I really feel like I should have put a “for now” in the title bar, but there were no announcements so… I guess anything is possible, but anime is (like anything else) a cash business so it’s almost impossible to believe there won’t be something more coming for SSSS.Gridman if it’s remotely as successful as it’s pegged to be. Just what that could be is certainly the relevant question, because this finale did a pretty representative job of making things seem very much wrapped-up for this cast of characters (but we’ll cover all that below).
Considering how eventful it was (very) it’s perhaps surprising that this finale didn’t have more surprises in it. Not being knowledgeable about the Gridman empire I couldn’t predict the exact details of what would happen here, but in hindsight I think I was expecting what we got (right down to the live-action cameo at the end). That kind of predictability can be either a criticism or a compliment depending on how you look at it – the latter take being that it shows there was an internal consistency to the writing throughout the series (endings are built on a foundation of what’s come before, after all). And that’s mostly how I look at it, though this last episode certainly wasn’t as magical as the series’ best efforts.
The Akane-kaijuu was a nice start – I especially liked her screams, a reminder that the sound design for this series has been outstanding. Gridman-Yuuta leaves Gridknight-Anti to deal with her, as he goes off to settle some personal business. Stock mech battle follows, as usual beautifully brought off by thr Gridman animators and artists. This is, again, more or less what you’d expect – a self-recriminating Akane trapped inside the kaijuu Alexis has made of her. Anti isn’t in this strictly to win, though – he still plans to try and save Akane.
To be honest I’m still trying to decide whether this – and the commensurate actions of the other cast members – bothers me or not (which I guess means it does, at least a little). Akane redemption was inevitable, but the issue is that the story really didn’t do anything to earn it – there’s absolutely no reason why these people (least of all Anti) should be so charitably disposed towards their tormentor Goddess. The counterpoint, of course, is that they have no choice because she made them. And while I get the logic in that, made by Akane or not they’re still characters as far as we the audience are concerned, and no matter the logic behind it they’re still acting in a way that doesn’t make emotional sense.
Well, c’est la vie – inevitable, like I said, so I’d steeled myself for it. Alexis’ backstory turns out to be that he’s an immortal, gifted (cursed) with “endless” lives. Basically he does what he does – including piloting Akane’s limited express to whackville – because he’s bored. Again, while I didn’t specifically predict that when it happened I sort of nodded, because it fits pretty neatly (as most of this finale does). After he shivs poor Anti-kun the original Gridman shows up to do battle with him, and things continue to be pretty much impeccable from the production team – this looks great.
The big payoff here is that with everyone including the Chuugakusei and Anti (who’s on death’s door) having their own acceptors now, Gridman transforms into his original 90’s form (“nostalgic” indeed, Alexis), and unleashes his “fixer beam” – a weapon that has the power to restore the city and take down Alexis, too. I’m not sure how that works exactly but it’s certainly useful. Not much more to say about this part, really – Gridman wins and seals Alexis, the city is restored, and Akane is back in her “bedroom” sobbing about what a terrible person she is.
As best I can tell, Akane came from the “real” world, but in that world she’s actually Rikka (or looks a lot like her). And she returns there to confront her real life rather than continue to escape it in her made-up city (which is why Rikka says she hopes her wish that they be together never comes true), which I guess makes Akane her idealized version of herself. But this digital world she created continues to exist after she leaves it, and that includes the “real” Yuuta – who wakes up after Gridman vacates his body and he and the Junior High boys return to their world. And Anti survives too, thanks to the intervention of Anoshiras II.
I’m not 100% sure of how any of this works, really, but hey – this is tokusatsu so I guess that’s not really critical. What’s real and what isn’t, who’s a real person and who’s not – does it matter in the end? I suppose that’s for the viewer to decide, but for me the answer is that it really doesn’t matter all that much. I was enjoying the ride here, and that’s more important than a rock-solid scientific explanation for events inspired by a 25 year-old TV show about guys jumping around in monster suits. I would have loved to have a “wow” moment in the finale, where everything was kissed by a final moment of brilliant and inspiration – but I’ll take what we got without any complaints.
Taking a step back and trying to decide where Gridman fits in the big picture of 2018 anime isn’t easy. For starters, it’s obviously really good and I will be talking about it again this year. It’s something of a miracle that a Trigger series that’s mostly a homage to a show I never watched in a genre I know little of enraptured me as much as it did. That’s a testament both to the magnificent job director Amemiya Akira and the staff did and the fact that SSSS.Gridman is a homage to much more than just Ultraman or tokusatsu. It’s also a love letter to Evangelion specifically, and to mecha anime and Gainax generally. It celebrates what came before it without being a slave to it, and evolves the Gainax (and Anno Hideaki) oeuvre in a way I really don’t think has been done before.
Is SSSS.Gridman the best Trigger series ever? For me that’s a ridiculously easy question to answer in the affirmative – it’s no less than the show I was hoping for from them when the studio first came into existence. That it managed to be so different from the usual Trigger template is a good sign for the future of the studio to be sure. But now the question turns to what’s next for the SSSS.Gridman anime franchise, as with this series sure to be a commercial blockbuster it’s certainly not going to end here. Movies, another TV series? Whatever it is, I’d be fine if it presented a fresh cast of characters, because I’m not sure there’s much that needs to be explored with this one – their story has been told, and most beautifully. Whatever and whenever, I’ll be watching with anticipation – and that I can say that about a Trigger show is perhaps the greatest compliment I can give SSSS.Gridman.