The more that time passes, the more that I look back fondly on 2018’s SSSS.GRIDMAN. At first, it was strange, but then again, a lot of the shows that I love are strange from the outset. Perhaps my threshold for weird is expanding but more likely, I just need something obtuse to keep me on my toes these days; something to truly surprise me.
Gridman was a show about Yuuta Hibiki, a boy with amnesia, finding himself embroiled in a mission to save his city from kaiju with the help of his friends. The catch was that every time the kaiju was defeated, the world was reset the next day. The buildings were rebuilt and anyone who died suddenly had their histories rewritten so that they died of unrelated causes. Only the main characters remembered anything.
There was a mystery. There was also a tangible sense of realism to the way characters talked, especially the high-school protagonists. In an interview with SakugaBlog, director Akira Amemiya confessed that schools were visited to collect data for the show’s production, yet there wasn’t much conscious thought put into making the dialogue more realistic. That almost makes it more impressive that it came off so natural.
CG robots and monsters were used to create a disparity between the character-driven story and the spectacle, similar to how miniature cities and actors in costumes are used in tokusatsu. The villain was complex and one of the best written I’ve seen in years. The reveals were shocking and the scale of the show ended up much larger than it first seemed. And little did we know all that would only be the beginning of a new universe.
From returning director Akira Amemiya and writer Keiichi Hasegawa comes the sequel to 2018’s SSSS.GRIDMAN, SSSS.DYNAZENON.
It’s funny to think that the very first work by Hideaki Anno I ever saw was Top wo Nerae! Gunbuster, or, Aim For the Top! Gunbuster and not Evangelion, what he is better known for. It’s even more surprising that I hadn’t even watched Eva fully until this past summer when it released on Netflix.
Gunbuster was Hideaki Anno’s directorial debut. A high-concept super-robot show that in many ways was the breeding ground for concepts and character dynamics that would later be fleshed out more in Evangelion. It’s looked back on as a classic of the ’80s.
16 years later, Kazuya Tsurumaki, the director famous for FLCL, made a sequel to Gunbuster, titled Top wo Nerae 2! Diebuster, which was different and I mean, very different. However, it was just as good as – if not arguably better than – its predecessor.
Unfortunately, its hard to find a physical copy of either that has both shows, each one six episodes long. For the longest time I wondered when either show would be released in their complete glory. After seeing a photo on twitter of someone’s Blu-ray collection, I realized they already both already had. The same Gainax 20th Anniversary line of which an Evangelion Blu-ray was part of had produced a Gunbuster/Diebuster OVA collection. Upon learning its existence I didn’t hesitate to buy it.
Oftentimes with sequels to classics, there is a lot of skepticism among fans. They can be divided over which is better, and yet, both shows are not only received well on their own but as a pair. They are often seen as equals that complement each other. It’s a rare occurrence indeed. The question becomes: How did two shows from radically different creators manage such a success? Furthermore, is one truly better than the other?
When you take an established property with a certain level of fame in the cultural gestalt and try to do it again, you are asking for criticism. Remakes have these nasty labels attached to them because in principal a worthwhile piece of art should be able to stand on its own. Why remake something when the old work still exists?
Apart from being a cash-grab, maybe to update art that is arguably out of date and hasn’t aged well. Better yet, perhaps the remake signifies an intention to take a work in another direction to use the original’s framing device in a new innovative way. Either way, it’s easy to divide people over a new vision. Too close to the original and it seems pointless, but too different and it could be seen as a betrayal.
But what happens when the same mind behind the original comes back to remake his work, albeit with new help? Hideaki Anno’s classic Neon Genesis Evangelion certainly gained fame over the years despite how infamous it was at the time. The psychological drama fueled by Anno’s anguish made it legendary and yet Anno felt there was more to be done.
Anno split off from Gainax and together with his underling, Kazuya Tsurumaki, he decided to “rebuild” Evangelion. These films have been praised and lambasted in equal measure over the years. Most often people find an issue with the lack of thoughtful psychological pathos that made NGE‘s characters so real despite the premise. You can find plenty who will praise the visuals of the rebuilds, but many who will argue it doesn’t make up for what is lost.
But is there nothing here of value? Are these films not without some quality that is superior to the originals? I like to think that isn’t the case and after finally watching them recently, I think there are plenty of reasons to fall in love with these films. With the fourth and presumably final film coming in 2020, now is the perfect time to ask, what did the rebuilds get right?
A harsh reality that became apparent deeper into my anime fandom was realizing that some shows become weirdly inaccessible through legal means. Obviously, piracy is a handy option when publishers don’t make them available, but I enjoy owning physical copies of shows I’m particularly fond of. Secondly, I find it strange when certain shows aren’t available available to purchase or stream at all, even when they are famous.
I get it when the niche shows I like go out of print, but universally loved classics being slept on is something else. After being out of print for years, the most recent being a pricey Blu-ray collection, Evangelion has made its streaming debut on Netflix. Since I’ve never actually finished the series, this release was the perfect time to finish what I started. But more importantly, it is a chance to ask what this series still offers viewers today and how it holds up.
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?
After an incredible midseason finale, Darling in the Franxx kept going strong while taking things a bit slower to focus on the character drama. This part of the story has always been the most engaging throughout the entire program, and my hopes were high for the second cour of this fairly divisive show.
Sadly as it reached the conclusion, I became conflicted about the direction the show took. I waited patiently, knowing I wouldn’t have a solid grasp on my feeling towards the show until it was completed. Now that it is, I can safely say that Darling in the Franxx did not live up to the lofty promises that detractors would argue never bore fruit in the first place. Continue reading →
The spring Anime season is upon us and everyone is either watching Violet Evergarden now that it is on Netflix or the new season of My Hero Academia. Meanwhile, I’m over here still watching Darling in the Franxx, the collaboration between Trigger and A-1 that I covered a couple months ago. So before everyone forgets about it, I thought I would cover the show thus far and see how it has been shaping up as it enters the second half of its 24-episode run. Continue reading →
Studio Trigger, to me, is the darling (pun not intended) of the Anime industry. It didn’t start that way, mind you. The hype and praise surrounding it was merely built on the staff list and the ridiculous expectations of fans who were bound to be disappointed when Kill la Kill wasn’t perfection. Factor in several other duds like Ninja Slayer or the second Little Witch OVA and it starts feeling like Trigger was all talk.
Thankfully, with shows like Kiznaiver or Space Patrol Luluco, Trigger is starting to really earn the hype it garnered at the beginning. It is a studio overflowing with creativity, exploring new avenues and other genres with every project, even if they don’t always have a ton of money. Perhaps to rectify that specific issue, Trigger has partnered with A-1 Pictures to produce Darling in the Franxx, a brand new mech anime from the director of The Idolm@ster, Atsushi Nishigori. Continue reading →
I must say, ladies and gentlemen, I’m feeling a bit peeved right now. No one thought to notify me that Studio Bones produced a half magical boy, half mech show in 2010, bringing together an all-star staff list to produce one of the most flamboyant, bizarre and visually enticing works that almost none of my friends know about. A delightful gem by the name of Star Driver.
This staff list alone should garner attention from any Anime fan. The director is Takuya Igarashi, director of Soul Eater, Ouran Highschool Host Club, and Bungou Stray Dogs. The script was penned by Youji Enokido, who wrote FLCL, Redline and (again) Bungou Stray Dogs. Hell, sound director Kazuhiro Wakabayashi has so many credits worth mentioning that I’ll just direct you to his MyAnimeList page.
Impressive staff aside though, how do all the pieces fit together? And considering the pedigree of Bones and the other artists working on it, how has this show not been talked about more in the years since it’s release? Continue reading →