Zankyou no Terror – Reflections of the Early 21st Century

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Zankyou no Terror, also known as Terror in Resonance, aired from July – September 2014. It’s a short 11-episode series from Aniplex, but I think it captures the 21st century like no other anime, making it a good watch. I haven’t seen an anime represent the problems of our world as well as Zankyou no Terror since Shin Sekai Yori. Some of the themes that the anime covers are: terrorism, information spread, a lost generation, and government actions. If you haven’t heard of Zankyou no Terror before, below is the official plot outline:

In an alternate version of the present, Tokyo has been decimated by a shocking terrorist attack, and the only hint to the identity of the culprit is a bizarre video uploaded to the internet. The police, baffled by this cryptic clue, are powerless to stop the paranoia spreading across the population.
While the world searches for a criminal mastermind to blame for this tragedy, two mysterious children—children who shouldn’t even exist—masterfully carry out their heinous plan. Cursed to walk through this world with the names Nine and Twelve, the two combine to form “Sphinx,” a clandestine entity determine to wake the people from their slumber—and pull the trigger on this world.
I didn’t think the outline really brings out the masterpiece of Zankyou no Terror, so I’m going to cover what I got out of the series.

Terrorism in the 21st Century
Throughout most of history, major conflicts have been waged between large groups of people, such as between countries. In the 21st century, we are seeing a shift to major conflicts being waged between small bands of people or even individuals, and society as a whole. One only need to pick up a newspaper to see the latest attack on society with calls for revolution and drastic changes to the way things are run. Oftentimes we’ll hear about how the perpetrators of such attacks often acted alone or as a small group, despite associating themselves with a larger organization or ideal. Zankyou no Terror clearly focuses on this issue in the first episode, when Nine and Twelve bomb the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. The scenes were clearly based off of the September 11 attack on NYC, with the building collapsing in the exact same way as the World Trade Center. Unlike the 9/11 attacks though, this attack was orchestrated by two individuals and they had planned it to result in zero deaths.
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What Zankyou no Terror highlights is that conflicts have changed. They are no longer focused around land and resources, but around ideals and the foundations of society. Governments now not only need to worry about external threats, but internal threats as a result of their policies or past actions.

Information Spread

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We live in an age where all ideas can be transmitted with the click of a button. In the anime, Sphinx uses the internet to broadcast their riddles to the authorities, but that is likely based off of real world events. Just think of the number of times you’ve heard of terrorist organizations delivering messages to their enemies through internet videos. They are also used to preach their ideals with the hope of converting young people to their cause. While Sphinx does not do this, we do see some scenes where normal people eagerly anticipate their next video. In essence, they have gained a following and once you have a following it’s not hard to gain their support.

A Lost Generation

Lisa, a girl that accidentally stumbles upon Nine and Twelve’s plan at the Metropolitan Building, is a representation of the young people who are unhappy with the state of the world. Many of Lisa’s problems stem from her relationship with her mother, which leads her to run away and join Sphinx. Although her role in Sphinx is almost negligible, I think it’s interesting that she joined them without knowing the real reason for what they were doing. To her, Sphinx was an escape from her normal life and an attempt to find someplace where she belonged. Again, just take a look at any newspaper in the real world today and you’ll see that there are a lot of people like Lisa who leave their homes in order to fight in a conflict or join a cause far away. While the rise of the internet and spread of information has benefitted the world immensely, the backlash is that sometimes bad ideas make their way to the most vulnerable people.

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The Government

Of course, you can’t talk about terrorism in the 21st century without talking about what caused it in the first place. Many terrorist groups believe that they have been wronged in some way by the prevailing society or government(s), and to some extent, they have. This is at the core of Sphinx’s actions. They are the result of a secret government program to create super agents in order to protect the country, but at the cost of their childhoods and the lives of many friends. Not only that, but the nuclear weapon that they steal in the first episode was also the result of a secret government program.

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Large-scale government programs that are meant to control the population are not a new phenomenon, but they have been traditionally associated with repressive countries run by dictatorships, not with governments of the free world. With the realization a few years ago that nearly all governments are involved in some form of illegal spying or weapons development (either physical or digital), it begs the question of whether we are truly free. Zankyou no Terror’s answer to that question is a simple “no”. Despite the advances in human rights and access to information that we have made, Sphinx sees the world as having gone down the wrong path and strives to reset it with their final attack.

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The Riddle of the Sphinx

I believe that the writers of Zankyou no Terror chose to use the riddle of the Sphinx to emphasize that man is always in a state of change. From crawling on all fours, to walking on two legs, and using a walking stick, we never stay the same for very long. Zankyou no Terror is a great reflection of the problems of the early 21st century, highlighting a world filled with terrorism, information, a lost youth, and secretive governments. While the anime doesn’t give us any answers as to how to solve these problems, it does give us a glimmer of hope with the riddle of the Sphinx, implying that things will change.

I definitely recommend Zankyou no Terror for anyone that’s looking for a serious and intelligent anime series. It would be interesting to rewatch this anime in a few decades to see how or if the world has changed.

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