The opening shot of SSSS.Dynazenon is purposefully reminiscent of its predecessor, SSSS.Gridman. Anyone who has watched Gridman immediately will recognize the sequence of shots. This time, these snapshots begin with a nod to students’ various backpacks, which were used to define and color-coordinate characters by their tokusatsu archetypes (or defy them) in Gridman.
With that visual language brought over from Gridman, Dynazenon and director Akira Amemiya and staff are moving beyond an homage to kaiju and tokusatsu series past and looping in their own universe and visual language established in Gridman.
(major spoilers for SSSS.Gridman)
From its opening sequence, Gridman is defined by an oppressive summer atmosphere. The air feels heavy and humid thanks to choice shots and wide blue skies pressing down on the city and ground. The heat affects the main characters’ emotional states. Power lines box both characters and the city itself in a bubble, which visually nods to the fact that everything in Gridman is a creation of Akane Shinjou.
By contrast, the atmosphere of SSSS.Dynazenon is not tied to a season — if anything it would be tied to twilight or the liminal space between day and nighttime — but is no less oppressive.
Fences and various bridges or railings take center stage in Dynazenon. Most shots of the city focus on the city itself being fenced in. Rather than a sunny blue sky pressing down onto the city, it’s a web of fences and structures that keep the city separated in its own bubble and characters separated from each other. Yomogi Asanaka is introduced while being visually boxed in by his own classmates, and this motif of him being surrounded appears multiple times throughout the episode.
Even when parts of the city or whole buildings are floating in the sky due to an unseen, kaiju-related force, they’re introduced in a way that makes them look like fences. In the next scene, a suspension bridge keeps this same floating skyscraper visually at bay.
In this way, Dynazenon plays with our expectations as sage viewers of Gridman. One of the hallmark shots of Gridman was that of the aforementioned summer sky. Here, Dynazenon inverts that by placing a twilight evening sky beneath the floating skyscraper reflecting the city, disorienting us as much as possible both due to the circumstance of a skyscraper floating and the established visual language from Gridman.
It’s telling when the series does decide to open itself up visually, most notably with the introduction of one of its main cast members: Yume Minami. Yume is obscured by fences and an umbrella for a large portion of the episode, but her introduction is nerve-wracking and precarious — immediately establishing her internal confusion and loneliness.
She is seated on top of a building, isolated from Yomogi and his classmates who are gossiping about her. The first shot of Yume is of her feet, dangling over the edge. Unlike the fenced-in portions of the episode, Yume is almost floating above everything, her path to the ground unobstructed.
This shot and introduction becomes more incisive when Dynazenon hints later in the episode that Yume’s sister killed herself and it’s one of the reasons why Yume carries her sister’s ankhs — as a related aside, ankhs are the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyph for life — and stands others up constantly. Her sister stood her up once and Yume still isn’t over it.
Dynazenon also builds on what Gridman established by using tokusatsu color-coding for its characters (the red ranger, the blue ranger, the yellow ranger, et. cetera). The backpacks introduced in the very first sequence of Dynazenon establish a visual through-line. Gridman itself was building on age-old color archetypes from tokusatsu series past by coding Yuuta Hibiki as the red ranger, Rikka Takarada as the blue ranger, and Shou Utsumi as the yellow ranger. With Gridman and pre-established tokusatsu archetypes already a part of viewers’ visual understanding, Dynazenon keeps us guessing with Yomogi, Yume, and Gauma’s eye and hair colors as well as the way they’re dressed. Every one of them has elements of red, blue, and yellow.
One doesn’t have to have watched SSSS.Gridman to understand SSSS.Dynazenon, just as one doesn’t have to have watched older tokusatsu or kaiju series to understand Gridman. It simply brings another visual language based on that knowledge as a parallel narrative running alongside the protagonists’ actions. Dynazenon is building on what Gridman began visually in its various homages to past series while also creating a visual language of its own.