WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Episode 1 of SSSS.Dynazenon, "What is a Kaiju User?," now streaming on Funimation.
As the next installment in the Gridman universe, SSSS.Dynazenon has some work to do if it wishes to live up to its predecessors. The first episode takes a step in the right direction by introducing its core cast characters, alongside small glimpses into their individual lives -- each of which tease their potential interpersonal dynamics. Naturally, these imperfect people will pilot the anime's titular mecha, a transforming humanoid and dinosaur hybrid.
Judging by this premiere, there is a very strong chance SSSS.Dynazenon will dive into darker themes, such as isolation, nihilism and death as it goes along. Take Yomogi Asanaka, for instance: an average and sociable high school student who seems to have a plethora of friends. Around his high school, rumors spread about a girl named Yume Minami. Apparently, she asks out guys only to never show up for the dates. Yume is often by herself, and the way classmates talk about her signifies levels of ostracism. A peek into her life gives very strong clues to explain her behavior. At home, she asks her mom for permission to borrow an item from Kano’s room. Presumably, Kano is a sibling, and her mother sounds hesitant before granting it. Shortly after, her mother and father argue about when the mother is finally going to clean up Kano’s room. In the room rests a calendar still dated 2015. A brief flashback later shows Yume and her parents at the morgue standing over a body.
This overwhelming truth regarding a possibly deceased sibling may explain her behavioral issues. How she resolves her trauma could be one of the main draws of this anime. As for Yomogi, he exerts the attitude of a mentally healthy teenager, but clearly, he possesses a few hang-ups of his own. His own home life features a single mother, or motherly figure, at least, who is seeing someone. When this man bestows a monetary gift on him, he gives it away.
Yomogi could just be extremely charitable. He offers his lunch to a strange, tattered man he meets under the bridge during his commute. After this man is saved from starvation, he is revealed to be an eccentric figure named Gauma who claims to be a Kaiju User, a foreign expression to Yomogi. Gauma is boisterous, excitable and mysterious, but he confidently thinks highly of his new relationship with Yomogi -- who doesn’t reciprocate this feeling.
When Yume invites Yomogi after his work shift, she purposely refrains from showing up. Gauma then confronts her on Yomogi’s behalf. The argument is not too far from the arranged meeting location, and Yomogi eventually joins the conversation, in which Yume proclaims, “There is something wrong with me.” After this glimpse into their rough character dynamic, the episode's Kaiju finally makes an appearance and the trio are forced to pilot Dynazenon.
Joining them is Koyomi Yamanaka, an unemployed bystander who was dragged out by his cousin to watch the action. His cousin, Chise Asukagawa, regularly skips school as well. These complete strangers, each with their own rugged past will have to collaborate over the course of the series in order to defeat Kaiju. Almost as a compliment to their jagged personalities and flawed lifestyles, Dynazenon also has a beast transformation. Deviating from the humanoid form, this representation also allows for Kaiju versus Kaiju-like fight scenes.
Overall, SSSS.Dynazenon's premiere delivers interesting dynamics through displaying its characters’ personal struggles before forcing the outcasts, and Yomogi, into a tense, life-threatening situation. In addition, it potentially sets up a deep dive into mental health, grief and cooperation. That is, if these strangers can learn to fortify each other.