Studio Trigger has a lot of interesting and unique shows behind their belt. With its mysterious atmosphere and Giant Robot vs Kaiju (Giant Monster) fights, SSSS.Gridman is my favorite show from their portfolio so far.
One morning, a red-haired teenager wakes up without any memories of the past. His name is Yuta Hibiki and he finds himself on his female classmate’s Rikka Takarada couch, in a house in the city of Tsutsujidai where Rikka’s mom sells antiques. While Yuta relearns how to be a high school student and interacts with his plucky classmates, the city is suddenly attacked by a giant monster called a Kaiju. With the attack imminent, Yuta gets called by the ancient computer at Rikka’s house to turn into Gridman, a giant robotic humanoid that fights for justice. Yuta and Gridman must merge together to fight against this threat and save the city.
SSSS.Gridman follows the standard anime episode formula of episodic adventures in the first half and going in a more psychological direction in the second half. There are a lot of questions: Why are monsters always attacking? Why no one remembers these attacks afterward? Where does the show take place? Why does Yuta have amnesia? All the answers to these will be given before the series ends. SSSS.Gridman is not just a Giant Monster vs Robot romp. It’s reaching to be something more.
Plot and Story
Yuta Hibiki’s group includes Rikka Takarada, his best friend Sho Utsumi, and the strange group of warriors called the Neon Genesis Junior High Students (NGJHS). The NGJHS are pieces of Gridman that grant him a different ability or weapon to use in combat. While Yuta may be the character that moves the story forward, Rikka is the real protagonist of the show because the camera follows her around the most. Rikka is the one character in Gridman who acts like a normal high school student stuck in awkward situations beyond her control. For one reason or another, she is there for most of the incidents that start the monster attacks. Seeing Rikka understanding her place and growing from it was great. None of the other characters changed as much as her.
And on the opposite side of this spectrum is the antagonist Akane Shinjo, Rikka’s best friend. She sits next to Yuta in the classroom and is the most popular student in school. Tasked by the mysterious alien Alex Kerib, she creates many Kaiju to fight the mysterious Gridman. In fact, her entire life is about Kaiju because she is a Kaiju Otaku. Building and breathing in Kaiju atmosphere is her life. Akane, being the most popular high school student despite never interacting with her peers, is rather strange and fascinating.
The first six episodes of SSSS.Gridman are the make or break point when it comes to watching the show. Do you enjoy watching a giant robot man continually fighting and winning against different giant monsters each week? The way each episode is laid out becomes so predictable that it may become hard to watch for those not accustomed to this format. There are character-focused episodes, fun robot action, and each story is framed slightly different from the others, but that isn’t everything the show has to offer. Everything feels like a reset for some reason, because that’s part of the plot. After the sixth episode, the show analyzes Akane thoroughly as it leads to her and Alexis’ ultimate defeat.
Art and Music
From a soundtrack perspective, SSSS.Gridman is atmospheric but unmemorable. There are good tracks, but there is a strong lack of variability. There are four actual songs that are repeated multiple times with different sorts of instrumentation, from orchestral and electronic dance music to hard rock. It’s cool, but it’s still the same song just done different. Not the best soundtrack to use for awesome moments that need to be emphasized. It still makes SSSS.Gridman thematically consistent. It makes the episodes feel connected despite the episodic nature of the show.
SSSS.Gridman has some beautiful settings and storyboards but its animation is average. Like the not-so-subtle nod to Eva with the Neon Genesis Junior High Students above, Gridman more than borrows a lot of shots from Evangelion itself. The result is that the anime has a very dark and off-putting atmosphere that highly compliments what the show is going for. I wished that all the character and human animation could be a little stronger because there are a lot of still frames, but I will settle for atmosphere and tone any day of the week.
Gridman also has a lot of awesome giant robot vs monster fights. If there is a balance between traditional animation and CG, Gridman finds it. The transition between the two isn’t seamless, but both sets of animation are incredibly well done. You can tell where most of the anime’s focus was. The traditional animation in these fights was fluid and the CG monsters were awesome. They moved around as awkwardly as people did in monster suits in old Godzilla films and I loved it. Either way, I have no complaints.
- SSSS.Gridman is a loose TV adaptation of 1993 Tokusatsu series Gridman the Hyper Agent.
- The SSSS stands for Special Signature to Save a Sole, but it also references the US adaptation of the Gridman series Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad.
- The colors of every character are related to an Autobot or Decepticon from the Transformers franchise.
- SSSS.Gridman was accused by Animator Masami Obari for using scenes from various anime he was involved in. The series in question were Gravion and The Brave Express Might Game.
SSSS.Gridman is a very ambitious and confident series. In each episode the anime tries its best to get as much characterization and ideas out as it can while also maintaining some sort of formula where the characters have to fight a monster in each episode’s second half. Because of the format, Gridman has a flawed and unfocused narrative but that doesn’t mean I don’t recommend it. I like it for everything it tried (and sometime succeeded) doing, and it looks good. It’s a unique anime worth checking out.
So what do you think? Does Gridman seem interesting to you? Have you seen it before? Leave a comment!
Fall 2018 | Anime Info | Simulcast