SSSS.Gridman – 05 – Wear Some Damn Clothes!

SSSS.Gridman 05 is a swimsuit episode, but only peripherally. It doesn’t matter how skimpy the outfit or how piercing the male gaze, this was also an excellent episode; the best since the first, because of how it shook up established formula of previous episodes.

It did so with a savvy understanding of the universe it’s built so far and how those who live within it should feel and act. The fanservice, while abundant, never distracted from that.

Shinjou Akane is regarded not just as the idol of the class, but its goddess. So its ironic that we see her resplendently reclining…on a giant pile of bags full garbage she’s too lazy to take out. Her class is going on a rafting field trip, and the only way she sees it not being a complete hassle/waste of time is if she can manage to finally beat her nemesis Gridman.

Just as Akane is looking forward to confirming that Gridman is Yuuta and then mopping the floor with him, Yuuta is looking forward to sharing an activity with Rikka, to whom he has yet to confess his feelings. That hesitation leads to a distance between them; there’s little screen time with just the two of them.

Heck, in the first half of the episode, Akane spends more time with Rikka, even getting her to rub sunblock on her back (and jokingly asking if she’ll do her front too). Shou is embarrassed when  Rikka’s cool friends mock his paunch, but when Akane does it, he turns beet red, only seeing the surface of Akane and not the evil lurking just beneath it.

Akane also ends up spending a good amount of time one-on-one with Yuuta, remarking how they’re alike in “not being used to things like this”, this being the rafting trip and all the physical and social calisthenics involved. But again, Akane is trying to get Yuuta to admit he’s Gridman, and in a way, succeeds when, in the middle of a string of questions, she asks if he’s “transforming” and he answers in the affirmative.

One day, Yuuta, Rikka, or Shou (or heck, maybe even Hass) will confront Akane about who she truly is…but not this week. Akane’s weird question sticks in Yuuta’s head, but he has more pressing issues, like the absolutely humongous Leviathan Akane has Alexis conjure shortly after getting her confirmation.

Akane admits it might not be fair or sporting to scale up her kaiju so dramatically, but considering the losing streak she’s endured I can totally understand her desire to take the proverbial gloves off. Unlike previous conjurings, not only is this one bigger than ever, it’s in a non-urban area, and indeed is created from the lush natural landscape; a mobile mountain with jaws and two beady red eyes. Honestly…it’s kinda cute.

We’re also in uncharted territory with the Gridman Alliance nowhere near the kitbashed computer terminal that enables Yuuta to transform. They can call the shop in hopes Neon Genesis folk are there (and they are; just waiting around), but they left their cell phones in the lockers.

Yuuta and Shou run ahead (leaving Rikka to escape with the others), but while Shou has change when they find a payphone, neither knows the number to the junk store. But Rikka does, and in catching up to provide it, she demonstrates that she won’t easily break the bonds of the alliance by leaving her comrades behind so easily.

The cavalry gets the message, buys the computer from Rikka’s mom, boards the same train as Yuuta and Shou, fall asleep on that train and almost miss their stop, and set up the computer at the station where they plan to rendezvous with Yuuta.

While he takes a tumble down a hill and gets a bit scratched up, he manages to make it, and he and Borr transform into Gridmand and Buster Borr, respectively. At first glance they look comically outmatched against an opponent of such lopsided superiority in mass. The only advantage they seem to have is that the kaiju’s attacks are very slow and inaccurate.

As if they didn’t have enough to deal with, Item shows up, determined as always to fight and defeat Gridman, regardless of what Akane wants or doesn’t want. However his time on the stage as an effective combatant is brief, as Borr has a projectile for every need, from forest fire-extinguishing water missiles to super-adhesive projectiles that immobilize Item’s kaiju.

That gives Gridman and Borr time to combine and unleash a vicious barrage of weaponry at the giant kaiju, culminating in a Double Buster Grid Beam that finishes it off. From closeups to extra wide shots of exploding giant monsters, SSSS.Gridman continues to make a strong case for best-looking, most visually-imaginative anime of the season, if not the year.

Akane, once again defeated, nonchalantly slips onto the last train back home, while Yuuta, Rikka and Shou reunite and celebrate the victory. However, Rikka spots Item, and some strangely floating rocks suggest they may be celebrating prematurely.

Still, it’s good to know that whether they’re in skimpy swimsuits or not, the Gridman Alliance is strong…and that Hass doesn’t have some weird perpetual cold, but only wears her mask for show. I love little details like that (or Borr saying the words I reused in this article’s title when she spots Yuuta in nothing but swim trunks). SSSS.G is full of them.

As for Yuuta getting Rikka to notice him, well…perhaps he should see her repeated instances of catching up to be by his side—be it for practical or emotional support—as a positive sign that she might be receptive to his feelings…if only he managed to successfully tell him what they were…

Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 08

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Aw, sucks to be the only Norma who has to stay on duty…

I won’t lie…I was kind of dreading this episode. But it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, it wasn’t that bad at all. But why don’t I let Ange herself give us a quick synopsis, speaking as the mascot “Perolina”:

It’s the long-awaited swimsuit episode, pero. But there were only a few slurpy scenes, pero. Running pigs, stinky outfits, and a great escape, pero! Do they really know what a swimsuit episode is, pero? You’re just making me make funny noises, aren’t you? Pero!

I love Ange’s little meta commentaries after the episodes. In addition to being funny, they prove the show has a cheeky sense of awareness that knows when it’s being exploitative and knows when to pull back on the fanservice throttle, for instance, and give us some meat and potatoes.

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Yes, even in Hell, there’s a day off for hope, fun, and happiness, if only one. I’m not averse to this concept; at some point, all the Norma in Arzenal will snap and go nuts and probably cause a great deal of damage…if not given some kind of release valve. Granted other valves already exist — from the marketplace to spend one’s earnings to tacitly permitting conjugation. But the Festa is a day long deep-scrub of all the crap that’s been built up. I daresay the ladies deserve it.

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Ange mentioned a great escape, though. There are actually two that take place this week, and these events thankfully push the Festa into the background where it’s more than tolerable. The first is borne out of Ange’s totally understandable depression over the plight of her sister Sylvia. Initially she believes there’s nothing she can do, but an opportunity presents itself when Misty Rosenblum, whose family administrates Arzenal and who once played lacrosse with Ange a lifetime ago, arrives on the island to meet Ange.

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Ange isn’t the only one not into the spirit of the Festa. Emma seems to resent giving these filthy barbaric Norma a day of sun and fun, and stays stubbornly in her duty uniform, as this isn’t her festa. I liked this little exchange while she was searching for Ange, because it underlines her disapproval with this whole exercise.

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Ange, meanwhile, has shrewedly hidden herself within the Perolina suit, wanders off to the flight deck, scares off a couple of lovers, and broods in peace. Then she spots the Rosenblum crest on the transport ship and hatches a plan: she’ll take Misty hostage and force her to fly her off the island, so she can find Sylvia.

This is important for Ange not just because it’s her little sister, but because Ange blames herself for paralyzing Sylvia when she fell from a horse during a ride. When she though Sylvia was dead she was content to be Ange, but she’s not, so she has to try to save her.

But Ange wasn’t the first person to come up with this plan: Hilda, who has been just as sullen at the Festa, has been waiting for this day to escape.

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Contrast that with Ersha, who suited up as Pero first and then gets a massage, or Salia, who avails herself of the cinema, pop culture aficionado that she is. And then there’s Chris and Roselie, who deal with Hilda avoiding them after they ‘betrayed’  her, in different ways.

Roselie washes her worries in gambling, but Chris decides to put everything into winning all the sporting events and a fat prize check so she can spend it with Roselie…and Hilda. It’s a great character beat for Chris, who we haven’t seen much of, but who genuinely cares about Hilda.

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Speaking of cash, Ange leaves enough to cover the weapons she’s taking aboard the ship (which are guarded by a dog easily bribed by a tub full of cheeseburgers, the functional equivalent of diverting a pursuing dog with a string of wieners).

Ange and Misty arrive at the ship to find Hilda and Momoka already there, and that’s when Hilda suggests they team up, for a better chance of getting away. Ange grudgingly agrees when Hilda points out the arresting locks need to be unlocked to take off.

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After a nifty, carefully-coordinated operation in which they wait until the noisy fireworks start, they get the transport moving. Now Hilda just needs to catch up with it and jump aboard…something Ange isn’t so sure she wants to allow after all.

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“CURSE YOUR SUDDEN BUT INEVITABLE BETRAYAL!”

When Ange starts goading Momoka to take off without Hilda, something that doesn’t sit right with the still morally pure maid, Hilda forces the issue and makes a desperate leap onto the ramp, and we learn the truth about Hilda: everything she’s done, from becoming Zola’s plaything to befriending Roselie and Chris to planning this escape, she’s done to get back home to her mother. She’s going to get off this rock or die trying. At the last moment, Ange lends her an outstretched arm to prevent her from dying, and their alliance holds. And all this in flip-flops!

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Once they reach land, they ditch Misty and the transport quickly, Hilda unearths her motorcycle, and then heads off on her own to the Enderant Union to find her mom, but not before an exchange of respectful looks and promises not to die. While they were bitter enemies at Arzenal, finally putting aside their differences led to their freedom. But how long will that freedom last?

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