by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 10 of
I talked last week about how the development of SSSS.Gridman's heroes seemed to have properly climaxed, with Akane's role being the last one to handle as the series charges towards its finale. I was right to some degree, sine Akane is working through many issues of her own this episode, with her breakdown serving as the titular ‘Collapse’. However, I'd unfairly neglected some other characters on the villain side and what they could still bring to the story. As the virtual world starts crashing down around our cast, this episode belongs to Anti.
Questioning their roles in Akane's world seems to be what drives everyone in this episode. It opens with Yuta, Rikka, and Utsumi discussing the implications of the whole city being a simulation. What does that mean for their pasts and memories. How far back can you trust what you think you recall? For their part, Rikka and Utsumi seem content to keep trying to exist in the world, with Yuta leaning on them to keep himself from getting too adrift. But while they come to terms with their new reality, Akane's world now seems to be betraying her, as she's tormented by apparitions of the people she killed and finds no joy in making models of kaiju like she once did. The show has doubled down on ruminating on the roles of its antagonists.
I remarked early on that the show seemed to be delving into what it means to accept the role of a hero. In this episode, the opposite is examined, as Akane and Anti come to grips with what being villains means to them. We get a lot of exposition from Akane as she defines kaiju by their inability to read people's feelings and their empty drive for destruction. She stops short of directly stating the connection, but it's clear she's come to think of herself as a kaiju as well. As she slowly realizes that these monsters of the week exist only to lose to the hero, she's lost the joy in playing her own villainous role. Akane is a big fan of the monsters that bring all the action to the Ultra series, but she's now realizing that their hollow repetitive patterns might not provide the escape she sought in this world.
Anti's epiphany, on the other hand, goes in the opposite direction. Created as a Kaiju in the first place, his sole reason for existence is to defeat Gridman. But even if he did succeed at that, what would he do then? It's a classic question of villainy that Samurai Calibur poses to him partway through this episode, making Anti aware enough of his developing humanity to confront Akane about it. A villain that exists for more complex reasons than fighting the hero is more than a simple monster, and Anti has been slowly outstripping Akane's definitions of what makes a kaiju for a while. Of course, these complexities have always been present to some degree, since Gridman and its parent Ultraman series featured several kaiju that blurred and crossed the lines between ally and antagonist.
Anti has always been pointedly close to a Gridman counterpart, having an untransformed ‘human’ form and even his own danger-signaling Color Timer. That parallel comes to fruition this week, with Hot Rod becoming Rodimus Prime when Anti comes to Gridman's aid as GridKnight! More than just a mess of deep cuts, it's a triumphant achievement for a character who's been growing and changing in the series for some time now, properly highlighted by this episode's meta-commentary. Anti can read people's hearts, he can make decisions on his own to help people, and most importantly, he can win a fight. He isn't a kaiju anymore, he's a hero.
The spectacle of Anti's transformation is a payoff as masterful as SSSS.Gridman has consistently been. The initial monster being a reference to one of my favorite Gridman kaiju was a good start, but they go a step further by having this monster turn out to be a literal suit worn by the true enemy; an insanely clever use of the source material's style. This second form is the stuff of nightmares, effortlessly decapitating the background kaiju to initiate this story's endgame and deploying an unsettling Baltan-esque laugh. Special note must be given to the movement on this thing; Gridman's Assist Weapons can't read its movements, because it doesn't move like every other suit-emulating kaiju in this series. It whips and flips around quickly, dynamically showing off what a CG and traditional can do for these kinds of creatures, and outclassing Gridman because he's still playing by the rules of the old live-action world. It's a clever nod to the source medium that makes this monster a bizarrely unique threat. Anti breaking his own rules to take it out scales the action up even further, and the various stages of this battle make an impressive case for the future of CGI animation in anime fight scenes.
Anyway, I should end this review by focusing on Akane, given her delivery of this episode's shocking twist ending. For starters, who knew her house had been right nextdoor to the Junk Shop this whole time? The reveal of that detail absolutely killed me, though not as badly as she seemed to have killed Yuta at the end of this episode. This again recalls Akane's inspiration Takeshi, who in one memorable episode also went in for a stabbing with the same kind of yellow box-cutter Akane's been wielding all season. Of course, Akane has actually gone through with what Takeshi couldn't bring himself to do (probably because the person he was trying to stab was himself, it's a long story). She may have been dancing around the line of redemption for a couple episodes yet, but as this episode so excellently shows, her and villain are always just a couple decisions away from one another.
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