I’ll remember you Nine. I’ll remember you Twelve.
I’m awestruck and at a lost for words, in a
good great superb way. This really should’ve been written 2 weeks ago when the finale to Zankyou no Terror was finally broadcast. But I just couldn’t bring myself to let Zankyou end so I procrastinated watching even though I had a good idea of what was going to happen plot-wise, choosing instead to finish up on the other shows because that’s what you do, save the best for last. And when I finally did, I was so awestruck I just had to let the final episode sink in in its entirety and full glory and as the final credits rolled in, I truly felt blessed (the final ED is also aptly the final OST track – bless (feat. Arnor Dan)). It was that perfect an ending to what has been a consistently top-notch, cinematic anime production this Summer 2014 and in fact, anime history at that. It really warrants that sort of description. If there’s a handful of animes you’re to introduce to non-anime watching friends, Zankyou should most definitely be on your recommended list.
Everything tied up nicely, neatly.
Could Zankyou have ended any other way? No. Sphinx set out to do one job and only one job – to draw enough attention around Japan and worldwide to them, so that the Athena plan and how the children were treated could then come to light and they’d be heard. Nine wanted to destroy the world as we know it and that Sphinx did, by using another secret Japanese government plan as a tool towards this end (I so appreciate your sense of irony Sphinx). They never sought to hurt anyone directly and even went as far as to thwart Five and the Americans who till this very end, used violence to silence all threats. When we first saw Sphinx it was yet another terrorism-based anime. When we saw the teenage boys that piqued interests a bit more because who’d expect terrorists to be teenagers. Then their clever puzzles made ZnT a true suspense thriller leaving audiences guessing along the way. Director Watanabe might’ve done that to draw audiences in, keeping them engaged. Sphinx did that so that they could find their Oedipus in Shibazaki. And this episode 11 tied this plot nicely with Shibazaki appearing before the boys right where they began at that dark institution. The boys didn’t make it as they knew oh-too-well was their reality but they did have Shibazaki expose the world to their cause.
Every character was important.
When was the last time you saw an anime where every single character was important? Not crucial but important. A lot of viewers seem to take issues with the 2 female characters – Risa and Five. I’ll admit episode 06 – 07 did make me wince a little at them but in the end, they’ve come through to become important characters in ZnT for me. It was heartbreaking watching Nine hit the block into the children’s makeshift grave for Five – who’s going to hit Nine or Twelve’s block into the ground when he’s the last of the children left? Twelve said that they never knew their parents and he and Nine only had each other after they made their escape. They were never needed by anyone else ever before. だから、ありがとう理沙、君にあえて、よかった (that’s why Risa, thank you, I’m glad we met). So thank you Risa. You may have been a klutz and terrible at cooking but you let the boys learn how to behave like normal humans emotionally in their short lives, to know what it’s like to care for someone else, to worry about someone else and to be worried about in return. Thank you for crying for them Risa and for visiting all the children’s graves. In the end, Risa was one of them, choosing to keep her memories with them to herself and even thanking Shibazaki for visiting Sphinx’s grave. As for Five, technically her role was to foreshadow Nine’s death as they shared head-splitting headaches which no doubt were leftover side effects from the experimental drugs used on them. But Five wasn’t just a token antagonist. She showed us on the other end of the spectrum what Nine and Twelve would’ve become – a tool that lacked empathy to realise you cannot just blow up an airport with a commercial plane. She was ultimately a victim of Athena too, tossed and only remembered by Nine, Twelve and Risa.
“俺たちを覚えてくれ、俺たちが生きていたことを。Please remember us, remember that we once lived. “
Though we saw it coming, why did you still watch on? The nuclear weapon was stolen in the first 3 mins of episode 01, Sphinx was definitely going to use it and Nine finally did set it off. We didn’t have puzzles anymore after airport-chess and everyone saw Shibazaki was on the right track. So what was it that kept viewers coming back week after week? Because the execution of this show is superb. The animation was fluid and assimilated real-life imagery, the camera angling was cinematic (remember the shaky camera effect and the motorcycle scenes?) and most importantly, the facial expressions fit the scene, voice acting and script perfectly. While Tokyo was evacuating, I got chills watching the clock countdown as Shibazaki and co. raced to fix the situation. The music wasn’t loud or of a fast tempo as action/thriller genres typically go. Kanno Youko’s choice was a haunting, choral track that seemed more suited for armageddon in a meet-your-maker way. And then Risa asks Twelve if Nine will really destroy the world. Every part of Zankyou worked seamlessly together in every scene. Thematically it was a masterclass in anime storytelling. The boys just wanted someone to remember them, that they once lived – the short-lived bittersweet scenes of the boys enjoying a truly innocent, lazy afternoon playing out in the sun as normal teenagers would just drove home Nine’s last request to Shibazaki. Isn’t that what we as human beings want in our short lives? For family, friends and acquaintances, for anyone to remember us when we go. Delve deeper into Zankyou and you’ll see it was political too and director Watanabe wasn’t even trying to hide the message. Governments have secrets. When do the ends justify the means in protecting your country, your wealth and your rights on a global stage? In particular, the implication of having such secrets is that the land of the free U.S.A. gets to interfere with your domestic affairs. And to what ends do they justify their methods? Zankyou isn’t animation for kids; it’s very real and mirrors the worlds’ current state of affairs. And no other anime to date has done this more overtly than Zankyou has.
I gave Zankyou no Terror a 10/10 because I love suspense thrillers and especially political ones at that, even if it wasn’t Zankyou’s primary narrative. This ending just felt so complete. The Watanabe-Kanno pair has done it once again, creating their best work to date. Have a look at the OST (or when I get to its review) and you’ll see that it’s what Nine listens to – music from a cold, faraway land, Iceland. Is it figurative? Metaphorical? Maybe. It’s ethereal and beautifully sorrowful, fitting the scenes and themes of Zankyou’s mood every time to further boost the show’s visual effects on viewers. The way the lyrics are written really makes you wonder just how far did Watanabe and Kanno plan ahead – episode 08’s opening and episode 04’s motorcycle scene. Music has always played a huge role in their shows and being a fan, Kanno-sensei’s really outdone herself here. The OST was released within a week of episode 01, a move that’s very rare in anime. But along the second half of Zankyou there have been tracks used that aren’t in the OST, such as those used in the first half of this final episode. Fret not, the advantage of writing a late review is giving you the latest up-to-date news – there is a second OST「crystalized」, to be released on 22nd Oct 2014. I suspect it won’t be based in Icelandic reference but seeing how good OST 1 is, one can ‘von’ right?
R.I.P. Nine, R.I.P. Twelve, R.I.P. Five. Thanks for telling us your story. I’ll remember you guys lived once. Thanks to the seiyuus too for their subtly-done emotional acting – Ishikawa Kaito, Saito Soma (incidentally the two play volleyball players numbered 9 and 12 in Haikyuu too – tip courtesy of Kiseki), Han Megumi, Tanezaki Atsumi and Sakuya Shunsuke. I have nothing to complain about the newbies in their respective main character roles in Zankyou and hope for more great roles from them in future. Lastly, thanks for enduring through my long reviews. It’s been a gift to review Zankyou and I hope you enjoyed reading :)