“What Are These Overlapping Emotions?”
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Even by the exceptionally high standards that Dynazenon has maintained over its run, this is a total standout episode. What’s more, it reaches the rare plateau of TV that makes you actively jump in the air and scream at your screen while crazy things happen, viewing as a reactive spectacle. If you were worried there was not enough blazing ‘fuck yeah, giant robots!’ spirit in this show, this was absolutely the episode to put your fears to rest.
What’s incredible, and what the show has been so good at doing all along, is that it is an amazing hot-blooded rampage of giant robots blowing shit up and at the same time a nuanced, deeply affecting character piece touching on themes like suicide and the anguish of an unknowable situation. Sure, there’s moments where the bombast and earnestness occasionally rub up alongside each other a little roughly, but in general it’s a remarkably effective fusion, an indication of how well Dynazenon has integrated its thematic and emotional arcs into the overall narrative of robots fighting monsters.
A great example of this is the story stuff which opens this episode and runs its entire length, centred around Chise. It’s fair to say that she’s always been the odd one out among the gang, what with her younger age, lack of a mech, and general status as a hanger-on to Koyomi rather than an independent agent. In a few brief, largely dialogue-free but incredibly effective sequences the show demonstrates that this isn’t just how the audience sees her, but also how she sees herself, and it’s the root of a deeply held insecurity that belies her often brash and breezy persona. There’s also the strong implication that this was also how she felt at school, and that it’s what drives her truancy.
Her genuine sense of isolation makes for an effective contrast with Yume, who feels apart from the others, but is in fact constantly in the thoughts of Yomogi. Chise makes that point to try and reassure Yume about her value, but there’s also a tone of bitterness that can’t be completely hidden in the moment, which I like. You’ve got to have your characters emotions feel genuine, even if that makes them less than perfect in the moment. Of course, Chise gets the payoff of reuniting the team and being able to join them in battle, finally cementing her as a true blue member of the squad. This stuff is all fantastic and my only real complaint is that Chise’s character stuff sort of gets swallowed up in the pyrotechnics that comprise the back half of the episode, although that’s an understandable tradeoff. I think there’s more to be uncovered with Chise though, particularly in her past, and I do hope they find some time to get back to her in the remaining episodes.
Equally good is what feels like the culmination of Yume’s arc, at least from a thematic point of view. For a few episodes now the question of Kano’s death has swirled around her mysterious ex-boyfriend Futaba Senda, who has been frustratingly difficult to track down. Lo and behold, he shows up of his own volition here and…he’s totally normal and just as baffled about the circumstances of Kano’s death as everyone else. He offers some observations, but it’s clear that they’re his opinions rather than irrefutable facts, whatever he says. By the time he leaves, we’ve basically learnt nothing we didn’t already know, and of course that’s the point. By traditional storytelling standards this is a major anticlimax, but the idea here is to emphasise that unexpected deaths often leave us with difficult questions that have no easy answers. The lack of closure isn’t a further tease, it’s the reason the scene exists at all. When Yume breaks down and angrily asks why Futaba didn’t save her, his nonchalant reply may appear cruel on the surface, but I read it more as a rhetorical rumination of long-held guilt. Death often comes suddenly and unexpectedly, and it can be hard for those left behind to truly believe that it could not have been foreseen. When Futaba says “Most people would think that”, he’s acknowledging that Yume’s lashing out is natural and understandable, but it also seems that he himself has made peace with what happened, regardless of what others think. It’s frustratingly open-ended, but again, that’s often how life is.
One of my favourite moments in the episode is actually a surprisingly low-key one, namely Gauma immediately deducing what’s up and sending Yomogi right back to Yume even though they’re in a life and death battle. It’s yet another example of how well the character has been written to be book dumb but still smart in other ways. Gauma perfectly walks the line, being stupid enough to raise plenty of laughs, but also streetwise and empathic enough to know what his team need at any given moment. It’s another of Dynazenon‘s strengths that even when characters are moved into the background, they still get enough crumbs of character to let us gain insight or appreciation of them. Look at how Koyomi immediately, unhesitatingly accepts Chise’s word about Goldburn being friendly (and how that in turn is good enough for Gauma), or how Gridknight grumpily exclaims he was doing fine after being rescued. Little moments like this reinforce the things we already know about our cast and further establish their personalities despite only taking a few seconds.
Finally of course, we have the irresistible orgy of old-school super robot theatrics which the episode climaxes with. Having a bunch of things combine into a bigger, cooler thing is already an A+ move in my book, but it’s the presentation and trappings which really take this entire sequence to the next level. Stuff like the brassy orchestral march and the ludicrous shots of the individual components flying under their own power are clear allusions to classic 1970s mecha anime, while the almost pornographic shots of armour interlocking and weapons combining is top-drawer stuff. It has a cape! It’s called both King and Kaiser because it’s just that cool! As subtext goes, the theme that ‘we’re (literally) stronger together’ is as hackneyed as you can get, but like everything else it just works because you feel for these characters having been put through the wringer and exploding back out in a burst of irrepressible energy. It’s the same reason the festival ending, which is deeply corny in its own entirely separate way, also works, because cliches be damned, we want to see our heroes earn a moment of happiness. Together.
- The opening reveals that Chise’s left arm has an elaborate tattoo, presumably of her own design. It’s not clear if this is meant to be literal or metaphorical, but if it’s real it’s certainly enough of an explanation as to why she always keeps her arm covered, given how much of a Big Deal tattoos are in Japanese society. It’s interesting to note though that she still covers it even when she’s on her own in her room.
- Chise’s clearly very much into music, which explains her atypical look. Aside from the ‘Goldburn’ band poster there’s also the piano, a guitar, an amp stack, Airpod Pros, several vinyl LPs and a sticker for ‘The Woo’
- When SUPER DRAGON KING KAISER GRIDKNIGHT takes off to dodge the Kaiju’s beams, it has its arms folded in the iconic Gunbuster pose.
- Man, Yomogi is dense.
- Mill Creek Entertainment, who have been releasing the entire Ultraman series in the west over the past few years, have announced they’re going to be releasing the original Gridman the Hyper Agent in the west for the first time, and it’ll be on blu-ray too! Currently Amazon has it listed for August 17th this year.