Watching SSSS.Gridman is like biting into an okay sandwich. You’re sure there’s filling inside – that’s what everyone who’s tried it says – but then it turns out you’ll have to bite through a lot of the boring bread first before getting to it. And what bland, stale stuff the bun is, so even after you get to the promised filling and find it isn’t so bad after all, you’ll end up wondering why you had to go through so much flour before getting to it.
There’s a substantial story here that's packed with teaching moments about the dangers of isolation, the importance of having friends, and the perils of strange worlds and selfish indulgences. But a lot of these got buried in what the show probably felt was subtle direction and gradual exposition, that it was really hard to give a proper shit when things actually started to happen. As this was my first-ever shot at the Gridman franchise, I’m aware there are a lot of callbacks I missed out on. So it’s a credit to the show that, despite the rich lore of the franchise, I was never really lost throughout the whole thing. But I did nod off at several points and a lot of that’s got to do with how slow-going each episode was.
For an action series, Gridman isn’t very exciting. And that might have been the point anyway, since this offers a more character-centered treatment of the classic mecha genre. But between long, deliberate moments of quiet and characters I didn’t know what to do with, it was hard getting myself to care about anything that was going on. While the awkward silences were meant to draw out uncomfortable instances and ramp up the humor, these long pauses didn’t always work in every scene. Meanwhile, the characters were people you could neatly divide into three categories: the just theres, the “I don’t even know what this show wants to do with you, fam, honestly” types, and Akane Shinjou.
And then, you get to the animation, which looked clunky and stilted, even if you could tell a lot of love went into the robo-kaiju showdowns. Set these fight scenes to a recycled soundtrack, and it gets easy to tune out altogether, even if all the rich background details really helped Gridman’s world come alive.
So, you know, okay sandwich. It’s the best-seller everyone’s tried and liked, but like the special dog Gridman’s characters like to eat so much, I wasn’t able to find much by way of presentation or style. It’s clear what the show wanted to do with itself, the same way the special dog makes itself known with the huge sausage sticking out in the middle. But like the special dog’s unremarkable appearance, it was Gridman’s technical aspects and directing choices that took some attention away from the stuff that really mattered.
[This review was made for the Anime-Planet Bingo Challenge: Winter 2019 event. Is it weird that I couldn’t take big bad Alexis Kerib seriously, because I kept expecting him to say, “Justice is over!” at some point?]
The show is packaged as a Japanese Superhero show where Super Hero Cop Gridman fights for the city against giant Kaiju monsters. There is however much more to this show and the Ultraman & Kaiju part of the show is just a layer to a much bigger picture.
Even though I feel I can't say too much about the show itself, I do believe that most people will have made up their mind about the show before they even really get into it, which is also why many people will probably never end up finishing the show.
I personally have never been a fan of these Japanese Superhero shows, and it took me a few episodes to pick up what the show was really about. I feel I can't really write too much about the show itself because I feel you just have to experience it. I am however a huge fan of the Transformers universe and due to that knowledge it added a whole new layer of story telling to the show.
Great execution, stunning art and even though the characters will feel a bit goofy at times you will come to appreciate them. SSSS.Gridman is filled with great references to other shows like Ultraman, Gridman, Evangelion, Transformers and many more.
Really, just give it a try... It's Studio Trigger, you know you'll love it.
SSSS.Gridman is a truly bizarre experience. After the monumentally disappointing Darling in the FranXX and the surprisingly worthwhile Planet With, this show completes the year’s holy trinity of super robot anime by being a confusing mixed bag that is a nightmare to discuss. While it doesn’t exactly go full Evangelion, there are still references to it as well as stylistic similarities between the two. However, there’s more to this peculiar anime than just being another run-of-the-mill mecha series.
First and foremost, this is both a tokusatsu and super robot anime. Sparing you the lengthy history of both concepts, it’s clear that the trappings of the two genres aren’t easy to deal with in contemporary anime—or any anime in the case of tokusatsu. Case in point: while reused animation is common in mecha series, they’re mainly utilized for robot transformations and special attacks. However, SSSS.Gridman goes as far as to rewind even non-action scenes, creating unnecessary repetition. Studio Trigger also decided to render the Gridman and its Kaiju foes using CGI, and the jarring blend between these 3D models and their 2D environment causes a serious case of the uncanny valley. Not helping matters is how these hulking titans continually swap between 2D and 3D, making everything they interact with --i.e. the road, the cars, the debris, etc.-- become a visual disaster. It’s a shame these graphical problems make the fights harder to follow given their cool choreography and sakuga moments.
The art style of this series is far from appealing. Aesthetically, the show is incredibly bland. The inconsistent animation can sometimes make the faces look like deformed potatoes, which are further accentuated by the uninspired character designs. The characters look incredibly plain apart from their vibrant eyes, and even the more appealing individuals such as Anti and Rikka seem lacking. Another problem is the awkward movements, specifically the hand and arm motions. Long story short, this show has a bunch of visual oddities that dampen the experience.
In spite of all the aforementioned problems, SSSS.Gridman has a striking direction. There are moments between fights that highlight a sense of discomfort and eerie quietness, similar to the atmospheric pauses in Evangelion. These scenes feel pretentious at times, but the clever framing of shots that illustrate the emotional distance of the characters makes them more engrossing than not. Film buffs might find this directing standard fare, but such a thing is noteworthy in the anime landscape. The dream sequences in episode nine are particularly fun to witness and showcase the creative talent of director Akira Amemiya.
S^4 Gridman heavily restrains its usage of background music. Most non-action scenes lack an accompanying soundtrack. You would think the absence of music makes their purpose more meaningful, but sadly this isn’t the case. Since the soundtracks aren’t utilized frequently, none of them are memorable as a result. However, there is one track that stood out: the opening theme “Union” by OxT. As an uplifting song, it works as a call to action that plays when the main cast is gaining the upper hand against their Kaiju opponents. The song doesn’t always mesh properly with the sequence since it’s sometimes too quiet, but when it does, be prepared for some epic moments. Sadly, all this can’t be said for the forgettable ending theme.
The cast of SSSS.Gridman is a mixed bag. For every character like Calibur, whose quirkiness comes from his silent, dorky attitude, we have someone boring like Yuta, our unremarkable protagonist. Most of the main characters, including the titular Gridman, are one-dimensional; the most interesting thing about them is their genuine interactions amongst each other. On the other hand, the three antagonists are highly fascinating. Akane is similar to a child trapped in her own sandbox video game world, twisted by her own influence, loneliness, and creations. One of these creations, Anti, is a foil to Gridman. He’s an overly serious edgelord so hell-bent on destroying Gridman that he ends up being hilariously awkward in social interactions. He would even pick fights with other Kaiju simply because of his desire to personally kill Gridman. As for Alexis, his voice and demeanor make him seem incredibly humorous and lackadaisical -- even as he shoves a buzzsaw to someone’s eye.
One irksome trait the cast share is their tendency to restrict themselves for no proper reason. For example, in episode three, Yuta, Calibur, and Gridman worry the others by disappearing after a Kaiju defeats them, only for them to be on standby the entire time. One could make the argument that rushing back into battle or retreating immediately would have tipped the Kaiju off, but they could have escaped after it left since they can just warp back to the shop.
All this segues perfectly into SSSS.Gridman’s obscure narrative. The mystery surrounding the show’s existentially horrifying world is unnerving in the sense that the narrative gradually becomes more destructive as secrets begin to unravel, a la FranXX. While I don’t feel the show crosses that line enough to destroy any investment I could possibly have --at least until episode 10-- there’s a fundamental aspect of the world-building that doesn’t strike me the right way.
Tiptoeing around spoilers, one of the major gimmicks of this show's world is that everyone’s memories of the dead are altered when a character dies at the hands of a Kaiju, or a Kaiju gets destroyed. With the exception of the surviving combatants, everyone’s mind starts to become hazy. It’s not quite on the level of Re:Zero where society begins to doubt the existence of certain individuals, but it’s still a frustrating gimmick that doesn’t entirely make sense. As such, the show’s convoluted narrative makes it difficult to recommend. The asspulls in the second half only adds to this problem.
Despite its various shortcomings, SSSS.Gridman is still an entertaining mecha anime. The fights are fun to watch, the banters between the characters are engaging, and the twisted hellhole of a world leaves viewers with much to ponder. Maybe I would have enjoyed this more if I’m familiar with the tokusatsu genre, but I doubt such knowledge would make this show any less difficult to unpack. It’s an enigmatic mixed bag that I am glad to have watched.
Oh, and on top of the Eva references, this show makes a Gurren Lagann reference, so there’s another link between the Gridman Planet With FranXX trio.
Written/Edited by: CodeBlazeFate
Proofread by: Peregrine and Skittles
I can't believe this show gets such low scores and scathing reviews here! Well, having discovered this anime, and having watched the pilot episode just a few weeks ago, I am thoroughly impressed with what I have seen thus far. It may be due to the fact that I am slightly older than most here but I absolutely love this work's very "retro" feel. SSSS.Gridman harkens back to an era (the 1980s up to the early 1990s) where Japanese animation (and Japanimation "rip-offs" such as Batman: The Animated Series and even Dexter's Laboratory and The Power Puff Girls) was predominantly carried by giant fighting robots with an ardent dependence on ground breaking, state-of-the-art technology. The inclusion of an actual AI "sensei" within Hibiki's monitor is also a direct throwback to the 1980s with shows like Max Headroom and Automan. With that said, SSSS.Gridman's narrative enhances the"retro", "Giant Robot" genres by offering superior animation, more script and character developement along with more captivating narratives and spectacular fight scenes. This anime's art and animation is absolutely breathtaking! The artists utilize a palette of cool pastels (such as the vivid blues and light violets and pinks of the abundant skies combined with the softer grays of the city's edifices) with touches of warmer hues (such as the bright, blazing reds and yellows of the characters' hair, eyes and clothing) juxtaposed across the scene which lends focus and emphasis to the animated landscapes. I am also in awe as to the astists' mastery of both standard 2D animation and CGI and the manner in which they seemlessly match and pair the two on screen. The fight scenes are by far the most fluid and credible I have ever seen in any anime! Here, you will get much more than just your standard rapid succession of blows and punches, dramatic angles, wild camera zooms, gratuitous explosions and static, overly dramatic poses and gestures. The fights in SSSS.Gridman are reminiscent of those made famous by James West in the American television series The Wild, Wild West. Here, the fights are sporadic, quick paced, superbly choreographed and not excessively violent or brutal. I also like how this anime lends ample time to each character and his or her being, accomplishments, failures, struggles, strengths, shortcomings, hopes, aspirations, flaws and relations to other characters and does not merely rely on the shock values of the imaginative, advanced technology and/or the battles themselves. In closing, I would like to add that, if you are a fan of retro anime, robots and AI, or if you are just an old head like me, you will truly find SSSS.Gridman a treasure.
Gridman is one of those shows that tries to do a lot of things at once, and fails in all of them.
The show is a reboot of the homonymous tokusatsu from the 90s. It has lots of similarities to it and tries to be a lot more ambitious at what it’s about. It’s definitely better in terms of themes and presentation, since the creators had the liberty to do a lot more with animation than what the low budget live action could allow them. It’s a shame they didn’t make it fun. And by fun I mean the battles not being exciting. They are fairly basic in choreography, short, and mostly predictable. Action is the main attraction of these types of shows and Gridman is not particularly good at it. They made the monsters move like people in rubber suits despite being fully CGI, but that is again nothing more than homage and not something that improves the battles.
The show also tries to be homage to tokusatsu in general while smiling at the camera, as if it tells you it’s self-aware. For example, any buildings that get destroyed by the monsters are instantly repaired. That is what was supposed to be happening off screen in all tokusatsu. It doesn’t improve the show in any particular way. It makes it more self aware to its silliness but it also ruins the tension and can be very immersion breaking for the same reason.
It also tries to double down on the homage and have a meta-commentary on the escapism nature of technology. Despite the buildings getting repaired, the same does not happen for the people who get killed. They stay dead and even disappear from the memories of the living. It sounds very creepy when described that way, but it has little to no impact when nobody seems to be bothered by it. The population of the city is literally seeing giant monsters being frozen in the distance and everyone runs away to save their hides on a daily basis, but life is otherwise exactly the same as it would be if there weren’t monster attacks.
The characterization is not much better for the major characters. It’s very bland and even eye-rolling when you have to suspend your disbelief with what they are doing all the time. Yuta for example is a cookie cutter boy scout type of protagonist, suffering from amnesia and the one who has to fight the monsters with no motivation other than to protect his friends. Gah! More generally speaking, male characters are defined by a single trait (usually an emotion or an ideal) while females have the camera constantly ogling all over their feet and thighs.
Down to it, Gridman is not a good tokusatsu. You can still appreciate the visual directing, which is stuffed with easter eggs of the previous version, the genre as whole, and even a few shot-by-shot recreations of Neon Genesis scenes. It’s all about the meta than the actual in-story experience. And even then, it’s not very successful, since the only thing most people remember from this show is Rikka’s thighs.