Yomogi Asanaka spends his days going to high school and working at his part time job, until he encounters a mysterious man named Gauma who lives under a bridge and calls himself a “Kaiju User”. Although he tries his best to avoid Gauma for the most part, not long after Yomogi’s encounter with the odd man, a giant kaiju appears in the city and begins going on a rampage. Gauma activates the only thing that can fight a giant Kaiju – an equally giant robot, called Dynazenon. But Dynazenon requires four people to pilot it, and the robot summons Gauma, Yomogi, Yomogi’s classmate Yume Minami, and local shut-in Koyomi Yamanakato do the job (much to the shock of Koyomi’s onlooking cousin Chise Asukagawa). The haphazard crew come together and are able to fight off the Kaiju, but the peace can’t last as a group called the “Kaiju Eugenicists” appear and threaten to use their Kaiju-controlling abilities to destroy humanity.
From Studio Trigger, the studio that brought us Promare, When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace, and BNA: Brand New Animal, comes Ssss.Dynazenon – a volatile, tongue-in-cheek and wildly genuine mecha anime that will delight you with its absurdity and engage you with its keen displays of humanity. Like a number of classic mecha anime, the series’ namesake Dynazenon is a giant robot with each of its components controlled by a different pilot. The series follows the pilots, Gauma, Yomogi, Yume, and Koyomi as they learn to control their Dynazenon components individually and as all sorts of different combinations (e.g., giant robot, giant dinosaur, jetpack mode, etc.) to defeat the Kaiju unleashed on their city by the Kaiju Eugenicists.
It should be noted that Ssss.Dynazenon is a sequel to Ssss.Gridman. Both series are part of the Gridman Universe – media based on the titular Gridman, a hero from Japanese live-action “giant hero” media (the kind of media that tends to feature a lot of rubber creature suits and scale models). I have not watched Ssss.Gridman or other Gridman media, and while I felt like my experience could have been richer if I had, I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything too crucial and enjoyed Ssss.Dynazenon at face value. That being said, once I finished Ssss.Dynazenon I was immediately seized by the desire to watch Ssss.Gridman because of how much I thoroughly enjoyed the characters, world, and sense of pace and style created by Studio Trigger.
Ssss.Dynazenon does what my favourite mecha anime always does – depicts its pilots as complicated and emotionally stunted people who form bonds and find closure while piloting a giant robot. The Dynazenon team are charming in their messiness and feel very real despite being exaggerated characters in an anime about giant robots fighting monsters. Yume is fixated on the nature of her sister’s death and keeps others at arm’s length, Koyomi is unemployed and struggling to let go of an incident from his childhood – each character has something interesting going on that the series takes time to develop and explore as they come to terms with their roles as protectors of humanity. Interestingly, the mecha aspect of the series takes on a very mundane quality for these characters – between school, part-time jobs, and going to water parks, training and piloting Dynazenon just becomes part of their routine. The mundanity of it all is really charming and does a lot to paint the world of Ssss.Dynazenon and the characters in it as a little odd and broken, but really interesting. The mixture of heart and personality of its characters, turbo-charged by the series’ mecha elements, come together to make something strange, delightful, and fun, resulting in the first mecha anime to really peak my interest since I first watched Iron-Blooded Orphans in 2018.
Stylistically, Ssss.Dynazenon really feels like a “giant hero” show when it comes to battles between Dynazenon and the Kaiju. The damage on screen during these fights is incredibly hyperbolic, like a person fighting enthusiastically with action figures or two people decking it out in rubber suits on a set full of scale models. Robots and kaiju alike are knocking over buildings en masse, there are massive explosions, and the fact that there are a number of casualties after each Kaiju attack is downplayed but not entirely unacknowledged. But these more destructive aspects of the series being downplayed works weirdly well for the tone of Ssss.Dynazenon, with the dichotomy of destruction and the sense of mundanity pushed throughout the series pairing together really well to offer a hyperbolic but unique viewing experience that was different to anything I had experienced before and thoroughly enjoyed.
As well as being simultaneously destructive and mundane, Ssss.Dynazenon is just a genuinely weird series. Interactions between characters and their reactions to situations are distinctly odd in a really human way, averse to perfection. Characters make actual small talk which is so real and filled with so many silences and random interjections, and it’s odd, normal, painfully awkward and so incredible. Yomogi’s supervisor at his part-time job literally calls him during a massive city-wide Kaiju attack to ask why he hasn’t shown up for his shift (although as a person who used to work retail, that kind of checks out). The editing also contributes to this “lack of perfection” in fun ways – Minami sneezes and the shot just holds on her for a second too long before moving on. A character is walking on an overpass bridge, turns around and the sword hanging off his hip makes a light “thunk” sound as it hits the side of the rails. These are such weird and deliberate choices and I’m completely charmed by them and their nuance.
Ssss.Dynazenon is also genuinely funny. The series’ weird atmosphere and editing choices really lend itself to some comedic moments that had me laughing a shocking amount throughout my viewing. A lot of this comes from hard comedic cuts from the editing bay and the odd vibes the show has cultivated, but the English voice actors are really pulling their weight on this one as well. It reminded me of Robihachi, where the voice actors are having an infectious amount of fun and feel like they really understood the assignment. Their deadpan, whip quick delivery is perfect for the series’ quirky nature, while also feeling very natural and working well in the show’s more serious moments. The cast deserves a lot of kudos for pulling off this balancing act.
It would be remiss of me if I did not mention that the attention to detail in Ssss.Dynazenon is amazing – from its gorgeous backgrounds to the extremely impressive Studio Trigger animation, with its bombastic movements contributing perfectly to the hyperbolic nature of the show. Additionally, the sound design is simply excellent and the attention to small details were incredible. At school when characters walk by the music rooms, you can instruments being tuned in the background, there’s a distinct clicking as characters talk while eating lollipops, and there is constant background dialogue with a lot of muffled speech behind doors (pro tip – put subtitles on for this series otherwise you might miss some good stuff). All of these elements – the visuals, audio and oddly deliberate choices in character interaction all come together to make a complete package, where every detail lends itself to creating a completely entertaining and engaging experience.
Ssss.Dynazenon is the complete package – a mecha anime that is weird, hyperbolic, and at its core extremely human. I went into this series cold without watching its predecessor Ssss.Gridman and without even possessing a passing knowledge of the Gridman Universe and I completely, thoroughly enjoyed myself. This isn’t a series to be missed.
A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.
©TSUBURAYA PRODUCTIONS ©2021 TRIGGER,AKIRAAMEMIYA/DYNAZENON PRODUCTION CONSORTIUM