This recap contains spoilers for the SSSS.DYNAZENON episode “What’s Lover-Like Mean?”
“What’s Lover-Like Mean?” is perhaps the most unconventional episode of SSSS.DYNAZENON so far. Down to its oddly-translated title. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that it’s one of the oddest episodes I’ve covered in my time here at GGA in general. It eventually reveals itself as an intriguing episode, but it’s a slow one. And I suspect for viewers who are craving more substantial plot developments, it will be something of a test of patience.
This is all down more to structure than any particularly strange plot elements. In fact, “What’s Lover-Like Mean?” is, at its core, one of the all-time (in)famous anime cliches: a beach episode. Generally used as filler to pad out shows much longer than the 12-episode fare we generally cover here, the beach episode is as its name implies. The cast goes to the beach, or something sufficiently similar, and hangs out. That’s about it.
Examples that are played completely straight are pretty rare nowadays. And indeed “What’s Lover-Like Mean?” isn’t one. But it’s still kind of an odd turn for SSSS.DYNAZENON, which just had another lighthearted episode last week.
At least, that was my initial impression. We open on an introductory sequence with Yomogi and Yume learning more about the latter’s sister. We also see her for the first time here.
Another brief vignette follows where Koyomi briefly meets with Yomogi’s manager, established the last episode as an old friend of his who’s since gotten married. After that, we get to the real meat of the episode — Chise pulls out her phone and reveals she’s won free tickets to a water park. She spreads the word to the rest of the Dynazenon crew and they make plans.
Oh yeah, and Sizumu tags along too.
The Monster in Your Mind
Frankly, there’s not a lot to talk about with most of the water park shenanigans in question. This is why I say “What’s Lover-Like Mean?” is on the slow side. A lot of time here is eaten up by SSSS.DYNAZENON‘s deadpan humor and some fun character interactions. (Gauma’s hilariously inept attempts to “capture” Sizumu are the real treat here.) It’s pleasant enough stuff, but by about the halfway point I was wondering when things would start to actually progress in the episode. They eventually do. But I did not really expect the form that that progression took.
Yume has what appears to be a trauma flashback after she hears someone screaming particularly loudly when they fall into the pool. She doesn’t explicitly say anything but, perhaps sensing something is wrong, Yomogi accompanies her when she heads to a more secluded part of the park to recuperate. Sizumu intrudes on them not long after, and it’s here that he says something both interesting and, well, rather cryptic.
He says he’s interested in Yume and Yomogi because of the “emotions” he can sense from them. He also says that such things attract kaiju and he finds it regrettable that people tend to “confine themselves” with their emotions. The specific example he gives being romantic relationships. I have a pet theory that the latter part of this is something of a red herring.
The emotion that Yume is “caged” by is, if anything, her un-dealt-with grief and confusion from her sister’s death. While Yomogi and Yume do clearly have a budding relationship, the development of it has been slow, and I am pretty certain Sizumu knows that too. His comment is especially interesting because this is similar to the reasoning used by Akane in SSSS.GRIDMAN for (major spoilers here) creating the world of that series in the first place. Kaiju as a toxic coping mechanism rears its head again and that simply seems too specific to be coincidental.
But this is SSSS.DYNAZENON, so the final third of “What’s Lover-Like Mean?” is largely an action setpiece. Here, Sizumu takes control of what I can best describe as a bipedal jellyfish monster. It’s quite the weird-looking thing, and it has one of my favorite designs of any SSSS.DYNAZENON monster so far.
The setpiece itself is good fun. There’s a particularly clever thing here where the monster can freely bend metal, so they can’t use the Dynazenon’s missiles to stop it and have to use other means instead. (A new combined mode of the Dynazenon’s components is shown off here for the first time too, after briefly appearing in the opening.)
The very end of “What’s Lover-Like Mean?” sees Yomogi and Yume back where they began it, seeking information about her sister. The episode ends on a particularly tense note, confirming something that was implied all the way back in episode one but is made explicit here. Yume’s sister did not die in an accident but rather took her own life.
The episode actually smashes directly to the credits in the middle of the word “suicide,” cutting it off mid-syllable. It is a dramatic and unsettling end to one of the most peculiar episodes of anime I’ve seen in some time. It is hard to know what next week’s episode will bring, but it seems likely that it will mark a turning point of some kind.
If I can toss out another bit of speculation, I wouldn’t be surprised if Yume (Temporarily?) goes turncoat. She has been the most vulnerable to Sizumu’s manipulations, and we should not forget that two weeks ago she briefly mused on the possibility of resurrecting the dead.
Until the next kaiju attacks, anime fans.