We're still getting to know the characters of SSSS.Dynazenon, and at the same time they're getting to know each other. It's interesting to think that, for all the bombastic beastly battles the show treats us to weekly, it's still got a very ‘slow burn’ feeling to its progression. That's not a bad thing, as it lets us really take in its ideas of how we get acquainted with others and the faces they only show after accumulating that familiarity. It also keeps us with just enough mental down-time to try tricking us into decoding the eventual true nature of the world and story they'll be dropping on us, but you still won't catch me falling for that one, Trigger! Turns out I'm every bit as happy just to watch these good guys and girls grow into their new roles and connections with each other as I would be combing through episodes for twist/ending foreshadowing.
Yomogi and Yume continue to function as our primary focal viewpoint characters, with this episode specifically about the growing friendship between them, which could potentially lead to something more. Of course, it's easy to read the illness that Yomogi increasingly suffers under throughout this episode as a keen allegory for that teenage affliction known as lovesickness, and does make sense as a motivation that would spur these kids into developing deeper connections down the line. But that's honestly not the most important part of the growing connection between these two, to say nothing of how it outwardly affects all the others in their interconnected friendship web. On a basic level, Yomogi's fascination with Yume simply mirrors our interest in these characters: A desire to learn more about each other.
There's nothing duplicitous (yet) about the doling out of information, exemplified as Yomogi remarks on Yume breaking her seeming stoicism only for the girl to counter that they simply hadn't been interacting long enough for him to yet catch a glimpse of her sillier side. Indeed, we as an outsized audience have already been privy to plenty of silly private moments between Yume and her best friend Mei, but now we see her cutting loose around her giant robot cohorts (I was delighted by her callout of 'Something Beam!' in this episode's climactic battle). As well, the guard-reducing cold she catches from Yomogi by the episode's end continues revealing yet more facets of her, including a particularly delightful apparent propensity for plushies of prehistoric sea creatures. These kinds of offbeat idiosyncrasies are the kinds of things I love to see stories throw in about characters.
Being motivated to ask questions about others we might not have previously considered is what keeps us as people, and the characters within SSSS.Dynazenon, pushing forward. Yume's quest to get to know her sister even after her death continues, and Yomogi's resolution to accompany her solidifies that his own attraction is no fleeting feeling. With Yume's remarks about how little they've actually gotten to know about each other, he seems to realize that you need to interrogate what it is about someone that makes you have a crush on them, apart from simply reveling in the feeling of that crush. I already mentioned how I could enjoy this show as a purely slice-of-life series, and seeing Yomogi and Yume discuss getting to know one another, or Chise wondering about Koyomi's life beyond his unemployed lifestyle as he grapples with his former classmate reaching out to him, speaks to those interpersonal connections that are driving this story so effectively for me.
Such conversational considerations even extend to the actual monsters-and-mecha components of the show for this episode. Sizumu of the Kaiju Eugenicists transfers into Yomogi and Yume's class, leading to the three having a sit-down to mull over some of the motivations for the sides they're on. It's funny that my initial impression of the Kaiju Eugenicists was to regard them as being characterized by the narrative as unambiguous villains (just look at their name!), but already they're coming off less explicitly malicious and instead, like so many of the ‘heroes’ in this show already, as people who simply have a job to do. They don't create the Kaiju, apparently, but instead control them post-generation in their destructive role. Sizumu says they're simply trying to create ‘a world where Kaiju are needed’, and what world is better-suited to that than a tokusatsu-style giant robot show in need of some monsters to fight? There's a floated accusation (backed up by Chise's reactions later) that people like Yomogi and the others want Kaiju to appear so they can fight them, speaking to the more ‘adult’ wish for responsibility, some task that we specifically are needed for, beyond simple childlike yearning for excitement. Chise's own ill-fated attempt to pilot Dyna Soldier and Gauma's reaction highlights that: If anyone can pilot the components of Dynazenon, then their integration to it is purely incidental, and it's not a case of the robot needing these people to function, but instead of the people needing the robot as a motivational component of their own lives.
At this point, I have to worry if my analytical approach is making the show come off as denser and dryer than it actually is, but thankfully, SSSS.Dynazenon continues to be masterful at speaking for itself and making clear that that's not the case. Miniscule backstory teases like Koyomi remarking that he doesn't want to “go to another memorial", or the workmanlike casualness with which the Eugenicists are seen treating their Kaiju attacks, win or lose, communicate all the show's teased-out concepts briskly. There's an appreciably simple surrealism to even the most conversational proceedings this episode, the way Sizumu can just transfer into the class with few remarks, or Gauma's apparent regular evenings spent with Yomogi's household. The anime dares us to consider the more realistic logistics of the action's integration with the characters' lives, from Yume impulsively using her jet for frivolous transportation to school (hey, wouldn't we all?) to Chise eagerly jumping in as an alternate pilot for Yomogi only to realize she has even less training than he does, to Yomogi's pushing through his illness to pilot anyway being punctuated by him coughing and hacking through the combination and final-attack callouts with the rest of the team. It's SSSS.Dynazenon reminding us that it's all a silly robot cartoon, but somehow, also kind of about real people too, and it all conspires to make the setting feel just enough like the ‘real world’ as to be suspicious.
I guess if there could be any issue to be taken with what SSSS.Dynazenon did this week, it's that things still feel very much in the setup phase of the story. Some of the beats even feel like barely-advanced repeats we saw last week (Yume's pursuing of her sister's old acquaintances, a surprisingly cordial conversation with a Kaiju Eugenicist). But it's still presented so well and so effectively in line with the pacing the show's working with that I can't fault it, personally. Getting to know people can be an incremental, time-consuming process. And at this point, SSSS.Dynazenon feels right enough that I'm fine with it taking that time.
SSSS.Dynazenon is currently streaming on Funimation.
Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.