During the November 14 episode of Toonami: Pre-Flight, Adult Swim announced that Studio TRIGGER's SSSS.GRIDMAN would be joining its lineup in January 2021. The anime was originally released in 2018 and has been available via a couple of streaming services for a while now; however, the series has not received much love, despite its fantastic pedigree.
SSSS.GRIDMAN can trace its roots back to 1993 with the show Denkou Choujin Gridman (localized as Gridman the Hyper Agent in some English speaking territories). This show was a live-action tokusatsu series focused on the titular hero Gridman who merges with a young boy called Naoto Sho, allowing him to fight monsters in the digital world.
Alongside a wide variety of beam attacks, Gridman can grow, making himself into a giant. However, this powerup only lasts for a limited time. On the surface, this may sound very similar to Ultraman, which isn't surprising as Gridman was produced by Tsuburaya Productions, the company behind the Ultraman franchise.
In the west, footage from Gridman the Hyper Agent was edited and recut with new footage to become Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad in an attempt to cash in on the success of shows like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. However, this show, while gaining a cult following, didn't have the sheer staying power of the rangers and faded into obscurity.
During the 2017 Anime Expo, Tsuburaya Productions announced that it would be releasing a new entry in the Gridman franchise, an anime called SSSS.GRIDMAN. It also announced that this anime would be animated by TRIGGER, the studio behind blockbuster anime such as Kill la Kill, Little Witch Academia and Darling in the Franxx. This wasn't the first time the two studios worked together on Gridman projects either, as in 2015, TRIGGER animated Denkou Choujin Gridman: boys invent great hero, a short that was shown at the Japan Animator Expo.
SSSS.GRIDMAN follows a young boy called Yūta Hibiki. Yūta is a first-year high school student in the city of Tsutsujidai. However, Yūta has a problem. He has amnesia and can't seem to remember anything about himself. He stumbles upon an old computer that tells him to remember his purpose, and at first, Yūta is confused. However, when kaiju start to attack his city, Yūta finds himself sucked into the digital world where he fuses with Gridman, allowing Gridman to appear in the real world to fight the monsters.
However, once the fight ends, Yūta realizes something strange. Once the kaiju is defeated, everyone's memory is erased. And, those who are killed by the attack are totally forgotten. Yūta teams up with several of his classmates to form the Gridman Alliance so they can work out the source of the kaiju and try to help Yūta recover his memories. But they're not the only students interested in Gridman. Several of Yūta's classmates are part of Neon Genesis Junior High Students. These students are Hyper Agents in disguise, and they can join with Gridman to help him unlock powerful new abilities and weapons.
TRIGGER's work on this series is outstanding. The character designs are memorable and varied, especially the kaiju. The human drama is relatable, and the plot has enough twists and turns to keep you on your toes and hooked right until the end. But the fight scenes are the highlight. TRIGGER was able to fuse modern anime combat with the weight and impact of traditional tokusatsu suit acting. As Gridman battles kaiju, buildings are smashed and vehicles are sent flying as special abilities light up the sky. This is all set to a fantastic soundtrack that captures the terrifying majesty of these fights. TRIGGER's attention to detail is on full display here, and the show is an utter visual treat.
Now is the perfect time to dive into the world of SSSS.GRIDMAN, as during 2019's Tsubucon, the official convention of Tsuburaya Productions, TRIGGER announced that it was working on SSSS.DYNAZENON a continuation of SSSS.GRIDMAN, which is set in a shared setting it is calling the "Gridman Universe." While this show doesn't have a firm release date at the moment, we can only presume that news of it will likely come sometime next year.
SSSS.GRIDMAN is both a fantastic reboot of the tokusatsu series and a great anime in its own right. TRIGGER did a fantastic job bringing the concept into the new millennium and making the concept of a digital hero work without feeling silly. There really is something for everyone in the show. If you're a fan of TRIGGER's other work, you'll likely enjoy SSSS.GRIDMAN as the series features all of the studio's trademark action and drama while still feeling like its own series.
If you like tokusatsu, you'll love how SSSS.GRIDMAN retains the heart of the original show while seamlessly moving it into the world of anime. And if you just like action anime, then you'll adore Gridman's fantastic fights. Hopefully, the run on Adult Swim gives more people the chance to watch and enjoy this fantastic series so that it can get the praise and attention it deserves.