bomb floating over Tokyo. So, yeah. I think Zankyou no Terror has staked an awful lot on this final episode—the conclusion to Nine, Twelve, and Lisa’s emotional arcs, the plot point of the bomb, Shibasaki’s ending, the consequences of the terrorists’ actions. That’s a lot to cover. Personally, I’m hoping they solve the bomb problem quickly (can they just shoot the balloon down?) and move on to the characters quickly.

In the end, I guess I did think this was a good episode. There was some great animation from MAPPA and, as always, some great cinematography (loved the direction in camera work when Five got out of her hospital bed). However it all wraps up, Zankyou no Terror is still a well-made anime. I’m hoping the writing can hold out for just one more good episode. Until next week, then!

11 thoughts on “Zankyou no Terror, Episode 10

  1. I think we, as an audience were supposed to pity Five. She’s the one who broke, a reminder of what could have become of Nine and Twelve. As you’ve said, she wasn’t very well written so it doesn’t come across properly, but she’s clearly meant to be viewed as a tragic villain here. All the more reason why Sphinx need to expose the Athena plan.

    But yeah, her final scene really didn’t make much sense. Really didn’t understand the point of any of it; it didn’t work as either a confrontation or as a conclusion to her character. It pissed me off, to be honest, but that might be kind of the point. It’s kind of a shame. That said I think the episode on the whole felt very rushed. Twelve’s heroic moment felt like very sudden, and passed by too quickly for it to make the impact it should have. And besides the bomb reveal, I don’t think anything involving Nine was given the weight it deserved.

    Shibazaki’s stuff was pretty great though! Really heavy jabs at Japanese nationalism going on there.

    I think the one scene the really stood out for me was Twelve tossing the motorcycle keys up and down. You can really feel him weighing his options there, it was pretty great.

    Overall, I’m not really sure what to think of this episode. Definitely one of the overall weaker ones I think maybe. But hey, at least Hamura found the cigarettes in the end!

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    • Aha I totally forgot about Twelve’s “heroic moment” when i was writing this. Just goes to show how truly fast it went by. I wasn’t even sure why they followed him in the first place, nor why he fell off his bike (I mean, yes, I understand the physics, but not his driving). Rushed probably is a good way to describe the whole episode.

      I wanted to screencap the motorcycle keys (and it was cool how they cut away at the peak of the second toss, and then came back in after a scene), but a still shot couldn’t really do it justice.

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  2. I think Five acknowledges that she lost the game she wanted to play with Nine. She was obsessed with him, taking a childish delight in his despair.She wanted to have him the way a child wants a toy, partly because, their childhood games were the only meaningful connections she had to anything. Wanting to beat Nine at his game was all she ever wanted, and I think she realised that she might not have enough time for another round. She lost because she couldn’t have Nine- her attempt at breaking Twelve failed, and he came back for Nine. So essentially, she’s lost her raison d’être, and shot herself to save herself the pain, while requesting Nine to live the life that she- with her hollow insanity- could not live.

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    • That sounds like a plausible explanation for her character and certainly plays into the characterization of her as a misguided child that has been done as the best part of her character. It’s a shame it wasn’t very well articulated at all through her dialogue or actions on screen.

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  3. I think Five was angry about the fact that she had been abandoned by Nine and Twelve and that Lisa was part of their group as terrorists. That Nine “accepted” a common woman called Lisa and she also didn’t like the fact they just have known Lisa and accepted her. She was very angry and wanted revenge. She wanted to beat Nine and still wanted to be part of his life but she realized tha she had lost long ago. Her vengeance had lost meaning. In general, I think Five was a poorly constructed character, too impulsive and unrealistic. I did not find any logic in their actions and her plan did not make any sense. But after all she was a child who didn’t grow up.

    Sorry for the spelling and grammar mistakes.

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    • Oh, yeah, I absolutely I agree. From the moment Five saw Lisa, she has just oozed jealousy. I don’t necessarily think, in the scheme of the ending, the very specific details of her motivations mattered all that much—or, at least, because she was so scattershot before, you kind of have to ignore them to get any sort of meaning out of her final moments. The big takeaway, for me, is that her life was ruined by this experiment. And the great irony is that in trying to produce “personnel” that would lead Japan as adults, the Athena Plan only succeeded in creating three broken children.

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      • Even if this show has disappointed me in some ways there are some other parts which I really like. I agree with everything you said I should have said Five was a child who couldn’t grow up not someone who didn’t grow up because she didn’t have this choice. When she told Lisa these guys has no future I thought we could apply the same thing to her. I would have loved to see what USA did to her in order to “train” her (I don’t know if I have explained me well).

        Another point I wanted to comment (I forgot) is the romance in this show I find it poor constructed too I mean I would find some sort of friendship between Twelve and Lisa more realistic than a romance. Twelve is attracted to Lisa because she is part from the normal world where he doesn’t belong because of his choice: being a terrorist. He also identify him with her because they have been abandoned. I feel like he wants to save her from her problems and that’s why he told her she didn’t have to apologize more. So I feel like he wants to protect her for allowing her to live like other chidren. I also feel his curiosity towards Lisa for him she is a new person and every interaction is something new to him.

        I don’t know if I get my message across.

        I think this anime needed more episodes.

        That’s all for now.

        Sorry for the spelling and grammar mistakes.

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        • I guess I don’t really see Twelve and Lisa’s relationship actually being portrayed as a romance by the show. Yes, there’s an obvious attraction there, but I think the crux of their relationship is their mutual need for companionship. Lisa needs someone to feel useful to; Twelve needs someone to help. They’re a bit dysfunctional together, but what two people aren’t? I think the only reason we see it as a romance is that our otaku brains have been trained to see romance everywhere, even when it’s not quite that.

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  4. A lot of people have overlooked this, but Five was the person seen running away with Twelve and Nine when they were younger, in Episode 1. Nine even feels bad about not being able to run away with Five (He has a nightmare about not saving her). I don’t think they were ever on bad terms. Five was left alone after that, and all she wanted was to be with Nine again (and play with him again). Although Twelve was smart, Nine seemed smarter and seemed like the only person on the same level as Five, if not higher. Being Five’s only real rivalry, and one of the few people alive who not only knew about her childhood, but also experienced it along with her, I feel like it was normal for Five to love Nine. Overall, I feel like Five is compensating for her lack of a “real” childhood. Also, Five’s partner calls for backup before he is shot by her. For about a frame, you can see a car pass next to Five as she blows herself up. It wasn’t just a suicide, she did it to save Nine. The general theme that unifies Lisa, Twelve, Nine and Five (and even Shibazaki depending on your perspective of him) is loneliness.

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    • Oh, yes, loneliness (and I think for Shibasaki, certainly) most definitely is the connective principle between the main characters.

      As for Five, as I’ve said, she’s a misguided child. That’s the best way to understand her character and everything she does. It doesn’t explain everything, nor does it smooth over all the inconsistencies, but it at least provides a baseline of understanding for those of us who don’t want to totally rage about her place in the story.

      All her motivations makes sense, it’s just that they’re convoluted and not very well articulated. The difference is in the execution, rather than in a “there/not there” binary.

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