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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.
Japan, summer of 2014. A short anime produced by MAPPA was aired. It might have been overlooked by many, but Zankyou no Terror was a fresh look into three intertwined topics: science, politics and corruption. We can see the consequences from the point of view of three teenagers who literally shake the entire city of Tokyo in order to reaffirm their right to exist.
As this anime was full of fast paced action and psychological games, we could assume that there was no room for a love story. But sure there were a few surprisingly well developed couples! And among them, the one who stole the show was Twelve and Lisa. Although they never say anything like “I love you”, or even “I like you”, it was clear what they felt. Their story is a great example of showing and not telling about love! Let’s see exactly why we say they have an awesome love story.
1. Because Lisa is a troubled teenager
Enter Lisa, a shy girl who is bullied in her school by other girls. She is also seen hiding in a bathroom trying to eat, but does not manage to because she feels nauseated (hinting to an eating disorder). Unfortunately, Lisa also has trouble at home. If it is not enough to have divorced parents, her mentally unstable mother is too controlling.
For example, she is always sending Lisa messages, asking where she is and what she is doing. The mother’s excessive fear of being abandoned by Lisa ironically pushes her to run away from home. So yes, our protagonist is not the luckiest girl in the world. It is not surprising that at one point, Lisa wishes everyone would just disappear. We can notice that she is so lonely, that she is in desperate need of human connection. And guess who enters her life to provide precisely that?
2. Because Twelve has the sweetest personality ever
In contrast with his cold and collected comrade Nine, Twelve is the most enthusiastic guy. Although highly intelligent, he can’t help but have a personality as bright as the sunrise. Twelve is seen smiling almost all the time. Plus, since his first scene of the anime, he looks like he enjoys doing anything (including stealing a nuclear bomb, mind you).
Twelve forms part of the terrorist duo Sphinx together with Nine. This implies that he can be ruthless when they destroy public buildings and the like. Nevertheless, he also has a sense of justice, as these guys try to warn people before their attacks. Twelve also is shown to be empathic, as he defends Lisa from her bullies in the very first episode of the anime. And the way he does it couldn’t be further away from violent, as Twelve simply jumps into a pool at Lisa’s place. So, what is unlikable about this guy? His personality is absolutely sweet!
3. Because they create happiness together
Needless to say that her first encounter with Twelve and Nine in the pool scene left Lisa speechless. While she compared Nine’s eyes with cold ice, she compared Twelve’s smile with the sunlight warmth. So, we can tell Lisa is immediately attracted to Twelve, although not in a love sense yet. It is simply that the girl is shy and passive, while he is energetic. In this case, opposites attract.
And yes, we are talking about both because Twelve immediately takes an interest in her. He notices how Lisa goes to the bathroom with her lunch. Later that night, he comments to Nine that she has the same eyes of the kids they were raised up with in an experimental facility. But Nine warns him to not get involved with anyone. So, at first, Twelve suggests Nine they could avoid Lisa’s death during one of their terrorist attacks so that Nine can overcome the fact that the other kids were not able to escape the experimental facilities.
From that point on, Twelve pretends to treat Lisa in a light way and even jokes with her. But come on, it is evident he cares for her. It is Twelve who brings Lisa to the Sphinx “headquarters” and convinces Nine to let her stay with them. Every time the couple is alone, Twelve is shown smiling and kind. And who can forget that scene in the last episode where they are playing? With Lisa by his side, Twelve relaxes and becomes like a normal teenager. As for her, she eventually comes out of her shell and relaxes too. They truly become happy together.
4. Because Twelve risks everything to save Lisa
And by “everything,” we mean everything. Twelve never promised anything to Lisa. Quite the contrary, they were doing perilous stuff as terrorists and she was in risk all the time. It is Lisa who realizes that her lack of talents is making things difficult for her friends, so she runs away. Unfortunately, Lisa is noticed by the American organization NEST, who kidnaps her to capture Sphinx.
This creates a big tension between Twelve and Nine, as the latest prioritizes their mission above anything else and forbids his comrade to walk into NEST’s trap. But Twelve disobeys, risking his life and their mission. The moving scene where Twelve is deactivating bomb after the bomb attached to Lisa on the ferris wheel is one of the best in the whole anime. It is the best interaction between the both Twelve and Lisa. Lisa apologizes for putting herself in danger, but Twelve tells her it is not her fault, that he should be the one apologizing because he dragged her to that situation… but that he couldn’t help himself to approach her. Lisa insists that he should run away and help Nine achieve the mission, but he doesn’t leave. In that moment, Five from NEST calls Twelve offering to stop the bombs if he tells them where is the nuclear bomb they stole at the beginning of the show. At the last moment, Twelve betrays Nine by screaming the location of the bomb. This shows how important Lisa is for him, much more than any words of love.
5. Because Twelve gives Lisa a reason to live.
So, after making it out of that intense situation alive, Twelve takes Lisa on a date. At first, he refuses to touch any dark subject and behaves as any nice boyfriend should, but at Lisa’s insistence, Twelve confesses that no one ever needed Nine or himself before. She insists that Nine will forgive the betrayal, so they end up going to look for him. Here we can notice that Lisa becomes stronger thanks to Twelve, exposing herself to danger once more on her own accord.
We will not go into details about what happens in the climax of the story, as it is too sad (sniff). You will have to watch the show, but be prepared with a tone of tissues. Anyway, in the final scenes of the anime, we can see Lisa is behaving and thinking in a mature way. So, it is implied that she is doing just fine.
That doesn’t take the beautiful part of the story away, though. Twelve showed her that there were people capable of bonding with her out of choice, something that didn’t happen to Lisa before. She was also able to being loyal to Twelve and Nine out of her own choice. By being free and kind, Twelve triggered Lisa’s own freedom and identity, giving her a final reason to live: to remember Twelve and Nine. The guys who were not supposed to exist at all.
Zankyou no terror goes beyond your usual crime or thriller anime by giving its characters depth. In just a few episodes, the story was capable of showing true love and friendship between troubled teenagers. And it achieves this without forgetting the main objective of the show, which is showing us the human side of terrorism among the never ending politics play. This is not an easy task, especially taking on account the world we are currently living in.
In Zankyou no terror, we saw how ambition turns against its perpetrators in the hands of our protagonists. We also saw how, despite all their flaws and dangerousness, Twelve and Lisa only wanted to claim their right to be themselves. That is why Zankyou no terror has a special place in our hearts, and that is why Twelve and Lisa will hopefully enter the hall of fame of anime couples.
Which were your favorite moments with Twelve and Lisa? Which other anime characters resemble them or their story? Don’t forget that we are open to all your comments and suggestions. See you soon!