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 the mysterious Kaiju.
What I liked
I went into SSSS.Gridman expecting nothing more than an anime adaptation of an old, and somewhat cookie cutter, live action series. Man was I wrong. SSSS.Gridman did indeed have its more cookie cutter moments, with many fights against kaiju ending with Gridman getting a new powerup or winning based on the power of friendship, but the actual story leading up to these points were anything but. In fact, almost every character had a purpose in the main “twist” of the story. Let me get this out of the way right away: The main twist of the plot comes at the end of the series and reveals that every single character but Gridman and a few others is a creation of the REAL LIFE (That’s right, LIVE ACTION) version of Shinjo Akane and each character represents an aspect of herself that she doesn’t want to acknowledge. Perhaps the most important of the characters representing an aspect of Akane is Rikka. Rikka is popular, sure, but she lives in a junk store that no one wants to visit, looks more plain than everyone else, and hangs out with the oddball Yuta and the nerdy Utsumi. Despite it all, Rikka wants to be friends with Akane, and this need represents the deep feeling that Akane wants to accept herself. Rikka is everything the Akane didn’t want to be: Open, social, and free despite her circumstances. In the end, Akane’s acceptance of Rikka’s friendship allows Akane to move on (and in the live action ending we see that their connection runs even deeper: IRL Akane looks like Rikka). Beyond Rikka, Utsumi’s nerdiness is an obvious representation of Akane’s love of Kaiju and his treatment as a weirdo shows her fear of allowing society to know her interests. Yuta’s yearning for Rikka, and not Akane, is also representative of Akane’s deep seated belief that people will like her real self and not a fake persona. All in all, the series pushed past my initial expectations by the end through the use of atmosphere and metaphors that made the series great
What I Didn’t Like
I mentioned it before in my spoiler-free review, but there are some plot points that I had to look up to get the full enjoyment of the series. Things like the Kaiju girl, the Neon Genesis Junior High Students, and some Kaiju designs were callbacks to the original series. The whole final battle with Gridman assuming his original form and the original theme song playing was predicated on nostalgia. While I’m sure Trigger did this because they wanted to get people to pay attention to the source material, it is also an inherent problem in a series like this. Yes, you can enjoy the series without looking anything up about the original Gridman but no, you won’t get 100% of the full enjoyment from the series.
SSSS.Gridman blew me away by the end. What I thought was going to be a basic, live-action-to-anime adaptation turned into a crazy, introspective battle series that was more insightful than it had any right to be. Will it change your mind if you are dead set against the idea that a battle series can be more than just that? Actually, it might! I highly urge anyone and everyone to give this short series a chance because, though not perfect, it moves the genre forward more than anything I’ve seen recently. It was both original and unoriginal, nostalgic and new, insightful and easy to watch. Self-acceptance is the key to happiness.