I find myself sighing over the finale of SSSS.Gridman though for two very different reasons. On one side of the coin, I breathe a sigh of relief. This didn’t end up as a hellish dumpster fire that burned a whole city down like Trigger’s other mech anime that shall not be named. Thank goodness for that. I was not in the mood for another analytical aneurysm. And yet, on the flip side, I also find myself sighing because, to be honest, it’s complicated how exactly I feel about this ending.
The big issue here is that a lot of this episode’s potential success pins on whether or not you think Akane deserves her redemption. You’re obviously free to think otherwise but personally, I don’t think she does. What has this girl done to earn it? It certainly wasn’t making all those kaiju to terrorize the city or all the murders she committed or constantly sulking over how her plans are failing or attempting to murder the one guy trying to save her. And no, the fact that this all technically happened in a digital world doesn’t excuse the fact that Akane meant a lot of what she tried to do here. She was a borderline psychopath for the majority of the story.
I suppose she did finally learn her lesson at the twelfth episode mark. Becoming a kaiju herself seems to have made see just how far she has fallen and she does sort of help Gridman defeat Alexis during the final battle by breaking his hold on her. I guess better late than never but my point is that showing that there’s good in Akane should’ve been done earlier.
There’s also the matter of everyone helping Akane accept herself which, frankly, is a bit of a stretch. Rikka alone is ridiculous but I’m especially stunned to see Anti try and pull her out of her kaiju form. Of all the people to save her, I would not have expected the boy who endured the most abuse from her to do the deed. I suppose you can cite logic and argue that everyone is doing this because they were programmed to do so by the default. The problem with that is that they then start to feel more like ciphers than actual characters making their own choices. It just conflicts with the acts of free will everyone has generally displayed before.
It’s a shame that the writing isn’t up to snuff as the other aspects of the production tried really hard to compensate. To give credit where it’s due, the direction in this episode is terrific. Akane’s screams substituting the traditional roars when she’s a kaiju is a smart auditory clue hinting at her anguish. Her final scene with Rikka is well-framed with a lot of negative space and a single light source, conveying her desire to leave the world as penance but also her regret to bid farewell to Rikka. And of course, there’s Reina Ueda providing the voice of Akane. What an emotionally charged performance that was. I’d dare say this is some of her best work as a seiyuu yet.
You know what also bothered me about this finale? How the romance between Yuuta and Rikka ultimately goes nowhere. Gridman confirms Yuuta’s feelings towards Rikka for him…and then that’s it. No hook up. Nothing. I do, however, like how Yuuta’s feelings ties to why he became Gridman’s vessel. If he really was meant to be Akane’s boyfriend (very telling that he sat next to her in class), then the fact that he fell in love with Rikka instead must’ve been what drew Gridman to him. He’s the first person in this digital world to exercise free will. A cool detail for sure…but I’m still disappointed that this anime didn’t anywhere with the actual romance.
I will say this: it is clever of SSSS.Gridman to reveal itself as an actual sequel to the original Gridman the Hyper Agent as opposed to a reboot. Yeah, turns out this series is an anime to better sell the fact it takes place in a digital world and not ours. A pretty cool stylistic choice if you ask me. This especially comes into play at the end of the episode when it suddenly goes to live-action to show our world (and more on that in a bit). I also like the reveal that Gridman’s true form is exactly the same as his costume from 1993. Admittedly, I’d appreciate it more if I have actually seen and liked the original but this is still a neat Easter egg. Plus, it’s amusing that what is meant to be a guy trying to walk and fight in a costume is what actually gets to be animated entirely in traditional 2D animation. I see what you did there, Trigger.
So about the switch to live-action. I kind of figured Akane was the only “real” person in this story but who would’ve thought that the staff would go as far as to actually show her as a 3D girl. Much more peculiar is the fact that her real self has long black hair like Rikka’s. I’m seeing a theory floating around in the forums suggesting that “Akane” is actually just the personality and appearance that the character aspired to be. In reality, her real self is more like Rikka’s and the Rikka we were following this whole time is actually Akane trying to separate her real self from the idolized self she’s trying to live as. It’s an interesting theory though one issue I kind of have with it is if Akane is actually Rikka, then it kind of undermines her supposed insecurities. We’ve seen what Rikka is like in the simulation and, well, she doesn’t seem like the most antisocial or self-hating individual. I say that but truth be told, I would rather go with the more fascinating interpretation than chalk this scene off as Akane just doesn’t have purple hair in real life.
This finale could’ve been better overall but all things considered, I’m glad I stuck with SSSS.Gridman. If not for the destination, the journey was a fun ride. The story and characters do have their moments more often than not. And not only does this series pay homage to its tokusatsu roots, it merits shine on their own, especially in regards to the direction, tone, and use of sound. More importantly, this is an anime produced by Trigger that I feel confident in saying is good. And after co-creating one of the biggest disappointment of 2018 earlier in the year, that is something worth acknowledging. I don’t know if this studio has redeemed itself in my eyes but it did good this time around.
Thanks for reading!
For all of my SSSS.Gridman Episode Reviews, check out the show’s archive page!
Consider supporting my blog via: