Tokusatsu Adaptation by Studio Trigger
Streaming on Funimation
Yomogi Asanaka meets a mysterious man passed out under a bridge named Gauma, who claims to be a, “Kaiju User.” Not long afterward, strange things start happening to the city. Kaiju begin attacking followed by the appearance of the giant robot, Dynazenon. Caught up in the chaos of Gauma’s actions, Yomogi is summoned along with two others to fight back against the kaiju.
Gee’s verdict: Do It Again Baby (Dan Dan)
A few years back, SSSS.Gridman surprised us all with its sensitive storytelling effortlessly melded with a bombastic love for the live action sensibilities of tokusatsu. It was a change of pace for Studio Trigger and helped put Trigger/Gainax veteran Akira Amemiya on the map (at least for the people who weren’t already singing his praises after Inferno Cop.) As a result, its followup, SSSS.Dynazenon had pretty large shoes to fill. Well I’m here to say that at least so far, SSSS.Dynazenon is shaping up to showcase all of the same aspects that made its predecessor so great.
So far, SSSS.Dynazenon is largely concerned with the interior of its primary characters, Yomogi and Yume. Unlike SSSS.Gridman’s Yuta, Yomogi is portrayed as a relatively popular guy, surrounded by friends and generally well liked. However, the bits and pieces we get of his home life imply some more interesting wrinkles. It seems that Yomogi will do just about anything to avoid being home with his single mother. Yume’s story is the one that has the potential to really bloom into something interesting, assuming Trigger can handle the potentially dicey subject matter. Yume is disaffected and listless, largely stemming from what appears to be the sudden death of her sister. The most praiseworthy thing about this part of the episode is SSSS.Dynazenon’s confidence in communicating its storytelling through its excellent composition, character work, and aesthetics, rather than exposition.
But maybe the most interesting character in SSSS.Dynazenon is also the character who helps tie the first half to its much more bombastic second half, and that’s the absurdly dressed Gauma. Gauma is intentionally designed, drawn, and even animated to be an outsider. And in that regard, that makes him a really interesting addition to the format. Since SSSS.Dynazenon is a sequel, there are certain narrative tricks it no longer has access to, so Gauma works as an effective new vector to the mystery.
Gauma’s introduction is also how we get into the second half of SSSS.Dynazenon’s hugely successful debut, when the kaiju show up. In classic Trigger fashion, the action sequence here really shines. The weighty action of SSSS.Gridman is back in full force here, as the kaiju and the titular Dynazenon slug it out. Throw in a fantastic transformation sequence and you got gold. It’s really impressive how well SSSS.Dynazenon can have you invested in the character drama, then have you pumping your fist as a robot dragon flash kicks a kaiju into the sky and blasts it with its laser breath. There’s very few shows I can think of that can wield its two disparate halves so well.
SSSS.Gridman won a lot of us over with its novelty, mystery, and twists. SSSS.Dynazenon has an uphill battle ahead of it and is going to have to find ways to keep our interest now that it’s working with an audience whose been trained to expect those things. Still, if the first episode is any indication, I’m more than ready to see what SSSS.Dynazenon has in store for us.
Iro’s verdict: Aaand We’re Back
2018’s SSSS.Gridman was an excellent combo of great tokusatsu/mecha fights and compelling character drama, with Trigger’s usual panache applied judiciously as to distinguish it from the rest of their work. I got a lot of the same vibes from the first episode of SSSS.Dynazenon, though of course time will tell if it reaches the same heights. It’s tough to be a follow-up to a show that pulled a bunch of great one-off tricks, you know?. They’re going to have to figure out some new ones to really sell me. That said, I (so far) like the new cast; this premiere alone generated a good amount of intrigue between them, the plot, and the setting. Here’s hoping they can pull it off a second time.
Zigg’s verdict: Second Salvo Superbly Sparkles
Like all of us I loved SSSS.Gridman a great deal, and I’m very pleased to say that this sequel retains all of its predecessor’s strengths. That means of course fun character design, great mechs and fights, and a charming, tongue in cheek homage to the classic tokusatsu show, More importantly to me at least though is that it also retains the odd, awkward charm and loneliness that defined Gridman and proved to be such a break from the ‘traditional’ Trigger formula. I did raise my eyebrows a little at the inclusion of Gauma, who veers quite close to the studio’s classic archetype of ‘dumb hot-blooded hero’ but there are enough balancing elements around him to suggest he’ll be used as part of the ensemble rather than dominating it. This premiere already suggests the crew have a bunch of intriguing new ideas and I can’t wait to see where they go with them.
Artemis’ verdict: In the Hands of the Pros
It’s never been much of a secret that mecha and robot anime just aren’t really my thing. Action-heavy shows in general don’t (usually) do it for me, and as a result, I feel ill-equipped to talk about how cool the robots look or how awesome the mecha/kaiju fight scenes are; I don’t have the knowledge to discuss these things in any detail and even if I did, I readily admit that they’d take a backseat to the rest of the story for me. So when I say I quite enjoyed the premiere of SSSS.Dynazenon, that’s got to count for something, right? Granted, the only reason I watched this in the first place is because I also thoroughly enjoyed SSSS.Gridman, and even though they have nothing whatsoever to do with each other in terms of plot or cast, I felt confident that the same studio, same director, and same writer would be able to pull of something equally as good.
So it probably shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone who does have a genuine investment in these kinds of shows that the first episode of SSSS.Dynazenon does not disappoint. The pacing is smart, the characters already have enough backstory to be far more than one-note, and aside from the (presumably – these guys clearly know what they’re doing) dynamic action sequences and dinosaur-like robots doing their cool punchy robot thing, the production team has no problem letting the quieter moments speak for themselves, with plenty of space there for the entirely natural-seeming complexities of the show to just breathe. It’s probably still a bit too soon to say how much of this series will end up appealing to me on a more personal level, but for now, there’s more than enough here to warrant my weekly commitment.