Zankyou no Terror (Terror in Resonance) Anime Review
Zankyou no Terror is an 11-episode anime series aired in 2014. It was animated by studio MAPPA, who hadn't done anything prior to this series, but has since been involved in two other anime aired in Fall 2014, namely Garo: Honoo no Kokuin and Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis. Its English title is Terror in Resonance and it was directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, a man known extensively for his involvement in Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, Space Dandy, and to a lesser extent, Sakamichi no Apollon. Zankyou no Terror has an original story, meaning that it isn't based on anything made prior to the anime. The story follows two young men as they threaten the people of Tokyo with repeated possibilities of destruction.
This series doesn't really have a definitive protagonist, because it doesn't place more focus on any person or group of persons as it does on any of the other ones.
Nine is one of the two members of the terrorist group known as Sphinx (pronounced with a "p"). He has a very logical approach for most situations. This is reflected through his personality, seeing as he is slow to accept ideas that even slightly skirt off from his main intentions. He does most of the technical work of the duo.
His partner, Twelve, behaves in a very extroverted and eccentric way. He makes up for Nine's lack of social skills and is quick to try new things. He often uses a motorcycle to get around.
Lisa Mishima is a frail girl that attends the same school as Nine and Twelve. She inevitably becomes involved with the two terrorists, as the show's promotional material implies. She has a difficult time getting along with others, as she meets her overbearing mother with discontent and is introduced to the story as a victim of bullying.
Kenjiro Shibazaki is a member of the Tokyo police force that investigates the Sphinx occurrences. He maintains a calm composure at most times, but is stricken by the events that happened in his past.
The first two episodes of Zankyou no Terror introduce the story environment in an exemplary fashion. The audience is given all of the important info in a steady pace, without having details blatantly presented. The viewer is given basic insight into what the main characters are like and what they're doing. From the very first minute that they're on screen, it's obvious that Nine and Twelve have sharply contrasting personalities, and that Lisa has social problems. The writers have no reason to verbally tell us these things, since the characters themselves are presenting them to us, while going about their actions as they normally would, just like a real person. This opening had me highly interested in seeing what would follow.
Unfortunately, my amazement did not last long, since things begin to go downhill after the introduction. For starters, Zankyou no Terror doesn't even follow its own logic. By this, I mean that the world that the story takes place in gives a very realistic feel to it, but none of the events that take place in it feel anywhere close to how they would in the real world. It's as if the show holds a glaringly serious face, only to be holding a bike horn behind its back that it repeatedly squeezes, much to the confusion of those in front of it.
It's rather frivolous for a narrative to have such a serious tone to it, but depict a police force being completely unable to locate terrorists that purposely publicize most of their noteworthy features to the internet. Surely, there should be some way for the police to narrow things down and find these people, since Nine and Twelve actually go to a local school and should be on record there.
The characters miss the mark under the standards of effective writing. What we're given regarding each of the characters during the first two episodes is all we really know about them, excluding a few instances. None of these people have anything to them, outside of their plot relevance and general behavior, which makes the show's structure seem stuffy and robotic. There's no drive to a story with no personality or emotional appeal, without it, it's nothing more than an orchestrated sequence of events. It's difficult for the audience to invest themselves in characters that have less identity to them than a ceiling fan.
What's even worse is that a completely unnecessary antagonistic character shows up at about episode 5. Not only does this character's involvement in the story make no sense, but it also broke up what could have been an enthralling conflict between two gray-aligned factions. This intruding embellishment has no reason to exist other than to move the plot towards more explosions, and to give the viewer a shallow antagonist to brutally despise.
I don't see why Lisa is indicated as being one of the "main" characters on promotional material for this show, because she barely affects the plot. Her feeble image is not expounded upon, and the only thing that she actually brings to the story is being a damsel in distress for Nine and Twelve to rescue. Once a situation of this nature commences, the two terrorists drop everything and sprint to her rescue, even though she's virtually useless and they barely know her (yes, I know that most prefer to save the lives of others, but perhaps some more character depth and interaction could have made these sequences more meaningful). Henceforth, her role is to be a plot device that provides tension and gives more leeway for explosions and pretty scenery to take place.
Zankyou no Terror doesn't even know what its theme is. All of these half-baked terrorism ideas are thrown around, but don't have a clearly discernible meaning. Even then, the ending is silly for trying to be more than it really is, and went on about Nine being a Sigur Rós fan or something. It feels as if the writers were thinking up all these amazing situations and ideas in their heads, but didn't properly connect them or add any human essence throughout.
Animation & Sound
From an animation standpoint, Zankyou no Terror sits at the very top when it comes to its per-minute budget. All the characters move very realistically, being more life-like than most other anime in existence, and careful detail is put into every inch of production. The distinct and lush designs give the viewer something to keep them occupied while droning through the dull story. I don't know why MAPPA has such a high animation budget, or why their first ever title was directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, but they're definitely one to keep an eye on.
Revered composer Yoko Kanno wrote the musical score for this series, and she in no way disappoints. All of the tracks fit with the aesthetic and overall tone to an outstanding level. None of the songs on here come anywhere near being unmemorable or mediocre. There aren't any noticeable shortcomings in the voice acting.
An example of the outrageous production value
I initially expected Zankyou no Terror to be above average in terms of quality. This didn't come true, since it ended up being no better than mediocre. The characters are drab, the events of the story don't fit with its tone and style, and the overlying message is so vague that the narrative itself doesn't seem to know what it's doing. A completely unneeded plot point came up about halfway through, adding more fuel to an already teeming fire. The animation and sound quality is top notch, but this doesn't make up for everything else being subpar. It doesn't matter how magnificent the icing is, if the cake wasn't cooked for the right amount of time, and was made using the wrong ingredients.