Zankyou No Terror
February 28, 2015
Is terrorising part of the new ‘culture’ today? The world has definitely changed a lot ever since post 9/11 terror attacks that still rings fear in the hearts of many even till today. We are further reminded of how truly terrifying terrorism is with the series of Zankyou No Terror. Well, if you watch anime, that is. This time and again (but of course), Tokyo is the object of terrorism. But not by a well-known international terrorist organization but a couple of teenage kids! Doesn’t that feel like an insult? At least it goes to show that terrorism doesn’t ‘discriminate’ but comes in all types and forms. However with these bunch of kids terrorizing Tokyo, planting bombs in places and giving authorities a chance to solve riddles that would lead to the bomb’s location, is there more to the eye for such young ones to have nothing better to do and so much free time that they could terrorize Tokyo? Are they doing it for fun or is there a hidden message behind it all?
Episode 1: Falling
In the snowy prefecture of Aomori, a couple of guys in a very well coordinated plan steal some plutonium from a nuclear fuel processing facility. Six months later in Tokyo, Arata Kononoe AKA Nine and Touji Hisami AKA Twelve are on their way to their newly transferred high school. Twelve sees Lisa Mishima in the midst of being bullied by her classmate girls who want her to jump into the pool. Looking like fun, he jumps in. Lisa sees the warmth of his smile but at the same time the ice cold piercing stare of Nine. Meanwhile a couple of guys lazing around instead of doing their office job, Kenjirou Shibazaki and Mukasa checks out videos on YouTube and they see a couple masked boys calling themselves as Sphinx predicting some darkness befalling on Tokyo after 3pm. Despite the cold exterior, Nine seems pretty popular with the girls. They want his handphone number but he can’t give it to them because he doesn’t have one. Or does he? Damn Twelve for texting him to meet right now. They see Lisa heading into the toilet with her bento. Is she going to have lunch there? No. She doesn’t feel good and dumps everything into the toilet bowl. What a waste. Back home, Twelve asks Nine about Lisa having the same look in her eyes as the orphanage kids. He replies they are weak and died. They were weak and couldn’t save them. But now they aren’t. Nine and Twelve are in a high rise government building planting funny plushie dolls in strategic place when the electricity in the entire area goes out. They hasten their planting as everyone grapples about without any sort of electronics working. Shibazaki remembers about the video and wants Mukasa to show it to him again. Did the prophecy come true? Lisa sees Twelve so the latter gives her a plushie and tells her to hold it until he says otherwise. When everything is set, the plushie starts melting and explodes. Nine believes everything went according to plan but Nine mentions not quite. Lisa saw him. He gave her a plushie just in case. They can save or kill her anytime. Nine wonders if he is trying to recreate that day for him. If it ends his nightmares. Nine calls Lisa and gives her 2 choices. Die where she stands or become their accomplice. Because she doesn’t want to die, Nine guides her as to where she should move. Placing the plushie before a wall, it then explodes to reveal a big gap. Twelve is waiting down there ready to catch her. Ready for the big jump? Just remember the swimming pool. Here goes! The area is in chaos as part of the building collapses. Twelve brings Lisa back to Nine as she is being told she made the choice to be their accomplice on her own. There is no more turning back.
Episode 2: Call & Response
When Lisa returns home, her very insecure mother thinks she never answered her calls as she feared she will leave her just like her dad. A task force is created to investigate this terrorist attack. Kurahashi of the Investigation Bureau’s Section One is heading this task force as they analyse all the details they have from the site devastation (they’re lucky not to have any casualties), the video which could be an ill-timed prank, the culprits may have been related to the 25 minute blackout, and the most interesting is the explosive analysis. Thermite reaction is based on the mixture of certain compounds together in which can lead to very high and extreme degrees of temperature in a short time. The materials are easier to find than making gunpowder (because it is used in wielding). The bombs are placed strategically where the building’s structural complex support it. The compounds are hot enough to melt the steel and the water sprinkle that was activated react the compound further and causing a steam explosion. The building at this point cannot support its weight and collapses. This terrorist attack is unprecedented but the analyst is baffled that a bomb was used made in traditional TNT. It’s like as though they are trying to leave a message. Words of “VON” are printed of it. Kurahashi knows what this means. He fears if this is related to that incident, the country will descend into panic. Meanwhile Nine impersonates as a ramen delivery boy and plant his takeout delivery in some police headquarters. And nobody gives a damn or a hint of suspicion.
Everyone is abuzz when Sphinx uploads a new video. They claim that the explosion was theirs and there is going to be a second one. But they give the police a riddle to answer. As they discuss, Kurahashi believes the culprits calling themselves Sphinx have roots more in the Greek myth than Egyptian. If you are familiar with the Oedipus story whereby an oracle foretold a father his son Oedipus would kill him and a series of events led that to happen. Without knowing he killed his own father and then marrying his own mother, once he found out, he could not bear the sin and gouged out his own eyes. On his journey he met a Sphinx who told him a riddle and the wrong answer would mean he will be eaten. The riddle is similar to the culprits in which the answer is human. So the next target is a place with lots of people? Thinking it is an address, they believe the DNA research facility is the target. Meanwhile Lisa is reading the story of Oedipus when Twelve plays that Coke-Mentos prank on her. He then warns her that she might be their accomplice but not one of them. Rat them out and she will die. Shibazaki calls Kurahashi to give his opinion on the riddle. There were 2 versions of that myth. Because the culprits mention 2 legs in morning, 4 legs at noon and 3 legs in evening, the answer is Oedipus. He began as a human, became a beast when he did those sins and walked with a cane after becoming blind. And since they said it is a riddle for the police, the numbers 2-4-3 coincides with the Roppongi’s police station address. Right at that moment the bomb goes off. Too late. Kurahashi tells him a highly confidential matter about the stolen plutonium. The same mark was found on a bomb casing fragment after the government building explosion. He believes those 2 are really intent on standing against this country. He wants Shibazaki to come back.
Episode 3: Search & Destroy
Hamura doesn’t like the idea some guy from the archives is going to lead them. But they trust in him because he was one of the best detectives of Section One. Twelve wonders if their riddle was too hard to solve but Nine believes the police are on to them as he saw counter-terrorism units in the news. After this one, they will know. Police are reviewing the footage from the CCTV of Nine entering the Roppongi station. Kurahashi gives Shibazaki a sketch picture of what is supposedly the culprit (with a fake name of course). No photos because apparently someone deleted it at the facility. The police interrogate an experienced crane operator about making such mistake. He won’t talk till Shibazaki comes in and mentions about his gambling habit and a certain debt collector who didn’t show up. He starts panicking and confesses. Seems he was offered 2 million yen to do the job from some anonymous online user. He got half of it when he accepted. The curious part is how the culprits know his account number without asking (of course theirs is a fake account) and it is as though they are purposely leaving traces of evidence behind. Then a new uploaded video from Sphinx with yet another riddle. They have until 10am tomorrow before the bomb blows off in a building next to the dwelling god who solved the riddle. Shibazaki analyses the culprits’ words and actions. It may have something to do with Oedipus, local shrines and swollen foot (the meaning behind Oedipus’ name). Meanwhile Lisa cannot stand her insecure mom’s shake up and runs away right before she discovers. Bye-bye.
When Mukasa is playing some online game slaying dragons, it hit Shibazaki. He is requesting some bold move that would seem provoking the culprits. Although he would like to take responsibility but in reality it would fall on his commanding officer (Kurahashi), he hopes Kurahashi would do something to take the blame. Hope this idea better works. Shibazaki uploads a live video to answer Sphinx’s riddle. Using Oedipus origins he wasn’t a god and his mother descended from a water dragon, coupled in with some versions had him limped all his life, he figures they are referring to the limping dragon called Arahabaki. It has roots in the local myth and although a god of war, metal working and feet, at one point it had no shrine to call its own and wandered. Thus his feet got tired and started limping. There is an Arahabaki related shrine here and it is the Shirahige Shrine in Katsuhika ward. Showing the abandoned building next to it, the bomb diffusing squad is seen dismantling the bombs safely. Shibazaki then continues to be provocative. He warns not to get carried away with their childish behaviour. What they are having isn’t a toy and if they are planning to use that trump card, he will hound them to the ends of the earth! At that point, the police cut him off as it is deemed a direct provocation and too dangerous. Well, that is why Kurahashi is to take responsibility, right? Nine and Twelve are impressed they manage to deduce this time and they notice that with the squad wearing hazard materials suits, it shows they have definitely linked them to the plutonium theft. Hamura talks to Kurahashi about who this Shibazaki guy is. 15 years ago, a secretary of a Diet member jumped off a hotel balcony. Top brass said it was suicide but Shibazaki didn’t buy it. He investigated and linked it to some conspiracy of a faction leader who once worked at the Metropolitan Police. So that is how he ended up in the archives since he has a family to feed. No choice, he had to accept top brass’ decision but he hasn’t forgotten or let go of it.
Episode 4: Break Through
Lisa is now wandering in the streets. Look at the endless miscalls from her mom! Scary! It was a good thing she ran away, huh? The police are in another briefing of the materials used in the bombs and how the culprits use fake identity and credit card to buy things from a legitimate company. In short, ironically the more clues they have about them, the less they seem to know. Shibazaki goes to Aomori to see Yoshihara Ebisuno, the person who employed one of the culprits. He shows the sketch to get more information. The kid doesn’t talk much, always have a headphone on listening to music from cold country and when asked about his dad, he kept silent. After he returns, it seems many people don’t remember even him working there. Like as though he is a ghost. Shibazaki believes no matter how good they are in erasing evidence and tracks, they can’t erase human memory. Besides, he was there just to have a feel of what the scenery they saw, the air the breathed and the sounds they heard. Sphinx uploads another video and wants the police to play their game to beat the bomb. Or else the invisible bomb will go off. Using the Oedipus myth again that he descended the staircase to Hades, it seems the internet is like an underworld and there is a link that connects them to a page where a timer is counting down. They need to input the correct password, which is the name of the person who the sayings are referring to. They have till midnight. Oh, and no cheating. The police work hard and they have gathered from surveillance camera. They deduce the same person entering Roppongi station and some building to be the same. They’re going there. Hamura tells Shibazaki they have found the culprits’ hideout and to stop keying in the password. However Shibazaki leaves the raid to him and continues inputting because this time the culprits told them to stop the bomb instead of finding it. Hamura is pissed with his attitude because he is just like those kids, thinking this is a game.
Nine knows Twelve has been keeping tabs on Lisa although he promised not to get involved. He can tell she has run away from home and thinks there is a chance she might go to the police and rattle them. So Twelve goes to see her and although she wants to be left alone, she has no place to go. She felt like an idiot. Back then, she thought of running away with him and expected to lead her out of this world. Didn’t happen. Expected too much. Will anybody take her away? She runs away but into a couple of police who question her for being out this late. Twelve zooms by on his bike and Lisa doesn’t hesitate to jump on and ride off. Meanwhile a full police and SWAT team are swarming a building. It just hit Shibazaki that one of the clues of “Know thyself” and when he entered his name, the password is correct. However the bomb doesn’t stop. A footage shows the police squad storming into the building and because they cheated, the invisible bomb goes off. All the classified information on the terrorist attacks is uploaded onto the social websites. You lose. Lisa asks Twelve if they are going to destroy the world. He laughs. She laughs. Hasn’t felt this good laughing for a long time, eh? When Twelve brings her back, Nine immediately says no. Twelve argues she could be an asset as she is an unseen face but Nine doesn’t trust her. They have no time. For dramatic effect, Lisa collapses. I think it’s real.
Episode 5: Hide & Seek
Lisa wakes up as she hears the guys talk. Nine doesn’t want to keep her and once her fever is gone, out she goes. She will be a liability. Twelve is kinder since he believes she has nowhere to go but Nine reminds him nothing good comes to those associating with them. Suddenly all their handphones ring. I don’t know if Lisa did anything but she was told she was lucky because it was connected to the fire extinguisher. Had the fuse been connected, the bomb inside it will explode. She faints upon hearing that. Back to dream land. Meanwhile a pair of American FBI agents sees Kurahashi. Nine and Twelve disguise as maintenance service and place a fire extinguisher with the bomb in a train. When they come home, they smell fire! Lisa cooking?! Does she know her cooking is smoking the entire room?! And what does she mean she messed up a little?! That’s basically total cooking failure! Nine accuses her of trying to prove her worth so she could say. However she is still feverish and is sent to bed. Twelve notes at least it is better than their food at the orphanage. He can’t remember the taste and as though eating was a task. Sphinx uploads another riddle for the police. The place where the angel receives FEZ 5889 punishment. Shibazaki instantly recognizes that number. It is the police file records. Since they have hacked their system and data, they must have got their past data too. Looking through that archive, it is a report about corporal punishment of a high school making its student run in the sweltering heat for arriving late. Looking at the Bible this time about Samael which is also known as the red serpent, what does a snake look like in real life? A train. And the red train belongs to the Shinjuku line. Twelve wonders if the riddle is too easy this time. Nine purposely make it so that Shibazaki can figure out the bombing connections. And he already did. All the locations that the bombs were placed, the head of that building or organization once participated in a seminar known as Rising Peace Academy, a non-profit organization seeking to promote interaction between the government and people. It attracted lots of important and influential people.
As the 8pm deadline looms, Nine is baffled that there is no report anywhere that action is taken to remove the bomb. They notice all their handphones are experiencing interference and thus no signal. Shibazaki confronts Kurahashi about their no-action. Seems orders from the top said it would send a special assault team and the rest will be on standby. This means they are to do nothing. Before a mass murder can happen, Nine tries to hack back into the train system to find out where the train is while Twelve is on his way to remove the bomb without being seen. They deduce somebody is behind this interfering with it all. As though that person doesn’t want the bomb to be stopped and let it blow up. Nine is surprised he cannot trace the train as multiple IDs of the train appear. Somebody is feeding them fake data. Suddenly his laptop is being hacked externally. Nine remembers traumatic memories of the orphanage and thinks he knows who is behind this. He uses a new laptop to hack. When he determines the train’s position, he quickly dashes out because he is the nearest. Once the train stops at the station, Nine drops a smoke bomb and the public panics there is a bomb as they rush out. Nine goes in but sees a girl sleeping with her headphones on. As he tries to reach for her, the bomb goes off. Don’t worry. They’re okay. Nine and Twelve’s handphone rings a message. They know it is her. Five. She has found them.
Episode 6: Ready Or Not
Five is pretty happy herself since she is confident she can catch Nine. In another police briefing, it is reported there are no casualties although many are injured. Also, Kurahashi mentions the FBI are going to be on this case and to give their full cooperation. Another nightmare wake up for Nine. Discussing with Twelve, they believe she wants to continue the game they started back then and won’t let them get away this time. Lisa wants to help. Instantly shot down by Nine. He shows her footage of the train’s bombing. This is what they do. Can she do it? The best she can help is to stay out of their way. Shibazaki talks to Kurahashi when he was summoned away halfway in the previous briefing. He explains he went to the top brass’ office. The top dogs were quiet as he was introduced to FBI agent Clarence and a nuclear researcher, Five. They know plutonium was stolen and the American government is very concerned and those culprits are the ones planting the bombs around. They have solid evidence of that. Kurahashi wants to see those evidences so he can arrest them but Five laughs and ridicules him. They were running around and they couldn’t even catch them and worse, they let their data get leaked. Best joke of the year. Shibazaki knows what they’re doing the other day is to force the culprits to reveal themselves. What happens if they are pushed to a corner and decided to use their trump card? Not good. Soon another Sphinx riddle. But it’s not from our usual duo as a certain somebody is impersonating as them and sending the riddle of Julius Caesar going to Arab to everyone’s handphone. It is easily deduced as some Caesar code. Using the numbers, it is the coordinates of Haneda Airport. A second message is purposely misspelled as “VON Voyage”.
Nine and Twelve know what she is doing and they are caught in a catch-22 situation. Because if they go there to stop the bomb, they will be caught in the act. If they don’t and the bomb goes off, they will be blamed. They can’t go out and reveal anything because it’s the terrorist’s words against the police. Who would you believe? Shibazaki is suspicious about this Sphinx’s message. Is it really them? The chief calls everyone to gather and another top order not to do anything. Don’t do anything you’ll regret. Shocking, eh? On pretence to get food, we know Shibazaki is not going to sit still. But Hamura and the other guys also know he is going to do something and ‘joins him for dinner’. Nine and Twelve know that the airport is laced with CCTVs everywhere and must move on the assumption that they are being watched. They need someone they won’t recognize. Ah, clumsy Lisa coming in… No. Just no. Oh, come on. They need someone to act like an amateur and who best fits this? Lisa puts her foot down that she wants to be part of the group and will do anything. Okay. But they’ll be moving separately. The guys infiltrate as airport maintenance members. Five and her crew are keeping close tabs. Her underlings are so slow in retrieving data that she does the job herself. She traces them quickly as the personnel records do not match. Are they getting sloppy? Once they change their outfits and appear at the lobby, the screen changes to the layout of the airport. It is divided into squares and Nine recognizes this is chess. She wants to play chess using the airport as the board and also continue that game from that day. Their winning move will reveal the bomb’s location. Nine does a mental image of the moves and soon the guys separately make a dash to their next spot. Let the game begin.
Episode 7: Deuce
Shibazaki and co arrive but they see numbers on the screen. He thinks the terrorist is playing games with somebody intended with and that they are here. They also deduce the message from the fake Sphinx was intended for the real Sphinx. It could be somebody from the police planting the bomb and they are better off looking into what the police are doing. As they snoop around, they find the airport staffs have been told to show those on screen by the police. And there was a big police truck coming true. It must be hiding somewhere so as not to attract public attention. Twelve manages to escape from the cameras and hide in the blind spots. Enough time to change into police attire while Nine continues to run around playing the chess moves. It’s time for Lisa to make her debut. Can she do it? She’s a bundle of nerves. While Twelve enters some computer main server terminal to mess with something, Lisa sets off a flare in the toilet which in turn sets off the alarm. However Five spots Lisa because among the crowd, she is running away and so nervous she is that she bumps into everybody. Caught you. When Five notices the discrepancy in the time in the video and in real time, she rushes out but Nine points a gun at her. He knows where the bomb is. She also can tell how Twelve switched the cameras to recordings 5 minutes earlier and is now heading to the bomb. However she also knows there is someone who caused that diversion. Five didn’t know he made friends but this means his weakness has increased. She will make sure she will have the best seat for the fireworks. Clarence catches Lisa and points a gun at her. Come with him. The airport police arrive and open fire but Nine escapes. Five tells her goons to stay put. She didn’t order them to move.
Nine meets up with Twelve but it seems the bomb is not at the spot. Suddenly Lisa calls Twelve. A man brought her into a plan and locked her inside. The bomb is here and it is moving towards their location. It is the reason why the bomb couldn’t be found. It is a moving bomb. Who is piloting? Nobody. They know somebody is auto-piloting the plane and this can only be done at the control tower where Five would be. However they cannot go close to it as it is heavily guarded. Nine thinks of causing a scene to evacuate the public. But what about Lisa? They can’t abandon her, can they?! Only one thing left to do. Nine calls Shibazaki and tells him about somebody setting up the bomb to frame them. He wants to use him to get into the control tower to stop it. It is for both their benefit to stop the bomb. Never thought he heard a terrorist say that. Shibazaki and his men push their way through but only Shibazaki get through. Nine drives a cargo cart while Twelve calls Lisa to do the necessary preparations. She opens the hatch and needs to jump but the bumpy ride causes her to slip. Don’t worry. She is hanging by the harness she made. Now it’s too tight to untie. Shibazaki reaches the control tower and points the gun at the control guy to move the plane away. Five is not happy her plan is derailed and is going to make him regret this. Lisa unties herself as she falls into Twelve’s arms. They steer away and the plane does so. Once time is up, the plane explodes. Shibazaki sees Sphinx below (in their mask of course) and he can’t chase them since the panicking control tower members are blocking the exit trying to escape. He is only left in frustration as they got away. Five isn’t defeated yet. She has got her hands on Lisa’s student ID card and won’t let her get away next time.
Episode 8: My Fair Lady
Shibazaki and co are being reprimanded by the chief. Everyone is suspended for 3 months and off the case except for Shibazaki who will be suspended indefinitely. He tries to mention about somebody framing Sphinx but the chief won’t hear a word further. Hand over your badge. Shibazaki talks to Kurahashi and it seems the latter had to go through a lot to reduce his punishment. They know that woman is going after her. Who is she? She doesn’t look like some mere nuclear scientist. Kurahashi tried finding out but everything points to her being transferred from ISA, an intelligence agency. So what is a spy doing in a plutonium theft case? Lisa wakes up alone back at the hideout and is warned not to go outside. However she receives a courier package. A message says, “BOMB”. Oh sh*t! The guys are coming back from an errand wondering if they should change their hideout since Lisa’s face is known. Then they see Lisa rushing out before the entire building goes boom! Clarence warns Five about going too far because their priority is to secure the item. Nine and Twelve use an abandoned video game centre as their new hideout. Twelve wonders if they should quit while they still can. Nine wonders if he is scared because of Lisa. He should remember where they came from and has he forgotten what they must do? Lisa could have died then and all the more reason not to let her get involved anymore.
Shibazaki does more research on Rising Peace Academy and there was this Athena Project they conducted. He visits Mukasa to request a file of some politician’s kid involved in some assault case that was settled out of court. He then goes to see him to seek more information about this programme of providing special education for gifted children. He won’t say and claims some national secrets act. Shibazaki mentions about his son and shows picture proof he might be at it again. Blackmail? Well, he is already going to get fired so he couldn’t care less. From Mukasa, Hamura finds Shibazaki and joins him in his detective work walking from one place to another to question people regarding taken children from the orphanage over the country with high scores from a test. Oddly nobody seems to know where the children end up but a nun they questioned remembers a government official handing her his card. Shibazaki calls his cyber crime unit’s colleague, Kinoshita to snoop around on the name of Souta Aoki. It is discovered that Athena Project involved pharmaceutical companies, neuroscience research labs and vanguard medicine organizations. The project was cancelled 7 years ago. Twelve sees a letter from Lisa. Goodbye note. She must have heard how a burden she was and ran away. But Five is watching her from the street CCTVs. As she wanders in the street, several agents pick her up. Lisa wakes up in Five’s place. She knows all about her from running away from her mom and running away from the boys. She wants to help them but if they unleash their next plan, there is no going back. So tell her everything. Lisa spills everything from the time she met them at the government building and the choice of dying or become their accomplice. Five tells her she should be better off dead. She further insults her as a stupid girl dragging the guys around. Lisa tries to be tough. She can do anything to her be let the guys walk free. However Five tells her that nobody cares about her life in which an ant’s life is worth even more. Does she think they have a future? Nine warns Twelve about looking for Lisa. They receive a message from Lisa’s handphone. It’s a picture of her. Instantly they know Five has got her and it is a trap. It’s different this time. They have no time. It is precisely why he is going. Nine pleads him to stay. Don’t leave me? Unfortunately he chose the girl over his best friend. Doesn’t this seem like real life?
Episode 9: Highs & Lows
Nine is in his secret lab making preparations. Shibazaki and Hamura are at Aoki’s house. This widower looks helluva gloomy. I can guess why. Shibazaki wants to know more about Athena Project but Aoki mentions the name of the former deputy minister of health and labour. He died 3 years ago because he wanted to bring those responsible to face prosecution. This is warning that they walk away now if they want to walk freely in the streets. Shibazaki won’t and tells Hamura to go away. He won’t either. But see his shaking hands taking out the recorder? The explanation begins. Aoki mentions about savant syndrome, condition that demonstrates abnormal capabilities in a certain skill. In exchange for being good at that skill, they often pay the price in the form of an inability to communicate with others. The goal of Athena Project is to find a way to artificially bring a person to a similar savant syndrome state. 26 children (all without names and only identified with a number) with high IQ scores were taken as test subjects since a pharmaceutical company at that time stumbled upon some drug. When Rising Peace Academy found out about it, they launch this project, poured funds into it and hired the best scientists all at a place called Settlement. Because the drug was only effective in children no older than 5 years old and a normal person could not withstand the drug’s effect, their bodies and mind became broken and eventually died. When the US government discovered this 7 years ago, they intervened and cancelled it. Only 1 child survived and was the US took custody of her. However there were 2 others who escaped. They set the facility on fire and ran away. That was 8 years ago. Today they would be 17 if they are alive. They might not have enough time left in this world. He said all this now because he knew eventually someone like them would turn up or else he would have carried it to his grave. Hamura becomes upset that he can say all that with a straight face. He is not human. Aoki agrees. Merely just a pawn powerless to oppose the hand that moved him. And the hand was? Dr Shunzou Mamiya. The politician guy who demoted Shibazaki.
Twelve is seen entering the amusement park. He sees Lisa tied up in a Ferris wheel carriage and wearing a bomb vest. At that moment, the timer begins and the wheel moves. 8.5 minutes. He remains calms and tells her to do the same as he tries to disarm the bomb. One down, more to go… Clarence isn’t pleased of what Five is doing because no matter how pro a bomb diffuser is, nobody can diffuse so many bombs in such a given time. If he is killed, they will lose their lead on the item’s location. She tells him to shut up. She has a big headache right now. Traumatic nightmares? Or stress, I suppose? Lisa apologizes for causing them trouble all the time. Don’t be. Twelve apologizes instead that he got her into this. He shouldn’t have picked her up. He knew this would happen eventually. Lisa makes her resolve. She wants him to save himself and go to Nine. He needs him. There is something they have to do so go do it. But he won’t leave her. Five calls him and says what they stole wasn’t plutonium but a nuclear prototype developing in secret. Let’s make a deal. Tell us where the location is and she’ll stop the bomb. She further plays mind games with him that he betrayed Nine for Lisa and is he going to let her die in front of him? Because Nine isn’t going to forgive him. But if he doesn’t want to tell, it’s fine. They can die like lovers. In the dying seconds, Twelve blurts out the bomb in a school locker. The special squad storms into it and Nine knows Twelve has tattle on him. He takes what is needed and escapes. Five becomes desperate and orders Nine’s capture at all cost. Target lost. Those headaches coming back again? Yeah well, she collapsed. I guess playing such a game can be too stressful if it doesn’t go your way.
Episode 10: Helter Skelter
While Five is in ICU, Nine turns himself into the police. At first nobody believes till he puts on his mask. It’s him! Nine only wants to speak to Shibazaki but since he is suspended, Kurahashi will listen in his place. Nine has a demand. He wants a press conference at 8pm where he will tell all. Kurahashi tells his top brass about this but they don’t trust him. However Kurahashi will take full responsibility. Plus, this is the first time Sphinx has demanded something and has been keeping their word every time. When Five wakes up but still weak, Clarence told her Nine has turned himself in and she is not too happy. She will not let anyone else have him. Meanwhile Shibazaki goes to see Mamiya. Hamura wanted to come along but was sent on a wild goose chase to buy cigarette packs for him (he should have guessed something is wrong when he visited 8 outlets all of which not having the cigarette brand he specified! 8 freaking shops!!!). Shibazaki is ready to face whatever consequences as the frail and sickly Mamiya explains about Japan still reeling from their lost dignity when World War 2 ended. They wanted to create people with superior intelligence and senses, raise talents that would far be more useful than any weapon. That was what Athena Project was for. The project failed but he considers the children gave their lives for the country’s good. Shibazaki tells him to cut the bullsh*t about the country’s good because they took away their childhood and destroyed their lives for their egos. News of Sphinx’s press conference reaches everyone. Lisa and Twelve are bumming around. What are they going to do? Twelve takes her to an amusement park and they have fun? Twelve fears he has betrayed Nine and cannot face him. Lisa for once ‘scolds’ him that she was happy when he came for her but now his partner is in trouble. If he goes to Nine, she is sure he will be happy too.
Shibazaki requests to speak to Nine but Kurahashi can’t do that. Only a selected few get to interview him and that Shibazaki is suspended. However he slips him the secret location of the press conference. Clarence calls the top brass and ‘understands’ that they rather negotiate with terrorists instead of assisting the US government. Can’t answer that, can’t he? Five suggests taking it by force but Clarence reminds their relations with the Japanese government have been strained since the airport incident. Five believes an attack by an unidentified armed force will do the trick. Five takes over the operation and has all police vehicles leaving the stations traced. An unidentified van attacks the escort but it is empty. A decoy. This tactic allows Five to eliminate and determine the true escort that Nine is in. She drives like a hell driver to personally get him. When she is up to the van, she opens fire, deflating a tyre and killing the driver. Kurahashi in the other front seat has a hard time steering and crashes. With all the officers out, Nine frees himself and starts running. But here comes Twelve on his bike serving as a distraction. Before he crashes, he drops a bomb that puts their car out of commission. Clarence points a gun at Five. He is taking her off the mission. He has enough proof to dismiss her after her various illegal conducts. While he is messaging to his men, Five shoots him with her hidden gun. Five comes chasing Nine in her car but the latter shoots back, enough to make her crash. Walking up to him, Five says she has never managed to beat him. That was all she wanted. However the time she had left was far too short and it was because of him she managed to live this long. He was her reason for living. Now it’s time for goodbye and hopes to see him on the other side. So live for her. She quickly kisses him, walks back to her car and fires at the tank. Boom! It is already 8pm but Nine hasn’t shown up at the press conference. Suddenly a video of him is seen on all screens. In this pre-recording video, Nine mentions the press conference is cancelled thanks to outside interference. This message was set up to play automatically if this happened. The last bomb that will go off at 10pm is a nuclear bomb. No one can stop it. Goodbye Japan. Nine takes off his mask at the end of the video.
Episode 11: VON
As the mass evacuation of the region begins, Lisa finds Twelve messed up and treats him. Shibazaki believes something is off. Sphinx isn’t just any terrorist because so far they have not killed anybody and have a specific goal. His daughter calls him, worried if he is in the midst of evacuation. He assures her he will after he has done his work. I guess you can’t beat a workaholic. Because his daughter is taking some physics subject in university, he asks if it is possible for a nuclear bomb to detonate without being killing anyone. As long as it is detonated in the air and it was done before by Americans. How will a nuclear bomb get into the air? Hamura deduces via balloon. So the police start scrambling for any balloon launched during the announcement was made and found one that matches. Although the radioactive will disperse into space, the electromagnetic waves will still cause a massive blackout. But there is another problem. Airplanes in the area are not equipped with electromagnetic protection and if get caught will crash. The US army is probably the only one with such technology. So it is a race to get all 250 planes in that are to land immediately! Even a couple of JSDF jet fighters are sent to chase it but the balloon has floated up so high that they can’t follow. Lisa is relieved that Twelve is fine. So what else better than to spend the rest of the time together and wait for kingdom come. Twelve explains they were raised in that dark orphanage without knowing their parents. Even when they escaped, it has always the 2 of them. Nobody needed them. That’s why he wants to thank her. By 10pm the bomb explodes. Everyone is awed by the big explosion in the sky. The most different ‘fireworks’ they have seen if I should say. Subsequently all electricity and anything electronic are cut. In the darkness, Nine sees something like Aurora lights in the sky.
In the aftermath, Nine visits the abandoned orphanage and hammers to the ground a wooden tombstone for Five. Lisa and Twelve arrive and the latter wants to explain but Nine knows only he was the one capable of throwing that bomb. Thank you. Friendship reconciled. What are a bunch of kids going to do hanging out at this place? Play ball (Lisa is a joker) and listening to music. But it seems they’re not just hanging out for fun. They are waiting for Shibazaki to come and he doesn’t disappoint. He deduces this is where they came from and wanted to show the world about this place. With everything that has happened, everyone’s attention is on them because they will be curious who is Sphinx and where they come from. Given the magnitude of it, nobody can sweep it under the rug. Creating this was their goal all along. They intended to get caught. The duo add that they needed someone who would figure it all and catch them. That person is Shibazaki. He is their Oedipus. He arrests them as Twelve mentions Lisa is just a hostage. Suddenly American choppers hover over the place. How did they find them? Nine takes out a detonator and threatens to blow up a bomb in a nuclear power plant. The army relay his message back to their boss (Clarence?) but he tells them to carry out their duty. Even if the bomb is real, there is nothing they can do as the mere existence of someone knowing the truth about the airport and highway incident will put them at a disadvantage. But spare the detective because if he accuses the Japanese government, the attention from them will be turned away. Twelve is shot and killed. Nine is furious and is going to press it but Shibazaki signals he will talk to him. He convinces Nine they have put their lives on the line and not to waste it. Everything will be revealed in the trial. Nine gives the detonator to him and leaves everything else to him. And most important of all, don’t forget them. His final headache gets worse and he collapses. A year later, Project Athena becomes known to the public and the world as Mamiya and Aoki are in a high profile prosecution. Lisa prays at the grave of Nine and Twelve. Shibazaki is on his way to do the same and stumbles into her. Lisa tells him she has asked Nine about the music he was listening to. It was from Iceland and the word VON is the Icelandic word for hope.
Terrorizing Our Hearts And Minds
OMG! OMFG! I just feel so sad. My heart just sank so much that I was just in tears when it all ended. But to summarize my feelings for series, it was a blast! Pun not intended but it was very awesome. Including the explosive finale. Uhm, pun intended? Every minute of it was just intense and interesting that when it was over, I couldn’t help feel a sense of emptiness. Yup. One of the very few series that actually made time fly. I want to say that this series is perfect but in reality, there it isn’t so because there may be a few points it made me left pondering like the lifespan of the orphanage trio. I’m not sure if they know exactly when they will die but it feels like they know they have not long to live. But where were they between the closure of the project and orphanage and now? Why did Five eventually choose to show up after all these years? Maybe she doesn’t know the whereabouts of Nine?
And now that everything is over, is Lisa living back with her crazy mom again? After all that craziness has happened, perhaps her mom’s case is just a mild one? And did Shibazaki and his fellow colleagues just get a slap on the wrist because after all the dangerous investigations that are akin to opening the Pandora Box, they should have been in some sort of trouble. But I guess with the world now focusing on this atrocity, I guess they are not in focus right now. Ah, so many of such questions but despite all that, I believe this show is still superb and the execution and flow of everything was greatly and nicely done. Easily this would be one of my favourite series for not only this season but all-time as well.
Curiously enough, the flashback of Nine, Twelve and Five’s past during their time at the orphanage isn’t given much prominence. I thought with the flashbacks and snippets of it from time to time, ultimately we would see the entire picture somewhere at the end or maybe an entire episode dedicating to it. This was not the case. I suppose just like Project Athena itself, these aren’t given much focus and somewhat just serve as a means to an end. Because basically if I think about it, there might be nothing much to it and I don’t think I want to see a bunch of young children getting tortured and going through so much pain in addition to the terrorizing pace of this series. They were just sufficient enough to drive the story forward. Besides, I don’t think it will be fair to suddenly jump on us that there is another survivor (which of course there isn’t). I don’t know if my heart can take it if that kind of twist happens.
The interesting aspect and main draw of this series are the riddles, its execution and the race to solve it before anything untoward happen. As the riddles from Sphinx are deeply rooted in Greek mythology and the Bible, it seems that in order to understand and connect their riddle, you need to be well read and knowledgeable in these areas. For a person like me who know nuts about anything, in a way it takes away some parts of the enjoyment because you’ll need it if you are going to fully appreciate and understand where they are going and what they are implying. Shibazaki himself is a smart guy and experienced detective although I am not sure if I can say he is knowledgeable about such stuffs because from what I can see, he spends lots of research time on it although it does not show here.
So it is not the case of him suddenly pulling out answers from the air because we have a limited air time in each episode or something. This way, it makes the series go at a faster pace instead of wasting time wrecking brain power trying to guess if it is correct or not. Because my guess is that most of us won’t really arrive at such detailed and cleverly thought out answers like him. I think. But don’t you agree? As for the riddles themselves, they are worthy enough to keep you guessing and hold your interest till it is solved. The action parts are lesser but still intense and exhilarating enough in its own right. The ironic part is that there were no casualties! No deaths! Until the penultimate episode when Five took desperate measures. I think it is safe to say the police escort became the first victim followed by Five and finally our Sphinx duo.
The characters are excellently portrayed, each with their own flaw. It is a bittersweet tragedy for the fate of the duo to end up like that but either way, they know they have not much time left. So they weren’t just a bunch of kids messing around with everyone just to have fun or just for the sake of wanting to get attention or making a mark they were here and lived on this planet. True, they wanted attention not because of selfish reasons. All they wanted was a place to belong. All they wanted was for people to remember them and the atrocity that took their very lives and existence that would otherwise be forever lost in the darkness of history. I suppose this was the only way to get people to talk about you and become some sort of sensation. Because otherwise, nobody gives a f*cks about you or anything else in this world. And Lisa was the first person to do that. That’s why even though when they initially don’t trust her, she is eventually worthy enough to be saved.
It is debatable if their methods of getting attention is right or wrong but you notice that they don’t mindlessly kill people and at times, they become heroes and saviours instead! Therefore it is ironic and ‘interesting’ to see ‘terrorists’ start saving people. It’s like seeing the devil forgiving and saving people from their sins. They know what they want and a mindless bloodbath massacre wasn’t it. After all, they are not such bad or rotten guys like those corrupted people at the top when you get to know them. So who are the real antagonists? Sphinx? Five? The people behind Athena Project? I think I know the answer for this one. It goes to show that terrorism itself comes in different forms, shapes and sizes. And in most unlikely of places where you least expected them to be. Especially in Five’s case where you could say that terrorism comes in the form of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Lisa feels like the weakest link among the group. Heck, for the first half of the series, it feels like she is irrelevant to the storyline when Sphinx were playing the main antagonist. You even question why the heck did Nine give her a choice of becoming their accomplice or die because after that, he leaves her out of from their operations and she is reduced to an unimportant character bumming around. As though it would have been better if she was just left for dead. Just like every other character, Lisa has her own set of problems. All she wanted was to belong somewhere, a place to call her own. I suppose her own home is out of the question because who would want to have such insecure psycho mom? She thought hanging out with the duo would be a better option but it didn’t actually solve her problems. Eventually she grows ‘important’ enough for the guys to see differences in what they consider important and this affects the choices they make and its outcome. Despite playing minimal roles even that airport accomplice help and getting abducted by Five are considered minor, Lisa is still an important character and helps drives the plot of the series.
Five is easily one of the most vile and despicable antagonist that viewers would love to hate. Aside from her twisted goal, this woman really puts the fear in you. Yeah. Literally resonating terror within you. She is intelligent. She is strong. She is domineering. She is dictating. She gets what she wants. You can never beat her. You can never stand up to her anyhow. You can never win (at least not if you’re a wuss of a weak heart because really, she isn’t for someone with a faint heart to deal with). Because she is one cool cat who won’t be cowed or easily swayed by your pathetic thoughts and opinions. Hers is always superior. No doubts about it. Thanks to her no compromise attitude, it makes her go as far as possible. Basically she is like a one (wo)man show who can do everything herself although she prefers her lackeys to do some of the mundane jobs like monitoring the CCTVs and such. Therefore she is no pushover and truly worthy to be one of the ‘best’ antagonist of all times. Don’t mess with her. Enough said. And thinking about all the things she did just to get Nine, she might after all be in love with this dude in a twisted way. Yeah. That.
Shibazaki is also a cool guy and a great detective thanks to his experience and his own belief on justice. Just too bad that the system didn’t like it and set him aside. Even guys like him are powerless. But at times like this, this is where guys like them set out to do what they have to without looking back. Unlike many who would simply jump to conclusions, he thinks deep and hard because as we know, terrorists think differently unlike others. It is great for the police to have this guy on their team. Even Sphinx acknowledges him. Mukasa might seem to be falling into the dumb cop category because of his obese appearance and his penchant to spend time playing video games, watching useless web videos and eating doughnuts (ah, classic cop favourite) instead of doing his archiving job and sometimes it is as though his role is to be some sort of comic relief. However if you look closely to it, there are a handful of times when he becomes Shibazaki’s ‘saviour’. At the most unlikely of times, when Shibazaki is often stumped on Sphinx’s move, unintentionally Mukasa gives him the most important clue that propels him to take the next step. So he is not that all useless.
This series also teaches us a good lesson in making us think what is morally right or wrong. There are so many scenes that just make you stop and question if it is right or not. The most obvious one coming from Five and Clarence’s operative measures. Despite coming from a so called trusted government agency, Five’s obsessive actions just to get Nine makes her act like the biggest terrorist and thus the main antagonist for the second half of the series. Even more so, she uses her authority and deploys all the resources at her fingertips just to catch a guy and at the expense of the innocent public. Most of us would definitely scream abuse of authority and muscle arming to get what she wants but if you were in her shoes, what would you do? Then there are others like the top brass of the Japanese Metropolitan Police kowtowing down to the American counterparts. They become silent when Big Brother starts issuing directive. For the sake of diplomatic relations, eh? Well, yeah. Again, what would you do if you were them?
And of course some morally challenged stuffs that our other characters do like Shibazaki who really goes all the way out and even uses the controversial blackmailing technique just to get what he wants. Is this the right way to do it even though it increases the chances of him nailing the culprits? Were there other better options? But would it be as fast and effective? And when cops get suspended for disobeying a direct order and go off themselves to do what they believe is right instead of standing around and waiting for stuffs to happen, it throws everything off in what you believe in righteousness and justice. Then there is Kinoshita from the cyber crimes unit who is supposed to prevent cyber crimes and not conduct the crime itself. We can see him deliberating on this morality issue because of wanting to hack and snoop on Shibazaki’s request as he has a loving family to think about. I’m sure you can guess the dilemma he has to go through. And don’t get me started about Lisa as a bully victim at the start.
The art and drawing has a surrealism feel to it. It is not your standard anime bishonen and bishoujo looks with characters having cute wide sparkly eyes and the likes. At first it reminded me how much the art resembles Aku No Hana although this series was not done in rotoscope fashion as in the latter. It isn’t Zexcs animating this but MAPPA, the studio that produces animes like Teekyuu and Sakamichi No Apollon. Still, the characters look and lean more towards realism than your typical anime art style. One reason could be because of the very gloomy and dull colours. It creates quite a depressing atmosphere over the city and ultimately the anime itself. This isn’t actually a bad thing after all since after watching too many ‘colourful’ animes (colourful hair, colourful eyes, colourful clothes, colourful casts of characters, colourful etc), this is somewhat a ‘wake-up’ call.
Also, I want to add that because of the surrealism, some of the characters look from just plain to downright inhuman or should I say, ugly. The ‘ugliest’ of the lot goes to Mamiya whom I thought at first impression looks somewhat like a little monster. Serious. Some felt weird like Five’s white semi-afro hairstyle that enhances her creepy effect and to a certain extent, Twelve’s smile if you stare at it too long, you might find it creepy. Serious. And Kurahashi’s buzz cut make him look a bit funny… Serious too!
You know how they say that stereotyping is bad because it leads to assumptions. That is what I did as I expected the songs of the series to be rock or metal. I don’t know how to put it because they sound really weird which also adds to the creepy effect. Trigger is the opening theme by Yuuzuki Ozaki of Galileo Galilei fame. It is slow and well, just creepy. Same case for the ending theme, Dare Ka Umi Wo by Aimer. Creepy and ominous. Even the insert songs especially those that are sung sound just as creepy. Oh yeah. Creepy is the word of this series. However the instrumental piece for the final episode is so sad and it was the big reason why my heart sank. It was just sad :’(.
On a trivial note, thanks to the ‘tough’ riddles that Sphinx provided, I can’t help notice that each episode title (which is in English), has a letter coloured out in red as opposed to the rest. It got me thinking there must be some sort of riddle and clue here so I decided to ‘join in’ to solve this puzzle in hopes I would be amazed at myself for achieving something which I normally would. As I gathered the alphabets and symbols, I couldn’t piece together anything because it just doesn’t make sense. Heck, I even searched online and found a site with all the theories and conspiracies trying to decode of what it might imply: Terror In Analysis. How aptly named. However… Although it is very well thought out and thoroughly analysed, it is one freaking long analysis to read! And as usual, I’m too dumb to understand it all but kudos with such great work even though in the end, everything might be just pure speculation and just a wild goose chase to throw us off. Yeah, blame ourselves for assuming things and then getting paranoid just thinking too much about it. They were just screwing with our minds and nothing much ado about anything actually.
Eventually it all boils down to this. Even terrorists are humans too. Unless they are downright mad and are big time sadists, such big time act of terrorism isn’t actually done for fun. Heck, it is never really fun if you are the one at the receiving end. This anime is one of the terrorism themed shows that make you delve into the mind of how terrorists think. Even if not deeply but it gives you a perception on the way they work and how they outsmart the system. That thought itself is terrifying, isn’t it?
So even if you hate the notion of another terrorist themed series or have some sort of phobia of watching this type of genre, I would strongly recommend watching this one because this series isn’t just some over the top exaggeration action hype kind of show (because some believe explosions are everything there is to a great action movie). There is a great deal high quality entertainment-cum-enlightenment in this series that you would rarely find in animes or other TV series these days. This one has some brains, a level of maturity and in a way connects to our emotions in the most realistic ways. It will definitely resonate in our hearts for a long time to come. It is one of those shows whereby you will eventually root for the ‘villains’ not because you sympathise their cause, have Stockholm Syndrome or have something against authorities just because for the sake of doing so, but rather it makes you reflect on ourselves as humans and the things we do in life. Despite the sense of hopelessness and all the anarchy, conspiracy, lawlessness happening around the world today, little things like these gives us hope that there is still hope and future for mankind. Bomb voyage!