Alternate title to this post: Promises, Love and …
- Titles: SSSS.DYNAZENON
- Genre: Mecha, fantasy, drama, surreal
- Episodes: 12
- Studio: Trigger
Life is a wild and unpredictable adventure. One day you’re just an average run-of-the-mill student, the next, you’re saving the city from monsters. Maybe you’re struggling to get over the death of your sister and you manage to find meaning in risking your own life. Or still, you could just be one of those people that never quite found their place and is just aimlessly drifting along and before you know it, the responsibility of countless lives rests on your shoulders. Probably most common of all though is that you’re part of a group of Kaiju users who have decided to rebel and you go against them causing everyone’s death. Then 5000 years later you’re resurrected to fight once more with the help of a giant robot. Who hasn’t had that happen at least 3 times?
Some of you may remember that I am both a Trigger fangirl and quite fond of SSSS.Gridman. I really liked that series and when I saw another SSSS title pop up, I was excited. Also, I got my hopes up. Not gonna lie, I had some pretty lofty expectations for SSSS.Dynazenon going in and that’s not always smart.
One of the reasons I like Trigger so much is really basic. I like their productions. I enjoy their art design and ridiculous colour schemes. I love the slightly elastic quality they bring to movement in animation. I like the throwback cartoon aesthetic they embrace. SSSS.Dynazenon was no exception.
If anything, I would have enjoyed slightly wackier character designs but then again Gauma brings enough design excentricity to make up for everyone else. Heck, they even had an episode where he spends most of his time with half his face covered in holographic stains. Actual holo!
So while SSSS.Dynazenon is actually among the more down to earth productions of the studio (that’s saying a whole lot when there are CG robot transformation sequences set to like 1960s soundtracks) I thought it was still a very interesting watch just on the technical merits alone.
One thing that did stand out to me is the sound design. Not the score exactly but the entire sound design. There is an episode for instance that reprises events we had seen previously from a different character’s perspective, and the atmospheric sound is completely different as we are hearing it from another angle and distance. There’s even a part where the theme music is muffled because that character is inside a cockpit, breaking the fourth wall by insinuating that the music is diegetic.
That’s just one of the more obvious examples, and it made me smile. But the sound design truly is great throughout. There are several moments where the music cuts out entirely and you just hear the rumble of the city, the sounds of birds or the river. And all of it is perfectly done.
Story & Characters
So SSS.Gridman was a bit of an odd show. It was an homage to a series and a genre I know very little about while simultaneously being an allegory for one of the mental health crisis Japan is dealing with. Because the themes were often indirectly addressed and expressed through surreal storytelling, it created a world that wasn’t always coherent, inhabited by characters that seemed kind of offside. And that was on purpose. The world and characters of Gridman aren’t supposed to really make sense, within the confines of their own fiction. They’re off because of narrative reasons.
I loved that. And of course, I went into SSSS.Dynazenon looking for the twist. The hook. The story beneath or beyond what was happening on the screen.
Remember when I said starting off a show with really high expectations isn’t necessarily a good thing. Well dismissing the straightforward story by trying to figure out what’s “really” going on, despite no actual evidence of anything else happening, isn’t that great an idea either. I tried my hardest to make SSSS.Dynazenon a horrible watching experience for myself.
And it wasn’t. Not at all in fact. I enjoyed it from start to finish. It’s still an odd show and I can see some viewers getting frustrated with it. It keeps interrupting the personal drama and character evolution with mecha battles and vice versa. Also, that personal drama is a bit hefty this time around. I like moody girls as much as the next guy, and in her defence, Minami had some good moments, but boy, her storyline is really heavy to throw into a show that has already so much going on.
For my money, they juggled it well. And I ended up bonding with pretty much everyone. Even vanilla protag boy.
SSSS.Dynazenon is not SSSS.Gridman. It’s a completely different show in subtle but fundamental ways. And it doesn’t have a last-minute reveal that changes everything you thought you knew. Well… not as obvious. That didn’t stop me from constantly comparing the two in my mind.
So right from the start, I was looking for the odd man out. You know how Akane is the only human character in Gridman that doesn’t have blue eyes… that sort of thing. I didn’t manage it. They were all the odd man out. But I could recognize them. Yomogi looked almost like a recolour of Yuuta. Minami might as well have been Rikka for all their lovely melancholy. Chise and Boor might be sisters… The list goes on.
And I actually loved that. When I say these characters are similar, they’re not ripoffs, each is their own person but Trigger is purposefully using similar archetypes to tell different stories. Of course, the outlier is Gauma who I thought might get annoying but… well… didn’t. And then, towards the end of the series, there’s an episode in which the characters relive some of their past and you realize that Kinght is Anti. His past is an actual scene from SSSS.Gridman. And that’s when I knew both series are in the same universe. And that threw me for a loop.
Now, obviously, we had seen Girdman himself in the show but that could have been a nod. However, seeing Gridman, Anti and actual events from the previous show, well that’s more than just a nod. And now I’m very confused.
I do believe the very last scene, with Dynazenon rawring, is taking part in the SSSS.Gridman universe. Which is digital. However, isn’t Anti digital too? Does that mean the Dynazenon universe is also virtual, maybe a different system? Am I reading too much into it? Probably. But I had fun reading too much into it.
My own completely unsupported theory is that SSSS.Dynazenon is in fact a retelling of An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. This is a somewhat sad theory, I know but there’s something a little sad about SSSS.Dynazenon. If Gridman was about fear, the unease of growing up the fear of not fitting in, the anxiety of modern life, I think Dynazenon is about guilt. Survivor’s guilt, the unease of feeling like you’re not contributing, not living up to your potential, the guilt of betraying friends while still believing you did the right thing, guilt of burdening others or worrying them. It’s a pretty constant theme in the show.
But the series isn’t depressing. Not really. Most of the time the characters are fairly happy or at least striving to be. There’s a lot of action. There are goofy comedic sequences, friendly golden dinosaurs and even some physical jokes. But somehow, you feel that little edge. Something just slightly painful poking through.
Like I said, my theory is completely unsupported. In fact SSSS.Dynazenon doesn’t give us much to go one and leaves interpretation pretty open to all. But just because it’s unsupported, doesn’t make my reading illogical. It could be that. And I think that’s pretty neat.
SSSS.Dynazenon is a weird story. If you want everything crystal clear and logical, it might be a bit frustrating. But it’s also a well-made anime with consistent themes and enough allegories to let your imagination wander. It also has pretty characters, fantastic colours, oh and giant dinosaur robots fighting huge kaiju. Actually, that’s all I really needed to say, isn’t it? Man, I make things way too complicated for nothing.
One last bit, because I don,t know her to fit it. Gauma constantly tries to remember some saying. There are three things you absolutely must keep: Promises, Love and… It’s often repeated and leaves you hanging with this terrible lack of closure. And you keep thinking that eventually, Gauma will finally finish the sentence, but he never does. Now to me, that last word was obviously friends. From the beginning. But you know, it might be something else to another viewer. I love that. In itself, it’s a metaphor about how a story like SSSS.Dynazenon will mean different things to different people. Isn’t that cool? I thought it was cool.
You might like this anime if:
You like mechas, you like dinosaurs, you liked Gridman or Trigger in general.
My favourite character:
Gauma! I mean ‘cmon, who else could it be?
- Every time we hear the Dynazenon theme music – take a sip
- Every time we see the seed – take a sip
- Every time they show us the ankh puzzle – try to solve it
- Every time Yume’s friend takes a picture – take a sip
- Every time Gauma can’t let something go – worry
- Every time Yomogi isn’t paying attention in class – take a sip
- Every time Yume calls her friend “mom” – take a sip
- Every time Yomogi has to go to work – put the drink down
- Every time anyone says “Instance Domination” – take a sip
- Every time ayone mentions Kano – take a sip
- Every time Onija thought he was dead – take a sip
- Every time we see young Inamoto – take a sip
- Every time Chise wants to particiate – hmmmm
- Every time Gauma gets punched – ouch
- Every time Promises, Love and …
I save all my screencaps on my Pinterest and you can find more there if you are interested. But I still like to show you a few in the post. If you’re like me, screencaps are something that really helps you decide to watch an anime or not.