zankyou no

In the Japanese psychological thriller  animation, Zankyou no Terror, also known as Terror in Resonance, by Shinichiro Watanabe, Tokyo has been decimated by terror attacks, the only hint of who did it in a video uploaded to the internet. The police, unable to figure out the culprits must face more terror attacks throughout Tokyo. While the world struggles to find the mastermind to these acts of terror, little do they know that two highschool students are the ones behind it all. Under the alias of “Sphinx”, two seventeen year old boys named Nine and Twelve plan to open Tokyo’s eyes, a place that had forgotten what they had done to these poor boys as small children. Lisa Mishima a sixteen year old girl, bullied, and a fellow classmate of theirs, gets entangled in one of Nine and Twelve’s heists, their fates combined after that. As a psychological thriller made for boys seventeen year old and up, it is less likely females may watch this Japanese animation. Despite the many themes throughout the animation one specific scene resonates for fans of the show alone. Shinichiro Watanabe successfully uses emotion and his prior knowledge in directing to express his reworking of the damsel in distress archetype for the female character Lisa to portray that women need to be more aware of the harsh reality of society, life is not a fairytale. The scene more commonly known as the motorcycle scene portrays Lisa’s new perspective of society in Tokyo through the theme of fantasy vs reality through imagery, dialogue, and music choice.

Watanabe reimaging of the damsel in distress archetype depicts Lisa to be someone who lives in a fantasy, someone who wants to be taken away from this world by someone but is hit with the harsh  reality of the dangers of society. In the beginning of the fourth episode of the show, the main character Lisa Mishima is surrounded in dark imagery in an alley all alone after running away from home, unaware of the danger around her. This appeals to the audience’s emotions as they fear what might happen to her. It is night out, making Lisa’s surroundings a dark blue hue when three young men approach her as she’s sitting on the ground. “You by yourself? Wanna play with us? We know of a nice place” they ask while one young man grips onto her shoulder, their body language and laughter seeming anything but innocent. This is Lisa’s first instance in the scene as being the damsel in distress, in a hurry she slaps the man’s hand off her shoulder and yells, “No!”and runs away to where there’s more light, conveying that help might be closer than she thinks. In the novel, Heroines of Film and Television : Portrayals in Popular Culture, “A Damsel’ed woman on the other hand is shown to be incapable of escaping the predicament on her own and the must wait for a savior to come and do it for her…”(Bajac-Carter & Batchelor et al). Unlike this quote Lisa runs into her “savior” Twelve in the park. Lisa is shown catching her breathe while gripping onto a silver fence when Twelve breaks the silence, “Whatcha doing?” he asked. Lisa appears shocked at first but her eyes soften and shine as she recognizes Twelve. It is presumed that Twelve puts Lisa at ease compared to how her reaction to the men mentioned previously, she’s not afraid of him. It is ironic that there is not anything heroic about him. In the show Watanabe portrays Twelve as an anti-hero trying to prove his existence with terrorist attacks. His only act of heroism is with Lisa, constantly saving her from trouble later in the show as she gets more entangled with his terrorist heists, she becomes his damsel. Without context, the scene hints that Lisa’s phone might have a tracker on it. Before he finds Lisa he is depicted sitting next to a bus stop, watching  a little red blimp move through the city on his phone. But what the audience who has watched the show know is that Twelve has a tracker on Lisa’s phone to watch out for her. Twelve is not portrayed to be the most charming savior. Twelve gets straight to the point by telling Lisa to, “Go home. It dangerous to wander around place like this…It’ll be trouble for me to let you wander around”. As if he knew the interaction that happened earlier with the young men and Lisa. Watanabe makes Twelve a non typical savior to fit the genre of the show more. A psychological thriller cannot have your typical happily ever after ending as seen in fairy tales.

Through her actions the audience feels that Twelve’s words break Lisa, as she shouts back  to leave her alone back facing him, not wanting to look at him in the face and “It’s not like [she] has anywhere to go home to”. What is not depicted in the scene is that Lisa had just run away from home. The audience’s heartstrings are pulled by Lisa’s hopelessness, up until the beginning of the scene Lisa has not realized the dangers of the world around her especially to a frail girl like her. This is where the theme of fantasy vs. reality comes into play. Lisa has been living a fantasy where she thought she could escape, “taken somewhere out of this world” but she is hit with reality when she realizes how truly alone she is. As  Susan T. Fried conveys, “ In public and private life, violence or the threat of violence terrorizes many women and keeps them from freely and wholly contributing… to function as full citizens in society” (“Violence against Women”). This helps demonstrate that Lisa is naive about society, she is too trusting and not aware of the danger around her. Terror in Resonance demonstrates Tokyo to be a defeated city due to terrorists attacks. Nandini Maity speaks that, “Many children grow up with Disney. Disney movies have strong influence on children…There are many girls who develop a dream of happily-ever-after lives like those of Disney stories”(“Damsels in Distress…”) . Terror in Resonance brings in the bigger picture that young girls should not dream of happily-ever-after endings since Lisa is depicted as fantasizing of a better life that does not come in  the way she wants. She runs away from home and runs into men that might hurt her and finally into the arms of terrorists attacking Tokyo, not exactly a typical Disney film. The show gives a more realistic approach to the damsel in distress archetype.

The director of the animation Shinichiro Watanabe, uses his credibility as a already successful director because of his critically acclaimed works: Samurai Champloo, and Cowboy Bebop to name a few, to convey a successful scene through dialogue and create thought out characters. The dynamic between Twelve and Lisa as damsel and savior are fantastic. One of the differences in the way the damsel in distress archetype is portrayed is how Twelve “saves” Lisa. In a normal damsel in distress archetype seen in early Disney princess films, such as The Little Mermaid and Cinderella, Nandini Maity reveals that usually princes are needed to “make [the] [damsels] dreams come true… and sweep her off her feet” (“Damsels in Distress…”). This is not the case in the beginning of the scene. As Lisa is talking about how she’s stupid for believing that  “…anyone would want to take [her] away when [she] wanted to”. Twelve does not say a word. He just stares distraught onto the street in front of him and even lets Lisa run away crying, not bothering to look her way and run after her. This is where Watanabe does something different from the usual damsel in distress archetype and has innovation as a director. He reworks the damsel and distress archetype because his characters do not get their happy ending quickly or ever. In this show it is a series of ups and downs such as Lisa running away from the young men at the beginning of the scene and even running away from Twelve after he tells her to go home in order to help her. In comparison to how in “Disney Princess stories…[they] teach us…how women gain happiness, meet a soul mate and live with the man” (Maity). In Terror in Resonance, Watanabe illustrates that not all women gain happiness easily but that it may be short lived. In fact the show ends bittersweet with Lisa all alone.

The audience feels for Lisa because it makes them wonder how much pain she must be feeling to be running from someone who is supposed to be her savior. Although Lisa “projects a woman’s naivety and daydreaming nature, emphasizing [her] weakness as a woman” (Maity), Twelve does not let her believe that she will be “rescued by her prince” (Maity). He lets her soak in the dangers of the world on her own before coming to her aid later in the scene. The audience is frustrated that Twelve did not run after Lisa because she runs away with tears dripping down her face but he wants her to realize that she needs him or else danger will follow her. Watanabe’s reworking of the damsel and distress archetype helps the audience realize that a savior cannot always be there to save them. It is important to know that reality is not a fairy tale, there are real dangers in the world.

Watanabe further illustrates the theme of fantasy vs. reality within the music choice in the final two minutes of the scene through Lisa’s fantasy of wanting to be taking away from this world coming true when Twelve comes to her aid. It is here where the damsel in distress archetype is fulfilled as Lisa is saved by Twelve. As Lisa runs away from Twelve the police are in pursuit of the character Nine because he’s about to set off a bomb in a empty warehouse. It is not long after that Twelve meets Lisa again. Police bump into Lisa after she feels she’s run far away from Twelve, asking her what she is doing out so late when a loud roar of a motorcycle crescendos into the scene. Before the audience can tell who it is from the bright lights of the motorcycle contrast with the dimly lit street, portraying the light as a beacon of hope for Lisa as she is displayed as frantic in the scene. As the light fades away, it’s Twelve with a big grin on his face. The piano music playing loudly in the background mimics Lisa’s footsteps. The tone of the piano music is hopeful and frantic by the quick pace of the music as Lisa takes no hesitation to hop onto Twelve’s motorcycle. As Lisa grips tightly onto Twelves back, eyes closed tight, the song “Is” by Kanno Youko and POP ETC plays in the background. The lyrics start, “Someone tell me how I got here…” alluding to what Lisa is thinking as she as gripping onto Twelve tightly as they are in pursuit of the police. As the blue and red lights of the police fade away Lisa finally looks up to see the city around her.

The lyrics follow her movements as they say, “Spirits flying at the speed of light…Traveling like a dream one night…”, Lisa and Twelve are free spirits drifting through the city. Visually she is lifting her head towards the sky letting the wind brush her face as she looks at peace. The purpose of the song is to portray that  it’s like a “dream” to Lisa because Twelve is fulfilling what she wanted at the beginning of the scene. An escape, she wanted to be “taken somewhere out of this world” and believed it was impossible until Twelve came to rescue her. Lisa breaks the silence as she asks Twelve, “Are you going to destroy the whole world?”, at first this surprises Twelve as the motorcycle screeches to the left but instead of responding he laughs as if it’s a silly question. Lisa laughs with him and admits that, “It’s been a really long time since  I’ve laughed like this” with a sad smile on her face the audience feels emotion for her pondering what kind of life was she experienced so far before Twelve. In the end, it seems Lisa fits the old damsel in distress Disney archetype, the example that the research scholar Nandini Maity gives of Snow White almost mirrors what Twelve does for Lisa. “Snow White needs a man to save her and give her life”. Similarly, in this scene Lisa did need Twelve to save her but in contrast Twelve gave Lisa meaning in life by showing her the realities of the world and making her fantasy of a escape, reality.

All in all, the scene more commonly known as the motorcycle scene portrays Lisa’s new perspective of reality in Tokyo through the theme of fantasy vs reality through imagery, dialogue, and music choice. Lisa begins the scene fantasizing of a better life and is crushed to see the reality is harsh. Tokyo is a scary place at night but Twelve fulfills her fantasy by saving her on his motorcycle. Furthermore, the animations helps the audience realize that a fantasy of being rescued by a savior cannot be possible with the harsh reality of society. For now Terror in Resonance depicts Lisa as a damsel in distress but it is not in a humiliating way, she is not a princess in a tower she is a normal girl who ran away from home looking for someone, anyone, to help her escape her reality. In the end with Twelve’s help she accepts her reality.


Annotated Bibliography

Batchelor, Bob, et al. Heroines of Film and Television : Portrayals in Popular Culture. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2014. EBSCOhost,

This source gives a lot of examples of how women are portrayed in television and film. Not only that it shows how women are portrayed as strong individuals not damsels in distress. This novel was very helpful in my research process it started as a great basis for what to expect from women in films. It did not talk about damsels in distress a lot but it did give a fantastic definition of it that I used in my essay. I believe this source is reliable as I got it from Chaffey E-books in the library database.

Maity, Nandini. “Damsels in distress: a textual analysis of gender roles in disney princess films.” Journal of Humanities and Social Science 19 (2014): 28-31.

This source focuses only on damsels in distress in disney princess films. It does not mention any newer disney films mostly the ones in 2D but it gives detailed accounts on how most early disney princess’ were damsels in distress.This source was the most helpful in my essay and I found myself using it a lot because I was able to connect my argument to the examples in the source. I believe this source is reliable, this one is from Google Scholar but under the authors name it provides information about the author such as how they are a research scholar from the department of english at the University of Burdwan.


Susana T. Fried. “Violence against Women.” Health and Human Rights, vol. 6, no. 2, 2003, pp. 88–111. JSTOR, JSTOR,

This source gives examples about violence against women and how it affects their daily lives. It gives evidence that may help bring about change to domestic violence. I only used this source a little bit in my essay to show the realities of the world that Lisa sees in the scene in my essay. I believe this is a credible source, since I got it from J-STOR and I have not had any problems with credibility before considering that it is a school database and is labeled as a scholarly source.