Anime Expo held the debut of the anime collaboration between Studio Trigger and Tsubaraya Productions.
On July 6th, many fans braved sweltering temperatures in the hot Los Angeles sun to get a glimpse at the first episode of SSSS.Gridman at Anime Expo in Los Angeles. Following a panel by Studio Trigger, who is producing the anime, a few brief statements were made regarding the making of the series and the overall feel of the show by the staff on hand for the premiere. Director Akira Amemiya was quoted as saying that the episodes are designed to each leave off on a cliffhanger to keep you coming back.
We were quickly introduced to the protagonist, Yuta Hibiki, who we see has a case of amnesia. The only information he has about himself is given by his classmate who found him, Rika Takarada, and his friend, Sho Utsumi. Their interactions are comical and on par with other anime with grade school settings and at first glance may make a new viewer think they’re in store for a slice of life anime series. We’re also introduced to another classmate named Akane Shinjo, who the Trigger staff mentioned will become more important as the series continues.
Elsewhere, we see an unnamed mysterious character carving out a figure of the monster that will eventually attack. They are silent as they go about their work, but are being spoken to by a character named Alexis Kerib resembling Kahn Digifier/Kilokhan from the original series, here being voiced by Tetsu Inaba (Doggie Kruger/Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger). Later, the visage of the kaiju is shown looming over the town, with Hibiki seemingly the only person who can see it.
Over the course of the episode, Hibiki hears a voice calling out to him to “remember his calling” from an old junky computer in Rika’s mothers’s resale shop. The voice belongs to the titular hero Gridman, voiced by Hikaru Midorikawa, (Heero Yuy/Gundam Wing, Negataros/Kamen Rider Den-O & Kiva: Climax Deka). Initially only visible and audible to Hibiki, he feels a looming sense of danger that his friends dismiss as part of the amnesia. Once the kaiju begins its rampage on the town, Hibiki can no longer ignore his feelings to act and rushes into action.
Using what appears to be the same PC from the original series, Hibiki is drawn into the computer monitor to bond with Gridman to take on the threat. When the action finally kicks off, the series shows its tokusatsu roots. The movement of Gridman displays a sense of scale and motion that one can find in more recent entries into the Ultra franchise, in the way he lands when first appearing on the battlefield or how he grapples with the kaijin. The movements are very fluid and are reminiscent of the care taken to show the impact of the fight on their surroundings in Pacific Rim.
As his friends watch the battle from the computer that sucked in Hibiki, Utsumi remarks “If only this was an Ultra series, we could figure out the monster’s weakness”, providing a tongue in cheek reference to the parent company of the series, Tsubaraya. In this first episode, Gridman appears in a muted color scheme but based off recently released art and trailers, the traditional costume coloring will show up in later episodes.
After the kaiju has been defeated, our three characters are puzzled to discover that all the damage from the battle has somehow been completely undone. This provides the initial cliffhanger to get viewers to come back and dive into the mystery the story is providing.
Overall the response was positive to the screening. Laughs were audible throughout the episodes humorous beats. Once Gridman fully appeared on screen to do battle, the crowd in the panel hall roared with delight and cheered when he launched his final attack. Fans of the original live-action series will be happy to hear the same sound effects from the show incorporated here, by way of the show’s original sound director, Eiko Morikawa.
SSSS Gridman will air this fall in Japan and begin streaming on Funimation starting this October.