SSSS.Dynazenon
Episode 11

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 11 of
SSSS.Dynazenon ?

Now what? It's a question many heroes and villains have had to ask upon reaching the ends of their journeys. And so do the characters on either side of the conflict of SSSS.Dynazenon, wondering where they go next as they pop out of last week's illusory dreamscape having conquered much of their trauma, and now apparently lacking in Kaiju to battle with. Obviously, this episode isn't going to be the end of the show, but the tone of everything presented does a good job making the characters feel convincingly like this was the abrupt end of their adventures. It's odd, it's uncertain, and it's a reminder of the grounded style of Dynazenon and how it's always framed all its monster and robot action with a real-world tint.

This episode was never going to be the showcase the previous one was, so the direction leans into that contrast, making it more ‘normally’ introspective than the preceding dream-sequence spectacle. Getting over your trauma can seem like a revolutionary personal relief, but deciding where to take your life next can simply feel odd and antsy. Arbiter of too-real simple struggles as he's been throughout this show, Koyomi provides probably the clearest illustration of that uncertain feeling in this episode. Choosing to finally mobilize from the NEET life is a shaky, scary proposition for anyone in that situation, least of all someone whose immediately-preceding job experience was piloting a giant robot. Far from feeling like an abandonment of exciting fulfillment giving way to the grown-up grind, this small sequence sees Koyomi slowly understanding that it's something he ‘needs’ to do, not necessarily out of some obligation of societal contribution, but because, as the vision inside the Kaiju showed everyone, progress and personal growth must come from change, from moving forward apart from wondering about the what-ifs of the past.

That's the framework that informs how we see the rest of the cast move on in this episode, for better or worse. Yomogi and Yume's development come off as extremely healthy following all the strides the latter made thanks to last week's revelations. It's not just that she finally resolves to visit her sister's grave, and even invites Yomogi to come along. It's apparent in the smaller details of how they interact, the way Yume starts prodding Yomogi to open up about his own family hang-ups, or her incremental expressions of her previously-reserved goofy side towards him. The quietly-mouthed ‘Thanks’ she gives him as they leave the cemetery speaks volumes to her growing comfort with herself in interacting with others, as much as her getting around to apologizing to the various other guys she pulled her date-ditching trick on before. I remarked last week on how Dynazenon was seeking to one-up SSSS.Gridman's singular arc of personal growth with its multiple intertwined stories of scarred souls, and this builds on that: SSSS.Gridman ended with Akane's resolution to simply start changing, while Dynazenon here, still a couple episodes from its end, demonstrates what that change might look like starting in the life of Yume and the others.

Those reflections of the show's past progenitors don't just stop with its 2018 predecessor anime, of course. SSSS.Dynazenon has noticeably been lighter on direct references and call-backs to its toku roots compared to SSSS.Gridman (possibly because the franchise is now so well-established as an institution that it feels like it can stand on its own), but the fine folks at Trigger still haven't forgotten where they came from. Gauma's mummified nature was established early in the show in what seemed a mere referential call-back to the Dyna Dragon's origin episode of Denkou Choujin Gridman, but this episode's big reveal clarifies that this show's events are, in fact, a direct follow-up. Not only do the additional details Gauma drops about his backstory line things up exactly with the events of that 18th episode of the tokusatsu series, but they even use distorted and filtered shots, as well as dialogue, straight from that classic show! Enough context is delivered here that anime-only viewers should have no trouble following the situation, but the way the extra details line up make it a real treat overall. It's particularly interesting to see the mummy's established ability to ‘control dragons’ as the basis for the Kaiju Eugenicists' powers, and knowing that Gauma was originally poisoned explains the rotting infection that's been spreading across his body since we first met him. It provides a broad, bittersweet arc for the character: it's heartening to see that memorable mummy from the classic show go on to find fulfillment and redemption in this new adventure, but at the same time, we now fully know why he's never going to meet the Princess from his past here again, or how things might turn out for him in the end. He ain't looking great by the end of this episode, anyway!

It all speaks to that uncertainty of moving forward, the concept this episode is so dedicated to delivering. Not getting her own vision quest the way the others did last week, Chise understandably finds herself struggling the most out of all of them with the need to progress. Having finally found a measure of acceptance and purpose, it makes sense why she might feel she's now suddenly being left behind by Koyomi, and even Goldburn. Nothing is static, change comes for everyone, but not all of us are always ready for it. This episode enforces that uncertainty in its penultimate status, offering no updates on how Koyomi's job search will actually turn out, and having Yomogi finally, climactically confess his feelings for Yume only to have her response viciously interrupted by the appearance of the embittered Sizumu. In the world of a monster-fighting tokusatsu series, maybe growth and resolution really can't come about without the climactic appearance of a big Kaiju to take down.

There's an awareness of Dynazenon about its own format that way. Yume remarks in this episode that the time spent piloting a giant robot and fighting Kaiju “was the closest to normal my life's ever been”. A monster-of-the-week structure is still structure in one's life, and the jarring, grounded normalcy presented by this episode upends that. We see it expressed in Gauma's burst of violence against Juuga, or the restless reactions of the other Kaiju Eugenicists like Mujina and Onija who had just started to find satisfaction in their job. But evolution is also apparent in the transient atmosphere this week. In between Yume's remark on the normalcy of her monster-fighting life and Yomogi's long-brewing love confession, the pair share an extended mutual silence with each other, marked by a confident comfort between them that's miles apart from the awkward conversational pauses that were so integral to their earlier interactions. This episode can feel off, uneven, and even incomplete in places, but that also seems like the point. It's the pause right before the proper climax of the story, the next step all these people are learning to take.

Rating:

SSSS.Dynazenon is currently streaming on Funimation.

Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.


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