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Warning: this article is full of explosive spoilers and it includes some sensitive content. Read at your own risk or choose another article to read instead.
Yes my dear otakus, we came back to talk about one of those animes that was an authentic surprise. Zankyou no Terror was produced by Mappa (Kids on the Slope, Days), directed by Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo) and musicalized by Yoko Kanno (Wolf’s Rain, Macross Frontier). With such a killer combination, this anime has been considered by some as the best of 2014. We are living on an era of sequels, prequels, and remakes. That is one of the reasons why Zankyou no Terror stood out (something new, yeah!). And yet, this anime would not have been successful if not for its fast plot pace, unusual premise including terrorism and its short but well developed cast of characters.
Among the cast of characters, we have three youngsters who survived a cruel experiment by the Japanese government: Five, Nine and Twelve. While Nine and Twelve team up to become the terrorist duo known as Sphinx, it was not revealed that Five was alive until later episodes. Five becomes a great opponent for this two, but especially for Nine. Wanna know exactly how their story goes and becomes a romance? Keep reading!
1. Because Nine is a cold but idealist hacker.
Meet Arata Kokonoe, I mean, Nine. This black haired guy is tall for his age. When he is not wearing his school uniform, he uses casual black and gray clothes. Nine could pass for the cool, handsome guy in the classroom. We even see several girls surrounding him on his first day of school, asking for his phone number. Nine’s demeanor is also mysterious, which on our opinion, gives him more points on popularity too. Although that cold gaze of him could send you directly to the North Pole…
Nine is highly intelligent. It is largely due to his ability with strategy and informatics that Sphinx is such an effective combo, always avoiding to be caught. On a more personal level, Twelve has described Nine as a nice person, which is shown when he saves a sleeping girl during one of their terrorist attacks. Plus, Nine is so keen to plan such risky scenarios because he wants to uncover the inhuman experiments that the Government did on himself, Twelve, and other deceased children.
2. Because Five is a vengeful and sadistic government agent.
Enter Five, a young woman with white hair and purple eyes. She used to be portrayed with pale yellow hair when she was small, so there is some speculation regarding the change. Anyway, five usually wears a black sailor-like outfit and combines it with purple make-up, even nail polish. Five looks and acts in a slightly childish way, but don’t let her song of “London bridge” trick you. She has a very personal agenda in the Sphinx matter. Five was called by the government of the United States to help (cof, cof, intervene, cof) with the investigation on the terrorist attacks in Tokyo.
And that’s just what this lady does. When it is time to enter into action, Five is cold and effective. She is also sadistic. Five enjoys giving her opponents mental stress. Before Five arrived to Tokyo, the local police was having great difficulties to underpin Sphinx. Thus, as an expert on manipulative mind games, this lady is the perfect rival for Nine. Which lead us to the next point…
3. Because of the mind games they play together.
Once upon a time, Five and Nine were innocent children. They were part of an experiment called the Athena Plan, which experimented on humans with a drug in order to stimulate superior cerebral functions. Many died in the process, and 26 children under the age of five were raised with the drug and a special program to train their skills. The children had numbers as names and were divided from the world. And among them, Five and Nine created a particular bond, as their intelligence level was similar. They played chess frequently, but Five was never able to defeat Nine.
We also should mention here that Nine escaped with Twelve from the experimental facility, but Five was not able to follow them. This fact has tormented Nine for the rest of his life, as he has Post Traumatic Stress disorder. That means he has recurrent nightmares based on his memory of leaving Five behind, and some of them are frankly terrorifying. So, when Five comes back to Japan, Nine believes she has come for revenge.
Such a misunderstanding might be more comprehensible when we see all the mental tricks Five uses ruthlessly to find Sphinx. The best duel between she and Nine is undoubtedly the airport scene from episodes 6 and 7. The place becomes a giant chess board manipulated by Five, who has Nine, Twelve ,and their friend Lisa running all over the place in order to stop a hidden bomb. However Nine won´t let Five have it her way, so he manages to get into her command center to confront her at gunpoint. Thus, these two aim at each other with superior mind games. We definitely should not… be in the middle.
4. Because of THAT plot twist.
Things get complicated as the story of Zankyou no Terror spins towards its climax. Nine decides to turn himself to the Police, assuring he will share his story (his truth) in a Conference. Meanwhile, Five has been shown to suffer from strong headaches and is hospitalized. Although all the children subjected to the experiment will die young, Five’s condition has worsened faster than Nine´s or Twelve´s. When the US government personnel decides to chase down Nine for their own purposes, Five crawls away from bed assuring that Nine is only hers.
Next comes one of the best car (and motorbike) chase scenes of the series. Nine is heading for the Conference heavily custodied and with several decoy vehicles. Five chases him in a car and Twelve tries to interfere in a motorbike. Everyone ends up crashing their vehicles, but when Five is heading towards the handcuffed Nine, her subaltern points his gun to her and tells her she is dismissed. The cold and indifferent Five simply shoots the subaltern for approaching Nine. So… she ends up betraying the organization she was working for! Wasn’t Five supposed to take Nine to the US? But on that point, she reveals that the only thing she wanted was to defeat Nine, and that she was capable of living a little longer because of him. Then, Five kisses Nine.
5. Because it was an unfinished story.
If at this point you are not moved or at least confused, you have not been paying attention. But before we (and Nine) are able to recover just a little bit, Five tells Nine that she is going forward, requesting him to live for her. Five shoots the gas tank from the nearest crashed car and instantly dies in the explosion. This gives Nine and Twelve enough time to escape the scene. Thanks to Five’s intervention, Sphinx was able to regroup and eventually accomplish their goal to reveal the corruption behind the government.
Now we can shed a tear or two. We could guess that Five didn’t have much time left since her time at the hospital, but this was one of the shortest lived romances ever. Five and Nine were both young but trying hard to behave like adults, dealing with decisions that could affect entire countries. At least Twelve and Lisa acted more frequently like teenagers, but these two rarely had the opportunity. So, their story is very sad because it feels like it was not fully lived nor unfinished.
Zankyou no Terror’s main topics were kind of serious. The story centered on rebellion and the reaffirmation of the self through violent acts after all. Nevertheless, the plot managed to fit even romance into its short length without losing its coherency. Let me explain: it would be difficult to imagine complex and traumatized characters such as Five and Nine in a more normal setting. They were conditioned since very young to be detached. Thus, the cold, calculated and ultimately ruthless way in which their relationship develops fits the anime’s topics and atmosphere. In an era where anime couples sometimes feel too generic, Five and Nine relationship dynamics was an interesting twist. Because, who could deny they cared for each other? As deeply damaged individuals, at least they tried their best to understand their thoughts. And for people with high intelligence like Five and Nine, thoughts are the most important thing they can share or manipulate to recreate reality.
Did you like Five and Nine as a couple? Why or why not? Let’s not forget that we are open to all your comments. See you soon!