My goodness, but there’s a lot going on in SSSS.Gridman. A lot of popping hormones, a lot of subtext, a lot of crazy, a lot of fanservice, a lot of visual poetry, a lot of Gainax. The phrase “never a dull moment” certainly applies here because where there have been many times I’ve been a bit bemused by what’s happening on screen, I haven’t been bored once in five episodes.
The other thing there’s a lot of, of course, is mystery. And Shinjou Akane certainly seems to be at the heart of all of it. Maybe she isn’t directly responsible for Yuuta’s memory loss since she doesn’t even know for sure he’s her enemy, but she seems to be behind everything else. It was striking how she complained to Alexis about how much “more work” this encounter was going to be because she had to go out to the mountains for a class field trip. What does that mean, exactly? Does she just hate bugs and leaves in her hair or is something else (world-building, so to speak) being suggested here?
That field trip involves the kids going on a rafting trip, which reveals for Yuuta another annoying element of amnesia – not remembering where his bathing suit was. There’s plenty of equal-opportunity service here, starting with Akane, and Yuuta makes note of how “pudgy” Shou is. There’s sunscreen-play in both locker rooms and lots of that double-agenda “kids being kids” vibe, but you know something is going to happen once they actually arrive in the mountains – especially since the new kaiju Akane shows Alexis looks very much like a mountain itself.
Like his mentor Anno Hideaki, Amemiya-sensei clearly loves trains, and they’re a major supporting character in this episode. It would be hard to overstate how much I love the scene where the train Shou and Yuuta are riding on zips into the sunshine and suddenly, enormous kaijou can be seen towering over the city – it’s just so gorgeously shot. That Yuuta-kun is only impressed by the width of the river is a sign both of how jaded he’s become to the kaiju, and how his amnesia has robbed him of context – as far as he can remember, this is his first time on a train.
Having failed to get to the truth through Rikka, Akane cuts out the middleman and goes directly to Yuuta when she finds him along during the trip. And through a very simple bit of leading the witness she confirms what she suspects – though I’m not sure Yuuta understands what’s just happened (though he suspects). It’s clear that Akane has no idea how Gridman works, because she’s puzzled by the fact that he seems to be taking forever to show up once she has Alexis unleash her mountain kaiju. And what an impressive beast it is – something out of a Shinto nightmare, shooting balls of magma and sending the kids scattering.
The class does manage to get rescued, but the SSSS of course has to stay behind – and getting Gridman to Yuuta is more than a minor problem. Junk is back in the city, the cell phones are at the station and there’s a killer mountain in the path. It’s impressive that kids this age actually know how to use a public phone, though those are far less common here than in America – after a quick call home (thanks to Rikka not running away), Rikka-mama rips off the Chuugakusei squad for the cost of Junk and they head off for the mountains to try and help.
This fight is a showcase for Bora (now that it’s established he’s a boy, let’s get the spelling right – that’s how it’s written in katakana on the official site, though there was apparently an original Gridman character named “Borr” so who knows). His signature is a drill, as expected, though in this fight he relies on missiles (some of which put out fires in the woods). Anti shows up to complicate matters again – he still hasn’t given up on winning over Akane, clearly, though there’s more eye contact with Rikka. His status remains an interesting wild card, but the biggest factor that changed over the course of this episode is that Akane now knows what she once suspected about Yuuta, and he suspects what he never suspected about her. That’s going to make keeping up a facade in school pretty difficult, so I expect matter between the two of them to heat up rather quickly.