「覚醒」 (Kakusei)

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.


    1. 110% agree here. Started watching for the Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad nostalgia, got an amazing anime in the bargain.

      Really did not expect this to be tied for #1 for me this season, and I was pleasantly surprised.

  1. I love that Gridman’s ultimate form was essentially a guy in a Gridman suit, I’m kind of disappointed they didn’t just cut away to a live action fight scene featuring members of the production studio in spandex and plastic costumes pretending to punch each other.

  2. This show has a solid 8/10 from me. Entertaining throughout and if the finale was maybe just a smidgen weaker than the rest of the show I can really forgive it.

    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.

    I really liked this comment. It makes me think that this is the difference between SSSSG and Darling in the Franxx. The later did go slavishly into copying the past and was far worse off for it,

  3. I can’t agree that this ending anywhere near a good note. Never mind the fact that, despite making a big deal about it for most of the series the YuutaxRikka relationship was almost completely wasted, when your big finale summary mentions the MC’s name a grand total of two times, you know they screwed something up.

    And I was one of the ones really hyped over this series for the first quarter. *sigh*

    1. To be fair, the series (as far as I know / remember) never actually specified what sort of, if any, relationship (the real) Yuta had with Rikka beyond potentially friends or at least classmates, much less “made a big deal (of it) for most of the series.”

      It was the pairing-goggle viewers that instantly jumped the gun and kept assuming there “must” have been something there and then continued hyping it up because they wanted it to be true, not that it was definitely true.

    2. @Shinji103 It’s not wasted, you were just not paying attention.

      1)Akane = Rikka

      Rikka’s Real life form at the end is her after leaving the Kaiju world

      Rikka in the show is a self insert, Rikka(Akane doesn’t like herself, which is why she escapes to the world to begin with)

      She made everyone like Akane (the “new version”) of Rikka, but Yuta liked the REAL version of Akane

      This is why Gridman was able to enter Yuta (look at the picture of everyone looking at Aakne’s ideal form but Yuta is the only one looking at Rikka. Her “True” self) You could even go farther and say that Whoever Gridman was in Akarikka’s world has a thing for her and wants to SAVE her, maybe she’s trapped in the world and the Alexis Guy is manipulating her etc etc…

      The dream sequence shows that Rikka(as God Akane) and Yuta are together but she uses her preferred “Akaane” form. When you connect all these dots the show makes a LOT of sense, and brings it a few points up in my book. Of course this isn’t spelled out, but the pass thing at the end pretty much seals it. This also makes all the “weird” episodes that seem to have had not much of a purpose fit.

  4. If Studio Trigger were smart they would produce a recap movie or two with some bonus footage before annoucing a second season. They’re a sure way to produce extra funds which they could put towards the production of an extended season.

    1. A commenter theorized the story is maintaining the cliche of a tokusatsu show with a moral message for viewers.

      I really think…Akane…represent(s) the hikkis(shut-ins) and kids who are too depressed to face reality (due to various reasons) in Japan. Basically, the show is trying to push those who suffer the same anxiety & depression as Akane to move forward and and be better people.
      Those final lines that Rikka said to Akane really felt like words of encouragement for the (young?) audience who needs it. At the end of the day, Gridman is still a tokusatsu show with a moral message for the audience, even in anime form.


      1. And what a way to do that, by portraying shut-ins and kids ‘too depressed to face reality’ as amoral murderers who revel in the destruction and bloodshed they cause.

        Poor message and an ending that perhaps completely invalidated the entire series. Anything that ends with the implication or the statement that it was all just someone’s dream is hardly even worth viewing.

      2. The series ends explicitly stating it wasn’t a “dream”. The digital world the character inhabit is real, the characters themselves are real, and they’ll continue to exist even without Akane. However, it’s also true that the denizens of that world were modeled after Akane’s psyche.

        The show tries to tell the audience that what Akane is doing is effectively hurting herself. All the damage and destruction is damage she’s doing to her own psyche, but reflected on the environment. Akane’s sentiment that she had done grievous harm to that world and she had to leave it to grow by itself is not just literal, but it’s also metaphorical: she needs to exit her dream world, stop hurting herself, and dare to face reality for what it is.

      3. I think the ending is open for anyone’s interpretation.
        Dream or not or something else is up to each viewer.
        No correct answer.

        Unless the creators come out to explicitly explain in some magazine interview.

  5. I like the overall story but I feel that these two last episodes weren’t all that good and a bit disappointing.
    Even so, I didn’t expected to see something “deep” like this. That relationship Yuta > Rikka >= Akane was very interesting even if they barely interacted.

    Panino Manino
  6. As much as the Fixer Beam seemed like something of an ‘out of nowhere’ power to suddenly appear to overpower Alexis… this is actually super old school Gridman, and I was amazed when I remembered that the OG Gridman had the power to undo all of the damage that Khan Digifer’s kaiju had inflicted way back when.

    The fact that Gridaman’s true power was returning to his old 90’s form – his real form – was an amazing touch and kicking in with the old theme song brought a smile to my face at least.

    While not everything was explained, I feel that there’s always some useful ambiguity when it comes to the end of a series, especially like this. Certainly it would be nice to have some things clarified, but in the end Akane couldn’t remain in her world, and Yuta and Rikka didn’t really have a thing going… but are well poised to do so in the future if Rikka is willing to open up to him, given that she knows his feelings.

    If we do see a sequel, I hope we get it with Akane accompanying Gridman to try and help someone else who is in danger. Much like Gatchaman Crowds explored their first season ‘villain’ having to deal with the fallout from their ideals, it would be interesting to see Akane helping Gridman out in the future.

  7. Beautiful. Just plain beautiful.

    The ending makes it an allegory to how we are and our coping mechanisms.

    How we sometimes escape to a fictional world as a form of escapism.

    On the other hand, it’s also an allegory to some of us being too immersed and lost in our own fictional world.

    Henrietta Brix
  8. I have yet to see this because of tech problems but already I can say this is one of the best things Trigger has made since probably Kill La Kill. I had my reservations starting out too!

  9. When you take into account the fact that Anime world Akane = Real world Rikka, and that Anima Rikka was a self insert NPC, Rikkane’s redemption makes a lot of sense. This is why they had that ending with Rikkane waking up.

  10. Hey Enzo, the sales numbers are out for the first volume, and they’re pretty good. The first BD volume started at 7,115 sold. It was released on Dec 18 and the data collected is up to Dec 23. Studio Trigger have their biggest hit in quite some time. I’d imagine it’ll hit 9-10k for all time sales.


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