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SSSS.Gridman Anime Cover

Score: 7.27/10

Synopsis

Yuuta Hibiki wakes up in the room of Rikka Takarada and notices two things: he has no memories, and he can hear a mysterious voice calling his name from a nearby room. On further inspection, he finds a robot—which introduces itself as Hyper Agent Gridman—behind the screen of an old computer. Much to Yuuta's surprise, Rikka cannot hear Gridman, nor can she see the ominous monsters looming over a thick fog as it envelopes the town outside. Another giant monster materializes in the city and proceeds to wreak havoc. Amidst the confusion, Yuuta is once again drawn to the old computer and merges with Gridman. Suddenly, he appears in the middle of the battle and is forced to fight the monster. Together with Rikka and fellow classmate Shou Utsumi, Yuuta forms the "Gridman Alliance" to defeat the monsters plaguing the city and find whoever is responsible for their emergence. [Written by MAL Rewrite]

When SSSS.Gridman first began, people really didn’t like it. I think a lot of the surface-level elements turned people away, especially since the first few episodes were fairly slow and predictable. But once the show actually got going, the actual content there kept us coming back week after week, and it ended up being not just one of my favorite shows of its season, but of the year as a whole.

Gridman is a precarious mix of genres, balancing seemingly everyday school life against giant mecha fights. The former goes against what people expect from mecha anime, and is likely responsible for the show being labeled as slow. However, these two disparate halves somehow built off each other, with the tension of the daily life feeding into the catharsis of the action scenes. Since it’s the more mundane material that seems to have garnered the most criticism, that’ll be the focus of this review.

Interestingly enough, this means I really don’t need to talk about Yuta. While he may pilot Gridman, his amnesiac protagonist bit gets in the way of him having a particularly interesting school life, and instead Rikka steps forward as the protagonist. Rikka is the more emotionally-driven of the two, and while she’s aware of all the kaiju shenanigans going on in the show, it’s never really her main drive.

Instead, Rikka’s conflict is her trying to reconnect with Akane, the antagonist of the series with whom she used to be close friends. Akane creates the kaiju that terrorize the city, and it would be so easy to just view her as the villain, especially since this is how she presents herself. But unlike the other protagonists, Rikka doesn’t look at her through this lens. By refusing to play on Akane’s terms of mecha and kaiju, she is the one who is able to genuinely reach out to Akane and save her from her isolation. This story of reconnection could have been treated as secondary to the main action, but instead it’s given the same level of attention, receiving much of the show’s expressive animation and relatable character moments.

Also, the show absolutely nails atmosphere. Though everything seems mostly normal for the first half of the run, the show’s use of its claustrophobic camera and tendency for long pauses serve to constantly instill a sense of discomfort in the viewer as they try to figure out why the world seems off. The summer heat is tangible and oppressive, and the rainy days are all the more miserable. The soundtrack goes a long way to sell these scenes, and the opening and ending are both fantastic.

Briefly, I’ll talk about how the show handles homage. I think a lot of the criticism leveled at the show is based on it being too steeped in references to other shows, to the point that animator for the original Gridman Obari Masami complained that they weren’t doing anything new with the material. With that said, I don’t mind having these callbacks as fanservice to fans of the original, especially since they don’t conflict with the story being told. Plus, how upset can I really be over all of the character designs being based on obscure Transformers? That’s adorable.

In conclusion, Gridman is just really good, you know? If you’ve been on the fence about watching Gridman because of the initial negative reception, I’d say it’s worth trying for yourself. I’m still not entirely clear why so much of the community is down on this show, but I absolutely loved it, and I hope that more people will give it a chance.

SSSS.Gridman is an anime inspired by the old tokusatsu series Denkou Choujin Gridman. It takes what's interesting about the genre and adjusts it to fit the modern day's standards. Thanks to that the final product turned out to be an interesting mix of old and new. Add to it the outstandingly good execution and you get a masterpiece that can keep you glued to the screen with every episode. The main character of the anime is Yuuta Hibiki - a high school boy that wakes up at Rikka Takarada's home having no memories at all. At the Junk Shop, which belongs to Rikka's family, there's an old computer called Junk. And inside of it there's Gridman - the Hyper Agent telling Yuuta there's a mission he needs to fulfill. Yuuta lets his school friend Utsumi in on what's happened and when huge monsters called kaijuu start attacking the city, these three form the Gridman Alliance and with the help of the robot inside Junk, they start fighting said monsters and begin the journey to discover the truth about the city and everyone in it. Since the very beginning there's a feeling that there's more to the show than it might appear at first. In what could be labelled as a naive show targetting the younger audience there's always the feeling that something is off and with every episode the eerie atmosphere becomes more apparent, which only makes the experience better. I loved the mysterious atmosphere of the weird, closed off city and the scenery filled with giant dormant monsters reminding you that even the calm days aren't how they should be. What adds to the atmosphere is the background music, or rather the frequent lack thereof. Because of that (and of the animation) some scenes look pretty slow, but I wouldn't call it a bad thing in this particular case. The music does always appear during the fight scenes, though, and it's fitting and good. I also liked both the opening and ending song. There's a song I liked even more, though, and namely Yume no Hero - the original Gridman's opening song - which the original version of we can hear in the last episode and there was also a rearrangement of it played before. As for the fights, what's much more outstanding about them than the soundtrack are the visuals. The fight scenes are super good and in my opinion they only get better with every episode. The CGI used during them looks clean and good quality and it also makes Gridman and the kaijuu look kind of heavy like they are supposed to be. We also get to see lots of cool transformations and gattai. Many cool combinations appeared throughout the show. The visuals are great not only during the fight scenes. There are rather many still frames, but I perceive them as an artistic move, which I like. But when things are moving, the animation is fluid, especially when there's a lot of action going on. The backgrounds are full of details, the characters have nice designs (I also love their eyes) and there is nothing about the visual side of the show that I could complain about. I found the characters to be another really strong point of the anime. Our main trio is totally likeable. Although devoid of some super unique traits, they feel genuine and their actions are understandable. And that's exactly what I like about them. They are just a group of normal high school kids whose everyday life changes because of the strange events happening. One could complain about the main character being bland, but there's a reason behind that, and it's more than just the fact that he has no memories. There's also Akane Shinjou - the girl everyone loves and a friend of Rikka. The Neon Genesis Junior High Students are a crazy but lovable and useful bunch, whose eccentricity doesn't fail to make the viewers smile. There's also a certain kaijuu boy that grew on me over time. The supporting characters are also fine. As for the references - there seem to be many of them, but as someone that has never been into tokusatsu shows, I can't say much about them, unfortunately. I feel like I'm missing out a bit, but it's not like being knowledgeable about this kind of thing is necessary to enjoy the show. I'm sure the references will add to the experience for people that are more familiar with that stuff, though. I also wanted to mention one thing I looked up before, and namely the background of a certain girl that played an important role in the episode 6. If you are interested in that, I recommend looking up a kaijuu named Anosillus. It's quite moving. Episode 6 is also the one the aforementioned rearrangement of the old opening song was played in. To sum it up, I see SSSS.Gridman as a show made of love and care for details. In spite of it taking inspirations from other things, it feels like it has its own identity. The quality of the anime is super good. To me this show is one of a kind. Simple, yet interesting and satisfying. I found it to be extremely enjoyable and I highly recommend giving it a try!

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