This is our review of the first three episodes of SSSS DYNAZENON, the new anime set in the Gridman universe. It’s not a direct sequel to Gridman that we know of- official channels have tweeted that you don’t really need to have watched SSSS.GRIDMAN for any other reason beyond the fact that it is in fact, a very good anime completely worthy of your time and available on Netflix.
In fact, even the premise of Dynazenon is quite a ways from Gridman. It shares the same building blocks- teenagers in high school are roped into the world of epic Tokusatsu battles against Kaiju. But both Dynazenon and Gridman excel at what they do around the sick kaiju fights- having downright weird stories. However, its execution is quite a ways different, at least in the first three episodes that we’ve seen.
With its first three episodes done, is the anime worth your time? Read our (mostly) spoiler-free review of SSSS.DYNAZENON and find out.
The first thing that Dynazenon gets really right is its sense of atmosphere. It keeps that weird sense of tension, with lots of lingering shots and characters looking morosely off into the distance. In fact, one of the first scenes is the new heroine, Yume, moodily singing atop a structure as she’s being introduced.
The core of Dynazenon is pretty simple- Yomogi is a young high schooler, working a job to get his own financial independence. One day he meets a homeless man named Gauma, giving him food. Gauma repays him with his loyalty, even going so far as to confront Yume when she asks Yomogi out on a date but stands him up, something she has a reputation for doing.
Naturally, Kaiju show up and Gauma reveals he is a Kaiju Tamer. He busts out a special Kaiju that he claims was given to him, and requires 4 people to control it. Grabbing Yomogi, Yume and the just-happened-to-be-there Koyomi, they form the giant robot Dynazenon and defeat the kaiju.
After the events of the first episode Gauma warns of the Kaiju Eugenecists, a group of other Kaiju tamers out to destory the world by controlling naturally-ocurring Kaiju and making them go berserk.
I’ve explained these concepts as much as the anime does when they’re first introduced, which is really part of why I like the series. If you are coming from Gridman, SSSS DYNAZENON absolutely intends to mess with your head by having a lot of concepts differ from their Gridman counterparts. There, Kaiju were created by the series villain from negative emotions, here they seem to just be naturally occurring creatures that are dormant until someone makes them go berserk.
Another thing they toy with is the stakes. In Gridman, the city reset between fights, with all the buildings eerily reforming and people’s memories seemingly wiped of every Kaiju fight. One of the first ground rules set in the second episode of Dynazenon is that this is very much not the case, as Yomogi and Yume look on the wreckage caused by the fight they had at the end of the first episode.
I really appreciate that Dynazenon was very quick to tell you the stakes are not an emotional force in the anime. Yomogi is quick to have the cliched “we only cause destruction” talk before Yume shuts him up with the “it would have been worse if we didn’t fight” retort that every modern anime involving high schoolers and monster fights has.
Still, one point where the series does fall flat against Gridman is that it almost doesn’t do the Evangelion-mood-shots as well. Dynazenon having 4 pilots means loneliness isn’t really a factor here, so there’s no need for long shots of Yomogi or Yume staring at idyllic scenery. Again, it’s good that SSSS DYNAZENON isn’t just going to ape Gridman, but I can see someone who really liked Gridman for that tone getting disappointed that it’s not the case with Dynazenon.
It does also bleed into the pacing a bit, as the pacing definitely feels a lot less draggy than Gridman. There’s just too many main characters for the anime to take its sweet time like Gridman did, and to its credit just reducing the screen time of some characters can’t work because they’re all pretty likable.
Meet The Cast
Speaking of, it wouldn’t be an SSSS DYNAZENON review if we didn’t talk about the characters. Yomogi is probably the weakest of the main cast, sometimes literally feeling like Yuuta from Gridman, who was also the weakest part of his cast. He’s clearly meant to be an audience stand-in, as a lot of the plot just seems to happen around him.
One thing I do kind of like is that although there’s a big group cast, it doesn’t look like Yomogi is necessarily the “heart” of the group. Characters talk to each other without him, especially since the crux of episode two was his lack of attendance to team training. Even though Gauma clearly likes him the best, it’s nice to know that when he’s not around characters will talk around him, just like a real friend group.
I also really like what they’ve done with Yume, the new analogue for Rikka. Despite sharing some design similarities, she’s a wholly separate character- she has no angst about sick kaiju fights, instead being the one who takes Yomogi to task when he doesn’t want to come for training. By the end of the third episode she’s also shown to have her own motivations, having mentioned a deceased sister.
Just like Rikka though, she’s shown to have a pretty normal life. She has a best friend who’s not part of the Dynazenon gang, and they act pretty normally, with the friend even nagging her for her habit of standing people up. There’s a really great shot in one of the episodes where you’d swear the playback had stopped just because it’s her and her friend waiting for Yume to sneeze. It’s such a pointless scene but it’s one of those humanizing things that the SSSS series does really well.
Gauma is another great character, being the red oni to Yomogi’s Blue. There’s some great fan speculation of his ties to the original Gridman Tokusatsu series, tied to both the opening sequence as well as his overall design. He’s got this great headstrong feel to him, considering one of the first things he does is call out Yume for standing Yomogi up. My one problem with Gauma is that his motivations so far have been pretty poorly explained. That being said, it’s definitely something they’re saving for a big reveal, so it’s not as frustrating since you can see the pattern.
Koyomi is a weird addition to the roster, being an adult shut-in. He stays with his cousin, Chise, and for the most part just feels like filler for the fourth slot. For the most part he’s a boring character, having no real motivation outside of his renewed sense of purpose knowing he’s helping people by killing Kaiju. It would have been great to have some sort of exploration of his motivations in the second episode, but again they’re probably saving it up for another big reveal.
Sick Kaiju Fights
And now we get to the jewel of the SSSS DYNAZENON review. Dynazenon absolutely sticks to the animation principles put out by SSSS.Gridman- even though the series is fully animated, all fights follow the rules of live-action Tokusatsu. Kaiju all look like men in suits, and Dyanzenon moves like a suit actor too.
I really appreciate this approach, cus despite the fact that Dynazenon is a giant robot, the fights feel unlike anything in other mecha anime. There’s no shot here that couldn’t be recreated with camera effects and a physical set, and it’s all the better for it. There’s even a scene in the third episode where Dynazenon grabs the Kaiju of the week with its legs, something you’d never see the likes of Gipsy Danger or a Gundam do.
There’s also the case for Dynazenon itself- the mech is made of four components, similar to Powered Zenon from SSSS.GRIDMAN. These components are very clearly parts of Dynazenon first, then just allowed to be turned into something else later. The best example of this is Dynazenon’s arms. which are supposed to be a race car. The fingers very clearly stick out the front, giving it a toy-like feel.
I absolutely love this attention to detail, because it feels like the grand climax of what the SSSS series is doing- it’s child-like nostalgia making use of the extra effects of anime but without losing the core Tokusatsu appeal. I mean, the arms of Dynazenon connect to the core unit- Dynasoldier- ‘s arms, and you can see his little fingers poking out from being transformed into a shoulder joint. Dynazenon’s a giant toy, and that’s the way it should be. No cleaning up his transformation, just an advertisement for a future decoration on my shelf.
That being said, the Kaiju haven’t been as memorable so far. Unlike Gridman where each Kaiju was purpose-made to solve the villain’s problem of the week, these Kaiju feels less intensely-designed, with many of them not really standing apart from each other. It’s a minor nitpick, but so far all of the Kaiju have felt just kind of boring to look at.
SSSS DYNAZENON Review, Battle Go!
All in all, SSSS DYNAZENON looks like its set up to be my favorite anime this season, which is pretty much why I pitched this review in the first place. It’s more Gridman, with enough teasers hidden to mess with you the more you know about Gridman as a whole, not just SSSS.
It definitely lacks the more Eva-feeling approach Gridman had, but that’s fine- from the outset it tries to tell you it’s not just going to be that story again. What it is though, is sick kaiju fights and a refreshing cast dynamic with a lot of potential for growth. Given Gridman’s back-half twists, the series definitely can’t afford to make itself different there, though. Some sort of existential twist is basically what the series’ success hinges on, but I definitely have faith that Studio TRIGGER is going to pull it off.
That being said, if you were to review it entirely at face value, it feels like SSSS Dynazenon is suffering from its comparisons to Gridman. By episode 3 of Gridman we’d gotten the basic gist of who the bad guy was, as well as incredibly hype moments like the reveal of Gridman Calibur and Gridman Max. Dynazenon front-loaded its forms by having the combined form appear first, which does lead to a lot less hype since nothing new has come out in the later two episodes.
Even without the shadow of Gridman, though, Dynazenon is a solid anime and totally worth a watch if you like giant robots beating the crap out of rubber-suit Kaiju with a sprinkling of really good slice-of-life thrown in for good measure. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go look up the release date of a Dynazenon figure.