A Classic Reinvented
Series in a Sentence
3 high school friends (the amnesiac Hibiki Yuta, the nerdy Utsumi Sho, and the popular Takarada Rikka) team up with the mysterious Gridman and his allies to defend their town from an invasion of mysterious Kaiju.
What I liked
I really liked this series for two different reasons: First, it was really fun and, second, it was surprisingly deep. Let’s start with the easiest thing to talk about without spoilers: The fun. Being a series focused around a giant Ultraman-esque man fighting other equally giant monsters, this show has some visually appealing battle scenes. Yes, this series’ primary battles utilize CG but no, it is not bad. In fact, this is one of the best uses of CG I’ve seen from any weekly series. This helps the Kaiju designs pop and adds a feeling that you’re watching the live action show that this is based upon.
Moving away from the fun aspect (since it is really straightforward), I want to talk about the themes in this show. Without giving too much away (since this is the spoiler free review), this show dabbles in themes such as self-worth, self-confidence, and self-discovery. All of these themes are really naturally worked into the plot, giving this typical battle series a more complex feel, and each theme is also elevated by the environment and tone. It almost seems like the writers had these themes and made it a focus to have every aspect of the show work around them in a nuanced way. For a 12-episode series, this focused presentation is a huge success and really set the show apart, especially when taking the HUGE revelation in the last episode into account (which I’ll save for the spoiler filled After Anime Report) .
What I Didn’t Like
It’s really hard to describe this section without spoiling anything so I’m going to try to be as vague as possible and you’re just going to have to trust me: Sometimes, this show gets too thematically heady and sometimes plot points are too based on the “source” material. Concerning the themes that I just praised, this series has a tendency to lean too heavily into them at times where it doesn’t feel right. This, I found, creates situations that feel like they have drama for no other purpose than to just have drama. On my second complaint, the reliance on “source” material, it’s a bit harder to explain with no spoilers. Basically, this series is both a sequel and soft-reboot of the original Gridman series so certain names and characters that end up being important or seemingly important are related to the original live-action run. Easter eggs like these are not uncommon, and a few of them really hit home, but when certain plot points are predicated on prior knowledge (or are significantly enhanced by prior knowledge) of the series, questions for those unfamiliar with the franchise go unanswered and it detracts from the experience.
SSSS.Gridman was easily one of my favorite shows of its season. It had flashy fights, deep themes and characters, nuanced writing, and a surprisingly professional presentation. Of course, it helps that Studio Trigger did this series (for those that have read my prior reviews you’ll know that I love Trigger). Studio bias aside, though, this series was genuinely a surprise. It was more than just a rehash of an old and underappreciated Ultraman-esque show and was able to take the genre that it exists within to a new level. If you like fighting series, you’ll like this; If you like series that will make you think and reflect, you’ll find something here, too. Even old dogs can learn new tricks.