This is my first impression of episodes 1-7 of SSSS. Gridman
Guys, the masterminds at Trigger are at it once again, breathing life into the mech genre and “saving anime”, because that’s still a thing people talk about. Not only is it full of bitchin’ mech fights, but it’s also got a potentially interesting story beneath the veneer of a monster of the week show.
Now I know what you’re gonna say: “Matthew, isn’t this the exact same fucking thing you said about Darling in the Franxx?” Well, yes, kinda, but trust me they’re gonna get it right this time. Today’s show, SSSS. Gridman could very well be the next Evangel–
-Whoa, whoa, whoa, it it’s only gonna be 12 episodes? Oh, fuck…
I know I’m starting this off guns blazing with snark, but I feel skepticism is in order. Believe me, I love Trigger. I believe them to be one of the coolest and most innovative studios in the industry. That being said, 2018 isn’t even over and Trigger is already pulling this shit again.
The “shit” in question is another highly talked-about mech show with heavy parallels to Evangelion either in regards to artwork, designs, or narrative structure. Should it be surprising though? I mean, whenever there’s a mech series with the potential for fucked up stuff to happen in the plot, people will draw these comparisons.
People mainly apply these sorts of expectations because of the connection between Trigger and Gainax. They also do it because Darling in the Franxx strung us along believing the story was trying to be the new Eva for so long. The only problem was that it was actually trying to be Gurren Lagann.
Let me be clear, this is a good show, just one I’m uncertain will tie things up completely in its one-cour run of 12 episodes. The story is as follows: Yuuta Hibiki has amnesia and is the only one who can hear the voice of Gridman through an old computer in a pawn shop. After a kaiju appears, Yuuta merges with Gridman and, along with his new friends, defeats it.
The most interesting part about Gridman is what is established at the end of episode one. The town is completely repaired the day after the battle and no one even remembers the incident. Worse still, any who died the previous day have their histories altered, so they are said to have died years previously in unrelated incidents.
By the halfway point, what has been revealed has filled the downtime with plenty of tension and intrigue. I’m excited for the characters to figure out what the fuck is going on and I’m only a little annoyed with how it is drawn out. For instance, despite six prior episodes of crazy world-shattering bullshit, the protagonist’s explanation of his discoveries in the seventh episode just doesn’t convince his friends somehow.
But let’s get back to the good. Director Akira Amemiya deserves credit for how he sets the tone of this series with those shocking reveals in mind. The Japanese attitude towards the use of silence in dramatic moments never ceases to amaze me. The lack of music and abundance of ambiance brings to mind the slower more personal moments of Evangelion in its early run.
Probably because the music is done by Shirou Sagisu, who is responsible for the music in Eva. Come to think of it, the similarities to Eva may be even more prevalent here than in Darling. Sagisu’s music is at its best when bombastic orchestral pieces dominate each intense fight. There are also hints of techno and rock done well, but nothing beats the tracks that transport me to a by-gone era of film and TV.
Perhaps that is truly what has made Gridman enjoyable through what I have seen. The lighthearted tone during each episode’s battle lends the show a childlike whimsy seen only in Sunday morning cartoons. This is only further exemplified by this show’s delightful color palette.
Speaking of the action, Trigger has sought to uniquely translate the action of a Tokusatsu show into animation. For those unaware, Tokusatsu is a genre of TV that involves costumed superheroes and giant robots fighting monsters. These shows incorporate the use of actors fighting in miniature model cities. Power Rangers is an example of a Tokusatsu, having been derived from Super Sentai.
In an effort to translate this divide between model city action and the real actors, Trigger uses CG for many of the big battles. It’s not bad and captures that obvious, accepted dissonance well. Besides, it isn’t as if there are no hand-drawn mechs. There are still plenty of hand-drawn cuts and the transformation sequences.
As for the mechs themselves, credit goes to mechanical designers Masayuki Gotou and Shigeto Koyama. The former is often a character designer and is credited for designing Gridman. The latter is credited with designing the antagonist, Alexis, but he has also been the mechanical designer on like… everything. From Bones shows like Star Driver to no shortage of Trigger and Gainax shows, it’s likely he is doing most of the mechanical design.
In regards to characters, the main trio is fun to watch, and the characters that aren’t too interesting are still aesthetically spectacular. This show is Masaru Sakamoto’s first credit as a character designer, and his work doesn’t disappoint. Akane Shinjo is a great villain, being this creepy mix of sociopathic mastermind and confused teen with social anxiety.
I just hope the rest of the cast can be more than just pretty designs by the end. At the time of writing, there is only one more episode to be released and I’ve only watched seven of them, so there’s hope. I just desperately hope to learn more about the mysterious team of badasses that assist the main trio. Oh and what do you know, they are referred to as the Neon Genesis Junior High Students… figure that one out.
Finally, I’d like to point out vocal direction, primarily for how unique I find it. The dialog has a much more casual and natural feel to it compared to most other series I watch. This could just be another testament to director Amemiya’s style. The vocal talent is comprised of some less well-known talent as well, at least among the main trio. I feel like these actors may have some promising futures ahead.
It is clear that this show was produced by people with a serious passion for mecha and Tokusatsu shows. That same love has thus created some truly delightful entertainment I am more than happy to spare time for.
SSSS. Gridman is available for legal streaming through Crunchyroll and FunimationNow.
Expect a review of Gridman at the beginning of the new year. leave a comment below telling me what you think of the series and let me know what other shows you’d like me to check out.
I might be taking a break in 2019 to focus on other writing though, but I’ll have more details on that later should I decide to do that. In the meantime, look forward to a review of Sirius the Jaeger as well, as it is finally coming to Netflix.
Thanks for reading and as always, see you next time!