A Pretentious Anime Review: Zankyou no Terror
What's Zankyou no Terror About?
Zankyou no Terror is a story told from three different perspectives. We have the terrorists with an overly dramatic backstory, the depressed girl who thinks life is meaningless, and the detective who seems lazy but when push comes to shove he's willing to risk his life to save people. Each character gets their own individual scenes for a while until their stories connect. The idea is that these two terrorists, Twelve and Nine start using explosives to cause trouble all over Tokyo. They're smart enough to outwit most of the police force and federal agencies but one detective, Kenjirou Shibazaki, is able to keep up with them (somehow). In the middle of one of their attacks, Twelve and Nine get discovered by the aforementioned depressed girl, Lisa, and thus our story begins. Revealing any more at this point would spoil it so let us get onto the review.
Coincidence is Sin
Zankyou no Terror expects to be taken very seriously. It desperately wants every single moment to feel extraordinarily heavy. Thanks to the use of dim colors, a melancholic soundtrack, and the resounding lack of energy from any of the cast, it's obvious that the director is trying to play your emotions like a symphony. There's really no problem with this, but where it essentially fucks up is in the execution of all of this seriousness. ZnT is so obsessed with moving the plot forward that it puts little to no thought into making sense of anything that happens. There's a scene where the detective, Kenjirou, is absolutely baffled about where this group of terrorists might be, and while he was speaking to one of his co-workers, this co-worker was glued to some mobile game, and that game gave Kenjirou the exact clue he needed in order to figure out where these terrorists would be. It's troubling to think that our detective found something out solely based on his friend playing that specific part of that game at that exact time. That's an insanely laughable coincidence. If this guy wasn't playing whatever he was playing, the show would have turned out much differently and perhaps it wouldn't have continued at all. Zankyou no Terror does this a lot throughout the story, and it makes it so damn hard to take seriously. They want you to respect Kenjirou's detective skills, yet it almost always relies on coincidence. It's sorta similar to how House M.D. cures his patients by accidentally figuring things out throughout the mini-arcs of the episodes. He's not actually smart, the writer just wants him to appear smart in front of people who don't care enough to think about it. The same can be said for Zankyou no Terror. Kenjirou was never smart, he just figures things out by coincidence to get the story over with quicker.
My biggest complaint here is that there was absolutely no attempt to create a realistic and intelligent detective. Instead, the show was too focused on being a thriller that doesn't care about how the terrorists get found, as long as they get found and the story carried on.
"Oh, Sherlock, what do we say about coincidence?"
"The universe is rarely so lazy."
Development and Synergy
In terms of how the characters come to be, the two mains (Nine and Twelve) have very interesting, although vague backstories. The ambiguity added a certain charm to it, but unfortunately this charm is hard to fully realize when you get to know them, and slowly realize that they aren't very likable. The show spends almost no time developing the characters because it's so focused on moving forward with the plot. There are scenes where you see romance occur which is likely an attempt to humanize them, but the romance feels too forced to even count as "development". At most, the creators give us brief hints at their backstory, but that never tells us about them. Instead, it simply shows us where they come from and what happened to them to make them get here. Zankyou no Terror's eleven episodes go by so quick that it has almost no time to take a rest and develop these characters. You could argue that doing so might've screwed with the pacing, but there have been many films that have introduced us to five or six characters at once, never stopped the action, and by the end, had us falling in love with the cast.
Zankyou no Terror may give us a backstory to these characters, but the characters themselves are never fully fleshed out and it feels like their personalities aren't important to the actual objective of the show. It's understandable that the anime was going for a more plot focused narrative rather than being character driven, but a more obvious attempt to flesh out the two mains would have been admirable.
Twelve and Lisa
In terms of the romance, it creates for some of the most visually and aurally stunning scenes in the series and arguably in all of anime. However, there's no need to call it anything more than "visually and aurally stunning" as the more you dig, the worse it gets. The romance is about as forced as you would expect from a series with seriously underdeveloped characters. Twelve and Lisa seem to have this "unbreakable" bond even though he had threatened to kill her only a couple of episodes before they started working together and not much was done to develop their relationship in the time between that. Their romance goes as far as a collection of beautiful looking scenes with an absolutely incredible soundtrack accompanying it. It never felt like there was a true connection between the two and it seemed like they loved each other just for the sake of loving each other. It's easy to understand why someone like Lisa would fall madly in love with Twelve, but for why Twelve would fall in love with Lisa? It seems ridiculous. Lisa was lonely and desperately looking for someone to share her moments with, so her falling in love with a dangerous guy who does bad things to everyone except for her makes sense. However, Twelve never seemed like the kind of character interested in that sort of thing and even if he was, it was never shown to us. Because of this, Lisa feels less like a substantial character and more like she was made with the sole purpose of humanizing Twelve, and it was a huge waste of potential for her development.
Hard to Hate
Zankyou no Terror may have many problems, but, it's difficult to dislike the series. In fact, Zankyou no Terror is a very successfully engaging thriller. Every second keeps you at the edge of your seat, and a majority of the scenes are beautifully illustrated and gorgeously orchestrated. It's easy to see why so many got obsessed with the show. When immersed into what you see, you sometimes have trouble acknowledging flaws. You could say that the show is a success specifically based on how much it engages the viewer, but that's an extremely biased way of looking at it. In other words, if it entertains you, you'll like it. If not, you won't like it. Besides from the entertainment aspect, there isn't much to take from it. This is one of the reasons why it's easy to have mixed feelings about Zankyou no Terror. Although it was enjoyable, it was a gigantic mess. However, if you look at it as nothing more than a simple thriller (even though it tries to be much much more), you might have a hell of a time.
The plot to Zankyou no Terror is eccentric and occasionally ridiculous, but the overall theme is admirable. The story starts out simple but slowly gets more and more complex and once you've reached the end, you feel like you've finished off with the complete opposite of what you started with. This isn't a bad thing, as the ending to Zankyou no Terror is pretty compelling.
Without spoiling anything, the plot is possibly one of the best parts of the show, however, this is only because the story works in unison with the action. It's safe to say this show would be even worse if the elements of suspense were removed or altered since they can't really exist without each other. However, relying your show entirely on suspense isn't a good thing. Having more things to admire this show for would have been preferred, but unfortunately, all it gives us is an anime that's beautiful on the surface.
Zankyou no Terror also uses excessive amounts of symbolism through illustration and it's rather interesting. Sometimes it feels a bit pretentious, but in most cases it makes the narrative moderately more compelling.
The "villain" of the series also felt underwhelming. It seemed like she should have had more impact on the story than she actually did. Sure, she caused trouble for the main characters a whole lot, but it never feels like anything important actually came out of her. She clearly meant something to Twelve and Nine, but she never meant anything to the viewers and that's easily associated with her poor development.
Zankyou no Terror was never trying to develop its characters or make any type of sense. It attempts to be symbolic and meaningful, but in essence, it knows for a fact that it is a quick, heart-pumping action thriller. This is part of the reason why it's so easy to enjoy. It's similar to watching something like John Wick, it has moments where it does try to be more than it actually is, but in reality, it's just an insane "rule of cool" action movie.
Does this take away from the experience? No, not entirely. In fact, only after finishing Zankyou no Terror did all of its flaws manage to find its way through my thick skull. Once you finish, you'll find an abundance of problems, but, while watching, you have so much fun that you won't care enough to acknowledge the flaws. That isn't me trying to debase fans of the show or anything, I experienced the exact same phenomenon.
That's why it is one of the few shows where people (including myself) have trouble determining if it should be judged on how good it is, or how entertaining it is. Occasionally, the feeling of "I enjoyed that show a lot" hits me, but then sometimes the feeling of "that show was pretty shitty" hits me. How to determine a balance between the two? I have no fucking clue.
Although Zankyou no Terror has a lot of flaws, it's easy to admire. It's an anime full of mindless thrills, but when the thrills aren't happening, it's pretty underwhelming. For the most part, character development is awful and looking at it from a standpoint that is logically sound, it's a mess. However, the show is too compelling to disdain. Watching Zankyou no Terror keeps you at the edge of your seat for a majority of the time and it's unfortunate that the qualities of a good anime couldn't mix with the already present qualities of an extremely thrilling anime. Watch Zankyou no Terror for the thrills and only the thrills, don't go in expecting anything more than heart-pumping action.
I give Zankyou no Terror a 5 out of 10
What did you think of Zankyou no Terror?
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