「思い残した記憶って、なに？」 (Omoinoko shita kioku tte, nani?)
“Which Memories Do You Regret?”
It’s fascinating the way SSSS. Dynazenon structurally mirrors SSSS.Gridman, is set in the same fictional universe, yet seems like such a completely different show. It’s not a question of which is better (if you held a knife to my throat I’d probably say Dynazenon, but there’s still the ending to consider), but that they both succeed independently of the other. The two series are even very stylistically similar, so the completely different way they feel is completely down to the writing. That, and some very subtle directorial decisions by Amemiya Akira. And that’s pretty goddam impressive.
This was not a perfect episode narratively speaking, in my view. Still great but not as impeccable as the last couple have been. But visually it was the best episode of the series, no question. The name to note here is Ikarashi Kai, one of the top young animators in the business. It’s no coincidence that he’s worked with directors like Anno and Tachikawa and Ryo-timo – these legends know a freak talent when they see one. He storyboarded this episode – and of course he did the same for SSSS.Gridman Episode 9, the mirror of this one, which found the characters lost in dreams (and time).
Amemiya is doing this mirroring on purpose to be sure, but it’s hard to imagine anyone else stamping this visual signature on this ep. God, it’s beautiful – the mirror images, the deep focus shots, the epic Gainax photo ops (that moon shot should be on posters tomorrow morning). Ikarashi plays with our perception in much the same way he did in his Gridman episode, but the tenor of the experience for the characters is quite different. This time around it’s a trip into their own pasts, courtesy of the new kaiju in town. And in many ways those pasts are more appealing than the present – but only to a point.
Shizumu has perhaps the most interesting line of dialogue in the episode – he says “now they can all be free” after his fellow Eugenicists disappear into the shadow world, just before he does so himself. We know why Chise and Anoshiras weren’t taken – Goldburn protected them from the kaiju’s power. But why was Yomogi immune? It isn’t simply a matter of being a kaiju user, because the other confirmed kaiju users were captured. Was it simply a matter of narrative necessity, or is there something else about Yomogi that makes him unique?
It seems, not surprisingly, as if everyone is taken to their moment of prime regret. For Gauma it’s a meeting (in Egypt, presumably) with the Princess, whose appearance is teasingly brief and silent, and the moment he betrayed the others. It seems as if the Eugenicists rebelled because they were betrayed by the leaders, but Gauma broke with them out of love for the princess (which sort of makes him the bad guy, honestly). With Koyomi of course it’s the moment be broke and ran rather than stay with Inamoto-sempai. And for Anti (yes, kaiju sucked up by kaiju) it was his time with Akane, whose appearance is even more of a fleeting tease than the Princess’.
I honestly hoped we’d see more of Anti’s vision, though I get why we didn’t. The suggestion in Gauma’s is that he regrets the choice he made, though his love for the princess (who may have had nothing to do with the betrayal of the Eugenicists) was clearly real. He’s in trouble – it’s more than hunger making him collapse – as others have noted, that mark on his back is getting bigger. As for Koyomi, the takeaway here is that the regret isn’t so much the money – as Inamoto notes, it was probably counterfeit anyway. For him it was the choice to run rather than take a chance, and for her it’s losing that sense of freedom which she’d never truly have again.
It’s Yume’s vision, of course, which gets the most attention – both from Yomogi and from the writing. There was never any chance Kano was going to be saved – it was obvious this was more about the unresolved feelings of the living than unchangeable events of the past. But Yomogi’s desire to spare Yume pain is so powerful that he’s able to break through the kaiju’s literal and metaphorical barriers in order to give her a chance to find some peace. Rejoice, Lad – you truly are the hero as of now. As for Yume and Kano, there’s not that much new here – but it does seem clear that what happened was truly an accident. And the regrets are really the common ones of siblings who weren’t considerate enough of each other – because they were denied the usual opportunity to move past it as adults.
In a perfect world, I would have loved to have seen this as a two-episode storyline. It all felt a bit rushed, and Yomogi was able to do what he was able to do a little too easily. But in practice it’s hard to argue for any change, because Amemiya and Ikarashi created such an artistic masterpiece here. And these developments weren’t meant to pose any real threat to the characters in the present in any case – this was all about setting the table for the final resolution. One which, I might add, is still enticingly mysterious at this point in the series. Amemiya and Hasegawa Keiichi haven’t telegraphed the ending in any way, and it’s going to be fascinating to see what choices they make.