SSSS. Gridman Was Worth It

Okay, I’ll take full responsibility for this. I placed SSSS. Gridman in an unfortunate position, when I claimed it could be another misfire. Granted, after Darling in the Franxx, I had to be somewhat cautious, but I also acted like this had to be the new Evangelion. As far as I’m concerned, that is always going to be a setup for disappointment.

So now that the ridiculous standard I put it to has been set aside, the question remains: was SSSS. Gridman another misfire from Studio Trigger? Well, you likely read the title to this review so, probably not. But just how good is it?

Since the Anime Awards are right around the corner, let me start by praising Akane Shinjo. She is one of the nominees for best antagonist this year and as far as I can tell, she’s the true winner, even among an impressive list of competitors.

It was already apparent that actress Reina Ueda was giving the best performance in the show, but now she is the best part of the show. Even though she really shouldn’t be. I mean, she kills people she doesn’t like for petty, childish reasons and is all around evil, yet the show goes very far to humanize her.

Through her character, we explore themes of loneliness and regret as we see her continue to try and crush Gridman, who stands to ruin what she has created. With every failure, Akane becomes more dejected and the mask she assumes around others begins to crack. This creates desperation, which gives us a glimpse at who she really is and what she really wants.

In my first impressions, I credited the directing and how it used silence effectively to enhance a scene. Moments of silence for Akane fill scenes with unsettling anxiety, like watching that psychic kid from the Twilight Zone. However, it is that same unhinged desperation that makes her empathetic. She’s just a kid… a kid with horrifying power. I mean, give her powers to any middle schooler and 50/50 chance you’ve got the same result.

However, this show is called Gridman, after all, so how does the “Gridman Alliance” fair? It’s hard for me to put it in words. Yuta is not an unlikable character, he’s just not as compelling as Akane. The end of his arc is pretty cool though, and his resilience against Akane’s offers to join forces tie nicely into the themes. I just wish there was a bit more to chew on.

Reviewing this show is hard because I struggle to describe what makes these characters “good.” In turn, this has made me question exactly what I look for in good characters. Logic would maintain that for a character to be good, they have to have some sort of narrative arc to them or generally serve a pronounced and meaningful purpose in the big picture. If I can’t bring to mind what makes a character “good” I begin to wonder if they actually are a good character.

The only ones who I can attribute such explanations to other than Akane are Rikka and Anti. Rikka’s friendship with Akane and how it develops through the series explored how Akane’s true nature would effect Rikka and vice-versa. Anti was another surprise for how his rivalry with Gridman evolved and how he began questioning his existence.

Overall, did I enjoy the cast at large? Hell yeah. As a team, they are funny, entertaining, and share good chemistry. They are all well-designed, well-acted and have their own simple quirks. They are meant to be a unit. When they combine, they are ALL Gridman.

Gridman is a hero for their ability to inspire others and bring them together. In that way, it was very satisfying to see the cast all come together for the finale. A good finale, for me, is all about tying up all the loose ends as grand as possible. “The ending is paramount” they always say. Only one scene at the end left me unsatisfied, as it was either a sequel tease or a reference to the old series.

I started the scene thinking “oh shit I forgot that character even existed,” which is never a good sign. Still, the conclusion is as bombastic as I would want any Trigger/Gainax show to be. By that same token, one could call this conclusion lacking compared to its peers.

It’s no secret that Trigger’s A-team is hard at work on Promare, Trigger’s upcoming feature film. Rewatching the finale though, I can safely say that magic touch is still there in all the right places. That Trigger “punch” often is about not just animation, but emotion.

If you’ve watched a Trigger show like Space Patrol Luluco, you know how much a good show by this studio can get you invested. Everything comes down to that last episode and you live for each frame, laughing, cheering, crying or all three simultaneously. Here, though, Gridman‘s conclusion is powerful for reasons not all viewers will fully appreciate.

As I wrote back in December, this show is made by creators with an immense love of mecha and tokusatsu. It isn’t just a love letter to the Gridman of old, but to all sorts of tokusatsu/mecha entertainment and even Transformers. As such, this finale is highly referential, and without background knowledge, the magic may be lost on you. It certainly impeded my enjoyment, if only a little bit.

On a more technical scale, SSSS. Gridman ends with far more hand-drawn action than in any other part of the series. The CG used to simulate the visual dissonance present in classic tokusatsu had grown on me, but this was a welcome way to bring things to a close.

My previous appraisals of this show’s technical elements still stand. The music helps evoke feelings of nostalgia, the colors are beautiful and vibrant, and the animation offered some refreshingly quality CG.

At its whimsical, youthful core, this is a show about friendship. It’s about how desperately we need other people to make sense of our lives. It’s about inhuman villains ignorant of what it truly is and how it is attained, and who use it to not only win but hope to save their enemy.

This show didn’t need to be more than a monster of the week mecha show with the typical Trigger trappings. It takes that setup so much of this series’ muses are built on and capitalizes on what so many love the genre for. Not content to stop there, they gave us one of the best villains of 2018.

SSSS. Gridman is available for legal streaming from Crunchyroll and FunimationNow

This was a pleasant surprise. I have a feeling I’m gonna look back on the finale of Gridman a bit like I look back on the finale of Kekkai Sensen. Glad I stuck with it until the end and I hope you all enjoyed my review. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time!

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