Posted on 2 January 2019 with categories: Anime Reviews, Reviews by SuperMario, SSSS.GRIDMAN

Let it be known that I’ve never been a fan of Trigger. For me, they’re one of the most style-with-no-substance studio on Earth with a tendency for god-awful fanservice, and total nonsense in terms of story and characters. Yet GRIDMAN completely caught me off guard in the first two episodes, and from there, there was never a dull moment. On the surface, it shares many of the studio’s (good) trademarks: an unconventional storytelling, bombastic action sequences and and eye for arresting visual. Yet its approach is completely different that the visual approach becomes a character of the show itself. On the next surface, GRIDMAN is a love letter to those tokusatsu shows, the Gridman franchise and even Transformers franchise that we see the sheer love from the staffs to all these homages. While you don’t need any of prior knowledge in order to follow this show, the ones who do know about these homages might enjoy the show more wholly. For my money, along with Revue Starlight, GRIDMAN is one of the best visual directed anime this year 2018 has to offer. A visual where not only it’s striking to look at, but also support its themes and laid out many small details about its world-building.

The main vibe GRIDMAN offers in the first few episodes lie in how offbeat everything happens on screen is. Character waking up with an amnesia; there are kaiju monsters standing motionless in the background. The school appears to be normal a day after its destruction. This offbeat sense could very well turn many viewers off, but not until later do we find out about the truth of this world and its characters that everything starts to fall into place and its visual choice starts to make a whole lot sense. If I have to point out another quality of GRIDMAN, that would be there’s a clear line between “minimalistic” and “going all out”.Usually, the battle scenes go is bathed with its bright color, dynamic CG sequences and epic feeling, but in its quieter moments (which usually happening ⅔ of the episode), it goes for saving-energy mode: minimal music, repetition shots, realistic dialogues, “camera” is in static mode. This is a bold choice since clearly dividing its segments like that would cause a tonal inconsistency or even not holding audience’s attention at all, but it’s a rewarding one because GRIDMAN creates a real sense of its mysterious world that feel wholly unique and unforgettable.

Some could argue that because of these clear dividend, GRIDMAN is a show of two halves: its mundane slice-of-life half through the point of view of Rikka, and its Gridman vs Kaiju monsters origins narrated by Yuuta. In fact, part of the claim is true. Looking back, GRIDMAN doesn’t seem to have a clear protagonist, as we were introduced to this world through Yuuta’s eyes, himself is a blank state, then all the emotional core is progressed through Rikka as she goes through her normal life and then the show leaves its climax arc to Akane, her God-like status and her existential crisis. Not all of these work well (Yuuta’s part is clearly GRIDMAN’s weakest part), but I’m surprised that this show brings another level of complexity to Rikka and while I’m a bit let down by the ending, the dream episode remains the best episode I’ve seen in 2018, and the single sequence of Akane jumping off the crane remains one of my favorite scene of the whole year.

GRIDMAN is also one of these shows where it embraces “show, don’t tell” school the the fullest. The visual style always give the sense of scale between the characters and how huge the kaiji monsters are. It features many distorted lenses, further informs us visually that the world these characters inhibit in are not necessary real. Most impressive of all, in my humble opinions, is how the show uses the distance between its characters to signify their chemistry. The best examples of this approach is Akane and Anti’s relationship, where you can see the clear distance, most of the time Akane is in higher position, looking down at Anti. In addition, My favorite one is in episode 3 that details Rikka and Shou’s getting sucked into their own misery. The visual framing, which frames these two looking different ways through mirror is the textbook example of how to inform character’s inner struggle purely through visual alone.

This show is also in love with putting as many details in its world-building, a bit obsessively like the way Wes Anderson usually spend to his worlds – mostly through the objects that surround the characters. While these details might not necessary relevant to the main plot, uncover these Easter eggs might prove rewarding and might open up to more interpretation this show aims to be. This is the show that the more you dig into it, the deeper the Rabbit hole goes, but damn I really do prefer if the show confirms some of its theory. The live-action sequence at the very end of show, for example, nicely sum up this show thematically, at the same time raising a hell lot of ambiguity to the table.

And for me, that is exactly the kind of anime I’m yearning for. It might not be perfect, it might be for an acquired taste (although I heard that it sells surprisingly well in Japan), it might not wrap up the best way it can, but it never afraid to take risk and ultimately it comes off as its own thing. I sure hold Akira Amemiya in high regard now.

Posted on 24 December 2018 with categories: Currently Watching:, SSSS.GRIDMAN

GRIDMAN closes off its story on a grand spectacular finale and as far as spectacular goes, it does its job nicely. Personally I’m more impressed with this show in its quiet moments so I enjoyed it more in its last 6,7 minutes. I don’t know how much relevant GRIDMAN the anime is in regard to its original live-action. I mean, what’s the deal with the kaiju girl Anoshiras II and what’s the true role of GridKnight, but taken as an individual piece this ending is both straight-forward and confusing in the same manners. The straight-forward part is how the climax goes all out with its action: we have Gridman in full form versus Alexis in full form, and we do have all these cheesy lines that I’m sure serve as a homage to its original “Here comes my special moves – Fixer Beam” “Nanii? How can you have such godsent power?” “The power of MORALITY to destroy the immorality”. It’s fun to hear these campy dialogues out loud, and it’s even more entertaining when they’re boasted by the stellar animation. While I admit that the battle never wowed me, I can sense the love from the staffs to every single details of this battles.

What slightly bugs me, however, is the narrative led up to the final showdown between Gridman and Alexis. First, the way Alexis “uses” Akane is pretty inconsistent and abrupted. Here, in a span of 10 minutes, Akane turns into a kaiju (her scream is awesome, though), gets rescued by Anti, and immediately gets swallowed again by Alexis. In terms of narrative progression, you can easily cut down the “Akane becoming kaiju” part and nothing (except for the kaiju design) is lost. The same goes for Anti where he desperately tries to save Akane (which I thought was wierd to begin with because it’s not Yuuta or Rikka, but the least of all people Anti who saves the princess) just so that moments later he gets stabbed by the villain and was thrown aside for the rest of the battle. Don’t get me wrong, I love Anti. He’s, after all, the only character who grows the most in this show, signified by his blue eye color at the end, but I can’t shake the feeling that his own narrative arc is a bit shaky and not totally well planned-out.

But then, it comes to the “afterneath” section and while most of normal shows would retreat back to the new status quo, GRIDMAN manages to do something interesting here. We have a few-minute but feel like half-an-hour long sequence (hey, I’m not complaining) of only Rikka and Akane in a room together, further showcase how GRIDMAN is at its most comfortable when it strives for minimalism. Here, in a near-empty room, Akane has her redemption and Rikka has one of the best moments of the whole episode, as she gives the card holder gift to Akane, and wish that they could always be together, at the same time tells Akane not to let that wish come true. After all, Akane needs to move on from this cyber world, and the characters created by her will stay behind and have lives of their own. It’s a neat ending, but the decision to only let Rikka says goodbye to Akane sure leaves a lot of ambiguity here, which I will get to it later.

In a surprising move (which for me is a touch of “genius”, until I learn that it’s inspired by EVA’s ending), we have a live-action closure, a girl that looks awfully like Rikka that literally wakes up after the long sleep. The searing score was the one that played softly back from the beginning of the first episode. The ending will leave a lot of speculation of what is real and what not for sure, but ultimately I don’t think it matters that much. The main narrative is clear: Akane has her redemption arc and moves on, while Gridman and the Squads return to their hyper world and Rikka, real Yuuta and Shou stay back and live on.

As a whole, while I was a bit letdown to its final stretch, I’m still impressed with how much love and attention this show has for their world-building (it has a Wes-Anderson level of details here – the kind where it relies on the rich range of surrounding objects to defy the characters) and how it translates its themes by its visual craft – it’s one of the best visual directed show, along with Revue Starlight, that I’ve seen this year. Plot-wise, looking back I’m rather curious on how this show has many faux-protagonists to the point where you can’t really say whose narrative we are supposed to follow (it’s not necessary a bad thing), we start with Yuuta as we see the world through his eyes and his amnesia, but then in the middle Rikka demands us with her emotional tones and manage to sell them successfully as a normal girl trying to go through her life, then in the final arc it’s Akane takes the central stage. Not all of these transitions work, but it never fails to be anything less than intriguing, and that is a big compliment come from me.

P/s: pure speculation: it’s no fun to not give my own take on what happened at the end, right? Here’s my own two cents: the girl who wakes up at the end is Akane (we have her *real life* uniform, the card holder and the broken Iphone, and the name Akane in the picture). But why does she look awfully like Rikka? Is Rikka the part of herself she doesn’t wish to acknowledge? That might be the case but then again, the ED hints to the fact that Rikka might be real after all. Visually, the silhouettes has Akane’s mannerism, but is there anything more than meets the eyes?

Posted on 17 December 2018 with categories: Currently Watching:, SSSS.GRIDMAN

I have a sense that GRIDMAN regresses considerably since its magnificent episode 9. Well, major events are still happening. Last week, Anti transformed into GridKinight and this week, it’s revealed that Yuuta is indeed Gridman, hence the reason the boy doesn’t remember anything before waking up is simply because he has no memory to speak of. But here where I see GRIDMAN falters. It brings up a lot more questions and I’m not so sure if they can address them all in just one final episode. Moreover, the main narrative core, which is about Akane, is stalled for the last two episodes. As a result, we ended up seeing her wandering aimlessly in her own makeshift town, stabbing someone and then wandering aimlessly again. Maybe it’s just me who expected more than this but we still haven’t gotten into Akane’s backstory, if there was one, at all. Nor do we have a good idea of what Alexis wants behind all this or exactly what Anti were in related to Akane. For Akane, we only have a vague sense that she had some trouble in her real life that she escapes to this world and makes it any conceivable way she wants. For Alexis, if his objective was to destroy Gridman, then it makes little sense to summon all those kaiju monsters again. I have to note that the reason for Anti assuming the GridKnight role is because of those kaijus. Without them, he has no reason to fight. Lastly, it’s unclear why Anti was so dependent on Akane. From my point, we (and Anti himself) know that he isn’t the kaiju created by Akane, and I feel that Anti becoming GridKnight is incredibly forced. He can become anything. A kaiju with heart. Anything. So why GridKnight in particular?

We can’t pass this episode without mentioning the big event of this week: the reveal that Yuuta is indeed Gridman. That’s the whole reason why he can’t wake up until the Neon Genesis Squad figures out that they need to fix the old junk. It makes a whole lot sense regarding how Yuuta doesn’t have any prior memory and how they need to fuse in order for Gridman to work, but it also opens up for more questions I’m not sure if the show’s equipped enough to deal with. First, what about Yuuta and Rikka’s previous encounter? GRIDMAN has been hinted bit by bit that the meeting is kinda important for both him and Rikka, but now I don’t know what to make of it. Second, what about Yuuta’s real body now? I guess this doesn’t matter much, he’s a NPC anyway. Finally, what to make of this revealing? Is the fact that Yuuta is indeed Gridman change anything on this chessboard? I have no clue to be honest but I suppose the show will tackle that question in the final episode.

This week’s audio drama we have a mundane but much-needed conversations between Shou and Rikka. The reason I said “much-needed” is because on screen, I’m more strucked on how they can’t communicate their own thoughts to each other. Back in episode 3 we had a brilliant segment (which is still one of my favorite moments of the show) of them sucked into their own personal space. We have a glimpse of that again when these two are in hospital beds, waiting for Yuuta to wake up, as each of them is lost to their own thoughts. Rikka has a lot on her minds, mostly regarding Akane, but I rather enjoy how Shou addressing his own crisis of a best-friend trope: that he doesn’t really contribute to any of the fights. He succeeds on performing a role of a character who has no more role except sitting there helplessly.

Finally, my hope for Akane’s flashback might not turn out to be true, regarding how Alexis, in his ultimate decision, turns Akane into a kaiju too. While there are much more kaiju battles in the last two weeks compared to what we previously got, I don’t really see the weight of these battles. The reason for that is because Akane’s pretty much absent-minded, so even more than before we know how the results are gonna turn out. I must say, I’m a bit disappointed that GRIDMAN didn’t deliver in this final stretch, but there are still plenty of reasons to get excited about the final showdown next week.

Posted on 10 December 2018 with categories: Currently Watching:, SSSS.GRIDMAN

After a crucial episode last week where GRIDMAN reached its highest bar to date, it’s understandable that everything that follows it would be a letdown. Nothing in this new episode can beat the moment Akane jumped off the crane last week in terms of sketching her depression. This episode is where the entire cast goes through some sort of existential crisis. Yuuta, Rikka and Shou are processing the thoughts that they might be some sort of non-playable characters, being created and programmed to in the service of Akane. The Neon Genesis Squad is also going through their own Gridman’s identity – are they Gridman themselves or just parts of it. Anti goes through crisis regarding his kaiju origin and finally, Akane for her very purpose of creating this world in the first place. Akane receives the most damage as it stands, but it doesn’t help us that the episode doesn’t get into her own point of view, as a result we’re more like observer from outside looking in. Nor does we gain any more characteraction from Yuuta, Shou and especially Rikka this week.

So, let’s start with the end of this episode, where we have a surprised cliffhanger: Akane takes the matter into her own hands. Yuuta gets stabbed, but I don’t think that’s the end of him, considering he might not be a real person to begin with. His backstory has always been fishy, and his life starts after the amnesia. Although we learn that he had some history with Rikka before his mind went blank, for Yuuta himself and for us, the audience, it might as well just be the memories planted by Akane. Although it’s now fair to say that Akane is the goddess of this world, there are still many elements that go beyond her knowledge, namely the existence of Gridman. Whether it’s Alexis who brings Gridman to this world, or possibly the wise kaiju girl who did it, still remain a mystery. By having her confronting Gridman head on, we might know then the reason behind all that, and even the long-awaited Akane’s backstory that has been hinted throughout the show’s run.

Anti sure is busy this week, and I’d say that it’s kind if abrupted the way he switches side from Gridman’s eternal enemy to GridKnight, Gridman’s sidekick. He has another encounter with Akane, where Akane finally acknowledges him, not as a kaiju, but a living thing with beating heart because “kaiju can read people’s heart”; so it’s up to him to find his own purpose. And yes he did by fighting against Gridman at first, then fighting to protect Gridman, all in the span of 10 minutes. The kaiju battles, in keeping with GRIDMAN’s tradition, are colorful, well-animated, short and sweet. The first one, the half-formed murk of clay, represents Akane’s half-hearted attempt since she’s in no mind to create kaiju anymore; but the second one is the manifestation of Akane’s heart: powerful, unpredictably and proves to be Gridman’s greatest threat, until Anti – argubly the only one who understands Akane the best, beats her. Not that she gives any of these much thought, anyway.

Still, there are some little moments that I greatly enjoyed throughout the episode. One of those is how whimsical it is that the gang decides to go to Akane’s house to confront her, and literally walks to the house next door (kudos to Amagi who picked it up as early as episode 2); or these side characters that were based on Amemiya’s previous web novel. We lost a bit of Rikka’s charm lately, unfortunately (those moments regarding Rikka going through her normal life remain my favorite parts of GRIDMAN), and I hope the show close off on a high note. One thing for sure, GRIDMAN can still manage to surprise us, and I believe it still has some cards close to its chest to pull that feat off.

Posted on 3 December 2018 with categories: Currently Watching:, SSSS.GRIDMAN

Before this episode, I was thinking that it must take a full bag of magic to make me care about Akane, being an irredeemable bitch as she is. Episode 9 did just that, and then some, in its own fashion no less. It’s by the strength of its visual storytelling that show us how desperate she wants our characters to like her, and how ultimately let-down when she fails to do it. With a show that is so strong about its visual identity, a bus full of passengers suddenly feels off. What is a better way of displaying Akane hitting rock bottom (and her God-like power) than this single sequence? I can’t remember the last time I see the image and sound of the train crossing line symbols each dream segment? Heck, this episode is on its way to be my favorite GRIDMAN’s episode so far, and that says a lot. Not only it flirts around with dream/reality boundary that is one of my jam, it also deepens Akane’s narrative in most unexpected way.

The most genius part for me happens right in the beginning, when Yuuta wakes up and finds Akane in Rikka’s home. It’s a rehearse to the premiere with Akane now is in place of Rikka, and acts in a total Akane-way. That sequence is more screwing with us audience than it does with a confused Yuuta, since we have a knowledge that this happened before. The same things happen the same with Shou and Rikka, as they meet Akane in their separate dreams and can’t get out of such dreams. It’s masterful of GRIDMAN to start all the dream sequences in Yuuta, Shou and Rikka’s point of views, respectively, before pulls out to reveal that they are tangled in Akane’s manipulation. As for their dreams, it’s interesting to note that, while with Shou and Rikka, Akane choses the moments when she is alone with them in the “real timeline” – or put it better, the timeline where we has been following – with Yuuta, it’s the beginning where Yuuta wakes up from his amnesia, with the knowledge that normally Akane can’t possibly know. This detail further confirms that 1) Akane is indeed the goddess of the world we have been following, and that like our Hero team comes to suspect, that world might be entirely Akane’s dream to escape the real world and 2) unlike his friends Shou and Rikka, Yuuta might no be a real person. He has no memory before the event to begin with, which makes him a boy without a past.

But it’s interesting that as hard as she wants her followers to wordship her, the three comes to their sense because they reject this ideal world. “It’s all too good to be true”, Shou said that at one point. Yuuta looks at his reflection over the tomb he and Akane visit, which the kanji characters form into his tear, Rikka push stop button when she wants to get out of the dream – the moments speak more powerful than any conventional mean, and fittingly they cut to Akane’s pride the deepest. The more desperation she tries, the harder they pull out. The harder the pull out, the bigger blow she receives. I also enjoy Gridman’s reflections towards every single reflective things out main cast see. Those sequences, where Akane standing on top of the giant crane, above everyone but ultimately alone, best summarize her own struggles towards creating the perfect world, and fails to convert the people that she cares the most.

While the main plot of kaiju vs Gridman takes a backseat this week, they still offer plenty of fresh take on that formula. It’s the first time that this kaiju works in more… deceptive way. The kaiju puts Yuuta, Shou and Rikka to sleep and keep them hostage in their own dreams. What makes it all the more dangerous is that it can be seen, but can’t be touched by this realm of reality. It’s the first time where the Squad forms a version of themselves without the main host, Gridman, and it further reveals that Anti is more than just a regular kaiju. Now that I think about it, Anti might not be Akane’s creation and he’s more along the same line with the kaiju girl that Yuuta met in previous episodes. The animation, in addition, really bring the characters to light. It’s one of the rare time where both the animation and character design (especially Rikka) are looser than normal, hence the movement is much more expressive. From what I heard, this episode is storyboarded by Kai Ikarash, a newbie but the quality certainly has my attention. There’s just too many alternative routes GRIDMAN can take at this moment, and I mean it in the best possible way since for while some time that I feel this intriguing about a show at this stage: both revealing just about enough thematic depth, at the same time as vague and open as ever for more surprises on the horizon.

Posted on 28 November 2018 with categories: Currently Watching:, SSSS.GRIDMAN

Is it just me or Akane’s face is too pink this week?

GRIDMAN doesn’t break its formula this week. Structure-wise, it’s another first-half minimalist building up and second-half grand battle between kaiju of the week and Gridman. It’s up the stage for sure, this kaiju is promised to be the strongest one yet, and it’s the first time where Gridman manages to get all the boost-up items at once. But by all means I still enjoy GRIDMAN greatly. After all, repetition is the game here. These last episodes it has been opened itself up a lot to reveal many crucial points. This week, it’s a reveal from Akane that Rikka is created in a way the she can’t possibly hate Akane, by her kaiju no less. Well, I take all Akane egotistical view with a grain of salt, but it begs a question on how real everything is. If Rikka – the only cast member who acts like real human – is fake, then what about Yuuta (who has amnesia) or Shou in general?

Gotta say I really enjoy the way GRIDMAN counts down the cultural fest. It builds up a sense of anticipation, although with the main cast it has little to do with the fest itself. Akane challenges the Gridman’s team head-on by announcing her plan of kaiju’s attack on the day, in which our team responses by attacking first instead.By doing so, the students are forced to evacuate before Akane does the real damage. It’s still hilarious to see the scale-down Gridman against the giant monster nearly double his size and the real battle is GRIDMAN’s most over-the-top set pieces so far this season. There has been an ongoing claims over GRIDMAN’s blatant plagiarism from its inspiration but I don’t buy it. One of GRIDMAN’s aim is to pay homage to its source, from Gridman franchise to NGE so it doesn’t surprise me if the show uses many of its inspiration’s iconic scenes.

Meanwhile, Anti shows up at the gang’s hang out looking for Rikka. While he missed her this time, it bounds for a development between them since it marks the first time where Anti looks for someone else other than Akane, and that he doesn’t join the battle to kill Gridman. Is it a change of heart of a temporary retreat? I suppose it’s a latter but I won’t be surprised if Rikka can change him. Now that Akane is lost for an x time, and that we reach to the point where both Akane’s kaiju and Gridman are in their best form, I guess it’s time where they end this Gridman vs kaiju stage and reach to the next stage with a new final boss.

Posted on 19 November 2018 with categories: Currently Watching:, SSSS.GRIDMAN

The last two episodes GRIDMAN has cleared up many things and handily suggests the road it will ultimately take for its last half. First, it’s the reveal that the world our characters live in is belong to Akane’s, as she can destroys, and rebuilds again as she likes. Second, it’s a strong hint that she might not be the last boss of this war, that she’s being manipulated by Alexis, the alien. Like I has discussed over the past few weeks, I reckon the main emotional conflict is going to be between Akane and Rikka. While their past is still a mystery (which now I’m leaning to the theory that they used to get along but fallen out as they grow up), the two things (more appropriately, two people) that tie them together are Yuuta and Anti. We know for a fact that Rikka and Yuuta had a history before he got amnesia (that ball game rally – in fact, this week in audio drama we learn that it has something to do with a headband). This week, we’re leaning to the other side here with Yuuta and Akane. Take it as pure fanservice or not, the sequence where Akane doing in Yuuta’s bedroom is full of sexual tension.

While Yuuta’s friends have a hard time to believe his story (thanks to the poor way he puts it, he even doubts himself), he has much better success when confronting with Akane. The bit where she comes to the restaurant where their friend got ‘murdered’ by her without any remorse really speak clearly enough about her character. She thinks of herself as a Goddess, thus she can’t stand where things go against her way (Gridman) or when something going on beyond her knowledge (Anti). It’s a sneaky scheme Alexis prepares here. As he puts it: the more hatred the person has the more powerful the kaiju is. Anti sure hates Gridman more than Akane, and now when she realizes her place as a Goddess is challenged, she’ll be more determined.

It’s Anti who goes through a lot of action this week. He comes to school and confronts Yuuta before stealing all the breads. Soon he’s inspired to create a kaiju to kill Gridman, and failed. I can’t help but feel sorry for him the awful way Akane treats him, which plays as a huge contrast to how Rikka treats him in previous episode. The parallels are there: Akane consistently gets close to Yuuta, but he’s more attracted to Rikka. Akane treats Anti like pure dirt, while Rikka cares for him a whole lot. Whether or not Anti can develop his character (he’a still a kaiju after all) and where his loyalty lie will prove to be significant for the next few episodes. At the same time, we learn that there is another upside-down city up in the sky. For now, I suspect it as “the end of the world”, but we will know more about its significance soon enough, I hope. For now though, enjoy all these lingering shots (this episode has 3 of those, each of them lasts for good 10 seconds) that might or might not be relevant in the future.

Posted on 13 November 2018 with categories: Currently Watching:, SSSS.GRIDMAN

“They shouldn’t making episodes without kaiju in them “
It’s very cheeky of GRIDMAN to meta-comment on this episode, as indeed there isn’t any big fight between Gridman and kaiju monsters this week. We still get an introduction of new kaiju, however, and the fight in human forms. That’s the thing about GRIDMAN, it’s a show that knows full well all the formula of tokusatsu genre, and it does something interesting with these formulas. The main characteristic of GRIDMAN so far is minimalist. There isn’t a constant background music in this show but once it’s there, it matters. There isn’t too many people in the show (my favorite bits are the ones where the cast riding an empty public transportation), but once you see them, they have an impact to the story. Even the angles in which GRIDMAN places its shots are decidedly deceptive as hell, in a sense that if you look at certain scenes in another angle, that world might appear to be a different world.

And with this episode, this sense of “off” comes into the forefront. In an essence, this is a rather interesting episode, not only because it shakes up its own usual recipe, but that it connects different pairs, parallel them in an interchangeable way (the use of the same settings and same plot device for example) so that all the dots are linked at the end. We have 3 interweaving meet-up from our three main characters: Yuuta with the mysterious kaiju Anoshiras (his name isn’t mentioned in the episode); Rikka with Anti that proves to be a nice contrast with how Akane treats him; and finally Akane herself and Shou. The same motifs are there: they all eat something, while being surveillanced by a member of the Squad, down to Yuuta – Anoshiras eating the same bread at the same place in the same shot as Rikka and Anti moments ago. Now, normally I wouldn’t appreciate the info-dump from a side character to the main lead like the way Anoshiras spills the bean about the Akane’s true nature (it’s screenwriting 101 that the main protagonist has to work to gain info by himself), this reveal succeeds in two ways. First, now it’s the first time that the Good side is on the same level with Akane, now they have the same amount of information regarding each other’s secret. Second, this reveal opens up to more intriguing questions, and hint that the battles we’ve seen so far are maybe just a proxy war for something much bigger.

So the meat of the episode is that Yuuta (and us) come to a realization that the world they’re living in now is purely Akane’s creation. In the same way Haruhi constantly demolish and rewrites her world, but for Akane it’s consciously. She has a bitchy attitude when she wants to destroy everything that she finds annoying, and she has the power to do so. This episode reveals, however, that the mastermind behind all this isn’t Akane, but the figure who always talks to her on her computer screen. Now Akane’s role in the story changes rapidly. She might be just a victim of this guy’s manipulation so it could mean she joins the good side at the end (well, the OP highly suggests this). The mysterious kaiju, on the other hand, explicitly states that he isn’t created by Akane and he helps Yuuta because his master owned Yuuta a favor. The stakes are getting much higher now that another important piece comes into the picture. This could be a a game-changer that changes everyone’s role in the story, but let’s wait and see how well GRIDMAN deal with this new development.

Posted on 6 November 2018 with categories: Currently Watching:, SSSS.GRIDMAN

I feel like it’s inevitable that we eventually get to this episode. It’s an episode where the cast will wear some sort of bikini and swimsuit and show as much skin and flesh as possible. We’re also talking about Trigger for Christ sake, one of the leading studio when it comes to fan-service. Right at the opening scene we would see Akane is sexy swimsuit with suggestive pose. While normally I’d say “yuck” in disgust in the same way kids behave when eating pepper, the fanservice here in GRIDMAN does so in conjunction with its theme. There’s always a disparity on what happens on the surface and what it’s actually about in GRIDMAN. All these fan-service tendencies, from Akane in bikini in the first few minutes, to Yuuta finding the swim suit, to the girls having fun with Shou’s chubby belly to that suncream sequence, all create an artificial surface that soon to be broken down by Akane’s true motive. Again, GRIDMAN turns what could be a disaster into something relevant to its detached world. All the more impressive that this seemingly field trip of rafting-exercise is soon to be a battlefield that come neatly together at the end. The settings this week rightfully become another character in this episode.

More than any other anime, GRIDMAN is a show that has many striking shots that are so condensed with details, and so integrate with its narrative that these shots alone inform you so much about the cast’s dynamic. I will address 3 such shots here (with the exclusion of the suncream scene between Akane and Rikka as I already talked about them last week). The first one is the sequence where Akane interrogates Yuuta to find out whether or not he’s involved with Gridman. The way GRIDMAN frames the shot, however, of them sitting in a symmetry manner suggests you how the show suggests them as a different side of the coin. Villainous as she is, Akane regards that as her duty, just like how Yuuta feels. As a result they share some special dynamic that go beyond from interrogation or bad guy vs good guy relationship.

The second shot happens later on, between Anti and Akane. It’s the moment when without any word, Anti just lowers his body to carry Akane around the burning bush. It delivers some raw emotions here, the way it’s Anti way of caring for Akane, but he’s also determined to carry his own mission, which is kill Gridman by himself. I found that he ends up helping Gridman’s team more often than not, but he remains the elements of surprise for the ongoing battle between Gridman vs kaiju monsters. Later on, the scarf the he gave to Akane, was pushed aside coldly by Akane. The show doesn’t put any sentimentalism on that but the way that scarf keeps lingering on the screen displays some powerful emotion. Last but not least, the sequences concerning the cast riding the train. Apart from an iconic shot of kaiju monsters in the background (and how little it affect the main cast as they’re pretty much used to it), it again has some GRIDMAN’s signature touch: the train ride is otherworldly, it’s empty and the quirks where there’s a strange mist that put everyone to sleep are a welcome one.

These past few episodes I haven’t mentioned much about the CG battles, not because it’s unremarkable but more like it’s the aspect I pay the least attention to. Now, I just want to give a moment to say that the CG battles between Gridman and kaiju monsters have always been consistently awesome. Usually CG fights stand out in a bad way (like in Planet With where you can tell right away the awkward moves. Here these scenes were handled skillfully, it’s the timing that is always consistent that sometimes it doesn’t feel like watching a CGI battles. Gridman continues to be its own thing, and I’m glad to say that so far I enjoy every moments of it, even more so with its understated moments. There’s only one mystery that I hope the show can address in the future: How the hell did Rikka’s mom (voiced by the VA actress of Haruko Haruhara in FLCL) work out that exact number for the Junk’s price? It might be a bit too expensive for an old junk that barely work, but it’s never too pricey to save the entire world.

Posted on 29 October 2018 with categories: Currently Watching:, SSSS.GRIDMAN

Before discussing this week’s episode, I feel the need to mention the weekly voice drama (thanks a bunch for bringing it to my attention, Animosh) of GRIDMAN that provides more context and dare I say, more personality to the cast. As much as I like the current style of GRIDMAN, its strength is purely on the adept direction by Akira Amemiya and its solid visual craft where the dialogues are hardly relevant. As a result, by making these characters having an actual communication, it adds up a whole lot and helps explaining many of the loose threads in the anime. For example, listening to the audio drama, we learn that Rikka and Yuuta definitely had something going before the amnesia, that “ball game rally before summer” sounds like a perfect setting for a date if you ask me. These voice drama, along with the content of this week 4, also marks a shift in GRIDMAN’s perspective and now I come to suspect that Rikka is a crucial character that hold the emotional core in this anime. I mean, the voice drama of episode 4 (4.4) raises a red flag about Rikka’s life threat and based from what happened this week, I have very goods reason to believe that would be the case.

The main key to that plot thread lies in the relationship between Akane and Rikka. Granted, the main reason why Rikka approaches our girl in this episode is purely to confirm whether Yuuta is Gridman or not (and she fails miserably on that, but boy, did she try); but there’s hints about their already gone established friendship, and slowly Rikka comes to the realization that all the incidents happen around her. That might just be her hormone’s actin’ up (that everything revolves around her), but I come to suspect the core reason for Akane becoming a psychopath has something to do with her and Rikka. Talking about the Queen of Cruelty Akane (opps, lame references to another show I’m blogging), this week she decides to kills the V-bloggers boys because they keep pestering her (could it be a warming message for all the Youtubers out there?), and the way GRIDMAN displays her, by extreme dutch-angle shot, by her still acting nice but can’t hold back anymore when she’s alone, tells you pretty how unstable her feeling is. She isn’t merely killing people for fun, she kills them in the manner of farmers cropping up weeds.

As for our battle this week, things get even more crowded with the appearance of a new insectoid kaiju. This Kaiju succeeded on killing 3 of the boys, and on the verge of defeat our Gridman… until Anti interferes given he wanted to be the one who defeat Gridman. It’s interesting to note that Anti pretty much acts according to his principle, so he’s no longer an Akane’s puppet (the way Akane constantly throws her phone is amusing, too). On the other side of the battle, the Neon Genesis members, and Gridman himself, are freeze as soon as all of them entering the Junk (it’s overloaded – speaking about old machine, huh?). Their solution? Unplug the machine and load it up again (this sure brings back memories, but it’s also the fastest way to destroy your computer’s memory). Rikka’s quick decision sure brings a smile to my face. The Neon Genesis squad so far is a delight, they don’t harbor too much deep but they bounce off each other well, especially Samurai Calibur whose deadpan delivery goes well with the show’s emphasis on visual. I’m still down to see the other two members’ real power in the next few episodes.

Episode 4 also spends a healthy amount of time developing the high school romantic saga that involves a group date, a stalking and many more. Most prominent of all is the pair Yuuta and Rikka, as the last few episodes we see more of their chemistry from Rikka’s point of view, so it comes as a bit abrupt that in this episode we see Yuuta already fallen head over heels over Rikka (well, abrupt to me anyways). Yuuta still remains the most boring character out of this cast, but it’s fun and a bit cute to see how both him and Rikka are too dense to make any progress. Like how Max points out, it’s painful to see them trying to talk to each other. The offbeat tone still works wonder here. I very much enjoy the snarky comment from Yukka’s friends Namiko and Hass “who speaks like that these days?”, or Akane’s squid train pass card, which might or might not be relevant in the future. There’s still a lot to admire about GRIDMAN, even to the non-fan of its TOkusatsu homage and Gridman franchise like myself.

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