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Anime Expo 2018 News Roundup: Day Zero, One, Two Headlines
Anime Expo 2018: SSSS.GRIDMAN Premiere Report

by Kyle Cardine,

During Trigger's industry panel before the SSSS.GRIDMAN premiere at Anime Expo, Hiromi Wakabayashi emphasized the point of Trigger's younger staff heading the show. Akira Amemiya (director of Inferno Cop, Ninja Slayer, Space Patrol Luluco) is directing his first full-length series with the young staff, emphasizing the new hybrid 2D and 3D style that he said "will change the industry."

Trigger staff noted that SSSS.GRIDMAN is not a reboot of any sort, but rather they have taken the original idea for this new project. The studio is fully aware of the difference in releases between the US and Japanese versions of Gridman (US audiences may remember a little show called Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad), but said audiences from both would be able to enjoy the new show.

The episode begins with the main character Yuta Hibiki waking up with amnesia, albeit a regrettable, overused plot device in anime. Yuta seems to also see things that others cannot, first seeing Gridman through a very old computer in his friend Rikka Takarada's house. Gridman tells Yuta to "Remember his calling!" although with Yuta's memory issue he does not quite understand what Gridman means. He also sees an extremely large Kaiju on the horizon, but the monster seems frozen or dead, and does appear to be of any noticeable threat. Going back to school and getting his bearings, Yuta also meets his classmate Akane Shinjo. The Trigger staff emphasized in their panel she would play a key role in the series, although it is yet to be seen exactly how.

The second half of the episode introduces a monster of the week: a giant purple plastic-looking dragon destroying the city. While the monster certainly looks like a toy, I could only make out that the design was deliberate, as a eerie looking man is shown making a miniture creature out of wires before the monster appears. As the monster destroys Yuta's school and the city, Gridman actually transports Yuta into the old computer, transforming him into a giant physical version of Gridman who is able to fight the monster. This is where the hybrid animation Amemiya mentioned really comes into play as the action switches between Gridman grappling the monster in a 3D model, while launching punches and a giant laser beam in a style that wouldn't be a stranger to any super robot show. During the Trigger panel, Wakabayashi commented that Amemiya would actually interrupt creative meetings for Promare and ask for advice on Gridman designs and production. I can't help but wonder if Gridman is sort of a trial run for some of the hybrid techniques Trigger will be using when Promare is eventually released.

During the battle, Yuta's friend Sho Utsumi also remarks “If only this was an ultra series, he would be able to figure out the monster's weakness!” I'm not sure how this reference will play out in the series as a whole, but it will be interesting to see if a meta twist will actually come to a head.

Another aspect Amemiya referenced is that the series will largely focus on the youth in Japan and their relationship to technology. None of this is really introduced in the first episode, and the only other hint at anything related to technology or media are the newscasts and YouTube videos at the end of the episode recalling the battle. It's regrettable because it can be interesting topic to cover, however the first episode didn't leave me with anything to hang onto.

Whether SSSS.GRIDMAN will just be a standard monster of the week show or delve into deeper themes of technology is yet to be seen, but in terms of animation SSSS.GRIDMAN still has plenty of promise. There's a lot of potential for a young Trigger staff to tell an interesting story about young people in Japan, how they use technology, and have some slick animation along the way, but the first episode only gave vague illusions as opposed to a dynamic entrance. Hopefully when SSSS.GRIDMAN is released in October, the show will have more bang than initially promised.

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