For all my interest in kaiju flicks and soft vinyl toys, the one major part of the broader tokusatsu genre that always eluded me was the giant hero series. Stuff like Ultraman or Super Sentai shows never quite hit for me. With Studio Trigger behind SSSS.Gridman being enough to persuade me to give it a go I strapped in for the ride with little idea of what I was in for and got a lot more than I ever expected.
When amnesiac high school student Yuta Hibiki wakes up in the house of classmate Rikka Takarada, he experiences strange visions of a robot named Gridman on the screen of an old computer in Rikka’s family shop – a secondhand junk shop. When he goes to show his school friend Sho the computer the next day, Yuta is sucked into the computer as a giant kaiju attacks the city, and he reappears in the street as the giant hero Gridman, ready to do battle with the monster! In typical giant monster fashion, large swathes of the city, including their highschool, are laid to waste but Gridman prevails. However, the next day all the damage to the city has vanished and nobody has a memory of the kaiju battle except for Yuta, Rikka and Sho. As the trio try to unravel the mystery, it also appears that there may be more to the most popular girl in class, Akane Shinjo, who spends her free time making model kaiju and communicating with a mysterious figure through her own PC, the shady Alexis…
As Yuta, Rikka and Sho, now operating out of the junk shop under the name Gridman Alliance continue to take on more and more kaiju, including repeat appearances from a kaiju that can copy Gridman’s abilities, deal with the fallout/the somehow-repaired lack of fallout of each battle and putting the pieces and how they relate to Akane Shinjo together, they also gain new allies in the form of Samurai Calibur and the Neon Genesis Junior High Students, who can also interface with the PC containing Gridman and materialise in the real world as vehicle-based combining weaponry for Gridman to lay the smack down on attacking monsters.
SSSS.Gridman is very self aware, with the cast of characters often giving a knowing nod and wink and making reference to what would happen if they were in an Ultra-series show, which came as no surprise after a quick trip to wikipedia revealed SSSS.Gridman to be a reboot of a Tsuburaya Productions show from the 90s known as Denkou Choujin Gridman, the same studio responsible for the ever popular Ultraman.
But where I thought a hero show from Trigger might lean into the ridiculous to the point of parody, SSSS.Gridman has a surprising amount of heart and while there is plenty of Trigger’s trademark over the top style, it treats its subject matter seriously, and towards the end even veers off into existentialist introspection in the vein of the final two episodes of the original Evangelion TV series.
The action is always fast and awesome, as Gridman and the kaiju smash and crash their way through the city of Tsutsujidai. The series makes full use of it’s 12 episodes to deliver great action and a compelling story in the perfect mix. SSSS.Gridman is all killer, no filler.