See, this is why you don’t try and reason with the sociopath.
I’ll be honest – as cruel as that cliffhanger was, this episode had so many delicious Easter eggs that I don’t mind one bit. SSSS.Gridman is damn good at making me not mind one bit things I normally mind a lot (like Trigger, ROFL), so none of this comes as a surprise. But even so – not only do we get an episode that openly embraces the unvarnished Evangelion homage that SSSS.Gridman is, we even get a Ghidorah appearance (albeit brief) after I asked for one two weeks ago. My cup runneth over.
As usual, Gridman’s cup runneth over too – with interesting ideas and vexing mysteries and a melange of otaku pop culture references. One moment in this episode I found absolutely fascinating was when Alexis told Akane, “Real humans don’t actually sleep” after she had a dream about all the people she’d killed. Of course this can be taken in any number of different ways, but I think it boils down to Alexis telling Akane one of two lies – either she is a real human and he’s telling her she isn’t, or she isn’t a real human and she’s telling her she is. There’s an implication here that Akane may, somehow, be a kaijuu herself – but that doesn’t pass the sniff test to me.
Alexis is at the center of a whole lot of what’s happening in this world, to be certain. It’s implied that he was the one who brought Gridman here – and also, that he was the one who “separated” the Chuugakusei from him in the first place, after he was originally one being. Identity – “what are they?” – is at the center of everything in this episode. Akane, Anti, Yuuta and the other “humans”, Gridman himself – but that question hasn’t been asked about Alexis often enough. Just who and what the hell is he, and what’s his vested interest in this screwed-up reality that seems to be a bad deal for everyone but him?
If indeed Yuuta and the others are “just” NPCs, they have an extraordinary amount of self-awareness. Shou panics at the idea that everyone could disappear if Akane does, and goes into denial mode by focusing on the mundane “real” aspects of his existence. Meanwhile Yuuta, Rikka, Gridman and the Junior High brigade quietly ponder what’s happening here, and Anti faces his deepest existential crisis yet – at the same time Akane is facing her own. She’s grown tired of this paradise of hers, so much so that the newest kaijuu she creates at Alexis’ badgering is a half-formed lump of clay. When Anti comes to her one last time seeking to bond with her, she acknowledges him at last – and frees him to pursue whatever path he sees fit for a being with a heart and free will.
Anti’s journey here is an important one, make no mistake about it. If Yuuta and the others explore the line between NPCs and living humans, so Anti does with kaijuu. It’s clear that “living” as Gridman defines it is an important concept – and it’s a threshold Anti has crossed, which is why Gridman (and Yuuta) can’t and won’t kill him. In fact it’s more clear now that Anti (like Anoshiras II) is “alive” than it is Yuuta, Rikka and Shou (and arguably, even Akane) are. Maybe kaijuu can’t read humans’ hearts. but Anti now clearly can – and I suppose, acknowledging that also acknowledges that Akane is human enough to have one for him to read.
The kaijuu that emerges from the corpse of the clay-blob one Gridman has easily defeated is the strangest and creepiest yet (some viewers have given it an anatomical name, but I’m not convinced that was what the staff was going for here – though the symbolism isn’t outlandish). It has powers beyond any that Gridman has faced, and in some way seems to represent the raw, unvarnished psychosis at the heart of Akane’s being. In fact it defeats Gridman rather handily and after ejecting most of the Chuugakusei, seems on the verge of ending Gridman altogether before Anti shows up and finally turns his coat – long-expected, but still a monumental moment. The form he takes, “Gridknight“, is apparently a discarded character from the original live-action Gridman series (never throw anything away eh, Hasegawa-san?).
Lest we get celebrate Anti finally joining the good guys too much, SSSS.Gridman has a final twist (literally) for this episode. Having failed to defeat Gridman via her kaijuu, Akane (again, literally) takes matters into her own hands. She ventures to the junk shop (which, hilariously for the fact that no one found it suspicious, is literally a few steps from her “house”), witnesses the truth about Gridman and Junk, and promptly stabs Yuuta when he approaches her to try and convince her of Alexis’ evil intent (one assumes since she had the knife handy she would have done it eventually whether Yuuta approached her or not). Yuuta probably isn’t dead, but is Akane’s redemption arc? I don’t know – like so much else in this series, it’s a question that can be interpreted in multiple ways, and I’m not prepared to rule anything out yet.