The Eugenicists unleash a monster that is able to absorb people and transport them back into their own personal histories, forcing our team to relive their past memories and come face-to-face with their ghosts.
Programming note: This post is a little late this week due to a bunch of stuff, my sincere apologies. I’ll look to get Episode 11 out in the next few days and hopefully we’ll be back on track for the grand finale next Friday.
Right from the first seconds of this episode it advertises itself as something different, what with the forsaking of the regular credits in favour of extracting the maximum possible screentime for our story. What follows is far more experimental, abstract and dreamlike than anything we’ve seen before in the show, while still maintaining the traditional Dynazenon strengths of strong character writing and linking multiple personal plots into a larger scale one. It’s also a clear homage, or actually a full-on repeat, of SSSS.Gridman‘s equally unconventional and atmospheric episode 9. Many of the key creative staff who masterminded that episode return here, most notably storyboarder and animation director Kai Ikarashi, who brings a distinctive lean, angled look to the characters and an appealingly loose, exaggerated movement to the animation in general. The unique style is another way in which this episode signals that it’s going to be a departure from what came before, and likely from what comes after.
The main link between this episode and SSSS.Gridman episode 9 is the idea of alternate histories or realities. Both episodes take our heroes out of the established order and put them somewhere else, in a position that, theoretically, makes them want to surrender to the dream. As the episode title suggests, in Dynazenon it’s the chance to undo the memories that they they most regret, and potentially put their own personal histories on a different heading. So Gauma goes back to 5,000 years ago, when he and the Kaiju Eugenicists were still pals, and his beloved Princess was still around. Yume goes back to when Kano was still alive, giving her a chance to forge the connection that she was too late for in real life. Koyomi gets the chance to stick with Inamoto and see where a bag full of untraceable cash could have taken him. And Yomogi has the chance to avoid meeting his mother’s new boyfriend, who he dislikes…which is kind of a small fry problem compared to the others, and that’s the point really. Unlike pretty much every other character in the show, Yomogi isn’t haunted by some major trauma from his past, and so the power that this Kaiju has over him is limited. As he has been so often in this show, Yomogi is our grounding point to leap into the stories of the people surrounding him.
If there’s a ‘main’ plot here, it’s probably Yume’s chance to finally break through the mystery surrounding her sister. Given the various theories that have been swirling around about what happened, I’ve seen some people argue what we get here amounts to an anticlimax, but I strongly disagree with that position. Yume’s quest for answers about Kano was never really about turning up a conspiracy, but instead about finding the closure in her own life that she needed to move on from the tragedy. By being able to talk to her sister and put her fear of foul play to rest, Yume is finally able to truly let Kano go, as fairly obviously symbolised by her solving the puzzle and separating the two ankhs. When she puts them back together in the ending, it’s not a symbol of regression, but a sign that the two of them will always be connected no matter what happened in the past or will happen in the future. Like a lot of Dynazenon, it’s a more low-key, realistic outcome than is typically found in anime, and all the better for it too.
Along the same lines, the closure we get on Koyomi’s situation is also refreshingly down to earth, although there’s a little more room for ambiguous interpretation here. The idea of changing your past is particularly relevant to our resident NEET, considering the thing that has driven him to become a shut-in and loner is regret over a single decision. In Koyomi’s mind, his inability to embrace the chance that Inamoto offered him all those years ago permanently compromised his life, and he’s held onto that regret so strongly that his subsequent life has gone nowhere. What his chance to do over that decision tells us is…it wasn’t that deep bro. Sure, there’s a brief flash of freedom to be had in the pair’s scooter-riding antics, but I think what this flashback ultimately demonstrates is that Inamoto was never invested in either the money, or in Koyomi as a person. They just happened to be the most entertaining thing at that moment in time. In Koyomi’s mind, running away in that moment was running away from an entirely different life, one where he and Inamoto were together and they had the money to go and do whatever they wanted. But what Yomogi’s arrival reveals is that Inamoto didn’t feel the same – the money was a distraction to be toyed with and ultimately discarded, just another temporary escape from small town humdrum, much like her acts of petty vandalism. The implication that she sees Koyomi himself as equally disposable is unavoidable. Importantly, the show doesn’t seek to portray Inamoto as malicious or devious for this – she’s simply an ingenue unaware of her affect on the boy. The long, gorgeous shot of the pair standing on the beach, the wind whipping at their clothes and pulling the remaining notes out of Koyomi’s hands, communicates the distance between them, two people who may be together physically but are miles apart in spirit.
Finally, and most fascinatingly, there’s Gauma. All of these flashbacks are about moments in these people’s pasts which they regret, but Gauma’s is different from Yume and Koyomi’s in a very key way – whereas they regret things they didn’t do, Gauma regrets something he did do. That thing, as we see here, is that he betrayed the Kaiju Eugenicists and was responsible for their deaths 5,000 years ago. Of course, the Eugenicists have claimed he’s a traitor all along but we haven’t really believed them, since they’re, you know, the baddies. The narrative itself remains deliberately vague on who’s in the right- Juuga claims that the Eugenicists were used and betrayed by the country they all served, something which Gauma doesn’t actually deny. He however makes it clear that his loyalty lies not to the country, but to the Princess personally, and we’ve already seen that the two of them had an intimate relationship. The most important thing that’s clarified here is the Eugenicists’ motive, as it’s clear their pursuit of Gauma in the present day is purely motivated by revenge above all else, with Dynazenon and the other team members merely collateral damage in the personal conflict. While Yomogi is able to break Gauma out of his fugue and return him to the present day to join the team once more, the ominous final shot of the episode suggests that Gauma has not yet truly made peace with everything that happened 5,000 years ago.
As you can see from everything written here, this is an exceptionally complex episode with a lot of moving parts, and yet not only are the production crew able to keep everything flowing smoothly, they’re able to do so while drenching it in atmosphere, conveying melancholy, regret, despair, and triumph through fabulous shot choices and inspired animation. It’s episodes like this that show the real depth that Dynazenon possess, the rich inner lives that the show has been able to draw out in such a short time. There are still significant questions swirling around as we enter the final stretch of the show, but they feel like questions that we’re meant to have, and I’m quietly confident that we’ll see answers that, like this episode, may not be comprehensive but will be deeply fulfilling nonetheless.
- It doesn’t really fit into the main body of the text, but of course Gridknight also gets a flashback…to his days as Anti, complete with a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from SSSS.Gridman antagonist Akane Shinjo. Though it’s only a couple of very brief sequences, it’s very enlightening, as it suggests on some level (despite their largely antagonistic relationship) Gridknight still misses his creator, the closest thing he had to a parental figure.
- Another thematic similarity this episode shares with SSSS.Gridman episode 9 is the recurring symbolism of glass, mirrors, and reflections.
- Frustratingly (and no doubt deliberately), Chise, the team member with the most mysterious past, is excluded from being absorbed into the monster.
- The instant disappearance effect used here is extremely off-putting and creepy, while the shadows of people which remain are clear allusions to the ‘nuclear shadows’ left behind in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There is of course a long history of associating Kaiju with the nuclear threat, dating all the way back to the original Godzilla.
- It’s revealed here that the distinctive scar on Gauma’s cheek originates from his final battle against the Eugenicists. Intriguingly, the camera briefly lingers on an identical scar on Koyomi’s ankle. No idea what that’s meant to represent, except to perhaps communicate shared trauma.
- Sizumu is clearly present in Gauma’s flashback, but he never speaks and is never shown except in extreme long shot. Notably, there’s no sign of him in the final battle scene.
- The song Kano (and later Yume) sing is ‘Sudachi no Uta’ (roughly ‘Leaving the Nest Song’), a classic Japanese tune that’s often sung at graduation ceremonies. If you’re wondering why it’s so familiar, it recently served as the opening for Wonder Egg Priority, as well as being one of the many Nichijou endings, and has generally shown up a lot in anime over the years.