“Are you going to destroy the whole world?”
Two terrorists of genius intellect begun a reign of terror in Japan, citing their name as Sphinx and leaving the word von as marks of their footsteps in destruction; an array of beautiful animation, a breathtaking, close to perfect if not perfect original soundtrack and a setting so realistic and familiar with characters that one could connect and relate to, characters that you could see a piece of your soul in. No anime has left me as breathless as Zankyou no Terror did, from the soundtrack kept on replay with mesmerizing tracks, to the storyline that keeps you utterly captivated. Perhaps I give too much praise — but it’s also important to note that Zankyou no Terror has numerous flaws, which I feel are redeemed by the ending, the impact of the story; and how incredibly forgivable it is, because really, it’s one of those rare works I find in which all its mistakes are okay. Perhaps it isn’t perfect, perhaps it’s just another could have been, but it’s still beautiful, emotional, and in its own way, it’s that sort of flawed beauty.
Zankyou no Terror kept me thinking for days on end after watching it, and with every moment I spent pondering on the profound impact it left on me, the more I realized how powerful it was. Although I’ve been handing it a lot of praise, there are multiple factors in the anime that nearly ruined it. Being on the edge of my seat, only to be greeted by something that almost completely put me off the anime was less than desirable. Imagine being greeted episode after episode, with stunning visuals and songs that suddenly surprise you, only to find that you’re frantically listening to them over and over; capturing the moments of when you first watched it. You feel like it’s one of those shows that would instantly make it, they’d stay in your heart. As I elaborate later on, I almost didn’t give this anime a chance to redeem itself, and thankfully — it did so in the greatest way.
The anime premiered in the summer of 2014; alongside others such as Tokyo Ghoul, the second season of Sword Art Online and Space Dandy, and a lot of other notable anime. I ended up watching Zankyou no Terror in one sitting towards the beginning of March this year. Obviously, I didn’t watch it during its premiere, but looking at the list for that season, it’s the psychological anime that stands out (along with Tokyo Ghoul, of course), which is of course my favorite genre. Take note that the rest of this review contains spoilers, as well as a detailed overview of my own opinion; thus it would be biased, moreso since I really, really adore this series.
Zankyou no Terror revolves around two teenage terrorists, going by the names of Twelve; an energetic, smiling and humorous boy with a youthful appearance, and Nine; in contrast to Twelve, the much more silent and calm one who displays less emotion towards the environment around them. They dub themselves as Sphinx, quickly rising as the most famed terrorist group in Japan and possibly the world, uploading videos usually containing clues and hints towards their next attacks on a site similar to YouTube. Their reign of terror is mysteriously designed to not cause casualties, but to instead spark attention and draw the public’s eye. With every carefully executed plan targeting various areas throughout Tokyo, they grow further wanted for the destruction they cause. At the very first attack, a girl named Lisa Mishima gets involved with Sphinx and eventually learns of their identities — leading them to give her a choice; to die or to partake in their schemes. She chooses the latter, and although not actually acting on their plans that much (what do you expect an ordinary girl to do with two genius terrorists?), she provides a sense of humanity to the two, most especially to Twelve, who visibly seeks comfort in her.
The Japanese government begins to conduct investigations towards Sphinx’s identity; as soon as clues are uploaded they decipher them, usually involving Greek mythology and various riddles, further revealing Nine and Twelve’s intentions. Additionally, some detectives take a step further into deducing the identities and motives behind the attacks — namely a man named Shibazaki, from the metropolitan police department. As more attacks occur, he finds out that Twelve and Nine, were orphans who partook in Project Athena, a hideously illegal experiment conducted by the Japanese government on highly intellectual orphaned children, performing various acts to perhaps start the spread of superhumans in society. Project Athena ended when after several deaths and losses of other experimentees, Twelve and Nine themselves plotted to escape the facility, bombing it and escaping. As this investigation occurs, the Japanese government discovers that Sphinx, having stolen chemicals from a factory in a serious crime months prior, intend to build a nuclear bomb.
After various attacks, the Japanese government receives assistance from the American FBI, in which Five is introduced mid-way through the series. She is revealed to once be part of Project Athena, having chosen to not run away with the two boys and instead be rescued by the American government so that she may match up to her rival — Nine someday. (That’s really stupid, this character is fucking stupid.) Finally in Nine’s grasp once more, instead of actually assisting the Japanese government, she decides to aid in terrorizing Japan itself. This includes an attack on a subway station with actual civilians, posing as Sphinx, in which the actual terrorist group goes out of their way to evacuate civilians so that there would be no casualties. In addition to this, she decides to once again — sabotage Sphinx and most importantly, the country she was entrusted to assist by messing with the operations of their airport. This involves a nonsensical game of chess played in the area (there is literally a scene where an airport worker just says that he was told to display images of chess on the monitors, so he’s just been complying). She also decides to hijack an airplane, intending to crash it into the airport.
With Five’s utter desire to mess up not only Sphinx — but the lives of innocent civilians, she eventually kidnaps Lisa, strapping her onto a ferris wheel, and strapping her with a bomb, leading to Twelve finding her and attempting to rescue her. As this occurs, Nine frantically locates their nuclear bomb from its hiding spot. Five gives him a choice — to betray Nine by divulging the bomb’s location and to save Lisa in return, or to let her die. He chooses to save Lisa, and the authorities begin to catch up to Nine. Twelve realizes that he abandoned his friend, the friend that he had practically been with since the very beginning and who he had gone through life with, and decides not to continue on with their plans due to his shame. He ends up spending time with Lisa; who also has nowhere to go, enjoying each other’s company, feeling human for the first time.
A few days pass, or so it seems? I don’t know, it got pretty shitty ever since Five got introduced. Nine gives himself up as Sphinx, turning himself in. He demands a press conference with various media outlets, and if his demand isn’t met — he states that he’s going to bomb all of Japan. He also states that he wants to meet Detective Shibazaki, who he acknowledges is very familiar with Sphinx’s actual motives and history. This demand isn’t met however, as the detective had been dismissed due to his behavior, particularly in attempting to stop Five from sabotaging the airplane mentioned earlier. They eventually comply with the press conference which is promptly scheduled at night, a demand is made that only the Japanese government must handle Nine. However, they of course, don’t listen to this because of Five and her fucking anime-ruining skills. At first, she appeared to have died for a while but got up despite being hospitalized due to her sheer desire and motivation to be the one to capture Nine by all means possible. On the way to the press conference, a car chase ensues as Five tracks down which vehicle Nine is being escorted in. Five’s accomplice – at one point, stops the car at one point and says that Five has been going overboard and is no longer on track with their duties in Japan, finally placing some sense into her head. Five responds by shooting him and continuing her chase for Nine. After she finally finds him, she talks for a bit, kisses him at one point, and then she dies.
Due to the interference en route to the press conference, an automatically scheduled broadcast occurs from the press conference not having started at the designated time. It states that a nuclear bomb is set to explode within a designated timeframe. Emergency evacuations occur in fear of casualties and utter destruction. However, some authorities recognize that Sphinx hasn’t had cruel intentions over the course of their attacks – not killing a single civilian in their reign over Tokyo. They discuss the possibility of a high-altitude nuclear explosion, in which the bomb would of course, explode in air, far away from land. From security cameras, they find that the nuclear bomb had been attached to a weather balloon and has consistently been travelling upwards. This would lead to an electromagnetic pulse strong enough to interfere with all electronic devices, effectively rendering them useless. This would send Japan back to an older age.
The explosion occurs, Nine watches his work from a tower, while Twelve and Lisa are accompanied by each other, after having talked about their past and selves. The nation is rendered stunned by the beauty of something that just ruined the entire country.
Twelve and Nine reconcile, and are accompanied with Lisa as for once, the three of them finally play like free children in the remnants of Project Athena’s old location. They set up graves for all who suffered and died due to Project Athena and its cruel, inhumane experimentation, even Five. Detective Shibazaki approaches them, introducing himself once more and telling them that if they turn themselves in, the atrocities conducted during Project Athena will be revealed to the world; their quest thus further completed. The Japanese government arrives, having tracked them down, and promptly shoot Twelve in order to keep the American government’s involvement with the fiasco a secret. (I don’t see how that works, but it’s America. They do what they want.) Nine, succumbing to the effects of the experiments that he, Twelve and Five had been subjected to as children (as shown by Five being hospitalized a few episodes back; the experimentation’s effects have been gradually worsening as they aged) passes away, telling them to never forget Sphinx.
A year later, Lisa is seen visiting their graves, never keeping them out of her heart. She is accompanied by Detective Shibazaki, both having had their lives be forever changed by two boys who were just once mere orphans; that have forever left their mark in history, and hopefully as well – their message to not only Japan, but to the world.
I really was close to giving up on Zankyou no Terror, the sheer nonsense of Five’s antics did not do anything useful for the series. There was not a bit of sympathy for her (really, you’re placed into what is basically an institution to attempt to make superhuman kids — and instead of caring about how everyone is dying and is going to eventually die due to all the side-effects of experimentation, you want to get better than another kid who’s priority is simply to survive, and be free?) she basically dedicated their whole life to not even the two boys, but to Nine. I’ll elaborate more on that later, but the fact that she died before the finale occurred certainly helped into the redeeming factor of the series. That ending, from the very explosion to the gunning of the two boys, was a rollercoaster of emotions. From the sheer beauty of watching the electromagnetic pulse whisk over all of Japan, to the uproar when you realize that after so many years, after attempting to make an impact onto the world, to prove that they weren’t actually terrorists at all (they were never terrorists to begin with, after all), they’ve made their mark, they’ve made a statement. They’ve achieved their goal, and of course — they didn’t have much time left either, but they managed to do it. With that alone, as well as the soul they found in Lisa, you could really tell that although it was tragic, at least they achieved what they wanted to, in ways that they never could have imagined. Those moments were enough to forgive the series for the sin that was Five, the soundtrack from the Icelandic music that played as they died, to the visuals as the aurora borealis delved into the night sky of Japan, a symbol of conquering the immorality and plague that Sphinx had viewed the world has torn itself into.
Honestly, after finishing the series, I found myself looking back onto a particular bike scene early on in episode four, the first true sign of freedom – accompanied by a wonderful song that I kept on repeat for weeks. Indeed, Zankyou no Terror is incredibly far from perfect, but as I said, its flaws make it up to be perfect in my eyes, as strange as that sounds. It just adds up to the humanity of it, doesn’t it? I found myself looking into the redeeming moments, whether the first few episodes, the flawless bike scene, which I find to truly be one of the greatest scenes from all the anime that I’ve watched in the past. Truly, the more I thought about the anime, the more I fell in love with it. It’s when you think deeper you get to truly appreciate the essence of this anime, from accepting it past its flaws to synthesizing the what seems to be the simplest of moments, recognizing the beauty and complete and utter grandeur of it. Perhaps I haven’t had my try of a lot of anime that one would consider to be good, but aside from Welcome to the NHK, no anime has left me feeling the same way. Perhaps others would find the ending as tragic, or sad, maybe others would feel like Lisa simply forgot about the two boys, but I know that isn’t the case, of course they have changed her completely. They redeemed her.
From the very first instant of the pool scene to the eye-candy that the opening had treated me to during every episode, from the stunning bike scene in episode four to the scenes of explosions and terror, the coloring and all its dramatized effects, how everything seemed so natural and real, the disarray in the faces of the detectives to the smug condescending plastered smile that Twelve wore, which amid an aura of falseness and plasticity, was actually yearning for truth behind the smile, to make it natural. I fell in love with the opening and the faded colors, to the anime itself and the stark contrasts between the darkness of the buildings and people to the vividness and clarity of the beaming effervescent skies. The coloring is astounding; and I’m not judging this simply because no one had strangely dyed hair or that their eyes were reminiscent of something from Clannad. It just seemed human — as the show has been trying to tell since the very first episode.
Character design: Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, but everything was pure and utter perfection. I could rant on and on about the art style of this, it was bright in a way that was still realistic. The sharp lines of each character stood out, giving them definition, individuality. You could see the differences between Twelve and Nine; although personalities only shifting greatly in few aspects. The naivety in Lisa was distinct the whole time, and as it approached the end of the series, you could view how she began to lighten up and bask in the taste of freedom. The utter inferiority in the government was also seen, the desperation in Detective Shibazaki as well. The very first episode gives you what is basically set to be the palette of the anime, and the nature of the characters through their very appearance. Solemn, yet real and hauntingly emotive.
Flashbacks: A recurring theme in the anime were flashbacks from Nine. It was also made clear that Five had the same experiences. He’d cite these events off as mere migraines or headaches, but we could clearly survey the disarray in his system and how events from long ago still reflected onto his idealism today. As more and more of Project Athena was introduced through these flashbacks, we are granted insight to their motives behind such extreme displays throughout Tokyo. Each of these flashbacks, although occurring a bit sudden at times, had effects and coloring quite similar to the opening, although much more distorted and bent, a worldview corrupted and twisted by Nine’s deteriorating mental state. Particularly the flashback wherein Five’s hollows turned into blazing fire during their escape from the institution was certainly startling, and left a mark on me. Nonetheless, each flashback was animated wonderfully, with colors that really spoke of the haunting times at the institution to animation that left you quite unsettled, in a way that it wants you to be.
Scenery and Backdrops: In those moments wherein the anime wishes to detach you from the hivemind that is Sphinx, we are greeted with stunning imagery of the streets of Tokyo, back to their destruction. Not every scene is left utterly dark, like the characters themselves. The bright, buzzing busy streets where crowds of people walk by give you an air of empathy towards the innocent civilians. Sure, maybe none are killed directly; but at times we forget that if the main character isn’t being decimated, innocents are. Although we may not be attached to them, the realistic nature of the anime makes dwell on the fact that they have lives, they roam the same streets we do, and perhaps they aren’t taken directly away due to the attacks, they are still traumatized and subjected to a world of fear in which attack after attack occurs, all broadcasted on YouTube with little idea of when the next one is about to strike. The backdrops are stunning, painted beautifully; and when bright, remind us that this isn’t just a playfield for the two, it’s Tokyo itself.
Aside from giving the surreal feel of guilt towards attacking fictional characters that do not part in the importance of the anime, each scene does a wonderful job at setting the mood for whatever is occurring. Be it the detectives at work in their dark, messy, and unkempt workspace or the clashing emotions in the ferris wheel scene wherein Lisa was strapped; the will to just die there with each other. My personal favorite scenes were of course, the bike scene, the explosion of the atomic bomb and its effect over all of Tokyo, and the final scenes in which for the first time, our three main characters enjoyed each other’s company and got to be free, for the first time. (Only for it to be ruined a few seconds later, but that’s okay.)
Part of why I adore Zankyou no Terror so much is its visuals! Everything sums up to be an astounding masterpiece. The first few episodes constantly kept me wanting for more due to the indulging art style, which was different from most of the other anime that I’ve watched beforehand. Instead of everything being a majestic, unreal wonderland we are greeted with the colors akin to what we meet in our own daily lives, again, forming its own beauty in the world we live in. The visuals match with the plot and music, and although don’t make use of extraordinary scenes, it’s able to make plain, simple scenes their own type of extraordinary.
Again, excuse me since I’ll simply be praising once more.
Opening: Zankyou no Terror’s opening is Trigger, produced by Yoko Kanno, written and vocalized by Yuuki Ozaki. I never skipped the opening, which admittedly; is something that I usually do in most other anime (unless I’m absentmindedly watching and just let it play while I do other things). I find it wonderful, although perhaps the full version drags on a bit — the portion used for the opening is absolutely perfect. Matched with stunning visuals, it left me astounded. As soon as the opening first played, I knew I would be hooked unto this anime. It’s amazing how a minute and a half of music and recycled animation manages to speak volumes towards the series you watch. It’s calmingly haunting, in comparison to the attacks and all the action that occurs. It’s beautiful, I’ve called other openings upbeat, catchy, memorable, or great; but this one is simply beautiful.
Ending: Dare ka, Umi wo is the anime’s wonderful ending sung by Aimer, a quite popular Japanese artist. Everything about this song is amazing as well, and I’ve kept it on repeat for quite a while. I find everything, from Aimer’s voice to the background instruments and vocals to make it up to be a chilling, breathtaking song. Its full, uncut version is simply perfection. What I adore most about the ending is its lyrics, which are quite symbolic of the characters, their wishes, their deepest desires, although it may of course be open to various interpretation. Its lyrics are simply deep, even at a first glance and without attempting to look further in them, you can acknowledge how they speak about things much more than what appears to be. In particular, my favorite verse has to be the following.
We reach the top of an abandoned building,
And surrounded by the whispers,
Of dandelion fluff,
We’re a song.
Also, I’d like to add how Aimer’s vocals completely make the song amazing! The tone in her voice, the raw emotion and power in it makes the delivery utterly perfect.
Original Soundtrack: A wonderful soundtrack composed by Yoko Kanno (please correct me if I’m wrong!) makes up another prime part of my utter love for this anime. There is also a second one named -crystalize-, also by Yoko Kanno that can be listened to here. It is certainly one of the best soundtracks that I’ve ever been graced to hear, and my favorite one so far. Everything about it fits the anime so perfectly, the contrast between songs moves around a lot; just as it should. I find the anime to be nostalgic to our own lives. It’s not a thriller that quickly rushes from each crime to the next, there’s still the factor of Lisa, and how Twelve and Nine are just struggling to get their word out and to be accepted most of all. With this, we find the first song, amazingly dubbed lolol, a thrilling, upbeat track filled with power and suspense next moving onto the much more calm, chilling von as accompanied with beautiful Icelandic vocals. People may dub Zankyou no Terror to indeed be a thriller anime, others as something that’s purely psychological; but you can tell so much more about it in the music.
To recall a scene from the anime, in Nine’s brief enrollment in the nuclear power plant, we are made known of his withdrawn and conservative nature, as he constantly listened to music. Upon being asked about what he was listening to, he simply replies ‘music from a cold land’. At the very ending of the series, we are made known that the word they had been leaving in their havoc all this time — the word von, is the Icelandic term for hope. As cliche and perhaps predictable as that was (I really would have like to known how it was like theorizing such things during the premiere itself, surely anyone who delves deeper into anime must have found this connection, and that would have been incredible!), I found that revelation, since to me — I didn’t take time to further research into the series and simply watch it straightforward — amazing. The usage of Icelandic music, and every song in the soundtrack itself showcases the very hope that the two boys believed in through various forms. After all, hope takes its stance in many forms, and the calming feel when you listen to each song represents that very hope.
I find that each song in the soundtrack can be looked further into, whether the first volume or the second. The anime itself is incredibly, profoundly deep, with the soundtrack that comprises it being no stranger towards the duality and the profound meaning behind each aspect of the series. Although I won’t go into detail towards each song in this review, this blog delves a lot into the soundtrack, finding meaning into each song and explaining it further, and I find it really helpful if you would like to view some more interpretations of the songs.
If you’d look closely, Iceland has a lot more meaning towards the survivors of Project Athena, there is an unknown link with them towards the place. It’s not just a coincidence that they chose it of all places. Although it’s not discovered, we may as well attempt to listen to the procured albums and to find the meaning that is presented to us within.
My favorite song from the entire soundtrack is quite overrated to some, but is of course, Ís (feat. POP ETC) which apparently means ‘ice’ in Icelandic. This is the song that plays during the well-praised bike scene that I’ve talked about quite a lot. This is the song that I’ve kept on repeat most, out of all. I find the vocals, which are so calm and sheer, to really speak to oneself; the lyrics also perpetuate the amazing calm and beauty that this song exemplifies. If I were to define beauty in terms of a song, without a doubt I would say this one’s title. Although it’s shorter than I’d like it to be, I find that it attributes to the utter perfection of the song. I’ve been theorizing on a lot of deeper meanings towards it, but have not yet made concrete any of them, but once I do, I’ll be sure to revisit it in another post.
Another thing that I’d like to point out about the anime is its attention to detail, making it all the more real. In particular, one scene that I’d like to talk about is early on, when the first attack occurred. As a meeting was assembled with various departments to think of ways to handle the attacks and how to act on them; simple actions such as asking if people in the back of the room could hear to a chorus of monotone responses made me further fall in love with the anime. It’s the little things, from the awkward stops in conversations to the behavior of mass crowds that make it all the more real, and realism is a huge pat to Zankyou no Terror’s appeal. After all, it’s said to occur in an alternative modern-day Tokyo, and all those subtle moments that reaped of realism would only attribute to the nature of the scene and how well it converges into that modern-day appeal it grasps onto. From the characters and their natures, to the scenery, to the actions performed; aside from various errors here and there, the attention to detail and how well it does it is great.
Plot and Characters
I adored the concept of the entire thing, two teenage terrorists who don’t actually condemn the nation as I at first expected but instead, risk their short lives and everything in their future to simply make a statement, both being extremely altruistic if you’d wish; to spread hope in intimidating, terrorizing ways. To make not only the nation, but also the world reflect on the acts and deeds that have been done to them as mere children, to stop that violent, immoral nature in humans around them, and for their desire for their stories, their own selves, to never be forgotten, even if their true nature is only known by Shibazaki and Lisa. The first few episodes that made me stuck on the series, riddle after riddle, never led me to expect that the reason behind their attacks and blatant actions were something like that. I never viewed Twelve and Nine as sadistic, although at first Twelve had me doubting due to his laughing exterior in the face of destruction. The plot begins to show us that they aren’t sadistic, that as much as one would like to hate the two, they aren’t destroying for the sake of explosions and misery throughout the nation. One could call that as a side-effect, as their main goal is to make a statement in a world that would otherwise, not give heed to the voices of the two. They were highly intellectual, plotting their actions for who knows how long, and they had the means to act on it. If by all means you’re going to make a statement, make sure to give them a hell of a show. Surely, in the alternate reality in which this occurs, their names would never be forgotten, nor would their stories.
Five: Five nearly ruined the anime for me, from her atrocious English voiceacting (could they really not have gotten a better voice actor? The touch in the Japanese accent was certainly nice, but her English was… utterly bad,) and her character that although I felt mildly bad for and understood, was someone that I could not relate to at all. I was really glad once her first faint occurred, but the way she died seemed to have no effect on Nine at all. For a character that merely exists for the sake of another, it’s quite outrageous that she wouldn’t move him at all. Perhaps I was blind to it, but I still saw Nine as the same person after all of Five’s desperate attempts to ‘beat’ him. It was more of her being an inconvenience, not only to Sphinx but to the country that she was enlisted to assist, essentially making Tokyo her plaything for the time being, to in return — result to nothing. How wonderful.
I was at least, delighted when her accomplice from the American government attempted to talk sense into her, that was well-needed and brought more life into the show. I couldn’t emphasize more on how badly I was aching because some nation simply let America ruin their investigations, cause more havoc in their country, as if they were powerless and couldn’t do anything because they were a powerful ally. I have no idea on how this would work in real life, but various workers themselves, who weren’t even instructed to just conform to whatever the white-haired American lady with a horrible fucking accent says, still complied anyway, disrupting vital operations in airports. This is Japan; and they just let that happen? Of course, when something finally decent happened that made me happy, she just shoots the guy. Nice.
Lisa, Lisa-Twelve Dynamic: At first, I assumed that Lisa would just be another character that was unnecessarily put in as a love interest. Maybe she would even ascend into the ranks of Twelve and Nine. Then, the series treated her as who she was; the lost high school girl who truly has no path in life. She didn’t interfere with their plans, the most danger she walked into was attempting to cook for the two boys and magically fucking up. No, she wasn’t presented as some trophy wife, she wasn’t utterly beautiful. She was normal in every sense, and she was more disturbed, alone, and frightened than normal. After all, what would you do if you ran away from an extremely overprotective mother on the verge of being abusive, only to go to two highly-wanted terrorists? There was no utter redemption in her character upon instantly meeting the two boys. She was still the same person that she was, although accepted. She did not change, her brain did not switch onto hyperdrive, suddenly making her an intellectual on par with Sphinx. Lisa Mishima remained as the normal, plain girl that she was; the troubled girl who could do nothing, not even cook a meal, but she stayed and took part in Sphinx not as an equal on the terms of destruction (her attempts at the airport made clear that she was not fit for the job), but as an anchor that reminded them of who they truly were. Perhaps the two saw themselves in her, most especially Twelve, who started visiting her, caring for her, finding comfort and relief in her.
I find that Lisa was ordinary, but who said that one would need to be different, that one would need to be a perfect character in order to make a change in another? Mishima was filled with her own troubles and doubts, she needed an escape, and she found it in hanging out with two terrorists. As bad as that seems, they were also in dire need to feel accepted, to be human. As much as Sphinx doubted in the world and in the morals of society, they still had hope in it, and they found hope in Lisa, as she found hope in them. Although not being much of a main character except perhaps towards the end of the show wherein she began spending her time with Twelve as they both betrayed Nine, we could see that she had developed. So did Twelve, thanks to her. They didn’t change dramatically, nor drastically; perhaps the change was more subtle, in the smiles that they shared and how honest and raw they were with each other. In different scenarios, with one much more unique than the other, they grew and shared their stories, their intertwining mishaps and problems that grew into something they could bond over, something that they could find relief in each other with.
At first, what was thought to be an unnecessary love interest, blossomed into an anchor for Twelve. We could see that even at the very beginning, perhaps he saw a bit of himself in her with the pool antics. Maybe he just wanted to make her laugh, who knows, it could simply be in his nature. But the very fact that Twelve went out of his way to check on her and to meet with her, and the comfort that Lisa found in Twelve shows that the two eventually grew. After all, the anime didn’t force love to happen, one could view that their relationship was more platonic, more of seeking relief in each other in moments of adversity, and in moments of… freedom. (Bike scene!) If it did, we would have seen more dramatic actions towards Nine and Five, although she was left with her feelings unrequited, and is it just me that saw Nine being completely unaffected? Of course, he viewed her as human, but she was twisted, in a way that they saw was broken. They honored her death, but they seemed to just view her as a nuisance as she was alive. In contrast to Lisa’s actions, which were all well-intended, I feel that Sphinx saw the kindness and her attempts towards
During the aftermath of the events, particularly in the scene that occurred a year later, some may view that Lisa didn’t reminisce nor care about the boys at all. She seemed much happier, as if the past events hadn’t occurred, as if they were some sort of memory. That’s how I viewed it as first, but upon further thinking; would Twelve and Nine want her to be sad, would they want her to be in a state of depression after all that had happened? Moreso, would they want any individual to view their acts as terrorizing, rather than acts of renewal? Lisa was simply acting positive about the change, just as the two boys would have wished her to be. After all, they were on a conquest for hope, not for sadness, not for agony. Lisa was left with the hope that they had wanted to leave behind, she looked forward to a brighter future. Although she wasn’t overcome with grief, a year had passed and her life had been changed, her sense of hope most of all, her sense of living, in purpose, in reason behind her actions. Surely, I feel like she would never forget Sphinx, their actions, their hearts, their true intentions, and neither would the rest of the world, but most especially her.
She’s a great character, and I certainly did not expect to like her this much, or at all — actually. Her impact, in contrast to the two leaving a mark on the world, involved her leaving a mark on them for the time that they had left, and the mark that she would leave with the rest of her days.
Twelve and Nine: Their names obviously a nod at 9/11, with twelve being used instead of eleven to reflect on the focus of the aftermath of the event, the day after the terror rather than the actions themselves; they are astounding. Sometimes hard to empathize with or see yourself in, most especially because of how they act so smoothly and calculated — as the series progresses, we see their human nature, their fragility and their sheer desire to spread hope in the form of changing the ways of society by whatever means, how they seek comfort and relief in one another and in Lisa, the deterioration of their mental states as they grow more and more frantic to reach their goal.
Wonderful characters. I also adore their design, the contrast between the two personalities although at heart; they act as one. Their masks were one of the defining factors about their appearance as they took their stance at Sphinx. Blending into society with their usual wear, they look just as all the others do — human. Maybe a bit less with Twelve due to his overly cheerful exterior and his bright face, but it’s not like you could point them out from a crowd and dub them as the villains. The fact that they’ve been through so much together, from their days spent in the institution, coordinating with one another to the skip in time that we are left to wonder about, to their time together — executing their plan and dubbing themselves as Sphinx, either makes you cheer on for them and their sheer brilliance or makes you wish that they would get caught. I side on the former, as although their method of execution was terrorizing, what exactly could you do to make a statement on a government topic that had been shunned for so long, kept private and secret even after it affected dozens of lives, mutilating innocent children who had a bright future ahead of them, even if they were simply orphans.
I don’t have much to say for the characters (I know I had a lot to say about Lisa, but forgive me, she went through the most notable development in my perspective), but as Lisa, they also did grow and change. It wasn’t like they had much time ahead of them, anyway. But in their final moments, in the grand finale of their lives that was the act of Sphinx, they certainly achieved their goal. Although considered cruel and vile, I empathize with them and their methods in making a statement. Additionally, as seen in Five’s attempts at making a mockery of their act and impersonating them for her own acts of violence, they went out of their way, maybe to also not tarnish their name though detectives did figure out it wasn’t Sphinx’s method of work, to save innocent citizens. Destruction and misery were never their goals, they were just the means.
Their lives were oblivion to us, not in the sense that we were going to forget them, but that they were mysteries in itself. We don’t know the lives they lived aside from the tragic happenings at Project Athena, we don’t know much about what happened in the period of time between their escape into their growth as the superintelligent miniature terrorist organization they founded. What we do know is in the span of time the anime took place, they developed, they found their own hope along the way, growing into the hope that they eventually spread with their final attack. Whether through Lisa, through finding purpose, or anything else, they grew as individuals, they grew as people; proving that hope comes in not only one way but countless ones, through actions, through believing in Detective Shibazaki, in sparing the lives of the people. Their statements were their wishes, their dreams and their sorrows, their desire for the atrocity to never occur once more was desperately sent all over the nation, to be known to the world so that nothing like that would ever happen again. Their lives were dedicated to this mission, they had thrown any hope at normality away for the sake of this statement, for this job. They abandoned friendship, love, the feelings that would keep a human sane for von. Unbeknownst to them, Lisa was handed to them, the conflicts between Five were resurrected, Shibazaki also gave them a sense of rebirth, a thrill in knowing that they were being challenged. They threw everything a normal life would offer away, what a life without Project Athena would have been, yet managed to encounter even the smallest glimpses of all those aspects in the execution of their masterpiece. That alone, is beautiful; and that helped Twelve and Nine grow tremendously, to people that they would have otherwise never been.
Ending: The ending was abrupt; certainly no one expected for the boys lives to end like that, or for the American government to be so brash. But what can you expect, after all the antics with Five? As much as I’d like to be angry, or even sad at how it concluded, I was content — in fact happy. Twelve would have suffered the same fate as Nine did, but the two completed their goal, and spread their message. For a few short moments, we were also greeted with their smiles and laughter, as if the youth that was robbed of them was given back, and it certainly was. We saw freedom, we saw their hope, their happiness not only in ideas but in their actions and in themselves.
I’ve elaborated on Lisa’s actions a year after the ending a while back. It’s open to interpretation, but I take it as a positive one. Of course they weren’t forgotten — it’s impossible for Sphinx to be forgotten, especially to someone as close to them as Lisa. Again, this was symbolic of change, of moving on, of the future and its ongoing; unending wayward journey towards hope for all of mankind, and in every being’s self.
Decline: As I’ve mentioned previously, I really began to lose faith in the series upon Five’s arrival. Nonsensical antics with the only explanations being: “I have to match up to Nine!” with the power granted to the American government deemed as infinite is pretty absurd. There is a boundary when ‘foreign assistance’ ends up messing with national terminals. In an otherwise logical anime (the way they presented the workings of the bomb were researched quite well enough) although the series was of course, imperfect and not the most accurate one, the fallacy seen in Five’s divine intervention (I say divine because she must have had the abilities of a god within her if no one seriously bothered to intervene) were exorbitantly blatant. If I did not have patience, and had not fallen in love with other aspects of the anime prior, I would have dropped it immediately.
I wouldn’t blame anyone who decided to stop, or blamed the downfall of the anime with the introduction of Five. I am also aware that there are others perfectly content with the inclusion of Five, even favoring her character. I would have done the same, I understand the intention behind her and the sadness of a person being utterly devoted into crushing another, but I can name countless reasons on why her character was executed poorly, her actions more of a nuisance than anything entertaining — I simply wanted her to stop, in fact. There are characters that are written for you to hate, but I couldn’t even do this with Five. Her whole existence, in my eyes, was simply annoying — a bother. The reason why the anime wasn’t perfect. Essentially the sin of the anime, the soulcrushing pedestal with little reason to relate to or care about, this anime could have been so much more if she was executed better. I wouldn’t say that her entire character would have to be written out, but they not only managed to mess up the writing, they also worsened it with the worst English voice actor that my ears have ever bled to. I wanted to place the anime on mute so badly whenever she was in an area that looked remotely like a control room.
Despite all the backlash I’m throwing on Five, she did help other characters develop. Most especially Twelve and Lisa, thanks to the occurrence at the ferris wheel, subsequently leading to the dynamic between Sphinx to be twisted. That was useful, but the three (?) or so episodes in which she intervened with Tokyo and essentially caused damage instead of doing the job she was performed to do was highly annoying. I accept that it did advance the plot, that during those times Sphinx encountered a lot of problems and jumped in to fix the damage and danger that she was putting innocent civilians under. The detectives learned more about Sphinx, their messages, their nature, realizing that those actions were unlike of them. Her complete archaic, waste of a presence led to the spread of hope, in a way. Sphinx’s message was made more clear, their desires as well as their dreams all bundled up into their actions — actions that she failed to mimic because she did not share their ideals, no their heart, not their vision of hope.
We were also given further insight into their background during Project Athena. As pathetic as I view Five’s existence, there is the least bit of understanding for her, and more understanding for the warping that had occurred in the institution they were sentenced under. Perhaps Five really sought no purpose in life itself, seeing no future from the wreckage and mental destruction that had occurred in the facility — leading her to dedicate her existence to matching up with another experimentee subject to the same life as her? Not all are as fortunate as Twelve or Nine, which is another part of why I love their character; instead of condemning the world and seeking to destroy it, they devote themselves to altruism, every action, although questionable, for the good of the world, while Five was willing to kill without any sense of remorse just for her own petty goal. Five’s hope was in Nine, and as desperate as she was — she did end up meeting him, killing herself once she possibly met her goal. She found her own sense of hope, the hope that comes in many forms — although twisted, at least she made it?
I really wish I could further defend Five’s character and her presence, but her ‘twisted’ path still does not excuse the terrible execution. All I can say is; I feel that Zankyou no Terror isn’t for everyone, and I completely understand. Even I nearly gave up, and it was all in the other characters and my love for the anime and its message that led me to forgiving the mishap, going as far as to defend the reason behind it. It really is worth a shot to get past the iffy episodes, because the end — the end’s redemption made all my hope in the show worth it, if you will. The decline is not forgivable for everyone, but if you do manage to cling onto hope, I find that it is utterly, breathtakingly worth it.
I won’t delve into an outright analysis of each episode, or the plot, or certain aspects. As I did, I simply delved on what I found worthy of talking about. All in all, the plot was imperfect, feigning flawlessness at areas but failing at others; however — the foreshadowing in each episode, the building up of events that left me rushing to watch the next one already. Zankyou no Terror was a thriller, a psychological anime delving into the aspects of humanity, lost sanity, moreso in intellectuals, the outcasts and ones withdrawn from the norms of society. It was a thriller in the most chilling sense — I became apathetic to the destruction, and focused more on the messages behind them. Why this location, why this message, why this clue, why this riddle? Although one may write it off as an anime about terrorism, I found it more about hope in itself, hope in humanity, hope in life, hope in relationships and of course, hope in your own self.
Zankyou no Terror easily found its way into my heart, and thus onto my top anime. From its visuals and animation, its hauntingly chilling music and all the characters (even Five serves her purpose that I can understand, although not relate to or empathize with much) are vessels in which you can see yourself in; its story, although flawed especially towards the middle of the series, is ultimately redeemed by the last two episodes. Its message left, not only be the series in its entirety but by our very own Sphinx themselves leaves an impact on the viewer, much as they did with Lisa. The fact that each time I look back and reflect on Zankyou no Terror, further analyzing it and realizing that it is much deeper than I previously had thought left me coming back for more, craving for the series which was utterly captivating, which was redeemed perfection at heart.
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I had hope in the series, especially towards its decline, but it picked itself back up, just as the world will. I will always remember Sphinx.