No matter who you ask, pretty much everyone agrees that Zankyou no Terror (Terror in Resonance in English) was one of the most unique, thought-provoking animes of 2014. Some consider it a masterpiece, while others say it’s nothing more than an original concept. The truth is that no one is left unimpressed or indifferent after watching this series.
WARNING: This review includes themes of terrorism and death + mild spoilers for the series
Zankyou no Terror tells the story of Nine and Twelve, two young boys who commit acts of terrorism around Tokyo for apparently no reason. They usually leaving clues and riddles for the police on Youtube to warn them about future bombings. Lisa, a timid girl who suffers from abuse by her classmates and mother, gets entangled in their world.
I know what you’re thinking, which is probably what I was thinking when I first read the synopsis too: this seems like a highly controversial anime. How exactly could they make the main characters actual terrorists? We’re used to seeing antiheroes in anime, one of the most popular examples being Death Note‘s Light Yagami. In fact, Zankyou no Terror has often been called a “bigger” Death Note, or a “smaller” Death Note, depending on how you look at it. Bigger because it involves acts of terrorism rather than sporadic deaths. But “smaller” because it’s way shorter and it doesn’t delve that much in the moral conflicts that made the former so remarkable. Besides, Nine and Twelve’s goal is not to kill people, but to scare them and make a statement against the Government. And that’s where the anime puts the pedal down to make the story work, and to make us empathize with the main characters.
Considering that this anime only has 11 episodes, it is quite hard to argue its plot points without giving away too much. It’s safe to say though, that the creators managed to portray Nine and Twelve in a way that make us care about them and want to see things from their point of view. For one, they never kill anyone, nor do they wish to (although there could have been many fatal casualties to some of their “experiments”). Their reason for acting the way they do is foreshadowed from the first episode and it’s actually explained quite soon. This was a mild disappointment for some watchers who just wanted to see two ruthless criminals as the main protagonists of the story. But that’s not the story of Zankyou no Terror. This story is about how cruel humans can be and how revenge is never the right way of dealing with past events.
With so little episodes, there’s not much time for introducing a lot of characters, but it’s not necessary either. The third main character is Lisa, to me, the weakest point of the series. Lisa was a character with a lot of potential, but the way they handled her was a bit of a let down for me. Her character was introduced as person who is weak, submissive and who just goes with the flow, secretly wishing to escape the world. By random chance, she gets to meet Nine and Twelve, and actually becomes attached to one of them. In that situation, far from becoming stronger or taking more responsibility over her life, Lisa actually becomes a nuance and someone that Nine and Twelve have to protect and watch over so that she doesn’t get in the way of their “job”. However, her presence does give way to one of the most pure, profound love stories I have ever seen in an anime. The best part about it is that, for such a short anime, their romance never felt rushed, nor forced. It was not “in your face” either. Far from being a cliché, it actually turned out to be one of the best things of this story.
For a series that is labeled under “Psychological” and “Thriller”, Zankyou no Terror barely begins to scratch the surface of moral issues. Once you know the reason for Nine and Twelve’s actions, the story quickly becomes about something else. Again, there was not much time and the series was bound to fall short in some aspects, but I felt that they still had enough time to give us more depth to Lisa’s mental state or to develop Nine’s character a bit more. Other than that, I would also definitely add ‘Drama’ as one of its genres. As I already mentioned, rest assured that this anime will make you cry. You know those sad stories where you actually feel the pain everytime you remember them? Yep, this is one of them.
Everything else from this series is wonderful, from the OST to the flawless animation and amazing direction by Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop).
So is Zankyou no Terror a masterpiece? Well, that’s a pretty big world that is often saved for only the best of the best, and the competition is tough. Zankyou no Terror is one of those animes that I prefer to label as an “experience”, rather than as a series. Its story is so immersive, emotional and unique that you will remember it for a long time despite its flaws. It’s one of those stories where you feel like it ended too soon and you’re left with lots of angst and thoughts of “what could have beens”. Overall, Zankyou no Terror is short, but intense. A story full of injustice, cruelty and impotence. And certainly a must-watch.
PS: Check out this amazing fan-made trailer of the series in case you haven’t been convinced yet: