「この切なさって、なに？」 (Kono setsuna-sa tte, nani?)
“What is This Sadness?”
This is a good anime season, no question about it. But with so many shows suffering from a sort of identity crisis that hinders their upside, SSSS.Dynazenon’s directness is especially refreshing. This is a series that seems absolutely comfortable in its identity and never wavers in purpose. It knows what it wants to be and that’s exactly what it is, every week. It still has to be something good of course, but it is that too – very much so. Anime 101 basically, and I always respect series that can make something difficult look very easy.
Fascinatingly, Dynazenon is following the Gridman narrative pattern with eerie exactitude. Episode 4 was comedy-driven and focused on character-building, #5 was the swimsuit episode. And as for Episode 6, that’s the game-changer – the one that turns everything on its head. In this case that means the Gridman universe is officially conjoined with the Dynazenon one, though just exactly how remains to be seen. I don’t think that was ever truly in doubt, but it’s obviously a huge moment to see it formally acknowledged by the narrative.
What makes the timing especially interesting is that the two shows are exceedingly different in the way they approach mortality. Dynazenon is kind of the anti (pun intended) Godzilla S.P. in that death is happening all over the place. I mean, I assume it is based on the damage we’re seeing – but in Gridman, death was a looming and somber presence constantly. Here, the characters never even acknowledge it – there are no empty desks or memorial photos, and the cast proceeds as if they were preparing for an especially tough match with a sports club.
That’s not to say death isn’t a presence in Dynazenon of course, as it very much is. But Kano’s death is entirely “mundane”, seemingly – it doesn’t (yet) have any overt connections to the sci-fi side of the story. There are plenty of developments on that front here, as the former club president tells Yume that her sister was dating Futaba, the V-P, who seems a bit dodgy to say the least. What’s more this seems to have made her the subject of bullying from the other girls, as the “private” videos the president shares with Yume reveal. The teasing video is especially nauseating and seems to at least nominally support the suicide possibility, though I’m still betting against that.
Yume and Yomogi’s relationship is the true heart of the story here, and it’s far from smooth in its progression. These new revelations make Yume especially wary about being too close to anyone, especially as she’s reminded of Yomogi’s popularity with the girls. Her unmistakable drawing back (she plays the dreaded “this has nothing to do with you” card) is exacerbated for Yomogi by an ill-timed meeting with Shizumu, and their relationship angst has a clear impact on Dynazenon when the need comes to fight. Koyomi and Chise are in a rough patch too, as he’s in full self-pity mode after Inamoto-san invites her husband to her drinking session with Koyomi. The jump-cuts employed by Amemiya-sensei during this scene are a classic Gainax touch and work brilliantly at setting the mood.
This link between Koyomi and Inamoto is clearly relevant – they were into some bad shit for sure, and it seems to have started him down his current path of stagnation (and that “I had tons of money” comment was hardly incidental). In his malaise Koyomi meets up with Mujina, who seems to be feeling rather adrift herself. She’s unsure of her place in the Eugenicists’ dynamic, which currently seems to be “whatever you decide is fine”. She ends up lifting Dyna Striker from a drunken Koyomi, which leads to a confrontation which further leads to Mujina finding her (murderous) resolve.
With the Dynazenon team totally out of synch due to their personal issues (so much so that even their gattai chant is cattywampus) the arrival of an especially strong kaiju is ill-timed. This one is doing some serious damage (again, no acknowledgement of consequence) and with the Dynazenons in disarray things are looking grim. But a new figure arrives just at the key moment – and it’s unmistakably Gridknight, one of the key figures in the endgame of SSSS.Gridman. There’s your Episode 6 game-changing moment right there.
Questions abound. Is Gridknight still effectively Anti’s alter-ego? Will Gridnight and Dynazenon be able to super-gattai? Most important of course is the nature of the connection between this world and Akane’s, and that’s something we can’t draw any firm conclusions about yet. While this was kind of inevitable, I don’t think these developments are without risks for SSSS.Dynazenon. It’s done very well carving out an identity of its own, with a cast arguably more compelling that Gridman’s, and you wouldn’t want it to be boxed into the role of being an accessory to the original story. But it’s managed to get almost all the big developments right so far, so I think the series has earned a lot of trust at this point.