SSSS.GRIDMAN Episode 5

“Provocation”

The gang take a trip out to the country to go rafting. Akane decides that bigger is better, regarding both monsters and amount of fanservice.

Zigg’s Thoughts

OK let’s get it out of the way first – this episode contains an extraordinary amount of fanservice, even taking into account the fact that Gridman has hardly shyed away from being horny up to this point. It’s a shame too, because one of the things we’ve consistently praised about the show is the commitment to its delicate atmosphere (outside of the battles at least). It’s a lot harder to preserve that atmosphere when you’re having boobs & butts constantly shoved in your face. Disappointingly, the episode doesn’t even use the high amount of flesh on display for any meaningful story purpose – nobody’s attempting to seduce or titillate anyone in-universe, so the entire thing is revealed as the pandering it is.

The fact Trigger have more time to indulge in their favourite activity indicates that this is perhaps a slightly less plot heavy episode than we’ve had in recent weeks, and indeed there’s not too much here from a story perspective to focus on. It’d be cruel to call this episode ‘filler’ though – it’s more of a gentle breather, with a couple of neat character bits, and some fun comedy.

The change of scenery helps in setting that mood a lot. When they’re not focusing on cleavage the art team does a great job with the lush forests and sparkling waters of rural Japan. Even though it’s still just an excuse for swimsuits, I appreciate that the writers didn’t just settle for a bog-standard beach episode. It’s slightly more believable as an actual school trip also. The shift away from the urban setting is mirrored in the more natural-looking monster, and the entire thing does do a great job of changing up what’s become the show’s status quo. There’s not much meaningful impact on the plot, but it’s refreshing nevertheless.

Probably the most important character related moment this week is Akane and Yuta’s conversation prior to the kaiju emerging. It seems deliberately designed to echo their rooftop meeting from episode 2, even adopting the behind the back camera angle that the show has turned into a recurring visual motif. It’s another good scene between the two, and even though Akane is clearly playing Yuta to get to his Gridman identity, she reveals some of the genuine frustrations that she’s feeling in the process. In turn, Yuta tells us how he’s always seen her as in control and unflappable, which plays into the essential dichotomy of Akane’s character – attractive, calm and proper student at school, demented psychopath and lazy otaku at home. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but it’s a nice little exchange that helps reinforce what we already know about the pair.

The other important character bit in this episode is Rikka showing up unprompted to bail the boys out with the store phone number. I like this because the show itself doesn’t make a big song and dance about it, but it’s a strong moment for her continued development. By choosing to plunge into the action alongside the boys, and reject the overtures of her friends to join them in safety, Rikka show’s she’s becoming more committed to the cause, and less ambivalent about it as she initially was. Honestly, Rikka has gotten a ton more characterisation than either Yuta (sparing) or Sho (non-existant) at this point, and it’s starting to make me wonder if she’s stealthily going to become the explicit protagonist in the back half of the story. That’d definitely be an interesting road to go down.

By now i feel like writing ‘the action was great’ in these posts is kind of unnecessary but nevertheless the kaiju battle was again very good this week. As I previously talked about, the monster’s craggy Shadow of the Colossus style aesthetic, together with the decision to make it ultra-deluxe sized, mixes up the tempo and look of the battle to satisfying effect. I don’t think I like the Buster Borr as much as the Battle Tracto though – it’s a bit more clumsy looking, and while huge swarms of missiles are always cool, I tend to prefer a good solid physical finisher. Outside of the battle animation though, I want to again commend Trigger for their excellent comedy visuals and timing – the Neon Genesis students rushing Junk to the station and onto the train is a very funny series of scenes that is almost entirely told visually, without the aid of punchlines.

The final piece of intrigue in this episode is the weird, closing scene, which seems deliberately ambiguous and is probably the one time in this episode Gridman returns to the lonely, isolated mood which has defined much of the show before this episode. The most obvious conclusion is we’re seeing the beginning of the ‘reconstruction’ process which has restored the world to normal after every battle, but what is showing that meant to accomplish? After an episode of mostly boisterous action and tits, it’s a nice reminder of the more contemplative side of the show. This episode was fine, but I do hope we gt back to that sooner rather than later.

Random Observations

  • The blue marble on the table (which appears in foreground while Yuta is looking for his swimming trunks) is the one from the Ramune bottle Samurai Calibur cut open in episode 2. It also appears in the opening credits, so is it more important than the piece of ephemera it seems to be?
  • Yuta wears a t-shirt with ‘CJ’ written on it, almost certainly an extension of the character’s numerous references to Cliffjumper from Transformers.
  • If this is a school trip, why aren’t they wearing school swimwear? (Besides the obvious meta-reason of course). And if they’re rafting in water rough enough to demand helmets, you’d honestly expect them to be wearing wetsuits also.
  • The girls teasing Sho about his pudginess is a cute moment…that makes me assume everyone else in this universe has 0% body fat because come on, he’s not even a bit chubby.
  • The Japanese language has several different words for ‘change’ or ‘transform’, but Akane specifically uses ‘Henshin’ when talking to Yuta, the one which is the most tied to the concept of superheroic transformation (largely through kamen Rider).
  • Rikka calling home on the telephone is a direct homage to Shinji’s phonecall in episode 11 of Neon Genesis Evangelion, down to using the exact same angles.

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