Zankyou no Terror, Ep 1 & 2: Riddle of the Sphinx

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“On a hot summer day, I saw a smile as warm as the sun, and a gaze as cold as ice.”

Episode 1:

Hisami and Kokonoe are foils to each other in regards to their personalities, as the above quote spells out for us. This must be reflective of how the trauma of their experience at the “institution” has affected them and each of them has come to deal with it in their own ways. Hisami acts very energetic and carefree, to the point where he doesn’t think much of jumping into a pool and getting his clothes wet just before his first day at a new school. He clearly doesn’t act like a “normal” kid, which is especially apparent when he acts the exact same way whilst going about his shenanigans as a terrorist. It’s an act; perhaps one he’s done long enough that he’s become the act itself. Perhaps it’s his way of overcompensating for not being raised in a first world environment, where he’d be able to relate to other children better.

Kokonoe on the other hand is just stoic and jaded. He doesn’t even try to act like a normal kid or to associate with normal life, and so just keeps his distance from others. Such as when four girls crowd him and ask for his number, and he quickly brushes them off with a blatant lie of not having a cell phone. Of course, he’s also just trying to lay low due to him and Hisami being terrorists, but then that just means he and Hisami gave up on being normal people long before they got transferred to this school.

As for Mishima Lisa, well, she’s pretty much a huge pushover, and understandably so. She suffers from a bunch of bullying, to the point where she hides in a bathroom a couple times throughout the episode. Once to eat her lunch away from the bullies, and again while on the school fieldtrip for an unknown reason—perhaps she has some anxiety issue, and being alone in a bathroom helps her cope with it. In this same scene she checks her phone to find a bunch of texts from what’s apparently an overly worried mother, to which she states “I wish everyone would just disappear.” Things are pretty bleak for Lisa here.

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Now she’s essentially been forced into helping some terrorists, but Kokonoe makes sure we don’t think she was completely helpless in all this when he tells Lisa: “You chose to become our accomplish. No one forced you to.” She may have just been choosing between that or dying in the government building, but hey, she could have just ignored the signs of helping a terrorist and die in the building. The more important question though is what she’ll do now that she knows the identity of the terrorists, as it’s unclear just what her role in this story will be. Either she’ll end up joining these two guys and becoming more than just an “accomplish,” or end up being their downfall.

The fat guy next to the detective-turned-teacher Shibasaki is amusingly dense. He asks Shibasaki what’s so great about shoge just after he insisted on how funny it is to watch a cat moonwalk, and later insists that it must be a coincidence that a video with two teens warning that “Tokyo will go dark at 3:00 PM” turned out to be true. (It’ll be pretty laughable if the detective guy is the only one who catches on to this, too.)

The biggest mystery for this show so far is why these two kids are stealing some plutonium and committing acts of terrorism. Obviously it has something to do with the mysterious institution they escaped from, but what’s the institutions and what did they do to these kids? And I’ll say it now instead of later: the motives of our characters and the surrounding drama are more important than a comprehensive explanation of how a couple of teenagers are managing to do all this. But of course, that would be nice too.

The tower exploding is a pretty clear 9/11 reference too, by the way, in case it wasn’t obvious. We’ll see what this show has to say about terrorism I guess.

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Episode 2:

• So looks like those texts weren’t just from a mother who’s overly worried about her daughter at school, but a mother who’s overly worried to the point of being obsessive and maybe even mentally ill. It’s only natural for a parent to scold their child for not letting them know they’re okay after getting home late from a terrorist attack. Lisa’s mother acts particularly hysterical about it though, with a tight her grip on her daughter, and even accuses her daughter of doing all that just to spite her.  Apparently it has something to do with Lisa’s father leaving, though her paranoia could have been the cause of him leaving too. So hey, Lisa has a tough time at both school and at home, further establishing that her life in general sucks.

• Hm, so there were zero fatalities from the incident and only 27 injured people, which all happened to be minor injuries. This must be what Hisami and Kokonoe wanted. They want to terrorize the public, but at least with this stunt they don’t want to kill anyone either. Not only did they cause a power outage and evacuate people to give them a chance to plant the bombs, but also for the sake of sparing the people’s lives. I was wondering whether the show would have us following a couple of mass murderers right off the bat, though it could still go down that road. There’s also the fact that they save Lisa in the first place too.

• lol, the audience members at the bombing response meeting seems surprised at the one guys suggestion that the blackout and the terrorist act could be related. I mean, seems like too much of a coincidence for more of them not to consider it.

• Good scene overall of seeing the First Investigation Division talk about the crime. It’s nice getting an in depth view of what information of the crime from the investigative team’s perspective, which illuminates more on what happened in the last episode. I also like how they came up with a solid, real world explanation of how they did the explosions instead of just conjuring some vague science-fiction bombs. At least I’m assuming that’s what I saw; them using a chemical commonly used to melt melt seems too realistic and plausible for this to be all be the writers pulling stuff out of their ass.

• “I’m secretly trying to figure out Sphinx’s next move.” lol, says the guy who didn’t even consider that that the first video and the terrorist attack could be related. This guy cracks me up.

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• You know, for a couple of teenagers that are supposed to be masterminds, they sure don’t do that great of a job of hiding their identities in their videos. All they do is wear a mask, but don’t bother to hide their voice, conceal their hair, or wear clothes that would hide their body type. Plus they don’t seem to be going to school either, so you’d figure that the teachers would be able to connect the dots that the two transfer students playing hooky just after the terrorist attack, are also the same kids as Sphinx.

• Ah, Oedipus Rex, my favorite of the Greek tragedies. Well, between that and Medea, the two I’ve actually read. Anyways since Hisami and Kokonoe identify themselves as the Sphinx (pronounced with a “P” instead of an “F”,) that’s obviously because they’re providing riddles and blocking the government from the truth of the situation (i.e. who was behind the terrorist attacks and why they’re doing this.) The Oedipus in their little game must be the government they’re trying to get revenge on—or whoever happened to be involved with the “institution,” but I’m guessing they must at least be connected to the government. If I recall correctly the Sphinx didn’t have anything to do with Oedipus’ downfall—that was just the cruel hand of fate messing with him—but it’s evident that Hisami and Kokonoe are trying to lead the government astray into doing things, and perhaps get them to realize they’re wrongdoings in a tragic fashion much like Oedipus did.

The riddle they give is “What first walks on two legs, then on four legs, and finally on three legs?” It’s a jumbled up version of the original riddle that the Sphinx gives in Oedipus Rex: “What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs at night?” The answer to that one was man (in case you didn’t know,) which my first guess would be that they’re calling the government officials old people. Though since they’re jumbling the question, there of course must be a different answer to it.

Also, it’s pretty funny that Lisa is learning the story of Oedipus through a manga adaption of the play, especially with the shock she expresses upon learning that Oedipus gouged his eyes out (the manga didn’t even show him doing it!)

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• Hisami walks up to Lisa as she reads her manga and says hi to her, suddenly walks away after Lisa acts flustered seeing him, and then pranks her by plopping a mento into a cup of cola. Then he walks away while she’s distracted with that. He’s messing with her, and probably keeping tabs on her too, but his behavior here also has to do with his failure to relate with other first world people. Like he doesn’t quite know what to do in this situation where has had to interact with another person, even if he’s just keeping tabs on her.

• I laughed when the First Investigation Division jumped on assuming the answer must be “man,” and needing Shibasaki to spell it out for them. Come on, it’s obvious that the 2-4-3 sequence of the riddle was deliberate, and it’s hard to believe that this investigation crew wouldn’t find out that there’s two different versions of the riddle while researching about the Sphinx. (I mean, I didn’t know that either, but then I’m not needing to investigate the riddle for a crime investigation.) The answer to that riddle also happened to be Oedipus himself, so looks like I was right about Oedipus symbolizing the government.

• I wonder what could have led Shibazaki to leave the force. Kurahashi clearly welcomes Shibazaki’s insight even though he’s not on the force anymore and even asks him to come back. This suggests that Shibazaki wasn’t demoted as I first thought, but merely left for personal reasons. Especially since he seems agitated at the suggestion of returning.

• Still unclear what Lisa’s role in the story is going to be, though now that she’s been formally threatened by Hisami at the end, and considering that she hasn’t already gone to the police, it seems more likely she’ll end up becoming more than just an accomplish. But we’ll see.

Closing Thoughts:

It’s certainly an interesting series, and I can see why others would want me to blog about it—it got 1st place in my “What should I watch next?” poll with 12 votes.  Not much at all is really known about the characters, their motives, or why any of this is even happening—we just know it’s a couple teenagers terrorizing the government because they were wrongs by some sort of institution (I’m getting a lot of Monster vibes with that, by the way.) As far as I can tell there’s not even much meaningful commentary on terrorism yet. But there’s enough going on her to suggest something deeper underneath, and everything that’s happening now is just set-up for the real meat of the story.

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4 Responses to Zankyou no Terror, Ep 1 & 2: Riddle of the Sphinx

  1. Overlord-G says:

    I’ll say this to you because it’d be more dangerous on Twitter. Hope for the internet anime community’s sake that this show won’t be another Copellion, if you saw that show.

  2. Dan says:

    (I just wanted to point out that it is “accomplice”….not “accomplish”…)
    Other than that, nice review. I will continue to read your other ones for future episodes ^_^

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