What They Say:
Yuta Hibiki can’t remember who he is, and now he’s seeing and hearing things that others don’t! A voice from an old computer tells him to remember his calling, and he sees a massive, unmoving creature in the distance. Nothing’s making sense—until the behemoth springs to life! Suddenly, Yuta is pulled into the digital world, reappearing in the real one as the colossal hero—Gridman!
The audio presentation for this series brings us a pretty standard action design here as we get the original Japanese language in stereo while the English dub gets the 5.1 boost, both of which are encoded using the DolbyTrueHD lossless codec. The bigger moments, such as the transformations and combinations, come across really well on both tracks but obviously with a bit bigger feeling in the English dub version. The action isn’t constant in each episode as there’s plenty of dialogue material, but when it does play in the high-quality sections, the audio keeps up quite well with a good spread across the forward soundstage and an overall feeling that connects well with the English side. The dialogue material in the rest of the episode is pretty well-handled too with good placement as needed when there are multiple people on screen and a good sense of directionality. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout on both of the mixes and we didn’t have any issues with dialogue or dropouts during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2018, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve-episode series is spread across two discs in a seven/five format that gives it plenty of space to work with. Animated by Trigger, the series has a strong look throughout – especially with the color palette used. There’s some smart use of the vibrant materials here to really accentuate things and give it some strong life but it also works in the deeper richer colors well that are more subtle, such as with the backgrounds, to give it a very layered look. The overall visual design is strong as expected from Trigger with a lot of excellent designs and detail and the 3DCG material is great with the mecha side, all of which blends together pretty well. The end result is one very shiny looking show that definitely has the right look and comes across as very clean and problem-free throughout.
The packaging for this limited edition release is pretty slick all around and will definitely please fans. The set comes in a heavy chipboard box that features the main key visual with the cast along the bottom and a full-length shot that makes the scale pretty clear. The blue sky and clouds gives it some good contrast and I love all the detail that we get here. The back cover goes for a good school-based cast shot that gives all the characters a better larger look here. Within the box, we get the thicker than standard Blu-ray case that holds the four discs for both formats on hinges while the cover gives us a good visual of the Gridman wielding the sword set against a black background that really makes the color design stand out strongly here with its glossiness. That carries over to the back cover while the reverse side artwork is a two-panel spread looking at the city at night.
Also in the box is a really slick 150-page squarebound book that must have cost a pretty penny to put together, both in materials and the time to get it right. It’s got some interview material with the staff, lots and lots of production artwork, look at the designs, and a lot of detail in how it all comes together. It’s a beautiful boog with a glossy look to it that will make fans of this property pretty damn giddy with what it provides. The set also has a small spacer box glued onto the back of the box which holds some goodies. It’s here that we get a small but nicely done set of art cards showing off peices of the case artwork. We also get a Gridman Alliance sticker you can slap somewhere as well as getting an in-theme keychain.
The menu design for this release is pretty simple as it goes for an all-clip approach with lots of big action moments playing out and some good character bits along the way that will delight some of the fans. It plays to a good bit of instrumental music that builds up throughout the loop before it cycles back to the beginning. The navigation is kept to a small blue box along the lower left where it’s fairly basic and standard with the usual selections – and the first disc has no extras at all, making it even smaller. Submenus load quickly as needed and it looks good enough during playback as a pop-up menu to be lightly in-theme.
The only extra included here is the Behind the Gridman Alliance piece, which clocks in at twenty-seven minutes and features the ADR director with three of the cast members – Jill Harris, Lyndsay Seidel, and Brandon McInnis. It’s a pretty good simple roundtable kind of talk between everyone with Clifford Chapin kind of overseeing it as they talk about the process and the experience. The set is disappointing in that there are no clean opening and closing sequences or other standards like promos and commercials and the like.
Based on the tokusatsu series from the1993 period, SSSS.GRIDMAN is a twelve-episode anime series that aired in the fall 2018 season. The show boasted a strong production behind it with Tsuburaya Productions involved in the Gridman and Ultra series partnering with Studio Trigger to bring it out. You get a strong director like Akira Amemiya on board and Keiichi Hasegawa working the scripts based on the bigger ideas and everything should come together well. And it does look stylish as hell with a lot of big, beautiful moments that deliver all the right feels. Yet, what Gridman taught me is that after almost a decade of Studio Trigger work, I’m just not a fan of their projects at this point. When I go back and see that the last one I really liked was 2013’s Kill la Kill, well, it tells me that as much as I like their style the actual content just isn’t clicking.
And tokusatsu material has never clicked for me and that became painfully clear not long into this that it holds true with anime incarnations of it as well. The show focuses on Yuta, a first-hear high school kid who provides our view into the world by being an amnesiac that can see and merge with Gridman, something called a Hyper Agent that goes up against the giant monsters that are ravaging the city. Gridman’s a big comical thing in itself since when not in “use” it takes the form of an old computer and that’s just a delightful little gag. For Yuta, this is pure high school level male wish fulfillment writ large and you can see it play out easily there, though there are issues and bit emotional elements that make it a little more complicated than the shows of yore. Yuta’s the perfect character for a situation like this as he’s home alone as both his parents are on a business trip so that makes him someone that others gravitate toward because of how lonely they think he might be. That brings us characters like Rikka, the only girl in the Gridman Alliance that’s formed by Sho, Yuta’s fellow classmate. Rikka’s certainly invested in this fight after the losses she faces but she also wants Yuta to have a normal life since she has some affection for him.
What the show plays with are some big stakes when you get down to it. While we usually get something with how these things play out in other series, here we have the twist in that outside of the Gridman Alliance, people’s memories are reset so they don’t remember the battle that just occurred. And with people that died during the battle? They’re simply wiped from existence and reality alters to allow this to become the norm. That’s one of the early things that brought Rikka into it and it provides a real reason to fight. This, of course, makes the fact that a lot of the show is various kinds of high school dramedy material a bit more problematic. There’s such a level of seriousness and loss to the battles and while it doesn’t shift gears back to comedy or anything, the lighter material and sense of normalcy feels all the more surreal. The kids process the information as best as they can in order to keep up the fight and deal with all of the usual stuff that comes from being a teenager otherwise.
The show operates in a way where transformations and combinations are a part of things and some of it works and some of it is just too silly for me – such as when the junior high itself is brought into it. We get some school festival material out of that which, while disrupted, aligns with part of what bothered me with this in that there’s too much normalcy in a lot of ways considering events. And as the events get weirder as the series progresses, the disconnect just became worse for me. And with the whole Gridman element itself not working for me as I just couldn’t take it seriously when it needed to be, the show just didn’t click at all. The final episodes do scale up even more as it plays with some interesting characters and how it comes together with Akane, but it just never connected for me prior to that and that made the ending a bit soft for me, even as I enjoyed the whole thing in terms of the visuals.
SSSS.GRIDMAN was a show that felt like a struggle from start to finish. While the basics connected I never felt like the characters did or the situation itself. There were just too many cliches for me and then it being part of the tokusatsu side that has never appealed much to begin with – and we’ve had a few anime incarnations over the years for me to try. Studio Trigger puts in top flight work on the show and I have no doubt that it works well for fans of the genre with what it does, but so much of it just fell flat for me, even as vibrant and busy as it gets. Funimation, however, put in a strong release overall with a great limited edition and a dub that was a lot of fun. It’s missing a few things in the extras department that it should have but I figure that’s likely some sort of legal issue. The core show is very well-presented here and fans of it will adore the quality and attention to detail there and in the limited edition elements of the package itself.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, SSSS.GRIDMAN: Behind the Gridman Alliance
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: January 28th, 2020
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.