SSSS.GRIDMAN & My Anime Watching Experience

GRIDMAN Highlights Something Interesting…

For the tenth season of #Anitwitwatches we watched SSSS.GRIDMAN, a Trigger anime from 2018 that simultaneously pays homage to, while modernizing, the tokusatsu shows of the Showa era. The anime is an exploration of depression and nostalgia that I wouldn’t call bad, but fails to fully realize itself thanks to flat characters and the inherent conflict of catering to fans of yore while trying to tell its modernized and more mature story. However, that’s hardly GRIDMAN’s most interesting talking point.

Throughout the watch it became abundantly clear that the way I watch anime is fundamentally different than most people., at least in this specific instance. There are essentially two ways I watch anime:

  1. For review purposes
  2. For fun

GRIDMAN falls into the first category, and as it is also a part of #ATW, I put more effort into my watching in order to facilitate discussion and eventually my future review. When I watch for fun, it’s not like I don’t actively engage with a show, but I’m not explicitly trying to formulate nuanced thoughts on the series in question either. So what’s this got to do with anything?

For this series, it means that there weren’t any meaningful surprises. In the first episode it was abundantly clear that this is a story about Akane and depression, by the second episode, the show is almost entirely lacking in surprise. GRIDMAN is an earnest show that tells a straightforward story, to the point where it honestly doesn’t go far enough with its ideas, partially due to the story being at odds with itself as I have mentioned.

What I’m saying isn’t meant to come off as a brag or a diss towards anyone. Enjoy your media how you do, but with all that said, the fact I was so easily able to sight read the narrative for this anime was a huge determinate. How about the old “journey vs destination” saying then? Well in GRIDMAN’s case, that also doesn’t hold up either.

With exception to episode 9, that being by and away the best episode in the series, the journey doesn’t offer much here. The characters are severely lacking in the character department, constantly retread the same ideas, and at the end of the day, for a story about Akane and to a lesser extent Rika, they almost get entirely shoved to the wayside.

This highlights a conflict with the clear intent of the story and what it actually does. Again, I have to reiterate that the show is simply trying too hard to cater to separate audiences when it would have produced a more meaningful result by being just one or the other.

When I sit down and watch a show like GRIDMAN that I plan to review, I’m looking carefully at the direction, the unspoken words between the lines and what’s actually said, as well as attempting to make guesses at where I think everything is going. All of this is in pursuit of what I believe to be the author’s intent.

Speaking of, that’s a whole debate in and of itself. Does a work such as this deserve to be looked at through a lens of authorial intent? I’d argue yes, even if the audience can breathe new life and meaning into a work when it wasn’t previously there. It’s how I think of shows and you can see this in a lot of my bigger projects which I’ll list and link below for you now:

The list can go on. It’s easy to laser in and discuss convention in a more one-dimensional fashion, focusing on strictly the quality of the writing or the fluidity of the animation, and these critiques do server a purpose and provide value. However, contextualizing these thoughts within the larger work and overall industry provides not only a more complete view of the work, but adds value to the observations being made.

Allow me an example with GRIDMAN. I’ve mentioned that episode 9 really knocked it out of the park, but it’s not like the rest of the anime didn’t deliver in its own way. In fact, the directing is fairly consistent throughout the entire show and is one of its strongest aspects. I’d personally argue that it is a bit too on the nose about everything, to the point that any “twists” are made overly obvious, but the sheer readability of the show on a shot-by-shot basis is incredible. To not point this out would dilute the real talent that went into this production.

The fact that episode 9 stands out isn’t a failing on the rest of the show, it does demonstrate the missed potential the story had fairly loudly, but at the same time, is completely in line with everything the show had already done up to this point. It’s less the show magically got way better, despite how it felt, more so that it wasn’t burdened with the need of playing to nostalgia vs its more revamped story.

Even now, I’m not sure I’ve properly conveyed how I view anime nor the full extent of my thoughts on GRIDMAN, it’s a complex topic. For me, thinking on a series is a lot of fun and can lead to interesting discussions. I may not always convey my thoughts as ideally as I’d like, but I hope this gives some further insight into how I approach different shows and eventually put these thoughts to “paper”.

So how do you engage with media, especially if you are a content creator too? I’d love to hear your thoughts on that along with your views on SSSS.GRIDMAN. If you enjoy my content please consider becoming a Patron or making a one-time donation via the buttons below. Thank you for reading and see you again soon!

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