Balancing the Technological and the Real in SSSS.Gridman [OWLS Jul. ’19 Blog Tour]

If this prompt looks like it’s a bit different to the usual, that’s because Lyn didn’t write it – I pitched it to her.

So, here’s the prompt for this month, with the theme of “technology”:

For this month’s topic, we will be discussing how technology impacts our relationships with others and how it improves our lives (such as in communication, education, and etc.) by exploring the technology used in various anime and pop culture worlds.

I picked this particular prompt because it’s versatile enough to apply to everything from Dr Stone to mech shows, if applied broadly enough. Interestingly, it’s almost the same as how I pitched it, but the second part is more positive.

Thank goodness they had a shot of just Junk at the end of the OP, huh? Even if I didn’t quite get the top corners of the text editing right, it still looks good. (Source: SSSS.Gridman OP)

Anyways, enough waffling. There was one show I wanted to be more about technology than anything else and that’s SSSS.Gridman. When your tokusatsu hero transforms via a computer to fight viruses (that was the plot of the original Gridman), it’s gotta be about technology…right?

That’s right, but the interpretation of exactly how much it engages with technology is up for debate (at first I couldn’t make too many connections, but over the course of watching it twice, I started to make more of them). One thing’s for sure though: this Gridman is concerned about balance – between fighting villains/summer days filled with ennui, CGI/traditional animation and the digital/real worlds. I’ll come back to this idea of “balance” later, but let me start where I left off from a previous post first:

I’ve complained about SSSS.Gridman’s lack of consequence before and some of the really dumb points of the show come about due to it – for instance, one way a glitch is fixed for the titular hero is simply pulling out the plug of Junk! Despite my own hangups about this though, it occurred to me through a rewatch that it just goes to show SSSS.Gridman’s aim is actually not to be as technologically savvy as the original came across as. Normally a computer – in this case, the one called “Junk” by Sho – is a way to make things accessible that wouldn’t normally be accessible (everything from physical goods bought off Amazon to the rapport we’re building on this blog right now), but in SSSS.Gridman’s case, it’s not just the entryway into a mystery that gets solved over the course of the show, it’s a bridge to fixing what was broken by Akane.

Speaking of Akane, the anime often shows her alone or one-on-one with the other character she’s discussing matters with, while Yuta is more commonly surrounded by people even though you don’t see Yuta’s parents for majority of the anime and you never see Akane’s parents at all. Akane’s portrayed as antisocial because of 1) her dependency on her computer – and by extension, Alexis – to make things interesting for her and 2) closing off her relationships with others, including her creation Anti when he’s not useful to her. Even when she’s heading out with Arcadia, she mediates talking through her phone and group chat, only choosing to stick around in person because she wants to talk to Rikka (who is also roped into attending). This doesn’t necessarily mean the digital world is better than the real world, though, or vice versa. It just means that one should be careful with their digital escapism, as being in one world for too long blocks you off from opportunities in the other.

Sidenote: From this point forward, there are parts where you have to highlight the white text to reveal the spoiler. This is because it’s basically impossible to talk about some deeper connections between SSSS.Gridman and technology without discussing certain twists that change the course of the anime.

Interestingly, when the clouds open up to reveal the [highlight to reveal] digital city above, this signals the breakdown of reality as Yuta, Sho and Rikka knew it and it gets even worse when it’s revealed at the last moment [highlight to reveal] Akane is actually a girl in the real world who looks like Rikka. Essentially, in Gridman, technology is the catalyst for conflict (Junk and Gridman) and also the medium for conflict (through Access Flash and Instance Abreaction, both mediated through computers). The blurring of what is reality and what’s not in Gridman further emphasises balance is critical for proper functioning in both the digital and real worlds.

Most of the balance in this main plot is mediated via the relationship between Rikka and Akane after a certain mid-season revelation – namely, [highlight to reveal] Akane is a god controlling people through her kaiju. Akane and Rikka’s relationship has previously been severed due to reasons unknown, although Alexis and Gridman sure complicate things on that front. Their plotline shows there is no Fixer Beam for relationships – you have to have open communication with each other in order to live, even if that seems painful to deal with at times…especially when the person you’re dealing with gives you pain as a sign of friendship, like Borr does for Sho by kicking him.

Establishing a proper narrative in this post was quite the challenge, considering there’s a lot you can tie back to technology in SSSS.Gridman if you discuss callbacks to the tokusatsu and real life aspects of the anime as well as the anime itself. To that end, I cut the bit about CGI I was hinting at early on since it left the post on a discussion cliffhanger.

For more posts on this tour, Dylan (who’s discussing Summer Wars) comes before me on the 10th and Jack (who’s discussing Psycho-Pass) comes after me on the 12th.

So, I’ve only got one question this time: was the white text too hard to deal with? (Hopefully it wasn’t – I did try this technique once, but got no feedback on it.)

What do you think about this?

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