Had every episode of Zankyou no Terror been like this, it would have been a great series. There was tension, drama, cinematography, compelling choices, solid exposition, and real character development. In particular, I highly enjoyed the slow, careful pace the episode took with the bomb sequence, adding weight to it while simultaneously allowing both the viewer and characters to step back and consider what was going on among Nine, Lisa, and Five. Instead of turning this into some mind-numbing, last-minute-disarm-the-bomb action trope, we got to see some character development finally deliver on its promise, with each player, even Five to some degree, revealing new things about themselves. At last, the series sets itself up for its finale and throws the characters into their final confrontation.
Amazing how it failed to do this effectively for the past nine episodes, wasting all that time to accomplish so little. You might as well watch the first episode, maybe the fifth, and this one, and you’d end up at the same point as if you’d watched all the others in sequence. We just found out that Japan might have been developing a nuclear weapon, a shocking thing to say the least, given the country’s geopolitical position, popular sentiments, and the Japanese constitution that forswears the right to wage offensive war ever again. This single idea carries more substance than everything else that’s happened in the entire series, especially the cliched Unit 731 shit about savant children that was telegraphed into the ground. Why didn’t it just capitalize on this concept? Seriously, does anybody still remember those stupid Oedipus plots? Or the references to the Apocrypha? Or the fucking airport sequence? Anybody still care about those elaborate plots to blow up buildings? Nope.
I don’t think you could have asked for a better lesson on the importance of execution. Zankyou no Terror had all the trappings and foundations of a good series, but missed the forest for the trees. Characterization and drama are more about potentially small, yet deep moments between characters that you set up over time, rather than flashy sequences to get the adrenaline flowing and the brain shut off. Moments like what happened between Nine and Lisa here make a series memorable, not clever nods at obscure texts to make things seem revelatory to the dull-edged mind. The framing, the pacing, the simple-yet-impossible challenge presented to Nine, Lisa overcoming her insecurities somewhat, and Five revealing she cares way more about driving a wedge between her two rivals, the only two people in the world she has any connection to, than the legitimate concerns of the American government–all of that was light-years ahead in quality compared to Clarence the Henchman locking Lisa away on an airplane in some cockamamie scheme. And we didn’t even need Five grinning and painting her nails to make it serious and threatening.
God, kids, maybe this series might have a decent conclusion. It’ll still be a disaster, but we might be able to salvage something out of this trainwreck. No putting the breaks on the Crazy Train now. Only two more stops.