「託されたものって、なに？」 (Takusa reta mono tte, nani?)
“What Was I Entrusted With?”
Obviously I have a ton of thoughts after that blockbuster finale, but first among them is a rather simple one. As we stare into the maw of what looks like quite a barren season, it strikes me that as long as anime is capable of producing series like SSSS.Dynazenon, it’s probably OK. It’s not what it was – no way. We’ll likely never see the likes of 2007 or 2012 (and maybe even 2016) again. But if there’s still a place for creators who are basically fans to exercise their brilliance, creating stories that honor the traditions of the medium and celebrate character and imagination, it will soldier on. Perhaps more than any art form I know, anime is at its best when crafted by people who truly love it.
This was not a finale that generated a lot of surprises (not even the announcement at the end). But twist endings are often the product of poorly-exposited plots, and Dynazenon was the opposite of that. This was by its nature a more straightforward story than SSSS.Gridman. If I were to oversimplify, I would say that Dynazenon is character-driven and Gridman plot-driven (though each does both very well). Gridman was all about tricking us and false realities – Dynazenon is all about very real human emotions and people being just who they seem to be (mostly).
Gauma’s fate may not be official, and his story may no even be over – he never did get to meet his princess, though there was hinting about her possible identity. But in terms of Dynazenon he’s basically dead, and that’s been telegraphed since pretty early on. His focus on apologizing to the kids seemed spot-on to me. This wasn’t their fight, and he dragged them into it for selfish reasons. Yet they wouldn’t go back, I’m guessing, and the impact he made on their lives was positive. Everything about Gauma was about rejecting hatred and embracing human connections – that was literally what estranged him from the Kaiju Eugenicists. His behavior when facing the end was very much in-character.
For the kids, these “scars” are in fact marks of honor – reminders that they were part of something greater than themselves. The one final gattai – with Gauma dragging himself away from death’s door to fight one last time – was suitably inspirational and spectacular, with Super Dragon King Kaiser Gridknight even getting a cape of light. And the showdown with Sizumu was suitably spectacular. Sizumu, in fact, powered-up by eating his fellow Eugenicists (voluntarily), and he proved himself to be quite a troublesome opponent. But impotent rage can only take you so far in allegorical battles like this one.
I’ve seen criticism that Sizumu and the K.E. aren’t as fully-fleshed out as Akane, and while that’s true I think it reflects the structural differences between Gridman and Dynazenon I mentioned earlier. Amemiya and team stated they wanted Dynazenon to be a very different sort of story – this is no accident. In truth Akane wasn’t just the big bad, she was the central figure in the entire story in terms of importance. The Eugenicists were the foil here – this was a story about growing up, confronting and accepting the past, and forming connections rather than isolating yourself. The big bad was just the oil for the pistons.
In a lovely bit of symbolism, the epilogue (which lasts almost have the episode) opens with Yomogi and Yume walking across a bridge, separated by some distance. But he stops, goes back to her, and they finish the walk together. There can be no doubt that these two are together, soulmates – and their interactions at the school festival bear this out. Koyomi, meanwhile, is now in full normie mode. As for Chise she’s back in her social outcast attire – except she’s ditched her bandages and how displays her tattoo (or is it a birthmark?) proudly. Koyomi’s ending is probably the saddest for the main cast (apart from Gauma of course) – a cog in the machine, only getting a job due to the largesse of Inamoto-san’s husband. But at least he still has the bonds he formed thanks to Dynazenon.
That Yomogi-recollected conversation with Sizumu was a nice way to frame the story one last time. For Sizumu being a kaiju user is all about freedom and being a human all about bonds – and eventually losing yourself (sounds a lot like growing up, doesn’t it?). But “bonds” is conspicuously a word that can have equally positive or negative connotations. Yomogi chooses to embrace the connections in his life – even coming to terms with his future stepfather – and he draws (literally and symbolically) Yume along with him. This, I think, is the central divide between kaiju users and humans – and the central theme of SSSS.Dynazenon. Do you choose to isolate yourself and retreat from the pain that connections bring, or do you embrace other people – the more dangerous but ultimately rewarding path?
If you asked me which of the two series I preferred, at first flush I think I’d take SSSS.Dynazenon over SSSS.Gridman by a hair – reflecting, no doubt, my inclination towards character-first stories. But what I appreciate is that they manage to succeed on their own terms as thoroughly different series, while still feeling totally connected by more than just the mythology. I couldn’t ask for much more from a sequel to an excellent series – it doesn’t try to imitate, but rather builds on what came before. This season has seen two examples of superb 2018 series get that treatment, and we’re very lucky for that.
Of course now things are going to get really interesting, because what was only discussed behind the scenes after Gridman actually happened here – we got our sequel announcement in real-time. I would have expected a third season based on the franchise’s popularity in Japan, but it feels great not to have to sweat it out. What’s going to be fascinating is that this time around rather than a new premise, we’re getting a combination of the first two. And those differences between Gridman and Dynazenon make them potentially strange bedfellows – I’ll be fascinated to see how Amemiya and Hasegawa bridge those gaps. I fully expect to see this cast again – the Gridman cast is more of an open question. But in these creators I trust – they’ve fully earned it, and I’m ready to go wherever they choose to take me.