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This Week in Anime
Akane is the Real Protagonist of SSSS.Gridman

by Michelle Liu & Steve Jones,

SSSS.Gridman has changed a lot as the series has shifted to focus on its villains. This week, Micchy and Andy discuss why Akane is the real heart of Gridman's story.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet

You can read our weekly coverage of SSSS.GRIDMAN here!

Hey Andy, didya hear the news? At long last, Evangelion is gonna be available streaming!
Finally, a Netflix Original I can get behind!
Let's not get ahead of ourselves though, we've gotta make it through this other show first. Thank goodness today's discussion has nothing* to do with Evangelion, because once again it's time to g-g-g-g-g-GRIDMAN! What's been griddin' since the last time we checked in on Akane Shinjo's Playground of Horrors?
I can't believe how much has happened in this show since we last checked in. Some more monsters showed up. Yuta got amnesia again. My garbage son continues to go hungry.
But now those parts that remain the same have all begun to shift, especially in how they relate to Akane, who it's now safe to say is 100% the true main character of the show.
SSSS.Gridman played at having Yuta and friends be the heroes of the story, but yeah, at this point Akane's definitely the focal point. Not only is she a literal god, but the show has shifted to be about how she relates (or fails to relate) to the world around her. The girl's stuck in her own head, and now it's up to her own creations to get her out of it.
We're basically in Lego Movie territory, except instead of Will Ferrell we've got this overbearing father figure.
I love the "we have to do this because only we can" ideal that the Gridman Alliance and Akane share. While we see it bring the Alliance together in a positive aspect, we see the same exact thing tearing Akane apart. It's this horrible pressure that if she doesn't do the one thing she feels she can, then she really has no purpose.
At first, Akane made kaiju because she had fun doing so. But lately it's become more and more of a chore thrust on her by Flamey McCloakface. Meanwhile, it's become clear to us that even though she purposely shuts herself off from people, she's completely miserable by herself.
It's fun to spend time playing with your toys, but that can't sustain you. Eventually reality seeps in and you have to deal with your problems. Man, that entire dream episode. Seeing that first episode scenario with Akane in Rikka's place goes from frightening to almost pitiful
She wants so badly to have friends and goof off with her peers like a normal kid, but there's a couple major things keeping her from doing so. For one thing, she has this weird villain job that makes her anything but normal. And then there's her own reluctance to reach out to people on equal terms. So instead she constructs an alternate reality where she gets to live in Rikka's shoes, go on dates with Yuta, and hang out with Utsumi without all her usual baggage.
Love to construct perfect fantasies where a nerd dude decides to test if you're a fake geek girl.
Unfortunately for her, the three main members of the Gridman Alliance have agency of their own. They don't just exist to keep her company, much as she wants them to.
It probably makes it hard to view them as equals when you know these people are constructs. But it also makes them rejecting not just her, but her entire goal of trying to give them no negative experiences pretty hard to take.
This episode is extremely subtle about its message.
None of this is subtle, but it's sure striking as hell.
Say what you want about being overly direct, but this line is just great.
And let's not forget that this is the same show that pulls out: "If you can't afford the full Gridman, then how about you simply buy the smaller scale toy? It's still super strong if you have all the pieces!"
The ability to be so thematically clear while still keeping interesting layers of mystery is commendable.
Between all the kaiju-punching and robot power-ups, there's a legit thoughtful story here, and I'm super digging where they're going with Akane's character. Akane would like to live in her dream world forever, but she can't. She can't just kill people she doesn't like, even if she did create them in the first place. She can't hole up in her room and refuse to deal with the fact that her own creations have developed their own agency. She can't keep stifling her own emotions like that. And it really doesn't help that she's got a hell of a bad influence in the alien who encourages her to keep doing her one thing she's good at, other people be damned. Because when she starts half-assing her kaiju, the deep anger she harbors breaks out, and it's not pretty.
Oh god is it not.
At least in the moment, she acknowledges her failure.
I guess that brings us to Anti, the disaster of a kaiju boy who's definitely not just Akane's minion anymore.
He's had a pretty rough go of it, and his arc of course ties into Akane's. He's involved in Alexis's attempt to replace her, which she takes very well with her completely questioning her worth and Anti flopping around in the street.
Give our boy a break dammit, he deserves better.
He does get one, at least a little! Through his struggles to claim Gridman's defeat for himself, this little trash gremlin has reached a level of understanding with the Gridman Alliance. This makes him something more than just another kaiju. He's experienced mercy, kindness, and a helluva lot of existential confusion.
All because he was able to emotionally interact with others, something that Akane has failed to do.
Akane interacts with people on her terms alone; she sets things up so that others will like her, and when things don't go her way, she throws a tantrum. But Anti sorta makes friends by just being honest about how he feels. He's a hungry child with zero understanding of manners or decorum.
There's something cathartic about the Neon Genesis Junior High Student with the worst manners demanding Anti learn them. It's like watching two tiny dogs make a bunch of fuss at each other like they're going to fight, and you're like "Aww, they're becoming friends."
That better not be a subtweet about me. But yeah, between Anti and Akane, we've essentially got the crux of the show: interacting with people is hard and awkward, but it's way better than simply bluffing through the stages of friendship like it's some RPG. Real life doesn't work that way, and even if it did, it wouldn't make you happy.
All that remains is to see what happened to drive Akane to hide herself away in this world and how she can manage to confront it. Unfortunately, she's not doing great at that right now. Remember how last time I mentioned that the junk shop represented the people inside it just as much as the old tech?
Well, I think Akane picked up on that too.
That girl better not be thinking of making even more bad decisions, I swear.
Rest in pieces, Yuta.

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