Zankyou no Terror‘s ending is predictable, but that doesn’t mean it’s not effective. While all of the plot points play out exactly as I expect, the impact they leave is raw and devastating. Zankyou no Terror isn’t the game changing anime I wanted it to be, but it manages to invoke strong feelings with it’s sympathetic characters and melancholy tone.
As expected, the bomb that Nine sends into the air is far enough into the stratosphere by the time it detonates that it only knocks out the power. Shibasaki figures out Nine’s intentions pretty quickly, which eventually leads to his ultimate understanding of Sphinx’s motives. Despite the relatively low stakes (if you don’t count the millions of dollars in damages, of course), the panic that spreads throughout Tokyo invokes an image that’s all too familiar to Japan as the citizens attempt to leave the city despite the would-be futility of the situation. It’s a powerful scene.
As they wait for the bomb to detonate, Twelve tells Lisa about how happy he is to have met her. It’s a bittersweet preemptive final moment for them, though it’s not clear how their end comes about until later.
The bomb’s detonation is oddly beautiful, a thought likely shared by those there to watch it. As Tokyo is plunged into darkness, the glow of the explosion becomes a ghostly aurora borealis, perhaps relating to the Icelandic theme present throughout the series. The secrets of Sphinx are officially out. Their job is done.
The celebratory moment between Nine, Lisa, and Twelve is heartbreaking in it’s positivity. The brief respite from the repercussions of their actions reveal the kind of people Nine and Twelve might have been under regular circumstances, and Nine’s friendliness toward Lisa feels like a hard earned reward. There’s no doubt that their playfulness precedes tragedy, but it’s the most upbeat moment in the entire series.
Even knowing that the fun can’t last, Twelve’s death at the hands of US agents comes as a brutal shock following the semi-hopeful nature of Shibasaki’s arrest of Sphinx. Paired with Yoko Kanno’s haunting score, Twelve’s slow motion fall feels almost like a reprise of Julia’s death in Shinichiro Watanabe’s magnum opus Cowboy Bebop. It certainly invokes the same shock in both the characters and the viewer, despite knowing that it couldn’t have possibly ended any other way. There was no way that Twelve could have rode off into the sunset with Lisa, though we’ll likely never know whether he suffered the same brain disease as Nine and Five. Nine’s headaches get the better of him only moments after Twelve’s death, his last request being that Shibasaki remember that he and the other children once lived.
One year later, everyone is still talking about the conspiracy Sphinx uncovered. Lisa and Shibasaki briefly meet on their way to and from Nine and Twelve’s grave, where Lisa informs Shibasaki that “von” means “hope” in Icelandic. As mentioned above, Iceland is subtly referred to throughout the series and in the score, and I appreciate the more overt nod to it even as I wonder what the big deal about Iceland actually is.
Ultimately, Zankyou no Terror didn’t exactly turn out to be Watanabe’s new masterpiece. It’s certainly a show that’s a cut above the rest, but I feel overall that it was too overt in some areas and not overt enough in others. While Lisa’s character development because more apparent to me in the few episodes leading up to “Von”, I ultimately feel that her importance to the story could have been more clearly expressed. Even then, she never really did much, and her story is left unsatisfactorily open. I don’t need to hear that she eventually moved on and grew up and had kids. I just need some small measure of closure. Did she go back home to endure her mother’s torment? Is she living on her own? How is she surviving?
Still, what Zankyou no Terror lacks in nuance, it makes up for in emotion. Nine and Twelve could have been villain protagonists (and part of me might have preferred that), but by the end their struggle feels real and sympathetic. Lisa is a heartbreaking character, someone so mistreated that she could only find solace in the friendship of two equally lonely terrorists. Rooting for these characters was easy, and the situations they find themselves in are often poignant and emotional. I certainly didn’t come out of Zankyou no Terror feeling nothing. That’s owed in big part to Yoko Kanno’s score. She’s absolutely the right choice for this kind of show, and all of the most emotional scenes were elevated by her melancholic music.
Zankyou no Terror has been an interesting ride, and I definitely don’t regret covering it. I really wanted an anime that felt like something I might have enjoyed in the hey day of my anime watching, and this scratched that itch. I’m glad I got to experience it.
Images are copyright of MAPPA.