「敗・北」 (Hai Kita)

It’s not the best series of the season so far (that would be Golden Kamuy for me), but in many ways I think SSSS.Gridman is turning out to be the most interesting one. It’s a big of a head-scratcher, in the sense that it’s defied my expectations in most ways and in equal measures it feels totally familiar and completely alien. But a couple of things are clear as day as far as I’m concerned:

  • Three episodes of Gridman so completely blows any complete Trigger series out of the water that it could jump the shark totally next week and still be their best show by far.
  • Visually, this show is gorgeous. Whatever you may think of the content, the production is a full-on eyegasm.

What’s familiar? Well, this is like waking up in 1999 for me – it’s by far the most Gainax series Trigger has ever done, authentically in a way the Imaishi series feel like a cheesy cover band. This is the Anno Hideaki school of directing to be sure, and while it may not have been a direct nod to that (I have no idea if there’s a “Shinseiki” anything in either Gridman or Transformers), the introduction of the “Neon Genesis Chuugakusei” certainly brought a smile to my face. In this sense, watching SSSS.Gridman is like a long-awaited reunion with an old friend.

But then there’s the fact that all this familiarity is the package for a product that’s quite unfamiliar to me (and Gainax) in most ways. I know next to nothing about either Denkou Choujin Gridman or Transformers: Shattered Glass, the two wellsprings for most of the content of SSSS.Gridman. Thus I get the feeling there are a ton of references in every episode I’m simply not getting. I know Obari Masami of course, the inspiration for much of this show’s non-Gainax visual flair, whose legend far exceeds any of the numerous franchises he’s worked on. Gainax, Transformers, Gridman, Obari – it’s a heady and peculiar mix of influences but so far, it’s working damn well.

And that’s the other interesting thing about SSSS.Gridman – for all the terrible aggregator scores it’s getting in English, the series seems poised to be a monster hit in Japan. Perhaps there simply aren’t enough Western anime fans who are fans of those influences or Gainax nostalgia buffs, but the series has clearly struck a nerve with Japanese otaku. It’s set at 12 episodes, but unless the pre-sale estimates (I guess we can’t call them “stalker” anymore) are off by historically unprecedented numbers, SSSS.Gridman is a lock for at least a sequel or a movie (or possibly both).

Perhaps the story might not be moving along quite so quickly had Amemiya and Hasegawa known they were likely to have all that extra time to work with, but no one can accuse them of treading water. A ton happens in this episode, starting with the introduction of Anti (Suzumura Kenichi). Akane’s pet kaiju who takes the form of a young boy, his presence seems to lend credence to Shou’s theory that the kaiju are people – except they’re not, and Shou was just yanking Yuuta’s chain anyway. Unfortunately Yuuta took that seriously and it stayed his hand in the fight with Anti, seemingly causing the death (and certainly the defeat) of he and Gridman. And considerable guilty feelings for Shou.

One of the big questions hanging over the series is the matter of Akane’s future. It’s strongly hinted at by the OP and ED that she’s headed for a redemption, but boy, that’s going to be a tough sell for me. Thus far she’s frankly a colossal asshole – she kills people casually and for the pettiest of reasons. She created Anti as a weapon specifically to kill Gridman, then after he fails (more there in a minute) she literally tosses garbage on him and blows him off (the kindness Rikka showed him earlier may pay dividends later). Maybe Akane is going to be let off the hook on the grounds that all this is some kind of virtual simulation, a matrix – but even so, her character seems pretty irredeemable to me.

The dynamic amongst the Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad is rather interesting. They’re still basically strangers to each other, and they act like it – their interactions are awkward to be sure. But when Rikka thinks Yuuta is dead, she’s so unmade that she can’t even bring herself to call him or ring his doorbell to find out for sure. And Shou is so aghast that his joke may have led to their demise that he doesn’t know what to do. I loved the fact that it was simply a matter of calling Yuuta on the phone to confirm he’s alive – though Rikka had a right to be pissed that he’d never tried to call them from wherever he was.

The arrival of the Shinseiki Junior High squad seems to put all the major pieces on the board, and totally changes the balance of power with Anti. Max (Konishi Katsuyuki) is some kind of armored tractor and he gives us a full-on gettai scene when he enters the fray. There’s also Borr (Aoi Yuuki), whose human form seems to be a boy even though he has twintails, and whose weapon form is unknown (to those of us who don’t know the Gridman franchise). Ditto Vitt (Matsukaze Masaya). I could point out that neither he not Max look remotely like chuugakusei but eh, that seems like a blind alley…

The name of the game here – what makes all this work for me – is style. Stuff like the scene where Calibur picks up the kids one by one and carries them to the junk shop in the rain, and the beautifully-rendered wet clothing on Rikka and Shou as they watch the battle with Anti play out, and the eerily Anno-like shots of telephone wires and utility poles giving every long shot depth-of-field, and the battles between Gridman and Anti. One doesn’t need to know anything about tokusatsu or Transformers or even Obari to appreciate that. It’s timeless and glorious if you love anime – especially mecha, especially Gainax – from the turn-of-the-century era. I do, and so far I’m gobbling up SSSS.Gridman like candy.


      1. I think Akane will be redeemed, but probably at at the last episode. Rikka is likely the main girl though regardless. She gets most of the focus, especially with how episodes 2 & 3 showed her.

      1. https://randomc.net/image/SSSS%20Gridman/SSSS%20Gridman%20-%2003%20-%20Large%2034.jpg

        Girdman was originally a tokusatsu show in the 90’s of which this series takes the premise of. In the original show, all the fights were done in cyber space as opposed to the real world.

        Additionally, there was an American Localization which was called Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad (aka the SSSS in the title), and is where the Samurai part comes from in all the Neon Genesis Junior High Student’s names (ex. Samurai Calibur). Also, the bad guy was voiced by Tim Curry.

        If I had to guess, the story is potentially going to actually reflect on this aspect a decent amount through different universes (evidenced by the character’s designs being based off an alternate universe transformer’s story).

        Teflon Don
  1. So (in the simuldub) we get Apphia Yu as pigtails, and I can’t voice ID the other two. Also interesting is her name is Borr which is a callback to Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad, which was the name of the twin-drill flying tank(twin drills, twin pigtails, I get it I get it). Max’s Tracto-something-whatsit it also the name of an SSSS vehicle. And they’re all Neon Genesis Junior High students. U wot. Apparently Anti is basically dark Gridman and part of Akane’s breakfast club. That one part would have been adorable if Akane wasn’t an insane serial killer and mistreating her creation, to boot.

    I think I’ll end up liking the Gridman weapon team, especially Borr.

    Rikka is, after all going to be a handful. I’m honestly curious as to what her relationship with Yuta is, because there was definitely something there.

      1. https://randomc.net/image/SSSS%20Gridman/SSSS%20Gridman%20-%2003%20-%20Large%2024.jpg
        Neon Genesis Junior High. That one’s a bit obvious is it not? So it seems that Yuuta and Calibur were waiting in Cyber space presumably, I feel like that’s going to be a more prominent aspect, but I’m still having a lot of trouble putting all the pieces together as to how this works with the original series. I’m guessing they are living in a digital world possibly (that’s how the frozen Kaiju are possible and gives somewhat of an explanation for them) and how Gridman can fight in the seemingly physical realm. In that case I would think maybe Yuuta is actually from the physical world and got stuck in this cyberspace, which in turn has another cyber space with in itself? Oh yeah, if just slight more evidence of SG being inspiration, Yuuta’s phone case is purple and the hole around the camera seems to outline the Autobot symbol, just giving some slight more tinder to the woodpile of references. it just occurred to me, but if the anime is currently taking place in a digital world, that would mean everyone is theoretically a cyber being of some sort, in which case comparing them all to transformers is even more apt a comparison to make as they would basically be robots/AIs of a sort. Man, I feel like I’m hyping way too much into this show, but this is probably one of the strangest references that could theoretically dictate how the entire show works out, and yet be extremely fitting. Also, considering the Neon Genesis team is not based off SG characters, they probably would be from the same plane as Yuuta.

    1. Yeah, I figured they did from the first episode. Rikka was acting kind of weird the way she mentioned them only talking for the first time. I’m guessing she’s the only one who kept her memories while Yuta lost his, and now she’s the only one who remembers how things were between them.

      Ryodo Ish
    1. Well I’ve only read that on third party sources, the official site doesn’t specify I don’t believe. But why would the dub thing throw you off either way? Boy characters Borr’s apparent physical age are voiced by women a majority of the time both in dubs and the original Japanese.

  2. Yeah, if they are going to go with an Akane redemption arc then it the only way that would work in my eyes is if the world is a simulation. I mentioned it before, but that theory is seeming more and more likely. Too many things just don’t add up. Of course it could all be magic, but a simulation would be a more elegant and simple way to tie all the fantastical elements together. Plus it would lend more credence to Gridman and co being “Guests” who intrude upon Akane’s fun. They just made her too petty and evil for any other explanation to work IF they were going to try and redeem her. If she really does kill hundreds to thousands of real people everytime she summons a Kaiju she’d be worse than Charioice XVII, and that guy was freakking anime Hitler. He was at least somewhat well intentioned lol.

  3. I just picked up the show recently all thanks due to Rikka’s thicc smooth tighs.

    I remember watching Ultraman as a kid and also those Godzilla shows back in the 90s. This is definitely a throwback to those times.

    I laughed so hard at the different iterations of Godzilla in the past episodes. They even got the Godzilla beam sound down to the exact pitch. Where’s my Godzilla roar?!

    And Neon Genesis Evangelion High School? Is this set BEFORE the events of NGE? Where’s Shinji!?

    Henrietta Brix
  4. Still finding it a bit odd the kids haven’t asked the new comers what the heck is all this about and why is the world resetting and who is gridman and why are they being attacked etc. You have the ppl right there infront of you – complete strangers – but forget trying to understand anything just accept them and roll with it. Am I the only one that finds this all distracting? The only reason I am continuing to watch this is because not much else out there to watch.


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