Oh, Zankyou no Terror... How much did I praise you during the early few episodes, but how could I know that you will turn out how you did. Zankyou no Terror (Terror in Resonance or Terror in Tokyo in English) was one of my most anticipated titles of the season and I am sure I was not alone. The show also gained a bit of a hype because of the famous Shinichiro Watanabe (Samurai Champloo, Cowboy Bebop), who I am in all honesty no big fan of, but okay, let's get this review started. Just make sure that I will NOT be able to hide all possible spoilers, so just read this review if you have already finished the show or dropped it and don’t consider picking it up again! Or if you just don’t care about spoilers...
The plot, or rather the premise, was what caught my attention and interest at first. “An anime about terrorism?” Sounds thrilling alright, but sadly it turned out to be quite a train wreck with lose plot and lackluster characters in the long run. Basically the show is about two special kids, who build bombs and make them explode, but with no people around so nobody gets hurt. That’s a weird characteristic for two young blooded terrorists, but there are reasons for this, obviously. And they announce their terrorist attacks on YouTube and ask the police riddles, so they may or may not stop the bomb from going off. That’s what I was thought to be quite interesting and I was hoping for there to be a message behind the bombings and some deeper meaning and connections, but sadly that wasn’t so. Either I didn’t get them, or the riddles were just there to make the show appear smart. The show generally shows its story from two perspectives, from the bomber’s, naming themselves “Sphinx”, and the police’s perspective. What I found somewhat disappointing that there was no real tension during the moments when the investigations took place and the investigation process went waaaay too easy. I mean the main detective, Shibazaki, seemingly knows all of Greek mythology (that’s what the riddles are mostly based on) and at one point he clears a riddle because he watches his fat friend play a video game. It reminded me of some cheap Hollywood movie in which the protagonist finds out some very important clue due to something a kid spouts. I’m sure you know what I am talking about.
How the story played out felt a bit cheap in general. I mean Shibazaki (together with "Five" in the middle part of the anime) was the only one driving the plot along thanks to his super knowledge and his daughter who knows a lot about bombs and nukes. Also in the end he meets a few men who willingly agree to just tell him everything he wants to know in fullest detail, just because.
Another point when the show took a huge nosedive in my opinion, was when a former “friend” of the main characters “Nine” and “Twelve” was introduced as their nemesis, called “Five”. Five was basically the point on when I almost gave up on the show. She seemed just like a psychotic woman who had to stop Sphinx because the US said so. And to do this she went overboard multiple times, resulting in countless casualties, damages and wounded innocents along the way, for a ridiculous, nonsensical and compleely unjustified reason and motivation if you ask me. And she also did pointless and silly riddles with bombings, which the main characters now had to solve and disarm… While the character of Five was not complete useless, I do agree that she shouldn’t have been there. They should have spent more time on the "important characters" and explore those more. Speaking of which.
The whole cast of characters was so lackluster, with barely any real explained motivations or fleshed out ones among them, the only decent one being the detective Shibazaki. He was the only one advancing the plot, but even this with the most trivial and convenient ways possible, like I told you before. I mean his relative and one friend gave away the location of the bomb in the last episode, oh my, how convenient indeed. It was so cheap I had to face palm. A lot of answers to the already mentioned riddles by Shibazaki where really sudden and there was never a clear train of thought to follow either him or the actual main protagonists, which was a shame. This could have been a great cat and mouse game like in Death Note, but it was not. There isn’t much to talk about the two male main characters to be honest. Nine was the rather cold and distant guy, while Twelve was the funky and hyperactive one. They have flashbacks to their past every now and then, when the plot feels like it, and that’s about it. We literally learn everything there is to them in the first two episodes, with their motivations being revealed in the very last episode.
The last character I want to mention is Lisa, Sphinx’ female sidekick. She has a highly clingy mother and got bullied in school, that’s where she first met Nine and Twelve, which was the most convenient and cheapest way to introduce her, because for whatever reason Sphinx joined a local school in episode 1, but where never ever seen there again, which makes it pointless and the yet again really, really cheap. Her relation with her mother seemed like an important plot point in the beginning, but was quickly abandoned and never talked about again, which is quie a shame. The only things she then really did where trying to cook for Sphinx, but messing up, helping them out a few times, but messing up, staying at home, but messing up and so on. She also gets kidnapped a few times to drive the plot along, but contributed nothing important or meaningful to the story whatsoever. As you can see, the writing is not really strong with this one. Sadly this doesn’t change in the later episodes as well and even the conclusion was everything else than satisfying and quite anticlimactic. They basically shoved everything we already assumed down our throat in the most forced way possible, though at least it is complete and not inconclusive. That’s a plus.
But thankfully the show is good in two aspects; visuals and sound. The animation was really good for the most part and especially in the first episode gorgeous. The explosions were fluent, the attention to detail on backgrounds and characters remarkable and the use of lighting and shadows impressive too. But sadly the anime has a few quality drops during its duration of 11 episodes and often likes to use 3DCG to animate even two background characters, which is really cheap and effortless if you ask me. Characters tend to lose a lot of detail once they move away from the screen too. Nothing new, but when the show does want to look good, it certainly does. The other thing I want to mention is the soundtrack by the famous Yoko Kanno (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Cowboy Bebop, Jin-Roh), which was done very well and especially during the show’s high points in the last couple of episodes, the soundtrack really stood out. One particular scene being one scene in a Ferris Wheel, which was in all honesty my favorite moment of the show. The voice acting was solid, but no performance really stood out or caught my ear.
But even with all these flaws, Zankyou no Terror was one of my most anticipated shows each week during the summer 2014 season. The whole thrill of how things can turn out, what will happen next, really thrilled and captivated me, only to be let down again and again…
Okay, let’s get to the verdict.
Zankyou no Terror was such a huge letdown for me in multiple aspects. This begins at the flow of the story, tons of unanswered questions and thin writing, the flat and weak characters and the unsatisfying, yet complete, conclusion of the show’s plot. Zankyou no Terror could have been a great comment on terrorism and a huge controversial thing to talk and discuss about, but sadly it turned out to be a cheap and forgettable popcorn flick with fancy visuals and good music. Don’t worry, Sphinx. I will remember you. I will remember you for being in a show with the first good English I heard in a long time and in my biggest disappointment of summer 2014. Zankyou~
STORY SECTION: 4/10
Premise 1/2 (interesting)
Pacing 1/2 (solid)
Complexity 1/2 (has some nice attempts)
Plausibility 0/2 (completely unrealistic)
Conclusion 1/2 (overblown, but well presented)
CHARACTER SECTION: 4/10
Presence 1/2 (fairly typical and not memorable)
Personality 1/2 (generic and some completely bland)
Backdrop 1/2 (some is shoehorned into the plot)
Development 0/2 (non-existent)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown, but it's there)
ART SECTION: 8/10
General Artwork 2/2 (very detailed)
Character Figures 1/2 (quite generic but very detailed)
Backgrounds 2/2 (very realistic)
Animation 1/2 (sometimes good, sometimes average)
Visual Effects 2/2 (quite good)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (quite good but no outstanding performance)
Music Themes 3/4 (good tracks and very well used)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok, I guess)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 5/10
Art 1/1 (looks great)
Sound 2/2 (sounded good from top to bottom)
Story 1/3 (interesting hook, but that's it)
Characters 1/4 (Shibazaki was not that bad...)