English Dub Review: SSSS.Gridman “Awakening – Final Episode”

Ever wanted to see Edward Cullen as a mecha? Well, here’s your chance!

Overview (Spoilers!)

That’s right, Akane is a kaiju. Gridman and his supports discuss the fact that they’re all split pieces of a shared consciousness. Gridman sends Anti after Akane, claiming there’s something he must do. Alexis taunts Rikka, who promises to change Akane; Gridman arrives in a spaceship to pick Rikka up. Mid-fight, Anti transforms back into his human self and dives into the belly of the kaiju. At the hospital, Gridman and Rikka convince Utsumi to help them.

Anti yanks Akane out of the kaiju; Alexis immediately stabs him through the chest. Using Akane’s “terrible emotions,” Alexis turns into an enormous mecha himself. At Rikka’s shop, Gridman and his supports combine, and Anti joins them. Utsumi and Rikka enter an access code and realize that they’re now seeing the true form of Gridman. The city’s people begin to remember him. Gridman and Alexis battle, and Gridman kicks him in half.

Alexis reforms effortlessly, no matter how many times Gridman bisects him. Alexis discusses his motivation—he’s immortal, and only negative human emotions can break up the tedium of his eternal life. Akane sought him out because there was nothing around her, and he helped her to build her ideal city and perfect it. Alexis strikes down Gridman, claiming there’s nothing left for him in this world.

Gridman realizes that his true power is to mend worlds, and he sends out his “fixer beam” to repair the city. Rikka, Utsumi, and Gridman try to convince Akane to live in her city and allow it to thrive, to rely on them when she needs help. Gridman destroys Alexis and vanishes the kaiju. Then his fixer beam spreads out over the whole world!

Rikka and Akane sit in Akane’s room, which has been packed up to move. Akane sobs over her actions and announces her intention to leave the city. Rikka gifts Akane the passholder she saw in that shop. She tells Akane that she wants them to be together and holds her hand. After a moment, Akane is gone.

Rikka tells her friends that Akane has returned to the land of the gods. The group shares gratitude and goodbyes, and the Hyper Agents retire to the hyper world. Anti doesn’t go with them.

Life goes on in the city. Yuta’s parents return home. It begins to snow, and in the shop, Yuta awakens. Anosillus tends to Anti in the park. In the real world, a live-action Akane wakes up as well.

Our Take

So that’s the end. Battles have been won, emotional loose ends wrapped up. I appreciate that the show doesn’t try to give Akane a true redemption arc—honestly, it would be hard to justify it after all the murders she’s committed. But she realizes the scope of her misdeeds, is pardoned by those closest to her and exits to try to make peace with herself. It’s a realistic and heartfelt ending for a complex and tormented character.

And boy, her torment is on full force here. The Akane-kaiju causes destruction by screaming, just as Akane’s emotional turbulence has dealt so much harm to her city. We see her amongst the innards of the kaiju, in the darkness, held up by dozens of glowing white hands, each one representing a person she’s hurt. It’s an incredibly haunting scene, and I applaud the design team for it. The kaiju itself, with its emotionless doll-like face, is also a feat of design. Plus, that final twist? It’s hilarious, and I love the idea that humans are like gods who write the stories of anime characters’ lives. The final few seconds of this show are yet more proof of how clever it can be.

Unfortunately, this episode also brings up a lot of really intriguing ideas that never get fully developed. The idea that all the Neon Genesis members are part of Gridman’s consciousness that have been split between multiple people is so interesting, but it’s mentioned briefly in passing. We never learn how his consciousness got split, what part of Gridman each of them represents, how they would behave together as one coherent being that incorporates all of their strengths. Honestly, the Neon Genesis characters remain so undeveloped until the end that I’m still not sure what they add to the story. Plus, Anti combined with them too, right? What is that about? Why was he able to do that if he’s not a part of Gridman’s mind?

Alexis’s explanation for his actions—that he’s bored because he’s immortal—is believable, but also not particularly inventive or surprising. Villains don’t necessarily need to be sympathetic, but I’d like to hear some modicum of backstory to give him some intrigue. And, uh… what’s with the city in the sky, exactly? That was never explained in any way whatsoever.

The dialogue in the final few scenes leaves a little to be desired. Maybe it’s a fault of the translation, but I frequently had trouble understanding what characters were trying to say. Rikka asks Akane for one last favor as her god, and tells her, “I want the two of us to be together.” Then she takes Akane’s hand while Akane blushes, in what’s definitely the most romantic scene in this show. But then Rikka says, “Let’s hope that my wish never comes true.” Like… what? Why? Isn’t the point of a wish that you want it to come true? Why does Akane just ignore her the request? What was the point of this exchange? I’m also baffled by a conversation where Gridman asks if there’s something Utsumi wanted to say to Akane, and Utsumi screams, “SO MUCH I COULD DIE… The thing is, I can’t get there after all.” Is he talking about his crush on Akane? What does he mean, he can’t get there after all? What?

To be honest, I’m not sure why the show bothered with the half-assed romances at all. At the last possible second, Gridman tells Rikka that Yuta has feelings for her, and Rikka is embarrassed, and then it’s just over. It’s so ridiculously pointless.

And… the fixer beam plotline. Like, okay. It’s a nice idea, I guess. But it comes so out of nowhere—we’ve never been given any hint that Gridman could do something like this. And his new skill that just freaking materializes out of thin air has enough power to alter the entire world?! Sorry, but I’m not buying this (literal) deus ex machina. The sparkles are cheesy and over-the-top in an entertaining way, but Gridman doesn’t have to work at the final battle at all—the answer just magically comes to him, and it’s not very satisfying. Maybe I would enjoy the scene more if I had nostalgia for Gridman the Hyper Agent, I don’t know. I get that we’re supposed to feel nostalgic when he reveals his true form, but it’s just not exciting for me, a viewer who was first introduced to Gridman in 2018.

But that isn’t to say that the finale lacks finesse. I love the detail of Akane curled up in her room, broken and sad, next to a moving box that’s labeled fragile. The “fragile” label, of course, metaphorically refers to her mental state—and also to her cracked glasses resting on top of the box. The themes in the finale are also heartfelt—that human beings have infinite potential despite being mortal, and that there isn’t anyone who’s perfect, so Akane should stop beating herself up if the world around her isn’t perfectly tuned to her specifications. I enjoy Anti and Anosillus’s newfound friendship, and I like that we end on Yuta waking up, ready to become friends with Rikka and Utsumi all over again.

So is “Awakening” is a perfect ending to SSSS.Gridman? Nah. But hey, like Gridman says, there isn’t anyone who’s perfect—so I guess that philosophy extends to anime, too.

Score
7.0/10

Bodie Shanis

Bodie is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. You can often find him in odd costumes, either because he's at an anime convention or performing in a musical. He's currently working on his first novel.

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