by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 7 of
If you're one of the folks who jumped into SSSS.Dynazenon brand-new, on its own, now is probably a good time to go back and check out SSSS.Gridman. Not only is it a fantastic series, but starting with last week's stunner of an ending and moving into this latest episode, characters and elements of the world from that previous series seem like they will be playing a key role. Heck, the other returning character alongside Anti this week is Anosillus II, who herself was a call-back to the classic Denkou Choujin Gridman tokusatsu series, so you should probably check that out too, just for good measure. The interconnected Gridman Universe is pretty great all the way through, in my opinion, and I'm immensely grateful that Dynazenon continues to live up to that pedigree.
The two trashiest gremlins from SSSS.Gridman may have cleaned up extremely nicely into some Neon Genesis Junior High Students-style suits and are even going by some new codenames now (‘Knight’ and ‘The Second’, though the presentation makes no secret of who they actually are), but Dynazenon's narrative is in fully-fledged sequel territory now, so basically no effort is made to catch new audiences up on their previously-established backstories. I think it's the right choice , since this episode ends up so deftly juggling all its other arcs and characterization work, even with the new old faces, that I can see how cramming in even more would be a mistake. There are some knowing structural nods, like Gauma noting how ‘shady’ the new pair of Kaiju-hunters appear (not unlike Samurai Calibur back in SSSS.Gridman before we found out he and his cohorts were definitively on the good guys' side). There's an aside mention that Gauma's one to talk about looking suspicious, which goes double for us in the audience since we know Anti and Anosillus way better at this point than the mysterious mummy man. How meta.
Anti and Anosillus are a necessary new element woven into the ongoing drama of the Dynazenon pilots that held them back so much in the previous episode. Their broken connections symbolized in the mecha itself being literally broken, getting called out on their ineffectuality by Anti (whose people skills don't really seem to have improved in the interim) motivates the gang to commit to an all-nighter in searching for the Kaiju they failed to defeat. A lot of the characterizations we've become familiar with feed into this, like Yume being surprisingly dedicated to the job, with Yomogi following behind mostly because he's desperate to deepen his connection to her. But the aftermath of this fight follows up on the group's developments and how they might be diverging even as their allyship affects one another. Koyomi winds up spotting Inamoto's husband in the post-battle wreckage and rescuing him, articulating to Gauma that he knew it was the right thing to do in spite of his resentment towards the guy. It initially comes off as a mirror of Yomogi expressing empathy for the situation of Yume's search for answers about her sister – that even though Kano wasn't anybody important to Yomogi, if she's a part of someone important to him, she's not some stranger. But the distinction is that Yomogi's investment in Kano is now earnest, while Koyomi, by the end, is still so disillusioned with Inamoto's dedication to her husband that he hangs up his phone on her when she's in the middle of thanking him. The Dynazenon pilots may continue bonding with each other, but reaching outside the comfort zone of their desires might still be too much for them, as Koyomi winds back up to simply munching on candy alongside Chise.
Given the context of this episode, it's hard to categorize that as a pure regression, though. This week's SSSS.Dynazenon is all about the fact that the Dynazenon pilots need to fix their broken connections to each other before their broken toy robot can connect together properly again. Chise's own odd-one-out status is more emphasized than ever before her spiritual reunion with Koyomi at the end. She's disregarded when he runs off on his own, and shown off to the side, disconnected from the others even in deeper conversations about their current direction. I neglected to mention it last week, but the odd rock/gem thing she picked up at the beginning of the series has started to grow and sprout little branches. So long as the show clearly wants us to theorize, the strong hunch is that these are the seeds that Kaiju grow from in this setting. But how does the curious connection to Chise speak to the overall motivations of the monsters they keep teasing us with?
The ‘theory’ of Kaiju here continues to be one of the main uses of the Eugenicists, and also further articulates the advancement of the themes from SSSS.Gridman that we now know Dynazenon is directly following up on. Onija states that their use of Kaiju isn't to settle personal grudges, a clear refutation of the entire reason Akane deployed the monsters back in her show. Even though they weren't personally present, the motivations of the ‘villains’ in this setting have developed from those in the preceding anime, and the remark about how they're trying to kill ‘humanity as a whole’ speaks in a much more sinister way to the broad, ensemble-based storytelling of this show. It's a change, and as Sizumu remarks, it's natural to make enemies when you change things. That inter-series growth is further explicated by Gauma, who lauds Koyomi's selfless rescue of the husband even through his hate with the point that "It's best to live honestly with your feelings". The show is still viciously teasing us with the solid possibility that Gauma's mysterious benefactor is the famous Akane Shinjou, but if it really is her, that definitely rings as the kind of advice she would have come by at the end of SSSS.Gridman. The new heroes we're following in SSSS.Dynazenon can face their feelings and fears honestly, and they know they are not alone, so where do people go in tackling the issues that befall them then? People don't stop experiencing trauma they need to work through simply because they understand it better, and thus Kaiju won't stop appearing as an outside motivating force to give them a visually-arresting way to do so.
It's that visualization that provides the final push to get this episode up to damn-near-perfect levels. There are the smaller, understated details we come to Dynazenon for, like having Yomogi as a permanent fixture in Yume's revisiting of the rooftop by the episode's end, definitively illustrating how she's avoided the isolation that initially dragged Akane down. And I'm absolutely here for the sharp time-skip (?) designs for Anti and Anosillus, along with the lavish artistic ambition with which they've rendered the former's GridKnight transformation. But it's what that Ultra-style hero gets up to, along with Dynazenon and the Kaiju, that acts as the rewarding climax for this little arc. Having three bodies in battle ups the complexity of the combat choreography, something Trigger's artists tackle with gusto. Dynazenon and GridKnight play off each other wonderfully once they're genuinely allied, with just a little unpredictability still mixed in as they continue to come to terms with each other (check out the mecha's improvised grabbing-and-swinging maneuver of Anti, who apparently still has trouble catching a break after all these years). And there are little touches for everyone in the audience to be invested in, from Anosillus utilizing the classic show's ‘Fixer Beam’ using the musical baton dance moves of one of her toku progenitors, to the hilarious canonizing of Yume's ‘Something Beam’ as the official name of her attack. You know she's getting over her previous hang-ups when she's letting herself act like her silly self in front of her new friends again. It's all a perfectly-paced conclusion to the disparate build-up we saw from the divergent group previously, bringing them back together and rewarding their fixing of their relationships with the fixing of their mecha.
It almost feels too easy, too obvious, that my favorite episode of SSSS.Dynazenon yet is also the one that brings in the most concrete callbacks to its predecessor. But it's honestly far from simple franchise fanservice: The reintegration of SSSS.Gridman's narrative elements serves to emphasize and more solidly define Dynazenon's themes. Dynazenon's always been a dense show in how it marries its ensemble character work with more applicable ideas about general, real-world human connections. But now that it's got that whole previous show's points to directly contrast against, those themes are thrown into even sharper relief. These character arcs hit some incredibly solid definition in this episode even apart from the Gridman connections, so combine that and throw in probably the most kick-ass robot battle the show's yet given us, and you have an episode that not only cements SSSS.Dynazenon as a must-watch, but also makes an insistent case to check out its whole family of shows if you haven't already.
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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