Japanese animated tv series (2018). Trigger. Directed by Akira Amemiya. Written by Keiichi Hasegawa. Voice cast includes Yuya Hirose, Tetsu Inada, Hikaru Midorikawa, Yume Miyamoto, Soma Saito, Karin Takahashi and Reina Ueda. Twelve broadcast 24-minute episodes. Colour.
SSSS.Gridman is based on the Japanese tv series Gridman the Hyper Agent (1993-1994), created by Tsuburaya Productions, and the related US tv series Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad (1994-1995). Both were in the tradition of the Japanese Tokusatsu genre, which are special-effects-driven and invariably feature people in Monster suits. Well-known examples include the Kaiju ["giant monster"] films featuring the likes of Gojira (aka Godzilla), Radon and Gamera (see also Monster Movies), and Television series such as Ultra Q (1965) and Ultraman (1966-1967).
SSSS.Gridman's basic plot is derived from its source shows: an Amnesiac schoolboy, Yuta Hibiki (Hirose), finds he can merge with a giant Superhero, Gridman (Midorikawa), and so defeat the Kaiju that regularly rampage through the City. After each battle the city is rebuilt overnight and most (but not all) of the dead reappear next morning: the only inhabitants aware of this are Yuta, his friends Rikka Takarada (Miyamoto) and Sho Utsumi (Saito), as well as Gridman's sentient weaponry (who take human form).
Yuta discovers the city is a simulation: the Kaiju are designed by fellow student Akane Shinjo (Ueda), who seems to be a God: she moulded the inhabitants to love her and uses the monsters to upgrade the city and remove people she dislikes (see Godgame and Virtual Reality – at one point a vast Computer world above the city is revealed). Akane's Kaiju are given life by Alexis Kerib (Inada), an Immortal Alien who, motivated by boredom and malice, encourages her destructiveness. Despite her worldbuilding Akane is not happy and her distress builds until she refuses to design more Kaiju – so Alexis turns her into a particularly nightmarish one. But Alexis is defeated by Gridman, who declares his true power is "to rescue the heart of Akane Shinjo!". The show ends with a live action scene: Akane awaking in the real world she'd fled from (and, significantly, looking more like Rikka than her simulation form).
The show shifts between Kaiju battles and more thoughtful sections, particularly when Rikka talks with Akane. Akane argues that Rikka is only her friend because she made her that way, but Rikka still asserts "I'm your friend" (which is as important as Gridman defeating Alexis in bringing about the resolution).
SSSS.Gridman contains copious references to the previously mentioned franchises and to others. This also affects the plot itself, as many story points are unexplained within the series, relying on a familiarity with the source shows. For example, Anosillus the Second (Takahashi), a Kaijo who aids Yuta, is related to the Anosillus spared by Gridman in the 1993-1994 series. This event (which explains her helpfulness) is not mentioned and she is unnamed in-show, being identified only in the end credits.
Despite some tonal clashing that hinders its being a satisfactory whole, this is a notable and enjoyable Anime. It won Japan's Seiun Award for best media of 2018. [SP]
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