This recap contains spoilers for the SSSS.DYNAZENON episode “Which Memories Do You Regret?”
“Which Memories Do You Regret?” That’s quite the question, isn’t it? SSSS.DYNAZENON‘s tenth episode comes to us from the same creative mind that produced SSSS.GRIDMAN‘s ninth. If you’re not into production minutiae (and fair play if you’re not, it can be hard to keep track of), that’d be episode animation director Kai Ikarashi. If you’ve seen that episode, you probably remember it well. And you’ve also got a decent idea of what you’re in for here.
Much like that episode, often considered one of the best (maybe the best) of SSSS.GRIDMAN‘s, “Which Memories Do You Regret?” confounds the usual recap formula. Just describing what happens in linear order doesn’t cut it here. It’s not even really possible, given the way the episode is structured.
My Usual Approach Is Useless Here
At the very least, there is an easy-to-understand beginning to all of this. The setup here lasts only mere seconds, but it’s enough. It’s been a while since the last kaiju attack, and when the Kaiju Eugenecists finally find a new beast to control, something … goes wrong. The kaiju — a gigantic, white dinosaur-lion thing — can cause people to disappear. There is no explosion, no big to-do, no visual effect at all. They are there, and then they’re not.
It becomes clear eventually that what it’s doing is transporting people into their own pasts. (Somehow contained both in their own minds and inside the kaiju itself. Anime metaphysics are at play here, it’s best not to overthink it.)
The puzzle that “Which Memories Do You Regret?” sets itself up to solve is, thus, at its core, the same one that’s permeated the series. SSSS.DYNAZENON‘s core point becomes very clear here. In the former half of the episode, it is presented in the form of the title question. Or, to restate things a bit, how do you move on from something –anything — in your past that’s drastically altered your life? Can you even do that without losing yourself in the process?
“Which Memories Do You Regret?” eventually answers this question with a resounding yes, complete with a brief how-to, but the road there is obscure and obfuscated. Ikarashi’s work on SSSS.GRIDMAN was easily the most surreal that series ever got, and the same is true here in SSSS.DYNAZENON. After the kaiju attacks, the episode shatters into fragments. Almost literally so, given the presence of a recurring glass-breaking visual motif.
The Dyna Soldiers, other than Yomogi, are trapped in their memories. Yume relives the last day she saw her sister, Koyomi the day he and his crush ran off with a duffel bag of money, and Gauma the day he betrayed the KEs in the name of the mysterious “princess” for which he still holds affection. It’s a lot, and the surreal directing here means that if you’re not already attuned to this sort of storytelling you could easily get lost trying to keep track of things.
Yume’s dreamworld is the most involved of those we see. In it, she confronts her sister Kano, something she never got the chance to do in the real world. Despite all the red herrings we’ve been given, it would seem that Kano’s death was, in fact, an accident.
The only reason she couldn’t be saved like Yume herself was just a single episode ago is that, in a very literal sense, no one was there to support her. I suspect that SSSS.DYNAZENON may lose some people off that fact alone, but the point here is that Yume is still affected by her death. There are no easy outs, not even here.
But there are words of advice. Before the two leave each other for the last time, Kano tells Yume that she needs to rely on others more. And that, right there, is the entire thesis of SSSS.DYNAZENON as a series. Where SSSS.GRIDMAN dealt with the internal, all of its characters mapping to different parts of a single psyche, SSSS.DYNAZENON is external.
“Rely on your friends, darn you,” is perhaps not the most complicated thematic core in the world, but it’s a necessary one. Especially in light of the current mental health crisis. Yomogi is able, eventually, to help all of his friends escape the dreams that the kaiju has trapped them in. Sometimes you just need a friend to bring you back to reality.
That’s quite a lot to put on a series about giant robots, isn’t it? But it’s fair. “Which Memories Do You Regret?” invites this kind of contemplation, and it’s one of the reasons SSSS.DYNAZENON is as good as it is.
But I can hear you asking if “Which Memories Do You Regret?” ends with a cool fight sequence. To which I’d reply, listen, what show do you think we’re talking about? This is SSSS.DYNAZENON, of course it does. The white kaiju is defeated and all is, well, mostly fine. “Which Memories Do You Regret?” closes on a lingering shot of Gauma, as seen in his own dream, lying down in the rain. It’s not hard to guess that one member of the Dyna Soldiers, in particular, is still reluctant to rely on his companions.
But, that is something to be explored next week. Until then, anime fans.
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