(source: pixivid 7222799)
Zankyou no Terror just finished and I seem to have liked it more than some people did. As a rusted-on anime apologist I feel obligated to write something on its behalf. Since Zankyou no Terror is such a thematically heavy show let’s get into that. In particular, we’ll focus on the Oedipus story, and the characters Five and Lisa.
Zankyou no Terror explains the Oedipus mythology fairly well, but in case anybody needs a refresher, here’s Wikipedia. In a nutshell, it’s the story of a father who, because of vague prophecy, grows to fear his infant son, and tries to kill him. This eventually leads to the son killing the father in a self-fulfilling prophecy sort of way. Generalised, it is the story of mortals who are distrustful of the future and try to take control of it, only to have their efforts turned against them.
In Zankyou no Terror, the Oedipus narrative is cyclical. Mamiya despairs for the future of Japan, and decides to take a heavy hand in directing the next generation. He and his Athena program play the part of King Laius, effectively birthing their own Oedipus: Nine and Twelve. Their agenda is patricide, the destruction of their creator. In doing so, Nine and Twelve overthrow the old order, in the same way Oedipus ascends as king. At the end, they metaphorically gouge out their eyes via EMP. Shibazaki also plays Oedipus. He is groomed by Nine and Twelve (aptly naming themselves ‘Sphinx’) specifically so he can put the pieces together, arrest them, and put a proper end to things. Just as the past must always give way to the future, each ‘generation’ is supplanted by the next. The Child is the father of the Man. Despite all the conspiracy and intrigue in Zankyou no Terror, the march of time remains inexorable.
Five and Lisa
Five and Lisa often get maligned for contrasting yet oddly similar reasons. Five shows up out of the blue and hijacks the plot. Lisa is there from the start and is a doormat. Obviously Five and Lisa are foils, and when such a fine pair of opposites show up in a story it always behooves us to ask what they represent in the narrative. In part, Zankyou no Terror is about the relationship between the individual and society, and Five and Lisa are both products of social isolation. For Five, it was an incidental result of the engineered environment in which she was raised. For Lisa, it arose naturally out of her peer group. Both come out worse for the experience.
If Five’s obsession over Nine feels one dimensional it is because she developed one dimensionally. Intellectually, she’s been trained as an adult. Emotionally, she is childishly stunted. Five only understands valuing achievement and conquest, and therefore cannot express herself in any way but competition. Defeating Nine is the only way she knows to satisfy her need for attention; she does not know how to properly show affection because she had never been shown affection. Thus her ‘love’ of Nine could only be expressed through that primal, selfish love of herself.
While Five spent her entire childhood institutionalised, Lisa never found a place where she felt she belonged. The perpetual ostracism leaves her with a very weak sense of self. If Five is a high-achiever, then Lisa is a non-achiever. Before meeting Twelve, she simply subsists. It’s curious how, despite the polar opposition between Five’s intense narcissism and Lisa’s beaten ego they both hinder Sphinx, with Five being the active obstacle and Lisa being a passive weight. The way they do so play into the development of the Sphinx pair. Five obsesses over Nine. Lisa hangs pitifully onto Twelve. Nine represents the weight of the past. Twelve represents hopes for the future. Five dies. Lisa lives. What that all means I leave as an exercise for the reader. With the amount of depth in Zankyou no Terror, it can mean something to anyone.