4 out of 5
Directed by: Akira Amemiya
While it comes up a tad short on resolving its various mysteries, it could also be said that those mysteries wouldn’t be too mysterious if you were cued in to the prior Gridman shows which SSSS.Gridman has, in this incarnation, reinvented. Still, I’d prefer for the series’ nods to its inspirations to be considered as fun but not necessary, and Gridman’s writer and director, Keiichi Hasegawa and Akira Amemiya, respectively, achieve that where it counts.
Yuta wakes up in Rikka’s house, seemingly having lost his memory. Visions of a robot hero named Gridman – tied to a computer in Rikka’s mother’s junk shop – plague him; when he, Rikka, and Yuta’s friend Sho begin to investigate, a big ol’ kaiju pops up and begins doing its kaiju dance upon their town. Then: Yuta becomes Gridman, after being sucked into the computer. Then: kaiju battle, city destroyed, people dead. Then: the next day, no one – save Yuta, Rikka, and Sho – remember anything of the sort, and all the destruction has been cleaned up. Thus does SSSS.Gridman kick off its 12-episode mystery: Where are these kaiju coming from? Where did Gridman come from? Why does no one remember anything of the epic kaiju fights that regularly go down?
Tsuburaya Productions and studio Trigger really do an amazing job with the look of the series: the animation is full of personality and color, bringing settings and characters to life and allowing for a consistent look across both conversational moments and the kaiju battles. Amemiya’s direction captures all the monster battle glory zaniness you could hope for, but never loses track of its grounding in a city, or that Gridman is powered / backed up by people. So just watching it is entertaining, but to then layer in an intelligent script, which makes spending time with all of our principles equally as engaging as the action stuff, is the icing: Hasegawa fleshes out each character such that no one fulfills a simple role of comedy relief or villain, even if their role in the story really only asks for that. And while some of the series’ revelations end up moderately trivializing it, there’s a key emotional component – a question of Why we do what we do, and the morality of it – that’s very, very strongly wound into things, then balanced with a fair dose of humor as well. It’s sincerely a show that, for all intents and purposes, could just be kaiju fights, but turned out to be much more, and despite my aforementioned misgivings, the willingness of the show to present some key components in a rather obfuscated manner – half explaining, half intimating – also allowed the show to get really surprisingly – and appreciatively – heady.