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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Weekly ED: Zankyou no Terror

My first thought upon watching the ending sequence for Zankyou no Terror was “Damn, this girl knows how to sing.” I’m no expert on vocalization, but she (that is, Aimer) seems to be doing all manner of interesting things with her voice in this song, “Dare ka, Umi o.” (“Somebody, the Ocean.”), composed by Yoko Kanno.

My second thought ws “Damn, this ending sequence really fits the mood of the show”: a kind of dark, melancholy feeling of being adrift, lost, drowning; trying to find one’s form in the world. The two crows/ravens she espies in the sky are a sign of freedom and hope, but also dread.  Your mileage may vary; I just think it’s a gorgeous song and sequence.

Zankyou no Terror – 01

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Finally we come upon the first episode of “Terror in Resonance”, by the end of which Nine and Twelve make a mini-9/11, and bring a third into their circle. To be honest, it left me a bit morally conflicted, though that’s probably the point. On the one hand, I cannot discount the show’s technical and artistic bona fides, what with Watanabe Shinichiro storyboarding and directing and Kanno Yoko handling the soundtrack. On the other, the supposed “heroes” just blew up half of the Tokyo City Hall.

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After a thrilling, imaginative (snowmobile!), literally cold open in which two masked rogues steal some nuclear fuel from a snowy facility and the most visually complex and beautiful OPs of the season, we transition to a sweltering Summer day in present-day Tokyo. We see the faces of the gents who pulled of the nuke heist: the calm, cool, analytical Kokonoe Shin, and the warm, impish Kumi Fuyuji. In private they call each other “Nine” and “Twelve” respectively, and both the OP and a dream Nine has hints that they’re escaped test subjects.

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Kokonoe and Kumi seem intent on adopting the appearance of normal lives. At their age, that means attending high school. There, they cross paths with Mishima Lisa, a plain girl who is bullied by her peers and her overbearing mother doesn’t seem to help her appetite. She’s trapped, helpless, and miserable. Both Kokonoe and Kumi see that in her, and it reminds them of the people they couldn’t save. So when she happens to be in the building they’re planning to blow up, they give her the choice: die, or join them.

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Unsurprisingly, the desire not to die outweighs whatever reservations she has about becoming the boys’ “accomplice.” She takes a literal leap of faith into Kumi’s waiting arms, and into a new life. And it’s likely City Hall is just the beginning of Kokonoe and Kumi’s plans. So here we are, watching everything go down form the perspective of the “villains,” while also getting a brief taste of the detectives who picked up their scent by chance—a YouTube video.

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This brooding, stark world was presented with nigh impeccable artistry and care; this show is right up there with Aldnoah and DMMd as the Eye Candy Kings of Summer. It also challenges us to root for terrorists while only giving us the slightest hint that they may be justified or at least understandably motivated in their illegal and ultimately murderous activities. So what drives them, why are they so good at terror stuff, what are their goals, and how does Lisa fit into the equation? Moral qualms aside, I won’t deny I’m excited to find out.

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Music: “Sora’s Folktale” from Escaflowne: A Girl in Gaea

2000’s Escaflowne: A Girl in Gaea was not particularly great movie, straying too far from and failing to capture the same magic as the superior 1996 anime series. but one thing it did have going for it was this trip-hop remix of the song “Sora’s Folktale”, written and sung in a made-up language by the incomparable Yoko Kanno.

This particular version is only an incidental song sung in a nightclub by Eriya and Naria during their brief cameo appearance in the movie. But it still manages to pack a lot of beautiful, bittersweet, transcendent FEELS in its less than two minutes of run time.

Sakamichi no Apollon – 01

It’s 1966, and Nishimi Kaoru has move to Kyushu to live with his aunt while his dad is away at work. He is a shy and asocial kid who manages high grades and plays the piano, but makes a prime target for bullies. The most notorious is Kawabuchi Sentaro, who actually takes an odd liking to him after fighting three seniors over the key to the roof. Kaoru also quickly makes friends with class rep Mukae Ritsuko, Sentaro’s childhood friend, whose family owns a record store with a practice room in the basement. Kaoru is inspired when he hears Sentaro play jazz on the drums.

It’s series like this that make us feel like we’re seriously wasting our time on drivel like Shining Hearts or unfocused dreck like Dusk Maiden, shows we’ll gladly drop to spend more time on something like this. First of all, when we learned both Shinichiro Wantanabe and Yoko Kanno were working on this, a light went on in our head; it’s doubtful this would be a dud. This whole episodes swings, and has a really nice lived-in feel to it. None of the characters are over-pretty or over-huge; though Sentaro looks a bit like Archie.

Most importantly, everyone is likeable, from the kind and friendly Ritsuko to Kaoru himself, who may be a bit angsty but at least has a reason to be. Sentaro is a big, lovable goof, who can handle himself in a fight and lay it down at the drums. The animation of his drumwork (both on drums and with twigs earlier on, before we even meet him) are a highlight of the episode, as is the promise of more excellent jazz to accompany the series. We’ve already got a nice nucleus of friends, and it looks like Kaoru is going to be just fine judging from the way he jaunts down the hill with Ritsuko by episode’s end.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Aquarion Evol – 01 & 02

Amata Sora is a projectionist at a movie theater. He meets girl named Mikono, who wants to learn more about the legend of Aquaria. While they’re walking around, enemy ‘Abductors’ launch an attack on the city. Seperate male and female ‘Elements’ Cayenne and Zessica pilot mecha called Aquaria in a counterattack, but Amata and Mikono are trapped under stone wings, so he has to use his ‘wings of the sun’ to fly them to safety.

Doing so awakens Aquarion, and his ‘union’ with Mikono combines all the other pilots’ mechas into one – Aquarion Evol. By using their myriad element powers, including Amata’s flight, amplified by Mikono’s presence, they’re able to send the lead Abductor Kagura into the atmosphere and defeat him…for now. Back on the surface, Cayenne and Zessica take Amata and Mikono into custody.

Bam, wham, thank you ma’am. Aquarion Evol busts out onto the Winter scene with a one-two cinematic punch that immediately pushes it to the top of our watchlist. Granted, it borrows heavily from other mecha series; Macross Frontier, in particular. It has the same director, Shoji Kamamori; the well-designed characters feature hair in every conceivable color; there’s the same conflict between a more earthlike conventional civilization and a more warlike, elemental foe; there are plenty of Itano Circuses; there’s an underlying love story…even Yoko Kanno and her orchestra provide a fittingly ambitious soundtrack. When it borrows so well, who are we to complain? Ambitious describes pretty much every element of this two-part pilot. Whether moving or standing still, we’re treated to a sumptuous feast of eye candy fit for a king.

The only downside to starting off with such awesomeness is there’s frankly no way we see this level of quality being maintained for the whole run; but hey, prove us wrong, Evol!  We felt like we were watching a high-end movie. Clearly, they wanted to start off firing with both barrels, and they succeeded, to say the least. The pilot wasn’t just candy though, there were charms in what it had to say as well as what it had to show. The idea that guys and girls have to be kept apart and sealed off with “guize stones” (read: chastidy belts) to avoid “impure unions” and forbidden acts is a pretty funny premise; especially when push comes to shove, it was the lasses and lads coming together that helped them defeat their foe this time. Now comes the consequences, and in all likelihood, Amata and Mikono’s assimillation into the organization that protected them up to this point. Looking forward to it.


Rating: 4