To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 01 (First Impressions) – Misfortune and More Misfortune

Here we are, back in Academy City. I remember most of the faces, as well as most of their connections. There’s yet another threat looming as a large and ominous protest by a religious group takes place all the way in Toulouse, France, and the worlds of magic and science seem to be teetering on the precipice of another nasty conflict.

Seemingly in the middle of it all is Kamijou Touma, he of Imagine Breaker—and eternal misfortune—fame. In less than two days he loses his wallet, gets bitten by Index, gets detention for a debate over bunny girls, gets beaned by a Fukiyose fastball, and then yelled at and attacked with lightning by Biribiri.

And all that turns out to be the least of his problems. An old lady who encounters Index later nabs Touma and takes him somewhere secluded at gunpoint. She’s part of Academy City’s governing board, and seems interested in Touma’s ability should the Orthodox Church be using the protests as a booster to “attack the world”, something to which the city would have to respond.

This old lady is then promptly shot by Tsuchimikado, who then whisks Touma off to France via supersonic jet and skydive, where he and Touma will recover a Roman Orthodox magical item called the Document of Constantine. It’s a good thing Tsuchimikado’s stepsister Maika is cooking for Index, because it doesn’t look like Touma will be home for a while…

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Prison School – 10

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What is that I see in Vice President Shiraki’s eyes, as she files Mari’s nails and then half-heartedly agrees that the school will be better off without the boys? Could it be a tinge of fondness for the five lads; a reverse-Stockholm syndrome, if you will? I don’t know, but I suspect her feelings are conflicted, at the very least. After all, if the boys are gone, who will be left to punish? Girls?

The council would certainly have some punitive measures in place for the likes of Chiyo, if they knew she was sneaking messages to Kiyoshi in his meals. By the way, why haven’t the two of them been doing this all along?

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In any case, the message she gets back is not from someone with any hope left, but someone saying goodbye and take care. The boys’ spirits are all but broken, and Gakuto is downright nuts, even faking out his buds with an absurd idea of sneaking themselves out with the meals like Chiyo’s note, and ordering fried grasshoppers for his “last meal” (a last meal that, by the way, seems to me like Meiko’s idea).

Meanwhile, Mari makes sure her father understands how things are going to go down, and to be ready to affix his seal on the necessary paperwork when the time comes. While it can be easy to deride Mari for exerting so much power while, at the end of the day, being beholden to daddy, it’s also a thankless position considering her dad’s abject inability to avoid exposing her to his latin butt fetish. He even kept the “mousepad” (a tremendous prop) while forgetting that glass is reflective.

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I don’t know if it was the taste of the grasshoppers or what, but Gakuto suddenly comes out of his psychosis, to the point he doesn’t remember ordering grasshoppers and rejects the dish outright. And yet, Meiko not only took that ridiculous order without batting an eye, she personally caught and fried the grasshoppers especially for Gakuto. This just isn’t someone in a big hurry to get rid of the guys. She’s someone who takes great pride in taking care of them, even so close to the end.

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And then there’s Prison School’s wild card, Hana, haunted by the feeling she’s forgotten something very important and impactful; something “that can’t be undone.” It’s only when the conditions of her last encounter with Kiyoshi are replicated that a switch flips in her head, and like Meiko, she doesn’t want the guys gone, but for a very different reason (so she can kill Kiyoshi, then herself).

But not so fast—just as a backlit Mari is smugly looking down on the boys as Meiko marches them up to the chairman’s office, the chairman is on his way down those same steps. Kiyoshi gave Meiko an appeal to give to him, but she tore it up. So what then, happened?

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Simple: the “appeal” was planted knowing Meiko would probably trash it. And that very obvious appeal would distract her from the fact Kiyoshi wrote the real appeal on his withdrawal form. And not just any appeal: a personal message to the chairman than he knows about his “buried treasure” out beyond the school walls. Once the chairman is in the prison, Kiyoshi quickly dismisses the notion that he intends to blackmail him; it was only to get him in the room.

Before he can consider postponing their expulsion to give them time to collect evidence of council malfeasance, the chairman has a very frank question: whether they prefer boobs or butts. Kiyoshi remembers the material he saw him with, and quickly states butts. But that’s not enough: the chairman wants to know why Butts.

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He makes a small origami sphinx out of Kiyoshi’s appeal just as Gakuto likens his riddle to that of the sphinx, about what has varying numbers of legs at different times (and the answer to which is “man”). As Meiko is eavesdropping, Hana tries to attack, but realizing the threat to the council a stabbed inmate would represent, she quickly neutralizes the Hana threat.

When Kiyoshi spots two round shapes from the window, he thinks it’s a butt at first, but it’s actually Meiko’s bust, the sight of which provides the spark to a response that will satisfy the chairman (who won’t hear any patronizing George Mallory-esque “because it’s there” BS). Boobs, Kiyoshi muses, only came about when mankind started standing upright, and no longer had the butts of those in front of them in their faces. Boobs are only a “pale imitation” of butts; butts are the original, accept no subsitutes.

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The discussion transcends its inherent dumbness with the pure seriousness and gravitas of its presentation, like so many other situations in Prison School (never before has shitting oneself in a computer lab seemed so goddamn noble before). As Kiyoshi get more and more worked up; as his idea takes a life of its own; he almost seems to become an “ass man” before our eyes in spite of his previous preference for the top bits. Performance or no, it’s more than enough to convince the chairman to give them one more day.

This outrages Mari, but the chairman, perhaps empowered by what he just witnessed, kindly points out to his daughter that he’s the boss, and he’s decided to postpone the expulsion one more day, and if she has a problem, tough. Like Chiyo, Anzu, and Meiko, he’d rather the male students not go, and wants to believe they can find a way out of their predicament.

Hana, meanwhile, is now a loose cannon consumed with a desire for revenge, even at (or perhaps especially) at the cost of her own life. She could represent Mari’s nuclear option, or contrarily, Kiyoshi and the others’ salvation. But like the lads, I’ll take that tiny strand of light as a sign things could still work out.

But guys, seriously: there’s no wet t-shirt contest. Meiko was just teasing!

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Zankyou no Terror – 11 (Fin)

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The perpetrators of the failed Athena Project meant for its child subjects to be discarded and forgotten. Nine and Twelve’s plan wasn’t about revenge, but about making sure they and the others weren’t forgotten; that those still alive who were responsible were plucked from beneath the rocks they’d hidden under. With increasingly stunning yet nonlethal attacks, they gradually built up their stature, until no one would be able to forget what they did, and by extension, that they lived.

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The most stunning yet is the high-altitude detonation of the stolen atomic bomb, which ended up not harming anyone but disabled all electronics in Japan. While it was yet another means of gaining attention and exposure among the masses, it also served as a firm counter-riposte to the efforts of the members of the Athena project to use technology to artificially enhance mankind. For at least a time, the EMP emitted from the bomb reverted the country to a far simpler state.

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Shibazaki became the Oedipus to Nine and Twelve’s Sphinx, looking past easy answers to solve the riddles of where they came from, what they were doing, and why. They unwittingly helped him to solve the case that had ruined his career, and finally learn what those he suspected of wrongdoing were up to, and putting them away for it. Justice tastes a lot better when it is acknowledged not just by oneself or amongst a few individuals, but by the same system that once helped shelter the wrongdoers.

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I will say that even in a series of a mere eleven episodes, Five’s arc was ultimately a bit of a detour, though as the only other surviving Athena subject, her actions tore Nine and Twelve apart, threatening the whole enterprise, only to bring them back together as strong as ever following her demise. She represented an alternate effect of Athena: that of unchecked chaos and rage. It’s also worth noting that after the end of the facility, she was and remained alone right up until her final confrontation with the others, while at least Nine and Twelve had each other, which had a grounding effect.

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Even so, just before the bomb goes off, when Lisa isn’t sure whether the world is about to end, Twelve tells her he and Nine were never needed by anyone until they met her and everything changed. Neither were ever ones for true, honest human interaction, let alone feeling what it was like to care for someone so much that you’d do anything to save them, which Twelve got that with Lisa. Even if he and Nine didn’t (nor intended to) survive the gestation of the better world they sought to build, they didn’t take Lisa down with them.

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On the contrary, through her adventures and their many rescues of her and acts of kindness towards her, Twelve and Nine instilled a fresh appreciation for life, and while many will ask her what it was like to be “Sphinx’s hostage” for all that time, she could never tell them much, because they’d never fully understand: she wan’t their hostage. She was their friend; their little sister whom they kept safe without fail. And they gave her hope.

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Zankyou no Terror – 10

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Twelve deals with the guilt of betraying Nine, while trying to have fun with Lisa. Nine rolls the dice and surrenders to the police. Five makes one last desperate grasp at Nine, who “belongs to her.”

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Shibazaki comes face to face with Shunzo Mamiya, who orchestrated the Athena Project and the investigation of whom led to his demotion. An atomic bomb is released into the sky, to go off at 10pm. This episode isn’t messing around, expertly setting up the endgame.

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Interestingly, this episode is Five’s last. For those of you who tired of her relatively petty and nebulous vendetta and terrible English, rejoice, for she ends up doing herself in. Physically deteriorating, she senses the end is near, and after a harrowing chase and crossing the line with her American handlers, all that’s left to do on that highway is thank Nine for being the reason she stayed alive this long at all; to pursue him.

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She has him in her sight, but doesn’t pull the trigger, knowing she’s been beaten. Instead, she gives Nine a chaste parting kiss and ignites the pool of gasoline she’s standing in. This explosion was brought to you by the number Five.

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With Five now gone, all that’s left is for Nine to expose Athena to the world, if that was indeed his plan. The only problem is, the press conference he demanded the police allow him to hold is interrupted by Five’s meddling, and the atomic bomb is loosed, unable to be stopped by anyone.

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While meeting with Shunzo, who was convinced the spirit of Japan was “that of a loser, without a shred of dignity”, and thus pushed forward with Athena, Shibazaki can fathom the scale of the backlash, which looks tenuously close to being realized.

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In his final broadcast, transmitted automatically when Nine doesn’t get to the Hyatt at 8:00 PM, Sphinx One warns that nothing can stop the bomb. If he’s right, then we’re in for a catastrophe in the finale. But I’m not entirely convinced he’s not bluffing at this point.

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I’m not even sure his entire plan from the start was to draw out Five so that she could, well, finish herself off. Also, Twelve even ends up redeeming himself somewhat by interfering in Five’s pursuit of Nine, and I like how he does so on Lisa’s urging, telling him how happy she was when he saved her, and how Nine will probably feel the same way. Five may be gone, but there’s a lot left to sort out.

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Zankyou no Terror – 09

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Betray your brother, run away, or die with the girl he’s come to care for. The day Twelve had been dreading, when things go bad and he has to make an impossible choice, arrives much earlier than he probably hoped. With a ton of bombs strapped to her and not enough time to defuse them, Twelve ultimately makes a choice based on where he is there and then. Giving up the location doesn’t mean Nine’s certain death, just the destruction of their alliance (in all likelihood) and the jeopardizing of their grand scheme.

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But with Lisa sitting there—covered with bombs, initially trembling with fear; but after comforting words, becomes calm and accepting of her impending death—there’s no choice. Twelve can’t let her die. If he could give his life to save hers, he probably would have, but that wasn’t one of the options Five gave him. I must say, Five really did make good use of Lisa, and I’m alternating between the great risk she took and the reality that Twelve had already demonstrated to her that he would do anything to protect her, even sell out Nine.

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But despite being fairly certain, as Five was, that Twelve and Lisa weren’t going to blow up, did nothing to deflate the raw, horrifying, virtuoso tension of that Ferris Wheel scene. Yes, Ferris Wheels are a goofily poetic place to stage such a scene—as they’re supposed to be a place where joy is experienced, rather than despair (Deadman Wonderland FTW)—but the music sells the shit out of it, as does the animation of the characters’ faces. Not to mention, with two episodes left, it’s not impossible for them to die now—just highly unlikely. I’m glad they didn’t.

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This episode’s awesome continues as Shibazaki and Hamura pay a visit to Aoki, one of the researchers who participated in Project Athena, in which human pharmacological experimentation was performed on 26 numbered orphan test subjects, with the goal of synthesizing an artificial “savant syndrome”; an exercise in eugenics that went far beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct. Aoki gives a weak “Befehl ist Befehl” defense, but he knows he’s a monster; in fact, he’s glad someone came so he could make his confession before he died.

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What brings everything together isn’t just that Shibazaki is now aware of Twelve and Nine’s past, and that they have a very good reason to be pissed off; nor is it merely the fact that Twelve and Nine didn’t steal plutonium, but an experimental and probably highly destructive nuclear weapon. No, it’s that the one who gave Aoki his marching orders to poke and prod helpless kids to death, was none other than the politician who Shibazaki came so very close to bagging before he was demoted for peering to deeply into the abyss.

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Shibazaki can add thus add this to his heavy satchel of regrets: all those years ago, he might’ve had an opportunity, however small, to expose and put an end to Athena, had he rejected his demotion, gone rogue, and continued his investigation outside the law, as he is doing now. How far will he go this time? How far will the powers that be let him? It’s also implied from talk of “being out of time” and Five collapsing, that the remaining three subjects wont live much longer, even if they put aside their troubles. Now I’m thinking maybe Lisa outlives everyone else.

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Zankyou no Terror – 08

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Following the Battle of Haneda, Five proves not particularly gracious in defeat, but she’s intent on winning the war, no matter how many rules she has to break or how much blood is spilt. To that end, she targets Sphinx’s weak link—Lisa—just as a lion goes for the weakest prey.

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Her attack isn’t exactly subtle: delivering a timed bomb to Sphinx’s apartment that Lisa barely evades, but it gets the job done: without their hideout, Nine and Twelve feel more vulnerable than ever. More importantly, Five makes that situation all Lisa’s fault, so rather than stick around and cause them more trouble, Lisa decides to run off…right into Five’s clutches.

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On the other end of things, Shibazaki’s colleagues are thrown off the case entirely and get suspended for three months, while he’s all but fired, having to turn in his badge. I like how the show doesn’t let them off the hook for their blatant insubordination last week, but I also like how his lack of a badge doesn’t stop Shibazaki from pursuing the case anyway, even going to his semi-estranged daughter for insight into nuclear weapons.

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Between the public record, police archives, an interview with a politician tied to the organization that instigated the “Athena Project”, and orphanage visits, Shibazaki starts to piece together who Sphinx (and likely Five) are orphans the government spirited away and basically fucked with. The more he learns, the more he starts to feel for Sphinx; while they’re called “terrorists” in this day an age, there was a time when they’d be, as he says, “something else.”

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Nine and Twelve are doing what they’re doing because they’re evil and hate civilization, but because they were wronged, and the government that wronged them must reap what it has sown. Twelve entertains the possibility of backing out, forgetting that they’re in far too deep to back out. But when Lisa runs off, his mission with Nine becomes secondary. At the end of the day, asking someone to join them or die wasn’t much of a choice, as Lisa fiercely wants to stay alive no matter what.

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As such, Twelve is guilty for involving her and won’t allow her to be a casualty in their feud with Five and the government. It’s not exactly love, but it’s concern; a degree of genuine humanity that all of the horrors of Athena Project couldn’t tear away in the end. If Twelve is going to die, he’ll die protecting Lisa. I gotta say, things aren’t looking good for them, but Shibazaki is close to blowing the whole thing open; it’s a matter of how far he can (and will) go to pursue the justice the higher-ups won’t.

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Zankyou no Terror – 07

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In preparation for more English dialogue from Five this week, I decided to come at it from another angle: if English is her character’s second language, then her thick accent is totally acceptable. But such realignments and caveats weren’t even necessary this week. There was so much going on I didn’t have time to give a shit how bad the English was or wasn’t.

Just about absolutely everything that went on this week was fantastic. Last week’s ending promised an intricate, precise game of Haneda Airport Bomb Chess between Five and Sphinx. It also hinted that Shibazaki and his colleagues were going to take action of some kind after sitting on their hands too long, and that Lisa would play some kind of role too. , The episode delivered everything we could have hoped for and then some.

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I remain confident in my assertion last week that Five is a cliched villain with a lame personal vendetta and all-but-unchecked autocratic power over the authorities. This week she’s taken down a peg just as Nine and the police were last week. The show sensed that we needed to see Nine land a blow, even a glancing one, on Five, and made it happen. But this episode was much, much more than just a duel between Five and Nine.

Shibazaki & Co. arrive at Haneda faced with the lofty challenge of finding a bomb in a massive, busy airport, but the more he wanders around, the more something smells rotten to the veteran detective. But even he couldn’t have predicted he’d end up helping the very terrorist he’s been chasing for six episodes stop the bombing, while unwittingly providing cover for their escape.

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That last bit is part the genius of this episode. When Shibazaki bursts into the control room and orders the bomb plane turned around, Five tells him he’s being Sphinx’s lap dog, and she’s not 100% wrong. But Shibazaki is also saving lives by picking the lesser of two evils. Five seems to be trying to appeal to his pride and ego, but after both have been trampled on so much throughout his career (most recently by Five herself), he’s not listening anymore. He’s the anti-Five, and thank God he’s here.

It’s a good thing he can, otherwise Nine, Twelve, and Lisa would’ve been SOL and lots of people would have died. Shibazaki is Nine’s trump card; he calls him to explain everything, and Shibazaki decides to believe him, because unlike the higher-ups and spooks, at least Nine is talking to him; letting him in on the loop. And once he’s in, he’s a potent ally. One great scene is how he even gets up the tower: by depending on his police colleagues to open a hole for him in their scrum with security.

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Also terrific was how Nine threw out Five’s book by placing an extra piece on the board, namely Lisa. Yes, Twelve pushed for her involvement, but she herself made the choice to participate. Both she and Nine and Twelve’s plan revolves around turning all of Five’s ample surveillance against her. Ironically, it’s not Lisa, but Nine who’s the decoy—playing chess with Five and keeping her eyes on him.

Meanwhile, Twelve makes use of every camera blind spot to sneak through the airport, while Lisa sets off a flare in the bathroom to set off the fire alarms, which create a blip in the video feed. During that blip—unbeknownst to Five until it’s too late—the real-time footage becomes footage recorded minutes earlier. It’s a full team effort by Sphinx, and as I said, a satisfying setback for the irritatingly haughty Five.

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But Five doesn’t stay down long, because, as she correctly remarks, Nine and Twelve’s new friend Lisa is a weakness, as illustrated when she’s picked up by Five’s henchman and tossed onto an otherwise empty plane with the bomb on board. I’ll admit, the moment Lisa is caught and when we realize how much trouble she’s in, I was crestfallen. But the show’s not going to kill Lisa today…so How Do They Get Out Of This One?

Very Carefully. The thrilling action set piece that concludes the episode brings everything together: Twelve’s fondness for Lisa; Nine’s sense of honor that has him helping Twelve save her; Lisa’s ability to follow directions and quickly make a cloth rope, and Nine’s ability to drive away from the plane before the explosion can engulf them. It’s some spellbinding, superbly directed stuff, and the Kanno soundtrack playing over everything really takes it to the next level, as her tunes tend to do.

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In return for his help, Shibazaki only gets a passing glance at the masked Sphinx No. 1 through a window before driving off into the night. And Five is Not Happy, and has Lisa’s student ID in hand. Which means even if Lisa remains safe and hidden with Sphinx (not a sure thing at all), her mother, wretch that she is, is now at risk.

Can Lisa throw her life away completely? Can Sphinx continue to stay a step ahead of Five? Can Shibazaki get back on the case and reign Five in? What about the plutonium? When’s the beach episode? If there’s no second cour, only four episodes remain to tackle these questions and more. We await them with bated breath.

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Zankyou no Terror – 06

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Let the great game begin…or at least the pretty good game. Just when Shibazaki was starting to sink his teeth into the case and gathering support from his colleagues, the FBI comes in with their Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST) researcher, Five, along with “orders from on top” essentially neutering his investigation.

Unfortunately, Five is ruining more than Shibazaki’s momentum and the terrorists’ plans. She’s kinda hurting the show, too. The main reason being she’s a big, bland “Insane Genius Villain” (IGV) cliche plopped down in the middle of a story that was going just fine without her. Also, let it be known for now and all time, that Han Megumi is very, very ungood at English.

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Han did a fine job as Hanano Sumire in Chihayafuru 2, but then, she wasn’t the primary antagonist who is called upon to deliver a good chunk of her dialogue in English; she’s just not up to it. That’s not Han-san’s fault; frankly, Watanabe had no business making her speak English. Far from adding “international texture”, it blows all the tension out of a scene like air from a balloon.

The color her English makes would surely give Twelve nightmares. With all the intricate preparation involved in the production, you’d think they’d have at least hired someone fluent in English to do the lines for someone who’s supposed to be fluent in English. Someday, anime studios and/or directors will figure this out, but not today. /End rant.

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This week we have the rather unusual scenario of the terrorists who planted a bomb at an airport having to return to the scene to disarm it, since Five has the power and the will to detonate it, even at the potential cost of many lives, because she can just blame it on Sphinx. She’s also able to craft myth-riddles like them, which most the cops believe to be the real thing.

Most, but not all. Shibazaki, right on cue, smells something rotten in Denmark. The texts aren’t his guys. He’s technically under orders to do nothing, but he isn’t going to accept that. Hamura and three colleagues join him “for a meal.” As I said, his teeth are in this case, and he’s not letting go so easily. Please, show, let him expose Cupcake Five before she exposes Twelve and Nine!

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But I’m getting ahead of myself. This episode is also notable for being the first in which Lisa is actually used in an op, albeit in a roughly improvised op in which Nine needs an unfamiliar face for Five’s cameras. She’s unfazed by images of carnage Nine tries to scare her with (as Twelve says, they didn’t intend for the bomb to go off), and declares she “wants to be one of them.”

Part of that is because there’s nothing else she thinks she can be. Another is that despite all the crap she’s gotten, she still wants to connect with people, and to experience the close bond she sees between Nine and Twelve. With this airport job, which looks like a doozy with its chessboard layout, she’s becoming a part of that family. (Thirteen? Zero?)

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Shibazaki’s little rebellion, Nine’s feverish scurrying, Lisa’s participation and Twelve’s support of her all make this a very good episode, but we can’t call it great. Not in an episode with so much Five in it. It’s good to take your antiheroes down a peg or two, but you need the right kind of nemesis to do it, and so far, Five ain’t that. It feels like she’s in the wrong show.

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Zankyou no Terror – 05

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Despite the seemingly random (to the public at large) destruction and disorder they’ve caused, Nine and Twelve’s activities as Sphinx have been highly controlled at every level. They’re not launching their attacks to kill or even hurt people. They’re sending messages Nine hopes Shibazaki will pick up on.

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He does, but it leads him back to “old mistakes” and introduces the opportunity to make them all over again. But what neither Nine nor Shibazaki learn soon enough is that they’re no longer the only players on this board. The cat and mouse have been joined by another mouse, intent on stirring up shit and introducing chaos into what had thus far been a very orderly “courtship dance.”

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That new mouse is Five, a distinctive-looking woman whom Nine remembers from his flashbacks to the facility. Nine never sees Five’s face or hears her voice in the present, but he knows it’s her, because of what goes down this week. Namely, she Ruins Everything: his latest terror plot ends up an even bigger, smokier mess than the one Lisa made in their kitchen.

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Lisa was trying to make an honest effort to get Nine to no longer see her as useless, so she could stick around, as she has nowhere else to go. Nine is not happy to say the least that Twelve brought her home (I’m delighted, personally), but she’s too sick to be thrown out; even he’s not that heartless. But he does predict her getting tangled up with them can and will end badly.

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It can’t be understated how disruptive a force Five truly was this week; not bad, considering we mostly see her painting her nails. She negates Sphinx’s use of cell carriers by causing a wholesale cell blackout. She baits Nine with a fake backdoor then hacks into his computer. After the bomb is allowed to go off, she sends a mass text saying “I found you.” It really shakes up the status quo nicely.

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Meanwhile, Shibazaki has made the connection Nine wanted him to: the bombing targets were all big shots involved with the “Rising Peace Academy.” But targeting these people means he’ll have to investigate them, and they’re not the kind of people who want to be investigated, especially as some are cops themselves.

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So Shibazaki is again in a situation where he can’t help digging too deep until he angers the wrong people. Both he and Sphinx have been outmaneuvered and their agency curtailed. And Five, the one responsible, is right there in the office with him, smiling away. Does Five want to catch and/or hurt Nine and Twelve, or “help” them? I’m just hoping she doesn’t turn out to be one-note chaotic evil.

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Zankyou no Terror – 04

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“At the place where the king who solved the riddle received a scary prophecy, whose name would you carve on its entrance?” Let’s just say, if you’re a detective chasing Sphinx and don’t know anything about western mythology, you’re up a creek without a paddle. Shibazaki doesn’t have that problem. He’s locked in, or at least more locked in than anyone else on the case.

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He visits a town where one of the suspected culprits held a part-time job, not so much for answers, but to get a lay of the same land they saw; see the same sights and smell the same smells…to sweat the trivial details that could lead to a breakthrough. Sphinx won’t be defeated if their mind can’t be penetrated. Shibazaki is trying to get in, and he may well be the only one who can work at something approaching their wavelength.

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Shibazaki’s observations, intuition, and deductions were nothing short of brilliant this week; the rust has definitely been shaken off. But again, he finds the answer, but not the whole answer; he remains several moves behind. He doesn’t take one word or gesture for granted, which is why this time he knows it falls on them to stop the bomb, not merely find it, and certainly not storm what is believed to be the culprits’ hideout.

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Therefore, even when Shibazaki realizes one of the maxims carved into the temple at Delphi—“know thyself”—is directed at him (he did put his face out there and issue a challenge), and thus the password to stop the bomb is his own name, ‘shibazaki”, it isn’t enough for victory, because his superiors sent EVERYONE to catch the guys, which is the very “cheating” Sphinx warned them not to try. The bomb that goes off is a bomb of information: all of the documents related to he department’s investigation are released onto the web.

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Shibazaki figured out the first maxim was the password, but the other two maxims were also in play. “Nothing in excess” could be interpreted to mean “no storming our hideout with a cop army.” “Make a pledge and mischief is nigh” (i.e., “be careful what you promise”) is another stab at Shibazaki, who promised to bring Sphinx to justice. Shibazaki can know himself to a t, but if he can’t control the people around him, that justice will remain out of reach.

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This is all fantastic stuff, but that isn’t even the whole episode, as we also get a big development in Lisa’s story. Rendered up to this point as a coldly-discarded loose end, she’s run away from home and from her awful mom, which sounds like a good idea until you realize Tokyo is not the safest place for a young lady to stroll about. She’s first accosted by curs, then cops, and Twelve can’t help himself, even though Nine definitely can, and urges Twelve to stay away from her.

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Nine is right in that the more people you involve in your schemes, the greater the chance you’ll get caught, but Lisa is very much a ghost at the moment; a ghost only he and Twelve can see. I don’t think there’s any question that they can trust her, because she has literally no one else. Any shadow of doubt was erased when Twelve plucked Lisa from police clutches and onto the back of his motorcycle. Turns out someone would just take her away when she wanted them to.

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The pure, unbridled exhilaration and jubilation; the wind in her hair and the glowing skyscrapers flying by overhead; smiling and laughing out loud for the first time she can remember…why would Lisa ever betray the person who gave her that? I’m not saying there isn’t the potential for her to end up being their Achilles’ Heel (with Shibazaki as Paris delivering the arrow)…but who said the Sphinx can’t take a waif in?

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Zankyou no Terror – 03

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Twelve isn’t content to wow a bunch of dummies; he wants a counterpart: someone at least clever enough to decipher Sphinx’s riddles; someone to make a game of this, because when you’re raised in a government facility where love doesn’t exist, what is life but and elaborate games? And in any game, Twelve wants a worthy opponent.

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Well, Mouse…Meet Cat: Shibasaki is officially on the case. Every bit the Japanese Lester Freamon, “natural police” who dug a little too deep a politically sensitive case years ago. Doing so exiled him to the archives and presumably cost him his family. We also learn he’s the son of Hibakusha, which combined with his wan complexion and haggard appearance make him an object of compassion.

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Shibasaki and Twelve/Nine are a lot alike in that both had things taken from them, but they still survived and have been living on, in an almost dormant state. Now the Sphinx has awakened and is bearing its claws all over Tokyo. Shibasaki, once the force’s ace detective, nicknamed “Razor”, has been taken out of its sheath, and the rust is shaking off fast.

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Just as a great comic can make a joke out of anything around him, on the spot, a great detective can find inspiration for the case anywhere around him, as long as he keeps his eyes and ears open. The spark that leads to solving the riddle comes from Mukasa, who defeats the “green dragon” on his online phone game. In the process, he won over a skeptic in the young hotshot Hamura, who would do well to watch and learn.

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Shibasaki also muses that just as Mukasa is playing a cooperative multiplayer game, connecting with random people rather than playing alone, the young duo of Sphinx are similarly reaching out for a human connection, one sophisticated enough to solve their riddles and hang with them in a protracted chase that will sharpen both Sphinx’s claws and the Razor’s edge.

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But no matter how wounded or lonely these kids may be, Shibasaki won’t forgive them if they use the plutonium trump card they stole, and retrieving it is paramount. Twelve and Nine seem amused by the old man’s righteous indignation, but they also seem happy to have a legit playmate.

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As for Lisa, well, she’s mostly on the margins of this episode, deciding to run away from home. It seems unlikely she’ll be able to find her one-time saviors, but maybe Nine will find her. He seems more interested in her than Twelve, who seems more interested in an albino kid from the facility who haunts his daydreams.

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