How to Lose the Audience – Zankyou no Terror Critical Analysis

Contains spoilers. Text version and links:

Analyzing What Good Directing Looks Like, via Zankyou no Terror Ep. 1:
How to Do Exposition Right, as Seen in Zankyou no Terror Ep. 2:

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At the start of the summer season, I released two videos regarding the first two episodes of Zankyou no Terror–one about how the first episode showcased excellence in anime directing and show-don’t-tell storytelling, and the second about how the show gracefully handled its exposition. However, as early as episode three, I began to recognize a big problem overtaking my impression of the series. As time wore on, I and many other viewers gawked in abject horror as Zankyou no Terror turned out to be kind of a giant trainwreck.

If you look around on anime message boards, or just talk to my brother, you’ll walk away with a laundry lists of reasons for why people didn’t like the show, but I think a lot of these reasons come down to the tangible details of the situation. Not to say that these aren’t issues in themselves, but I think that the biggest flaw in Zankyou no Terror is fundamental to the entire structure and style of the series. In spite of the technical proficiency of its animation, writing, directing and music, Zankyou no Terror failed because right from the beginning, it forgot to give the audience any reason to give a damn.

Film Crit Hulk has written at great length about the problems that come from writing a script around the ‘mystery box” mentality–a term which was coined by J.J. Abrams. The idea of the mystery box is that the audience is drawn in by their desire for answers to the big mysteries left open over the course of a film or series. However, when a script relies solely on its mysteries to carry the viewer through the show, it starts to claw at the viewer’s patience, and Zankyou no Terror very quickly and severely becomes a test of patience that never pays off in the end. In fact, despite the series clearly having been written with the “mystery box’ mentality, with the big reveals saved for the very end, I’m hesitant to call it a real mystery shows since all of the answers are readily apparent right from the beginning. The ending of Zankyou no Terror doesn’t offer any twists, but merely the confirmation of suspicions that the viewer has all along, so if you were holding out hope that the big reveal might make everything interesting in retrospect, you’ll be that much more disappointed in turn.

In the first episodes of the series, we learn everything there is to learn about the two main characters. They’re terrorists who were tested on as children, but escaped the facility that trained them. One suffers post-traumatic stress disorder, while the other seeks connection in a girl named Mishima Lisa. They’ve stolen a bunch of plutonium for some reason, and they keep bombing buildings while giving riddles to the police for some reason. However, they make a point not to get anyone killed. All of this can be discerned from the first episode, or at least in the first two, and this remains all of the information we have on these characters throughout the entire series.

We only learn why Nine and Twelve are doing all of this at the very end, and the reason is simply to expose the existence of Japan’s atomic bomb to the world. Because we’re never sure what the characters are after, it’s impossible to really care about their actions throughout the series, and when it turns out to be something incredibly simple which we could’ve guessed from the start, we find ourselves wondering why it was ever a mystery to begin with. Even if we ignore how asinine the entire terrorism plan is, and how ridiculous it is to paint these characters as moral or noble in any way, the story is just so badly structured that we can only recognize how stupid these characters are at the very end. Even if the whole terrorism thing really DID seem justified, we wouldn’t have known that at all watching the series, and thus had no reason to root for or care about the characters. Hell, even if Nine and Twelve had just been really interesting people to watch, it might not have mattered that we didn’t know their motivations, but every conversation between them is just a repeat of the stuff they talk about in episodes one and two, so they always feel like a waste of time.

Speaking of a waste of time, Mishima Lisa is the most pointless character I’ve seen in quite a while. She’s painted as important right from the beginning, and we’re made to understand her character very clearly, but all she amounts to is a sort of love interest for Twelve. There’s no chemistry between them, and neither are interesting in their own right. All of the dialog surrounding Lisa is either about how she’s in the way, or about how Twelve wants her around anyways. Her involvement in the story never feels justified, and she takes up ridiculous amounts of screentime just for the same repetitive conversations.

And if she’s not bad enough, there’s the rival character, Five. I use the word “character” with hesitation, as Five is more of a gimmick. Her only trait is an obsession with taking down Nine (the reasons for which we never really learn), and she tries to do so using over-the-top, immersion-breaking schemes that never amount to anything. Her entire subplot adds nothing to the story and changes nothing in the end. She’s purely a frivolous character used to pad out the runtime of the show and provide a rival who would seem to be on more equal footing with the main characters, even though Shibazaki had already proven himself more than capable of contending with them, and Five’s stupid plans only managed to make the script feel campier than it seemed to want to be.

Looking at Nine and Five, I found myself thinking about Death Note, and how that show’s central rivalry was so perfectly handled. We totally understood both Light and L’s motivations, and they felt like real, living characters, whose plans, however campy, all made sense in the context of the story surrounding them. These two had intense, meaningful encounters right from the beginning, where both sides were giving their all to winning. In this show, Five just comes off as a total psychopath who isn’t at home in the straight-faced setting of the story, and Nine is a boring, static character, who only regards Five as a very dangerous nuisance. There is no thematic weight to their rivalry, no drama, no characterization–it just feels like it’s going through the motions of what’s supposed to make a thriller story interesting, with no comprehension of how to actually make viewers care about characters.

Shibazaki is the closest thing that the series has to a real character–he’s motivated by past mistakes, and by his hatred towards nuclear terrorism, and there’s weight to his actions as he puts himself at risk to get his job done. However, Shibazaki is almost completely declawed as of episode five, with the arrival of Five, and even in the end his ability to solve the riddles never really amounts to much. Nine and Twelve enact their entire plan exactly as they’d had it laid out from the beginning, and while they see Shibazaki as integral to that plan, and it’s on him to carry the message in the end, it never really feels like he accomplished anything.

In the end, Zankyou no Terror is a series without a soul. It has no thematic weight to it whatsoever. It doesn’t tell the viewer anything but a fictional story about a game between two terrorists and two members of the police force. The bulk of the story is just a bunch of setups for explosive set pieces, none of which are involving or have any dramatic tension. None of the characters are interesting, and most of them don’t even matter. The only saving grace of the experience is the heartbreakingly phenomenal soundtrack by Yoko Kanno, and the outstanding visuals. However, I hesitate to say that the show really had any interesting scenes after the first episode, because in spite of the attempt to create a thick atmosphere and delicate use of pacing, it’s so impossible to care about anything that happens that I constantly found myself waiting for the series to get to the point. Every gigantic action set piece felt like a waste of time since I didn’t understand the significance of any of the characters’ actions, and especially the setups of Five’s plans were so ridiculous that I couldn’t even take them seriously.

I can’t say that Zankyou no Terror is even slightly worth watching. If you want a mystery thriller involving terrorist plots, go read the infinitely superior 20th Century Boys, or even just read or watch Death Note again. Any single episode of that show is more interesting than the entirety of Zankyou no Terror.

15 thoughts on “How to Lose the Audience – Zankyou no Terror Critical Analysis

  1. I wouldn’t agree at all with your assertation that the exposition in episode 2 was handled well. They never gave context for why it was important, just listed off a bunch of facts in as dry a manner as possible.

    It’s nice to see at least someone in the aniblogging world that didn’t drink their shitty kool ade though. I don’t understand how so many people can reconcile the utter nonsense of the plot and character actions and then turn around and say it was an intricately constructed work, deep with thematic symbolish etc etc. Especially when it boiled down to the only reason they became terrorists was because they wanted attention, and romanticizing the hell out of that. It tries to use Five and America as justification, and makes the ridiculous claim that nobody was hurt by them bombing the hell out of everything and destroying an entire city so they’re not BAD terrorists. They’re tragic teenagers marginalized and wronged by society, so they deserve to be remembered forever for their terrorism. That’s a fucking scary thought to romantisize.

  2. Really appreciate to see someone articulate all this point after skipping through my blog list and noticing mostly praise for the execution of the last episode. You can guess my bewilderment XD For me this was just another episode of empty spectacle after lots of similar missteps before.
    IMO most damning is how much they left out for the resolution. If this story really wanted to be about the characters foremost shouldn’t they at least address Lisa and her still messed up family life. For a show that wants to paint people like her as victims of society this abrupt stop of the plot almost feels cruel in suggesting she is happier now. Having the one person that legitimate accepted / likes / cares at all about her die a senseless death will surely make her life so much better. -_-

    But to get to the point of my reply: While I mostly agree with your arguments why this presentation make the show very soulless I do think this show HAD very high ambition to present themes and a message.
    If you didn’t already stumble upon this yourself there is this really well researched post about all the political / historical implication of Shibazakis discussions sprinkled throughout the series
    ( )
    Later episodes basically confirm all this subtext about anti nationalist sentiments and tensions with the USA.
    I found this overview very insightful how much Watanabes crews apparently really wanted this to be a provocative political & social commentary (even without the whole ballsy choice to actually make this about a nuclear bomb explosion). Add to this that Japans current administration seemingly drifts more and more towards right-wing party representation who gladly would get rid of this “Anpo” treaty and for once you have a show thats shockingly confrontational about topics that “really” matter in Japan right now. Considering every once in a while I see those articles bubbling up among anime / japan culture websites about accusations how must Japan allegedly has a big problem with political white knighting and historical revisionism this whole concept of the show seems completely unusual to me.
    I mean how ofter do anime studios even get the chance to try addressing something this risky? (beside Oshii film at least XD ) IMO that proves even more how much influence Watanabe really has currently.

    But this also basically proves your point about completely failing with the shows structure even more. It really doesn’t work for this kind of political thriller idea. And that just made me sad because I had really high hopes after seeing ep1-4… so much wasted potential. I also honestly believe that there could have been an emotional core with this whole “romance” subplot with Lisa if the had done more stuff like the bike ride scene and less about the “dojikko waifu cannot cook” jokes. :(

    But my expectations for this show would have been far to high anyway considering how much I was amazed by all that (quite similar) themes & subtext in Penguindrum. At first I wondered if I only wanted to see all the similarities as the two shows have such a different approach in presentation in general but looking back now that ZnT has ended IMO Penguindrum had the superior approach in almost every aspect (minus the whole political angle … didn’t see anything of that sort in MPD) But I guess I won’t tell you anything new here as the kind of OVERANALYZE TO THE MAX articles about Ikuharas works everywhere on the net seem right up your alley anyway. :)
    But thanks to the whole bloggersphere thing I got curious about all this international politics theme and learn something new. So I guess watching the show wasn’t a waste :)

    And finally I have a question where you might have some insight for me. From your videos I understand that you care quite a bit about all this industry inside baseball stuff ^^
    What baffled me the most about this show was HOW much of a discrepancy actually existed in terms of quality in those different areas. Watanabe obviously has access to some of the most talented people in the industry when it comes to all the audio/visual stuff, storyboarding or whatever peoples job it is to achieve what you praised about ep1. But I find it hard to believe that he couldn’t get any better script/story conception guy. I mean all the flaws you pointed out – even with my basically non existed knowledge about screenwriting – come of as completely amateurish mistakes.
    That must be the most egregious example of this kind of disconnect in resent seasons (if you ignore those ButchGen half scripts monstrosities he seems to leave in his path everywhere right now ;). But this got me thinking how often high concept idea shows get trashed by the community for their horrible execution of story related aspects nowadays. I feel Eden of the East had similar high ambition / losing its way problems as ZnT (granted not as severe) and Shin Sekai Yori… well I know you didn’t like it at all but I would still recommend it for its themes later on…. still was absolutely alienating to most in the first third due to pacing and odd plot focus. Also the stuff I heard about Fractal in reviews …
    And I see lots of speculations in blogs if there is a bigger problem with storytelling in anime right now. Brain drain, too many adaptation etc. All those accusations I see getting thrown around why so oft the story becomes the weakest link and it feels to me like most people who DO get praise for their storytelling consistency (ButchGen, Ikuhara, Watanabes earlier works, 7th Expansion kinda) seem oddly often comment on big inspirations / influences of more western storytelling traditions. Doesn’t help that the Japanese games industry gets the same accusations about degrading storytelling as well all the time.

    And well …. you obviously thought a lot about whole studios and how they evolved their style over time so in changing industry climate so I’m curious about your take on this idea that there is some kind of downward trend. Or is this all just the usual uninformed speculation rumor mill of the internet? Even just some hint towards other sources about this would be much appreciated. :D

    • I don’t like to make too many broad generalizations about the state of current anime, but I will say that in the 90s, there was a lot more shitty original anime than there is now. Original anime has just always been pretty hit or miss really, both commercially and in terms of quality, which is probably why it’s so hard to get made. Yeah, ZnT really reminded me of Eden of the East in terms of disappointment, and I would say that Eden at least had interesting themes, but what you describe in ZnT actually IS really interesting stuff. Too bad the show didn’t do much with it.

      If you look at the writers for ZnT, there were apparently 4 of them, and all of them are fairly new (2 have no other anime credits at all). I really don’t know why it happened this way. In retrospect it really does look like they intended to have a politically driven show… maybe it actually got hamstrung in development. Like maybe it was supposed to be way MORE political, or had some stuff in it that they didn’t get away with. It’s so weird, like you said there should be no excuse for a script this bad to get made by people this good, but at the same time it does happen plenty in Hollywood and stuff. If you watch the YMS video on The Host for instance you’ll see an interesting case of how a director who’s done seriously good work in the past somehow ended up doing two movies with completely terrible scripts. I don’t know why these things happen, but they always have. I just assume there’s a deeper story behind it somewhere, and I bet we’d hear hints of “what went wrong” if the creators were interviewed about it.

      • Yeah guess your right. High profile fuck up haven in every medium if too many people are involved. Just doesn’t pay so much attention to Hollywoods behind-the-scenes messes. Haven’t watched the YMS video yet so guess there is something interesting to do today. But I heard how unfortunate that movies badness is from a scifi fans perspective.
        Also saw enough of Sages retro review to realize that our view of pre-2000 anime nostalgia is extra distorted because we got spared so much of the really bad stuff to begin with. (doubly true for me as they didn’t even seem to bother all that much with all those scifi mixup style “localizations” for the smaller market in Europe like they did in the USA)

        But I wouldn’t bet on getting more behind-the-scenes stuff for ZnT anytime soon. At least I read a few times how (one or multiple? of the) writers used a pseudonym which could explain their no name nature. No wonder considering invoking a bomb imagery was such a taboo in anime for such a long time to begin with… or they actually want to avoid this type of difficult questions after the fact. I sometimes hear that those annoyingly vague “I didn’t think about [specific plot point / theme] that much” answer often found in interview are just a studio enforced corporate culture thing in Japan.
        They may have a point as ButchGen seemingly shocked people by basically publicly calling out the studios that he wasn’t involve (much) with the mess they made (tweeted he had almost no in involvement with A/Z and indeed as suspected doesn’t write anything in P-P S2) after they obviously used his name so much for PR. Still thats makes me very skeptical of P-P S2 as well. :(

        But for A/Z I wasn’t nearly as bummed about its later fall into complete incompetence (mostly because a don’t care about mecha that much anyway). But if you’re curiously about some real train wreck cliffhanger shock factor nonsense writing you should read up on the (first half) ending of this show. For once this seems like almost universal facepalming from the western community / critics. XD

  3. Hello, I agree with most of your videos concerning ZnT (you phrased my feelings exactly when you said that episode 1 and 2 provide us with information that is until the last episode ceaselessly repeated without really exposing anything new. Thus, it becomes hard to emphasize with a character not knowing their motivation).
    However, something’s bothering me. I don’t know whether anyone else has already said this or maybe I just misinterpret it. Also I want to apologize for my English since I’m not native English.
    So, if exposing that Japan had an atomic bomb was indeed their goal all along, then this anime was bad indeed. However, when watching the end, I thought that the bomb was but a medium to get to their goal. What I understood was that they were kids from an institute who had been killed and forgotten (most of them). Nobody knew about any of them and how they were treated and when most of them died it was hidden and they were completely “erased” as if they had never existed in the first place. As Shibasaki searches for the children from that institute it becomes clear that nobody really knew who they were (as if they were ghosts).
    Nine clearly can’t justify this, and it is a heavy burden on him (he has PSTD for example). Nine wants the world to know about them. They were made nobodies and murdered, and no one would ever mourn them or think about them or anything. I don’t say wanting the entire planet to know about them was a healthy and normal reaction, but it does explain why they drew so much attention without killing a single person. (Twelve is shown to have less trouble with his past and therefore betrays Nine at a certain point, because he sees a future (with Lisa) where Nine is trapped in his past and craves a sort of price to be paid for what has been done.) The terrorist attacks in Japan were nation-wide, but an atomic bomb would shake the world. The entire planet’s attention would be on Nine and Twelve and they would lead everyone’s eyes to them, to the institute, to all the dead children that had been cruelly forgotten. They would see, they would know, they would remember. These children, including Nine and Twelve, would finally exist to the world.

    • I guess you can read it like that but doesn’t make it even worse. I mean using a a-bomb EMP for a no-casualties scenario is already horrendously naive to begin with (what about hospitals, nuclear power plants, other flying stuff besides airplanes etc. Solving all this problems in a few hours seem impossible)
      But also doesn’t this make the kids really egoistic people. Perhaps I’m just biased because I’ve seen this “Here is my excuse for doing this horrible thing because of my TRAAAAAGIC past” written very lazily any few times to much in anime XD

      Actually I think the ending is more symbolical then anything else. IMO there was more intention in the fact that it all ended with an a-bomb explosion than just shock factor and the whole international incident thing.
      Look how they framed this scene like some apocalyptic scenario where they desperately try to the avoid the inevitable including some doomsday music. And then cut to lots of still images of assumed Tokyo without people, empty schools and buildings, cars and waste chaotically in the middle of streets and building overgrown with plants, the kids innocently playing ball on the streets.
      There is a distinct feeling of an “after the end” scenario like all this awesome scenery porn in Last Of Us or how Final Fantasy 7 ended with an 1 year later back to nature style epilogue. Obviously its just visual trickery as the kids just aren’t in Tokyo anymore (how a understood it) and soon after we get the military with helicopters which brakes this atmosphere anyway . But the contrasts to all the rest of the show with just modern day Tokyo full of people crowding the streets, technology everywhere, social media information over sharing, corrupt politics etc…. there is a clear intend to show this – I guess – metaphorical cut.

      So I would speculate that the idea was more to invoke something along the lines of “The bomb cleansed them of there ‘old sins’ so they can start anew with a clean slate” as some kind of WW2 parallel. I mean as I pointed out in my other comment this show already kinda deals with post WW2 politics problems and their effects on the present.
      I realize how much of an absurdly overdramatized and abstract reading this must sounds like (and how weird of a implication this is for the role of the kids in all of this) but otherwise I don’t see the point of actually framing it like THAT… especially those city streets that could come right out of a zombie apocalypse movie…. even the aftermath of this EMP wouldn’t make any big city such a ghost towns.
      You could see this as another visual callback to Shibazakis whole discussion about people of this families hometown (which once again where victims of the war… Hibakusha etc.) hiding from the summer heat inside building making all the streets look totally empty.

      Well no matter how a look at it this is such a bizarre ending because the show did never feel like it wanted to be highly metaphorical to begin with and everybody expected so much more character focus and they didn’t give closure any of the surviving character at all. Almost fascinating how much of a confused vision the script writers must have had.

      • Yes I also thought about the hospitals and others because you can expect a building to be clear within minutes if you try hard enough, but for a whole city (and then we’re not even talking about all the rest of Japan) to be prepared for a complete power shut-down within an hour or two? That’s ridiculous.
        And yeah it’s would be sort of egoistic but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Well being egoistic to the point where you use nuclear warfare is bad. But I mean that they’re not good, perhaps even egoistic and sort of naif, and that’s partially the point. Their past isn’t there to justify that. It’s the reason Nine became like that (him especially since Twelve did try to choose another future) but they’re called terrorists and they do bad things and the tragic past is cliche but, at least to me, it’s not something the series put out there to be like “look they’re not bad they’re just the result of a tragic past”. It purposefully said “look at how messed up this is they’re going to paralyze the whole of Japan holy shit.”

        I don’t know about the ending. You see, Nine did want to have a press conference. He did plan to be there and for the atomic bomb to not necessarily be used. If his goal had been to tell the world about what had been done to those children in the institute he could have demanded all that information and truth about that to be spread and then threatened with the atomic bomb if they had refused.
        And yes it really does remind of an apocalyptic scenario, as well as in reference to what Shibazaki said about how the streets would be empty and such. The atmosphere actually reminds me of the kind of “peace after death” thing too, and the helicopters are a bother there. It’s like you think you’ve hit the climax with the atomic bomb and they want to soothe you with deserted city images, only to crush every bit of peace and rest there had been just seconds ago with murder and death.
        It’s logic they would go back to their hometown though because everyone is looking for them now so they’ll lead them to where the information is that they want everyone to know (aka the institute).

        I do see how the end should definitely be also seen as something symbolic. The “cleansing of sins” makes sense. It is in some way very literal and a bit useless to expect things to start of fresh and better just because you destroy a country, but metaphorically spoken it doesn’t even sound that weird. And yes there are some interesting links with WW2 that shouldn’t be ignored.
        I don’t agree that the show never wanted to be at least somewhat metaphorical. It was often playing with underlying meanings, similes, metaphors and such. Be it the riddles, Lisa’s comparison between Twelve’s smile (like the sun) and Nine’s eyes (like ice) (or whatever it was), the intro and outro (there’s a whole meta on the meaning of the raven’s and such somewhere out there), the songs (“birden” and “fugl” are both also references to birds), etc.
        I do agree on how horrendous the character development was. Lisa was and remains one of the most uselessly thrown in characters in the history of anime, Nine is flat without a trace of development, all potential Five had was put to waste and I did read a really interesting meta on her that could totally be canon but even if it is then the anime showed the worst of it, and the list goes on.
        It’s devastating to think how interesting the plot could have been, but between episode 2 and 11, what really happened? It’s happened a hundred times but ZnT once again showed us that if you don’t let the viewers in on the intentions/motivations of characters soon enough, you just can’t get us to really feel much for them. I mean sure the explosions were cool, but should I joy over it or fear for their success? I don’t know because I don’t have a clue as to why they’re doing all of that.

        • “I don’t agree that the show never wanted to be at least somewhat metaphorical”
          Ok I guess I phrased this the wrong way.
          You’re right. There was a lot of of interesting imagery and symbolism throughout the show…. as you said the birds, the riddles but also the constant chain-link fences, dingy interior room of those political figures, the ferris wheel and other recurring elements.
          Indeed lots of blogs discussed how well crafted those element seem from a micro perspective (as in scene by scene expressiveness). The very deliberate color chooses and its symbolism or the contrasts contrasts of well…. light and darkness contrasts. So there really is a lot of metaphorical stuff to dig into.
          But this also intentionally was a very realistic show so they had to subtly integrate this imagery. This is no Ikuhara / Yuasa / Shinbo anime where completely surreal wtf stuff can haven any moment (and even those shows have to “earn” this artistic choose to really work in context)
          … and they did this for the most part. “Crazy shit” only happens in scenes like nightmares or very isolated scenes like the the synesthesia thing (btw what was up with that… did they also forget they wanted to make a plot point out of this ideas? ) and everything else makes sense on a literal level regardless.

          Thats what rubbed me the wrong way with the ending. Its completely in your face with this ghost town imagery and as a result really doesn’t fit the established style and so it ONLY works symbolically because on the realistic level they never bother to give context for the scene. So the viewer is just confused or it doesn’t as anything meaningful at all. I guess what it comes down to is that the ending was just too rushed in general to work and as you said the whole setup for characters and themes was just going of the raids long ago without anyone noticing all the inconsistencies for a macro level (of storytelling).

          • Yeah it’s troublesome because the atomic bomb was there from ep 1 (literally the first thing they did was get it). Throughout the episodes it’s pushed completely in the background under piles of riddles, backstories, underdevelopment of characters, etc. After seeing the whole anime it’s clear that the atomic bomb would be the spectacular moment of the anime, certainly seen their rather accurate reference to the high-altitude bomb that had been used in America. But, to me, it feel out of place, as if they had a goal in mind first but then kind of forgot about it and continued with the story itself and then someone went “oh yeah put the atomic bomb in there”.
            Can I ask what your thoughts on Lisa and Five are? Do you think they could have had a fitting and/or worthy place in the anime?

            • For my Five didn’t work at all. I understand what they were going for with the very “anime style” character design among totally normal looking people to stress her strangeness or perhaps how much of a lets how much of a mishmash of a person she is (psychopathic but also innocence, position and leading skills of an adult but also still child in mind etc.) due to what happend to her…. but they had to make it about airport chess :( If the actually had it more like Death Note and given Five and the other kids a real conflict in ideal / perspective or just something that gave her more of this cartoony villain personality maybe it could have worked somehow. But it think that the one element that broke the show more than anything else.

              For Lisa I actually had high hopes after ep4 that they were on the right track. A really liked how they build up this bike scene. If they had started this earlier and keep up this conflict evolving with actually more than the simplest approach to the drama. But two well directed scene in the whole show just sadly shows how half hearted there intend was to make this about the the her social issues (or any kind of bigger picture). But perhaps thats just my appreciation for Penguindrum speaking again as this whole abandonment / alienation / isolation idea had the most parallels to what MPD was addressing so well (but MPD was also about a totally different historical reference point anyway which fits this theme far better anyway).
              So yeah IMO thats the place where they wasted the most potential for real empathy towards this whole “tragic persons become terrorists” core of an idea. But I guess that just wasn’t the show they set out to make and most likely I would have seen it as a less interesting version of MPDs plot anyways. They even did the whole “damsel needs saving” part better and with more substance. And perhaps there even was real inspiration. Lots of people saw the way the Settlement was depicted as direct reference to on of MPDs surreallest moments. But what an irony that a show full of magic realism wtf moments now feels so much more real then a show that what wanted be realistic so badly. Uncanny valley here we go.
              But in short: yes. IMO this was an promising part they could have make work the easiest with small tweaks. I actually expected that Lisa would get involved more and more after those events in ep4+5 to make a point about how she has so much guidance missing from her live that this actually start believing in / supporting Nine&Twelves plans more directly (instead of this “well if I’m here anyway … I don’t want to be the one holding you back” nonsense). I mean there was enough suffering to her story that she could have become a more radical character. Don’t know if that would have broken suspension of disbelieve as well but at least would have been more interesting than just plot device status.

              • There was a lot of potential for Five as a character of flesh and blood and it saddens me to see what they did to her. After the institute she was taken by the US gov to be further dehumanized into a living weapon, if I can put it that way, and that could have been an opportunity to show the viewers the difference between her and Nine and Twelve, who both also had lost a sort of touch with humanity but who had regained it to a certain level. Unfortunately she is portrayed as kind of a psycho already in the institute, so she’s useless reference. At first her obsession with Nine bothered me and I also didn’t understand why the interaction and interest between her and Twelve was practically non-existent. When she said that she always wanted to beat Nine, it did start making sense. She and Nine both show great thought skills (hacking, calculating, …) so these are their talents. In the institute their whole world was about developing that talent and growing stronger in it, but when you have two people with the same kind of abilities it becomes a bit of a constant contest as to who is the best. This still doesn’t excuse the way they made her and I’m very upset about her flat personality that only exists of descriptions like psycho, insane, evil, and other synonyms. Personally I despise those villains with no reason to be evil other than because an evil person is needed.

                It was almost painful to watch Lisa sometimes. The way they shuffled her in like they’d lost a bet and had to put this teenage girl up in the protagonist trio and weren’t sure what to do with her. And I agree that Lisa could have been a sort of outlet for the terrorists to show their human sides so that the viewers could emphasize with them. But they didn’t tell her anything useful really. I mean it’s cool that we know that Twelve has synaesthesia but I’m not going to encourage his choices because of that. If they would have opened up to her about what had happened to them and how it had influenced them to become what they were, then she would had had an important role in their life. And vice versa if she could have told them about her history of mental and physical abuse. She could have found a sort of comfort with them. The damsel in distress bothered me with it’s obviousness because she was so weak and they were so strong and blah blah blah. So I once again agree that she has enough of a backstory to be an interesting character or at least more than a plot device.

  4. You said you read an interesting meta about Five.
    As I am very interested in her as a charcter, what was that meta about?

  5. Wow ZnT is all about the subtexts (in the last episode they basically punch you in the face with it) and you still managed to miss it, well done.

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