SSSS: Dynazenon and the Gridman Shared Universe Review

SSSS: Gridman was one of my surprise favourite anime back in 2018. Studio Trigger is one of those creators who are always worth keeping an eye on, and their anime original series give me the unique experience of watching a new anime without knowing full well there is a bit of source material out there that could spoilt everything for me.

The result of this was that I came into SSSS: Dynazenon with a set of pretty specific expectations of the series based on both my knowledge of Trigger and the direction Gridman ended up going. A piece of hypocrisy that really ended up biting me in the backside once this series was over.

While Gridman was a series that paid loving homage to the Ultraman franchise. Dynazenon does something very similar for the Super Sentai/Power Rangers series of my youth, specifically Voltron. The series follows a collection of total strangers, dragged together by the sudden appearance of a 50,000 year old Kaiju eugenicist and his former allies who’re bent on destroying humanity with the power of Kaiju.

Gauma, our pink haired, traitorous eugenicist wakes up in the far flung future (our present) in possession of four action figures. Each in the shapes of vehicles of land, sea and air. Also a dinosaur man. Finding some random kids from nearby he recruits them into piloting the machines as they grow to kaiju size and combine into some kind of zord. A mega one at that.

However, like Gridman before it, the real story of the series isn’t about the battle between good and evil, with giant robots battling massive monsters amongst the Japanese cityscape. It’s really about the characters, where they are at the beginning of the story and how they grow and change as a result of the time they’ve spent together.

Y’know, anime stuff.

The unique spin on it all that comes with the series being set in the Gridman universe. Which, in the case of this anime, means the show likes to focus on the normal and mundane aspects of these kids lives as seen between the bouts of robot fighting. It’s funny to be honest, these kids seem so unperturbed by the events they are roped into, taking it all pretty gracefully in stride, much more caught up in their personal stuff shit than the life and death monster battles happening on a weekly basis.

Yomogi crushing on Yumi and dealing with his mom getting into a new relationship in a super understated away. Yumi’s search for the truth behind her sister’s suicide, Koyomi being hung up on a choice he made when he was younger holding him back from moving on with his life and Chise’s isolation as an outcast. These are all pretty normal problems the characters have and end up really being the dramatic driving force behind the series for me.

Episode to episode the kids dwell and make some progress on their personal issues before the Kaiju Eugenicists take control of some new monster that shows up and the gang unite to take it down in one of the many glorious looking battle sequences that litter the series.

Earlier, I described the kid’s personal lives as “mundane and normal”. That wasn’t meant as a dig at the show, but rather a commentary on the style of the presentation. These parts of the show are all slow, understated. Intentionally so. It makes these parts of the series seem so much more realistic and unlike the “hyper realities” of most high school anime where everything seems like this huge, dramatic event.

It’s one of the things I like the most about the series. It’s one of the few anime that takes a “show, don’t tell” approach to its storytelling, which is the general rule of thumb when it comes to how most other anime approach their characters and their development.

Which isn’t to say I don’t enjoy the giant monsters battling giant robots either. Trigger are old hat at these kinds of action sequences at this point considering the series in their own past at this point. If I did have to make some kind of criticism against it though, it’d be from making another comparison between it and Gridman.

Y’see, in Gridman, the CG monster battles had a very specific style when it came to their choreography. The series was a homage to the old Ultraman shows and as a result Trigger made a concentrated effort to make those fights looks like they were being acted out by two guys in cumbersome, rubber suits. It gave the fights a unique charm. And made the ending of the series all the more impactful when the characters went full anime and started performing some more acrobatic manuvers.

Dynazenon starts with that more acrobatic choreography right from the beginning, which means it never had anywhere to go from there. I know it would have been lazy for them to do the exact same trick they did in Gridman, but the result of what we got meant that the fights in Dynazenon lacked a unique character to call their own. And ended up feeling a little wrote as a result.

As the series reaches its conclusion, the link to Gridman becomes apparent and two characters from that series show up to support our heroes. Older versions of Anti and Anosillus the 2nd, the Kaiju in human forms, now going by Knight and 2nd show up as a part of the Gridman Alliance. Together, all of the characters eventually combine their powers and destroy the final Kaiju in a very Power Rangers-like fashion.

The series ended in a fashion more straight-laced fashion that I had been expecting. Based on the events of Gridman and the direction that series went as it reached its conclusion, I spent the later parts of Dynazenon expecting a twist. The reveal of Gridman was that the entire world of the main characters was playing host to some kind of reverse isekai villain who had total control over the world thanks to this world being some kind of virtual construction.

While this series is explicitly set within the same “universe” as Gridman, aside from the presence of Knight and 2nd, it doesn’t feel like there is much else to tie this series to the first one. I kept expecting the twist and it never really came.

In fact there was a lot of resolution I expected that I never felt actually came to fruition throughout this series. By the time the series was over it felt like there were a lot of hanging threads still waiting to be tied up. I’m not the kind of person who sees any lingering plot thread as an example of poor writing or anything, but there were so many of them in this series that it felt like this demanded to be the first series of many rather than a one and done kind of show. Which Gridman very much felt like.

Which I suppose will come in a follow-up series, as the show ended Gridman X Dynazenon was announced. A follow-up that I assume will combine the events of both this series and the previous one, finishing off any story threads left lingering at the end.

I enjoyed SSSS: Dynazenon a whole bunch. While it didn’t have quite the same impact on me as Gridman did in 2018, the things I liked about that series were also present in this one in terms of its tone and presentation. It just so happened that Dynazenon came off as particularly generic and “by the book” compared to the series that preceded it.

It’s still worth watching though, the series itself doesn’t do anything wrong by any means. And if anything it’s going to be required viewing for when the eventual crossover series comes out in a couple of years.

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