Until I had actually watched the first episode of Zankyou no Terror (Terror in Resonance), the new original anime produced by MAPPA and directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, I hadn't realized how little info I knew about the story. This turned out to be a good thing, since almost from the first second, the show was not what I expected and took me on a wild ride that was artistically hefty and more promising than any anime I have seen in a long time.
The plot, as I understand it from this episode, revolves around two high schoolers who escaped from some kind of military or research facility as children and are seemingly carrying out a revenge plot using acts of terrorism. The show implies that they are either highly-trained professionals or perhaps somehow modified to be abnormally smart and capable - Toji apparently has an eidetic memory and instantly remembers the names of everyone at school; Arata can visualize entire blueprints in his mind down to the number of steps needed to get from place to place. This aside from the skills they display in the show's opening sequence, which involves a heist of nuclear material from a disposal facility.
Toji and Arata's plans seem masterfully detailed and every variable has been taken into account; aside, of course, for Lisa Mishima – the socially awkward, bullied, possibly anorexic outcast with the domineering mother who accidentally stumbles into Toji and Arata's plot and becomes their accomplice.
However, the best part about Zankyou no Terror and the reason it seems to be turning heads all over the anime community is not so much what happened in the episode and more how it was done. This certainly had the artistic flair and execution of a grandiose cinematic project, and many little moments involving the dialogue, direction, and music (by the legendary Yoko Kanno) truly set an impressive stage. Arata is haunted by the death of a fellow inhabitant of the unnamed facility he and Toji escaped from – a girl whose eyes are the same as Mishima's. In what is the episode's strongest moment in my opinion, Mishima spots Toji in the stairwell of the building he and Arata are trying to detonate and calls out his name. He pauses for two seconds before turning around with his characteristic smile, and in those two seconds clearly devises an entire strategy to potentially draw her into their plot as a way to force Arata to confront his past demons and guilt over the death of their comrade. There seems to be an interesting dynamic brewing here between Mishima, who is a "regular" type of social outcast, and Toji and Arata, who most certainly aren't. Mishima seems to have plenty of reasons to resent society, her school, and her family, and perhaps being exposed to Toji and Arata's motives will make her more of a willing accomplice. This is without mentioning the former detective who seems set to become the main force pushing against this plot, and I didn't even mention the 9/11 angle and the societal themes of terrorism and such. Mostly because it is a bit too early for that.
This static moment contains more subtext and character info than entire shows
In any case, Watanabe seems to be firing on all cylinders here. I find myself largely underwhelmed by his other recent high profile project – Space Dandy – but this feels different. It definitely has the trappings of a top tier serious anime, and with only 11 episodes, I predict it will have very little fluff and might end up being a tight, suspenseful, action-packed classic.