SSSS.GRIDMAN Episode 7

“Scheme”

Yuta finally confronts Akane and her mysterious benefactor Alexis. Meanwhile, Anti continues to take matters into his own hands.

Zigg’s Thoughts

After an episode of big revelations that fundamentally changed the status quo of the show, Gridman dials back a little this week. Encouragingly though, it doesn’t use it as an opportunity to step away from those plot developments so much as take a more sideways look at them. The character work and interactions have always been the highlights of the show, so it’s nice to see that, despite the actual plot picking up, they’ve still got plenty of time to explore how that’s impacting our heroes and villains.

The main draw here is Yuta finally confronting Akane about her villainous agenda, and the buildup and fallout from said confrontation. I’ll admit, I was a little bit surprised that Sho and Rikka so outright rejected Yuta’s claims – they’ve seen so much weird shit at this point that the idea of a kaiju showing up and their classmate being a god would be something they could handle. However, the writing does do a good job of emphasising reasons why they might be naturally inclined to be sceptical. Rikka’s desire to rekindle her friendship with Akane has been an ongoing story thread, so it makes sense she wouldn’t want to believe that she could be villainous, while we’ve seen that Sho has both a crush Akane, but also bonded with her on a more meaningful level last episode. The fact he withholds an important fact from the others (that she’s actually into kaiju) is a good little wrinkle that hints his loyalties may be divided in the future.

Without a doubt the episode’s centrepiece though, is the conversation between Yuta and Akane that begins in his house and proceeds to the Chinese resturant, and it’s another great insight into Akane and why she’s doing the things she does. I will say I’m not a big fan of the implied sexual come-on which they start with – it’s out of character and yet another chance for the camera to ogle her inappropriately. Everything from when they reach the Chinese restaurant onward is solid gold though. I absolutely adore how much the incongruity of the setting clashes with the weightiness of the discussion, especially once Alexis shows up and nobody seems to notice or care he’s a nine foot tall flaming techno skeleton. It’s also a great insight into how indifferent Akane is to the suffering she’s caused, and it reinforces how she’s willing to unleash maximum retribution for the tiniest possible slight against her.

While this sequence is all about establishing how firmly in control Akane is, the back half of the episode is all about undermining her, a nice contrast to what’s come before. In a neat bit of writing, her authority is being attacked on two different fronts at once, by both Anti rebelling against her orders, and Alexis deciding she’s not up to the task of killing Gridman. There have been some subtle hints that Alexis is actually our real big bad before, but this is the most blatant confirmation we’ve gotten yet. What we see though, is that he’s not ready to drop his facade fully yet, instead content to continue buttering up Akane. It’s increasingly clear that he’s manipulating her, playing off of her anxieties and worries in order to ingratiate himself, and that potentially Akane herself is just another victim. The contrast between the cool, almost relaxed Alexis we see most of the time, and the cruel, vicious one who slices up Anti is played for excellent drama, and I’m very interested to learn more about our mystery monster maker.

It’s almost redundant now to say ‘the fight was good’ but it really was, and the aerial element added something fun that we haven’t seen before. I’m encouraged to see that Gridman, after giving us a big twist, hasn’t abandoned the fundamentals of its storytelling, and continues to build the plot and characters ion the interesting, well thought out ways that have become its trademark.

Random Observations

  • How did Akane get in Yuta’s apartment?
  • Sho references the Ultra series, which is of course the most famous product of Gridman‘s parent company Tsuburaya.
  • Akane gulping straight from the bottle rather than using a cup is a nice reminder of her hidden slobbish personality.
  • We see the Ramune bottle marble again briefly.
  • The floating barrier/city that Gridman encounters in the sky is strongly reminiscent of the digital plane which battles took place within in the original Gridman series, yet another hint the two may be more closely related than we’ve been led to believe.

Gee’s Thoughts

While not the plot bomb of last week, Gridman continues to do interesting things with the playground its built for itself. The anime anime has gradually introduced elements to us that interact with each other in ways we don’t quite expect, but it undeniably leads to something very interesting. We start off with Yuta trying to tell Sho and Rikka about the truth behing Akane and the nature of the world they inhabit, to which they’re strangely reticent too. You’d think with all the sort of crazy things they’ve seen so far, Akane being the true mastermind that rebuilds the world after every battle wouldn’t be that much of a stretch, but perhaps Gridman knows something we don’t recognize. From our perspective, Akane’s villainy is fairly self evident, but to Sho and Rikka, their hesitance is strangely believable. Sho obviously doesn’t want to accept it because he’s finally found a friend who shares his interests. Rikka’s desire to rekindle her friendship with Akane acts as her obstacle to accepting the truth. Essentially both have found value in getting to know Akane, and Yuta’s revelations are an uncomfortable truth to grapple with. It doesn’t help that as far as everyone else knows, Akane’s facade remains unbroken. It’s only we the viewers who know her true face.

Other shows (or perhaps ones with more episodes remaining) would have left this frustrating impasse hang in the air for a few more episodes. Thankfully, Gridman realizes we don’t have time for that and once again, the Neon Genesis Junior High kids swing in as the voice of reason, informing Sho and Rikka that even if we can’t guarantee that Akane is indeed the mastermind behind it all, there are definitely some strange elements at play that don’t add up. It’s a refreshing take on things that shows how the Neon Genesis Junior High students, especially Max, are the personification of how clear communication is often the solution.

We finally get our obligatory Gridman fight when we find out Anti has made a Kaiju of his own (with the secret help of Alexis). We get to see Gridman’s jet form which is some real Getter ass shit followed by a truly excellent Itano Circus sequence, continuing Gridman’s tributes to the best of the mecha genre. It says something however that the more important takeaway from this fight is Gridman taking to the skies and revealing the world’s “ceiling,” an abstract cybernetic city that’s identical to the one found in the original Gridman TV series. It’s the tangible recognition Rikka and Sho need to accept that there is something deeply wrong with the world they inhabit and that Akane is likely its origin point.

Not content to just leave it there, the episode ends with the implication that Alexis has been operating behind the scenes, manipulating both Akane and Anti. While this doesn’t exonerate Akane’s actions, it’s the sort of gamechanger that Gridman keeps doling out at a healthy pace that keeps it so interesting. Alexis has been something of an enigma so far and while my initial impression is that he simply can’t be as interesting a villain in comparison to Akane’s relatable brand of petty misanthropy, Gridman has yet to disappoint me so I’m ready to see what they do from here on out.

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