Original Run: October 7, 2018 - December 23, 2018 Number of Episodes: 12 Genre: Action, Mecha, Science Fiction
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for SSSS.Gridman. Reader discretion is advised.***
Yuta Hibiki (voiced by Yuya Hirose) wakes up with no memory of who he is. Lost in an unfamiliar city, a recollection or two might help him out immensely because:
- Everywhere he looks, Yuta sees kaiju (giant monsters) standing dormant around the town, and no one seems to notice them.
- A voice in Yuta’s head is telling him to remember his mission.
Suddenly, a new kaiju appears and starts attacking the city. Unsure of what to do, Yuta comes across an old computer, where someone is beckoning him to fight. The image on the screen calls itself Gridman (voiced by Hikaru Midorikawa), and following his instincts, Yuta decides to join the unknown warrior in battle.
Yuta and Gridman form into a massive robotic hero and face off with the kaiju defending the city. However, none of this explains what is going on or who is behind the attacks.
Note: LofZOdyssey is unfamiliar with the superhero branch of the tokusatsu genre (other examples of which include Ultraman, Kamen Rider, and Super Sentai). LofZOdyssey is also ignorant of the original 1993 – 1994 Gridman the Hyper Agent series which SSSS.Gridman was based on. Therefore, the following review only pertains to the merits and faults derived from SSSS.Girdman as a standalone series. LofZOdyssey asks for your understanding.
As stated in the note above, I know nothing about the Gridman character or the show he came from. In addition, SSSS.Gridman was a mecha anime, and I’ve never hidden my dislike for that particular genre. Nevertheless, I had my eye on this one because:
SSSS.Gridman was a Studio Trigger series.
As a quick reminder – and for complete transparency — Trigger is my favorite anime studio; a studio with a filmography which includes Kill la Kill, Little Witch Academia, and its earlier 2018 release, Darling in the Franxx. I also feel it crucial to mention I have never given a Trigger series an unfavorable review.
All that notwithstanding, my hype towards SSSS.Gridman was nowhere near the level it was at for Darling in the Franxx. Speaking now after the fact, I’ll stand by Darling in the Franxx as the superior product. Nevertheless, SSSS.Gridman was a lot of fun; Trigger is still maintaining an impressive winning streak.
With SSSS.Gridman, Trigger once again displayed its animation prowess. Although this series wasn’t as wild as some of the studio’s past projects, its visuals remained quite excellent. I dare you to prove me wrong, but no other company knows how to put together an action scene quite like Trigger, and SSSS.Gridman was no different in that aspect.
More importantly, I want to comment on the heavy use of CGI animation in this series. I won’t be pretending this was unnoticeable. However, SSSS.Gridman is now one of the best examples of an anime successfully employing CGI without making it appear out of place or cheap.
There were multiple kaiju versus giant-robot battles throughout this show, and the combatants – who were the ones mostly rendered with CG – fit within their surroundings. It was almost as if this series made an effort to ensure art styles didn’t clash with each other.
On top of that, checking off another Studio Trigger staple, the music of SSSS.Gridman was great. I won’t be going out of my way to purchase this series’ soundtrack like I have done with other Trigger shows, but I was still impressed regardless.
And before leaving the topic of Trigger staples, the story of SSSS.Gridman was solid.
Perhaps it was my fault for thinking a show about a massive monster-fighting robot hero would be cut and dry. With egg on my face, there was a lot more depth and polish to the SSSS.Gridman story. This narrative relied more on escalation rather than twists and turns. Each episode built on top of what came before. This series didn’t put much stock into unexpected revelations, and the results spoke for themselves. SSSS.Gridman was more concerned with developing its world, and not forcing in ways to turn everything pseudo-interesting.
I am making this distinction because SSSS.Gridman was reminiscent of another 2018 series, Caligula. Without giving away either show, let me just say:
Two stories can have similar ideas, but it always comes down to the execution. Although plucked from the same vine, Caligula was trash whereas SSSS.Gridman was not.
Finally, I wish to discuss this series’ characters for they were the biggest surprise. Here was a phenomenal cast, each of whom added something unique to this show’s personality.
The Gridman Alliance, which included Yuta Hibiki and his friends Shou Utsumi and Rikka Takarada (voiced respectively by Souma Saitou and Yume Miyamoto), were a blast to follow. This was the type of group which proved incredibly easy to root for. When push came to shove, none of them were willing to back down, and they supported one another through thick and thin.
Granted, I – as well as SSSS.Gridman itself – openly admit that Shou Utsumi contributed very little to any success seen in this story. Luckily, he was a fun person to have around, so his presence was justified.
And speaking of fun, the four members of Neon Genesis Junior High School (NGJHS) were fantastic. The Gridman Alliance may have added their fair share of humor to this series, but the NGJHS students were never off their game. They had that perfect balance of caring just enough to make things happen while still largely not giving a s@#$.
Last, but by no possible means least, there was Akane Shinjou (voiced by Reina Ueda). With no hint of exaggeration, Akane was easily one of the best anime antagonists I have seen in a long time.
Akane was not a cartoon nor some cookie-cutter villain. She was an obstacle the heroes needed to face. Akane was as cold as she was cunning. With little effort, she could put on a convincing friendly smile while at the same time plan out how she was going to get rid of you. Her voice could switch between caring and biting within seconds. And like all memorable antagonists, you will come to understand why Akane did the things she did.
Accordingly, I want to give special credit to Ms. Reina Ueda who gave an outstanding performance as Akane. Incidentally, I am fully aware Ms. Ueda was also the voice of μ (Mu), one of the principal characters of the previously bashed Caligula.
Other than the studio that made it, there was nothing to SSSS.Gridman which suggested I would like it in the slightest, let alone how much I actually ended up liking it. There is no other way to say it: This show was an unexpected treat.
I said it earlier, but just to be sure there is no misunderstanding:
I’m dead serious, Shou Utsumi had absolutely zero impact on this story. If this series had simply removed him from the cast, SSSS.Gridman would have been no different than what it was. Any moment of intrigue Shou had to his name could have either been fulfilled or was actually done by Yuta and Rikka.
But like I previously mentioned as well, Shou had his own charm. Plus, it wasn’t like he was a burden to anything.
Overall, I must admit, SSSS.Gridman was decently sturdy through and through. Its story never got too outrageous, it never became needlessly complicated, and most everything had a satisfying justification for existing.
There was, however, one aspect to this series which never sat too well with me. I wasn’t the biggest fan of how this series treated “death.” What’s more, I hate how I had to phrase that last sentence because of *spoilers*.
To start, I appreciate SSSS.Gridman acknowledging how devastating something like a giant monster attack would be on a densely populated city. With buildings falling down and debris flying everywhere, I can’t imagine many people escaping unscathed.
And yet, many of the characters came off as oddly passive when they learned people they had known were no longer alive.
And that indifference was the most irksome part.
SSSS.Gridman didn’t avoid the issue, and you might even argue it explained why everyone was so casual towards the high mortality rates.
I never said this series did a bad job with this topic. The only thing I’m getting at is, this show tended to leave behind a tolerable, but undoubtedly noticeable bitter taste.
I assure you, the day Studio Trigger produces a bad anime, I’ll be here to tear it apart. However, that day has not come yet.
This series was great.
With beautiful animation, a solid story, fun characters, and one of the best anime antagonists in some time, this show really did hit all the right notes. I certainly hope it did justice to its source material.
In the end, despite my fandom, I wasn’t expecting too much from this one. I’m happy to say, I got more than I could have hoped for. SSSS.Gridman is a series I’m glad I can recommend.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? What would be your advice concerning SSSS.Gridman? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.
Post Edited By: Onions