Zankyou no Terror and Following the Handbook

Zankyou no Terror stood as the best thriller this summer.  (I suppose Aldnoah.Zero could be considered its only competitor.  Perhaps, Tokyo Ghoul as well?)  I very much enjoyed watching it, and rated it three and a half stars.  This might seem low to some, and it took a while to place my finger on why a higher rating did not square with my impression of the show.  At last, I hit upon the reason: Zankyou no Terror rates three and a half stars or 7/10 because it was perfect and no more than that.

Sono Serifu

You see, my dear readers, the modern world has reduced story writing to a science with much more precision than Aristotle accomplished in his Poetics.  Visit your local Barnes & Noble, and you can discover manifold handbooks on how to write a good story lining the shelves.  Follow their instructions, and, with a little practice, you too can create a polished story like Zankyou no Terror!  No exaggeration!  Of course, if you refrain from placing your own uniqueness into the work, the story will in nowise rate 7/10.  Placing his own unique vision and artistry into Zankyou no Terror is precisely how Shinichiro Watanabe guaranteed a story at least that good.

Odd Ball Terrorists

Not to say that following the handbook is a bad thing: the reason handbooks give the advice they do is because successful stories exhibit common features.  Yet, the knowledge that one is following a universally accepted framework forces one to add much more originality into a work in order to immerse people like me into the story.  For example, the first three novels of Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files exhibit such a framework.  Yet, Jim Butcher adds loads of originality to his work by creating an inimitable mixture of thriller, horror, hard-boiled, and fantasy which hold the reader spellbound.  Zankyou no Terror restricted itself solely to the material modern world; yet, it did add a nice dose of originality with its inclusion of the Oedipus legend, 70’s vibe (70’s movies often featured the villains being the good guys or the villain winning in the end), chess metaphors, and terrorist teenagers trying to expose government corruption.  But, this was not enough for me to rate it higher.

Anyone else see this one coming a mile away?

Anyone else see this one coming a mile away?

Clarence obviously never studied famous gun fighters.  Wild Bill Hickok was killed in about the same way: someone shot him from under the card table.

Clarence obviously never studied famous gun fighters. Wild Bill Hickok was killed in about the same way: someone shot him from under the card table.

Once again, I liked Zankyou no Terror.  All the same, I wish it exhibited more originality–even originality which was patently flawed.  (After all, originality derives from our individuality, which itself is flawed.)  For example, Cowboy Bebop has many flaws, and the story-telling is no where near as tight; but it’s a classic.  People will remember and want to watch Cowboy Bebop again decades from now, but one cannot say the same about Zankyou no Terror.  But, Zankyou no Terror really does nothing wrong, which is an odd critique to make against it.  And, in its defense, thrillers are particularly beholden to the recipes in the handbook in order to ensure that tension does not drop.  And so, the show is very good but not great.

Shibazaki was by far my favorite character in the series.

Shibazaki was by far my favorite character in the series.

Well, I wrote an opinion that probably only a fellow fiction writer would agree with; but, do any of my dear readers think the same way I do about Zankyou no Terror?

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9 comments on “Zankyou no Terror and Following the Handbook

  1. Genki Jason says:

    I liked that it was different from other anime but the writing was sloppy. The mixture of big action and real detective work didn’t quite gel for me but was still enjoyable but my big problem was in making the Americans the bad guys was wrong – what on earth did they have to gain? the only people who would lose were nationalistic Japanese – this resulted in the ending being a misfire despite being desperately beautiful.

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    • If there were terrorists with a nuclear bomb running around in Japan, the USA would certainly be involved. And, logically, they would be the good guys. But, Japan loves to paint western powers in dark colors. So, it might not have been such a bad decision for Watanabe to pander to the tastes of his primary audience in this way–kind of like having a Russian villain in an American film.

      At any rate, my favorite example of an Western power playing the villain has to be Britain in Read or Die the TV series. If you haven’t seen it, I don’t want to spoil the plot by revealing what Britain’s evil plot is, but it’s pretty epic.

      I will agree with you that the ending had a beauty to it, but felt a little sloppy. It did further my impression of the anime as influenced by 70’s movies in having our heroic villains die at the end.

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  2. As I read through this a bunch of times, I was reminded of the afternoon-time dramas in my country and how I react to them. Originality, huh? I feel like I’ve been watching the same thing over and over when it comes to the dramas in my country…Still, I think they can do better than that. I do hope that someone very creative and morally upright would write and publish stories that the Philippines needs…

    Also, I think I’d definitely have a different opinion if I ever watched Zankyou no Terror, but hey, I think I can pick up some writing tips from knowing other people’s opinions on a story.

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    • One of the main problems with the film industry is precisely that they are focused so much on making money. This causes them to use the same stories over and over again because they see that people pay to watch them, and they’re afraid to take chances.

      But, novels are not completely immune from this either. I remember hearing about one female author who admitted to using the same template for all 50+ of her novels, which all became bestsellers. All she did was change the names, places, and personalities. That tells you about the general quality of romance novels right there! I’d shoot myself before pulling such a thing. xD

      Be sure to pick of Zankyou no Terror when you’re in the mood for a thriller. It is a very good story, which I enjoyed despite many of the twists and turns being expected.

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  3. GoodbyeNavi says:

    You’re right. Though, this show was good, it was textbook. It could have been amazing if some of the plot holes were explored in more depth. Or not given such an easy solution such as the center where they were experimenting on just burning down, the detective getting his “revenge”, the deaths of 9 and 12. I still enjoyed the show immensely. Would most likely give it an 8/10.

    Like

    • I debated between giving this show a 7/10 or 8/10, but the blandness of most of the characters and textbook feel of the plot inclined me toward the lower rating. Perhaps another episode for exploring those plot holes would have made it better.

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  4. Lucas says:

    I enjoyed it a lot, I would probably give it 8/10. But I think that it could have been a lot better if it explored more in depth about it characters, about the place where they grew up, and make the story have more episodes to do it in a nicely paced way. It was a very good anime, but in my opinion it had potential to be better if it only had more episodes.

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    • I think that you’re right. The main reason I did not rate it higher is because they did not delineate the characters as well as they could have. The plot was rather streamlined, which can be a good thing–especially if one wishes to avoid the tension dropping. Oh, well. Watanabe’s masterpiece is Cowboy Bebop, and genius like that often doesn’t strike twice.

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  5. […] a lenient grader: when I rate a show three and a half stars, it means that the show did everything right and I would watch it again.  At the same time, it doesn’t strike me as especially memorable […]

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