“What’s Lover-like Mean?”
Chise wins a free trip to Tokyo Beach Land and takes the whole team along with her, including Sizumu. Gauma grudgingly agrees as long as he can put his plan to capture the Kaiju Eugenicist into action.
I mean, it’s Trigger, did you really think we’d get away without a fanservice episode? It’s yet another conscious echo of SSSS.Gridman too, as that show’s episode 5 similarly busted out the swimsuits for a quite extraordinary level of ogling. Thankfully this time round the tits ‘n’ ass quotient is largely dialled back in favour of an episode that’s more broadly about silly jokes and more team bonding.
That’s not to say that there’s not meaningful progression here though, and it’s actually surprising how many important nuggets of character backstory get dolled out in between the lighter moments. Even leaving aside those revelations, it’s another episode full of focus on the Yomogi/Yume relationship, now with the added frission of a (very half-hearted) fake couple scheme to keep up. Once again, the show absolutely nails the excruciating awkwardness of its teenage subjects – the churro scene is a masterpiece of making your pauses just long enough to be totally agonising. I do appreciate though that the script generally avoids most of the worst cliches of the ‘pretend couple’ plot and largely sticks to the established character dynamics. There’s no leering or shitty sex jokes from Yomogi and surprisingly the camera mostly behaves itself too. It’s just another good chapter of slow-burn character development, capped off by a nice denouement when Yomogi saves Yume from the kaiju. Solid, strong character work is always appreciated round these parts and while it’s less spectacular than a more over-the-top, histrionic approach might be, it’s all the more effective for it.
One of the more interesting things present in this episode though is those aforementioned nuggets, which serve to seed and progress plots that are likely to unfold in the near future. Of these, the most immediately relevant is probably the continued drip-feed of details about Yume’s sister Kano. The initial meeting with an ex-classmate gives us the significant milestone of seeing her fully for the first time, while the episode ending conversation obviously has the massive bombshell that her death may have been self-inflicted. I think most of us in the audience had suspected for a while that there was some foul play involved (the Anthropic Principle being in play and all), but invoking the idea of a character suicide is still a fairly heavy and profound statement, especially in Japan where the taboo against discussing mental health issues is even stronger than it is in the west. The show knows it too, milking it for maximum drama both with Yume’s earlier flashback and the terrific hard cut which ends the episode. Coming right off of covering Wonder Egg Priority I’ll simply note the same thing I did for that show, namely that stories about suicides need to be handled with care and delicacy. Of course, we also have no idea if that’s actually what happened, but regardless this seems to be a sign that the show is moving into darker territory so that warning is still in effect.
There are signs of darkness creeping into the show in other areas too. I’m impressed how the writers have unpacked and then immediately inverted the dynamic between Koyomi and Inamoto. What started out seeming like a fun blast from the past that would get Koyomi out of his shell has rapidly morphed into something with much more sinister overtones. Furthermore, it’s the gloomy shut-in who’s becoming increasingly approachable to the audience, while the squeaky-clean ‘normal’ character turns out to be the one with some creepy vibes. To be clear, I’m not saying this just because Inamoto once broke a window and tried to cover it up – there’s clearly the implication of something greater in their shared past. Could it be related to whatever drove Koyomi to his current behaviour? I wouldn’t be surprised at all. Less obvious but still explicit (in that the show specifically calls attention to it) is Chise’s refusal to remove her left arm sock. Self-harm is the natural conclusion to leap to here but again it’s something we’ll have to wait and see about. After all, there’s a reason that *she’s* not in school too right?
The final little tease this episode gives us is Sizumu’s surprising willingness to keep associating with the gang. Honestly I’d largely assumed that his presence in the school would mostly be used for gags, but there’s real effort in this episode to add on to his character a bit more, and through him to give a glimpse into the thought process of the Eugenicists. His description of Yomogi and Yume’s (fake) relationship as a kind of imprisonment is a fascinating viewpoint, and his admission that his interest in the two stems as much from their emotional response as their connection to Dynazenon is intriguing to consider, especially in relation to the other Eugenicists who seem far more conventionally villainous. SSSS.Gridman gave us a sympathetic villain who eventually switched sides, could a repeat be on the cards here? After this episode it’s much more plausible than it would have been before.
- The juicebox that Sizumu finds crushed on the floor is the same as the one Akane could regularly be seen drinking from in SSSS.Gridman
- The individual shots of the the team members holding their
toysmecha in the opening each have a figure in the background. Gauma has the Eugenicists, Yume has her sister, Koyomi has a girl whose face is hidden, but we can now infer is Inamoto, and Yomogi has no-one.
- Not only is the ‘No running!’ joke terrific (making the funniest shot of the episode a still frame is very Trigger), the lifeguard is voiced by Masaya Obi, who played protagonist Naoto in Gridman the Hyper Agent.
- The restaurant Koyomi and Inamoto eat at is called –Cho Jin-, a reference to the Japanese word Chōjin, meaning ‘Superman’. It’s also in the original Japanese title of Gridman the Hyper Agent (Denkō Chōjin Gridman)
- Kano wears a very distinctive double cross bracelet, which allows us to identify her as the person holding the other ankh in the opening.