OP: 「Imperfect」 (インパーフェクト) by (Masayoshi Ooishi)
「戦う理由って、なに？」 (Tatakau riyū tte, nani?)
“What’s Your Reason For Fighting?”
SSSS.Dynazenon has certainly gotten off to a flying start as compared to its predecessor. Yet as with Gridman, it’s the quieter moments that make the series really sing for me (though the action sequences are great, too). The contrast between the low-key “in-between” moments and the frantic combat scenes is one of the elements that make this franchise so effective. This even extends to music, with minimal to no BGM most of the time and insert songs when the battles are going on. And not only that, Dynazenon’s theme song apparently actually plays in the cockpit when it’s in combat mode, ROFL.
That cockpit soundtrack is one of a couple of different things that stand out to me as different about this series as compared to the first one. Most obviously, unlike in Gridman it seems as if the damage from the kaiju battles doesn’t reset this time. This implies a very significant change in the circumstances surrounding the two universes, though it’s too early to be absolutely certain. The presence of the “Kaiju Eugenicists” is another big change, and one that seems as if it’s going to play a major role in Dynazenon going forward.
That last part is especially interesting to me, because on top of its already bursting sack of influences, it seems as if SSSS.Dynazenon is adding Star Trek to the mix. In the first place, the “Instance Domination” gesture the Eugenicists use is a clear lift of the Vulcan “live long and prosper” gesture from Trek. But the reference to eugenics itself looks like a Trek reference. If you’re not familiar with the term (and an ugly one it is) Google it, but the character Khan – from the original series, the (classic) second film, and a later novel called “Eugenics Wars” – was the product of a supposed mass Eugenics program in the late 20th Century on Earth.
We’ll see how far Dynazenon takes that track, but it certainly solidifies what was already impressive geek cred from the creators, as Star Trek to me knowledge isn’t especially well-known in Japan. Tonally speaking this is as Gainax as it gets. As I noted in my Gridman coverage there are basically two styles within the Gainax umbrella – Imaishi’s zany and bombastic oeuvre (best exemplified in Gurren-Lagann but often unsuccessful), and Anno’s more brooding and cerebral approach (obviously NGE foremost). Amemiya Akira is an Anno disciple as if there was any doubt, and the juxtaposition of the insanity of the kaiju attacks and the quietly nonchalant aftermath is classic Anno.
Indeed, the casual way the characters and their world react to the situation – the sheer weirdness of it and the massive destruction – suggests that there are some weird things going on with this universe. Mind you it’s adorable the way Yomogi doesn’t want to miss a shift at work to practice saving the world and Yume stresses over apologizing to him as if they were normal 16 year-olds. Their bond definitely deepens here, as Yume invites Yomogi out after school both to apologize to him and to get in some two-way “Wing Soldier” practice (which will come in very useful later). Most crucially she comes clean about her sister’s death – and one suspects this is not something Yume has talked about much, if at all.
That act of trust is obviously crucial in their relationship. And a very natural and believable one it is, too – this pair has a quietly engaging chemistry. Meanwhile Gauma pretty much gets himself adopted into Yomogi’s family – he shows up uninvited and hops into the bath, then stays the night. Yomogi’s desire to be “independent” suggests there’s more to his family situation than simply a divorce, but again, it’s too early to say for sure. Gauma is a bit of a buffoonish character but he’s actually a pretty good manager, and not bad at tactics either – his decision to un-gattai against the warping kaiju leads to an eventual win. And Koyomi puts his otaku knowledge to good use in that fight – he’s proving to be surprisingly competent and willing (though his NEET status is probably safe – at least the “NEE”).
“I want to protect – if I can”. It’s a fittingly modest battle cry for Yomogi, SSSS.Dynazenon’s modest hero. Cockpit music, Gainax explosions, Trekker Easter eggs – this series is something of a Viking buffet for geeks of a certain stripe (of which I’m undeniably one). Dynazenon is enough like SSSS.Gridman to scratch the same itch, yet at the same time it’s different enough to feel as if it’s not simply recycling the same premise and themes. Trigger has got their hands on a real winner here both commercially and (at long last) artistically, and that as much as anything makes this a very significant series.