Content Considerations: Fantastical violence; background elements of death and bereavement.
What’s it about? High schooler Yomogi is having a weird week. First, he gives his leftovers to a hungry vagrant who introduces himself as “Gauma, the kaiju user” and starts chasing Yomogi around. Then, classmate and “serial promise-breaker” Yume invites him out, only to stand him up. Then the trio wind up on a bridge together just as a monster attacks the city! When Gauma calls up the giant robot Dynazenon to fight the monster, Yomogi and Yume (along with unlucky bystander Koyomi) also get taken inside the mecha. Dynazenon requires four pilots, but is this crew up for the task?
SSSS.DYNAZENON is the second installment in TRIGGER’s reimagining of the 1990s Gridman live-action sentai show, following the surprise(?) hit SSSS.GRIDMAN in 2018. As of this premiere, though, that’s basically just “fun fact” background information. Dynazenon may share a universe and director/writer duo with its anime predecessor, but it stars new characters, features a new robot, and is thus far perfectly newbie-friendly.
That said, Gridman viewers will undoubtedly feel like they’ve returned to a familiar world, thanks to director Amemiya Akira and writer Hasegawa Keiichi’s signature styles: naturalistic dialogue, quiet character beats, and storyboards that know when to move and when it linger, creating a strong sense of environment and character through gorgeous long shots and detail-oriented closeups alike.
The SSSS franchise continues to be one of the studio’s quieter and more restrained productions… at least, until the kaiju start throwing down. The shift from slice-of-life to sentai is dramatic and jarring (intentionally so, I’d say), as fantasy smashes into reality with as much force as the monsters and mechas. This tonal swerve will either work for you or it won’t—but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t shout “Hell yeah!” when Dynazenon morphed into a FIRE-BREATHING ROBO-DRAGON at the climax.
What really made Gridman memorable, though, was its character work, and Dynazenon looks to follow in its footsteps on that front as well. There’s a lot of subtle table-setting in this episode to introduce us to the cast and hint at their personal conflicts. Yomogi’s tensions surround money and his mom’s boyfriend(?); Yume’s center around her deceased sister; cousins Koyomi and Chise are both essentially shut-ins, him as an unemployed graduate and her as a high school truant.
And Gauma is… well, Gauma is a TriggerBoy, loyal and loud and aggressive and goodhearted. He feels as out-of-place in this grounded world as the kaiju and robots do, but that’s likely intentional. Whether he’ll mostly serve as a catalyst for the other characters or have an arc of his own remains to be seen, but he certainly injects a largely melancholy premiere with a jolt of energy every time he’s on camera.
It’s too early to know exactly what Dynazenon wants to explore with its story, but themes of independence, power, and isolation swirl around the margins. Yomogi seeks financial independence, while Yume strings people along seemingly just because she can.
There’s also a strong implication that every main character may be depressed or grieving in some fashion, especially given that this premiere opens with the text “Scarred Souls Shine Like Stars.” As always, there’s a fine line between finding hope on the other side of trauma (healthy!) and straight-up glorifying it (harmful!), but hopefully Dynazenon will lean towards the former.
If there are any concerns about the show, it’s that Gridman had a tendency towards tonally dissonant fanservice, both in the form of lingering shots of girls’ legs (and especially feet) as well as an “obligatory” swimsuit episode. There’s basically none of that in this premiere, thankfully (although Chise’s outfit makes me a bit nervous, especially coupled with Koyomi remarking that he gets hassled by the police because people don’t believe they’re cousins). It’s totally possible the director has grown out of all that, but it still feels worth mentioning as a potential flag for new viewers.
Overall, though, I really didn’t have any issues with this first episode. It established three-dimensional characters with a lot of potential to grow and set up several mysteries to explore in the coming weeks, from “what the heck is a kaiju user?” to “why was Yume’s sister clutching a puzzle toy when she died?” Dynazenon could trip on its own giant monster feet, of course, but after the way Gridman wove its final act together, this creative team has earned my trust. I’m here to see what they can do in Round Two.