How SSSS.Dynazenon Represents Everything Undesirable About Studio Trigger Anime

Dynazenon 1

Fans of Studio Trigger will probably disagree with my points: feel free.

This isn’t a rant or a hate post. Studio Trigger has put out some big name anime and even as someone who mostly has not enjoyed their body of work I can see that their work isn’t garbage. From an animation and visual perspective most of their work is actually quite creative and beautiful. Looking at their list of works, a large number are science fiction or fantasy focused with Darling in the Franxx, Kiznaiver and even BNA (which I made it through exactly one and a half episodes of before I surrendered and gave up).

Actually, my favourite Trigger anime remains Uchuu Patrol Luluco which as a comedic short managed to keep me relatively entertained for its short run-time.

So no, this post isn’t going to tell you that Studio Trigger is hopeless and that people shouldn’t watch their anime.

Rather, it is a post for me to explain why, despite their being plenty of good things about their anime, the vast majority have never hit their mark with me and why after only watching one episode of SSSS.Dynazenon I decided that there was no point in my even attempting to review it because I would end up saying much the same things I always say when I attempt to review works by Trigger.

Which makes me wonder what it is that Trigger anime do that put me off or leave me feeling disengaged. Rather than leaving this question unanswered I decided to watch the opening scenes of SSSS.Dynazenon again and to actually identify what it was that was stopping me from getting immersed in the world, for really caring about the characters, and why my usual red flags were going up around a story that was probably going to tie itself in a knot and then leave me unsatisfied with the conclusion.

Actually, that last point is easy to answer. It’s Studio Trigger. Trigger definitely goes by the rule of cool rather than logic when writing narratives and I’ve learned not to expect things to come together nicely, or even sensibly, but rather to expect a logic breaking twist just when you think things might resolve.

Studio Trigger - First look at SSSS.Dynazenon
First look at SSSS.Dynazenon

Here’s the first look at SSSS.Dynazenon. Already the audience is distanced from the characters. Rather than seeing them we’re seeing shadowy reflections of them. We’re dropped into a conversation that is already in progress with no context. While this is just an establishing scene and it is establishing a group dynamic and the normality of the current situation, it does nothing for making me care about the characters we’re about to meet.

And yes, that is reading a lot into a single opening shot and making a lot of generalisations about Studio Trigger anime from it, particularly when so many anime open with narration or drop us in medias res, particularly mid-battle, before explaining themselves, however it means that these first few moments aren’t hooking me in and getting me interested.

I am noting how pretty the water looks with the light and shadows playing on it and wondering why the rock’s shadow is all squiggly while the human reflections are lacking distortion, but what I’m not noting is anything about the plot or characters that might make me keen to see where it goes.



We then cut from that scene (with no further explanation) to a shot through a window or a man talking to or yelling at a girl who walks away. We don’t hear the dialogue or see either character clearly so again, no real need to connect here. Just look at the pretty pictures. And sure, the scene gets context later when we learn that a senior student got mad at a girl who stood him up, but why show us this scene here.

We could either flash back to it when its relevant, or actually see the scene play out to learn about the girl’s character. Instead we get a silhouette show that feels disconnected and then we cut off to a night sky (how did it get to night-time) and a hand dropping some sparkly things over a city. Multiple cuts of the sky with sparkles, people walking, etc, before we focus in on one of the landed sparkles.

I am going to point out that Studio Trigger anime always look amazing even if I don’t end up liking them.

Dynazenon 2
Hello little glistening thing – what are you?

And this is why I can’t just write-off the works of Studio Trigger. As much as there are a lot of things in their anime that bother me, they throw in things that intrigue and make me want to know. I want to know what this sparkling thing is and why it is here. I know I’ll probably not find out or the answer won’t make sense, but I’ve followed this sparkle from hand in the sky, falling across the city, to now landing here in the street.

This sparkle is so far my biggest connection to this story and I actually do care and want to know more but in a few more minutes I’ll probably have forgotten about this because the SSSS.Dynazenon isn’t actually ready to do anything with the sparkles just yet.

Instead we now see Yomogi (one of the main characters) collecting his pay-packet. He’s asked, out of the blue and with seemingly no context, whether he’s trying to help out his family but he shrugs that off and claims he just wanted some extra spending money. It was almost like Trigger saw the opportunity to create a down-on-his-luck boy who helps his family trope, set-it-up and then smacked it down hard all in the space of two lines. However, that leaves us without any clues to who Yomogi is. Is he actually the trope but lying to hide it? Is he something entirely different? In which case, what?

Given his clothes I’m assuming Yomogi was the one in the reflection earlier so this is his second scene and so far I’ve worked out he works (not sure doing what because we didn’t see him working, just leaving work).

Right now, I know some people are asking what I am expecting minutes into a story.

So let me compare with the opening scene of Mars Red.

Mars
Whose hand is that?

Like SSSS.Dynazenon, we get an ambiguous opening shot. Initially just the brown background and then the disembodied hand that glides through it. Where Mars Red differed was what happened next. Rather than cutting away to yet more ambiguous scenes, Mars Red establishes a character. The woman who will ultimately be at the centre of the episode. An actress who was caught in a horrific accident and should have died but woke as a vampire. And they establish her character in this first scene as she performs the lines from her play.

We also establish that something is not quite right through the music and through the reflection on the glass in front of her with a man in uniform seemingly staring at her. As she continues to perform, we don’t know exactly who she is or why she is performing and we don’t know who the man is, but a relationship is established between them and the audience gets a sense of who she is. This was ambiguity that made me want to know more and drew me into a story. It wasn’t cutting away and revealing nothing just to create a sense of false intrigue.

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By the time it is revealed that she is a vampire and her innocent seeming question of asking the uniformed man to be her co-star I’m already hooked into the story. It takes only a minute to make me care about these two characters, one of whom has not spoken in the entirety of the opening scene.

Meanwhile, at exactly one minute in as well, we’re cutting away again from Yomogi and to a character called Gauma. He’s walking up a hill. Why? Don’t know. What’s he like? Fashionably challenged – well I don’t actually know but there’s something going on with that outfit.

Dynazenon 3
Are we at sun-rise or sun-set? Hard to tell so far.

Again, the art is gorgeous here. I mean, look at the water, the sky, the contrast to the shadows in the foreground… It is beautiful to look at. The sound design is gorgeous to as we get kind of a background of low traffic with a few bird chirps (which kind of makes me think maybe this is sun-rise but I’m not sure).

Trust me when I say I want to like this anime. And yet…

Gauma walks away and we cut once again to Yomogi and now we’re discussing school projects. As his group crosses a bridge we draw back and see them only from a distance as the inane chatter of teens fills the subtitles. Again, I get we’re establishing the base line of normal life but this would be easier if they’d given me any chance to connect with any character so far.

We then see the girl sitting atop whatever that structure is and singing. She’s looking away from us. The kids talking about her are looking away. It is like they are doing everything possible to keep us distanced from the scene.

Dynazenon 4
Are they going to school? In which case, won’t she be late if she’s sitting there singing?

The kids discuss a rumour about the girl, Minami, and follow it up with ‘it’s just a rumour’ before Yomogi, in his first I’m going to be a main character kind of moments claims he can’t see her that way. To which one of the girls in his group tells him he’s so pure and they walk on. I’m guessing this was an attempt at characterisation. Yomogi is the nice guy who looks for the best in people? Maybe? It’s all a bit random and nothing has been given any time to stick.

What it probably comes down to here is that I don’t like how this story is being introduced to me. I don’t like that intrigue only exists here because of a lack of coherence, that characters appear but aren’t in any way established, and that we keep cutting from moment to moment and scene to scene without anything really being added of substance to the plot.

In under three minutes we went from what I assume was the group of kids going home after school, to a night shot with the sparkling things, to Yomogi working and I guess this was also night time, to another random guy in the morning, to the kids walking back to school, and for all that nearly a full day has been portrayed as passing I still know nothing.

Even shows that drop you straight into a battle give you something even if it is only which side wants to kill the other.

Sure it looks great and I know that as the episode goes on we learn that Minami’s rumour is a little exaggerated and Gauma and Yomogi will interact and so on and so forth but as a viewer I’m already detached. There’s no narrative hook in the first half of this episode and by the time we kind of get around to it I’m already so disconnected I don’t care. There’s no character hook in these opening scenes with us learning as little as possible about any of these characters despite repeated sightings. By the time we start getting a sense of these characters I’m already wondering what other shows are at episode 3 to watch.

I get this is my opinion and that some people really do enjoy Studio Trigger anime and some people seem to be enjoying this anime, but for me SSSS.Dynazenon has kind of made it clear to me that I’m just not into Studio Trigger anime and while I keep thinking I might like the next one, each one seems to wear down my patience faster than the last.

So I’ll ask my readers their thoughts on Dynazenon, studio trigger, or just ask if there are any anime studios that produced anime you consistently like or dislike and why?

Images in this article from:

  • SSSS.Dynazenon. Dir. A Amemiya. Trigger. 2021.
  • Mars Red. Dir. S Sadamitsu. Signal.MD. 2021


Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James


Friday’s Feature: My Trigger, Your Trigger

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In the Autumn season of 2018, the premiere of Goblin Slayer came out and clearly rubbed some viewers the wrong way. I’m not going to try and tell you that there’s nothing objectionable about Goblin Slayer or that it is something that is fine for everyone to watch. Quite clearly it isn’t and quite clearly it is going to trigger certain viewers. And also, yes, I do agree that streaming services needed a lot more in the way of content advisories present so that viewers at least were warned about the nature of the content in the episode – though that was added for additional episodes.

The discussion went on, bloggers typed furiously either pushing for the idea that Goblin Slayer was emo-edge-lord-whatever and shouldn’t be watched, or defended the story and characters against whatever the most recent claims were against it, and the anime community divided with a whole bunch of people just watching from the sidelines and wondering just why a couple of scenes in the opening episode managed to get that many people off side.

goblin5a

And then it passed.

Except, it really didn’t, because Winter 2019 revealed the premiere of The Rising of the Shield Hero and this time we didn’t even need an actual rape. We just needed one character to falsely accuse another of rape and apparently that was enough to convince some viewers that the story was pushing an anti-‘me too’ agenda or something and was providing an excuse for misogynistic attitudes. Far be it from me to tell people what message they should take from media but this one was blown well out of proportion and taken well away from original context, and once again there was a fury of fingers on key boards as everyone wanted to have their say.

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With all of that out of the way, I’d like to turn the discussion to the idea that what triggers one person doesn’t necessarily cause the same reaction in someone else which is why comments such as claiming that Goblin Slayer or The Rising of the Shield Hero shouldn’t exist or is only enjoyed by people with questionable moral values kind of rubbed me the wrong way (keep in mind, I’m not trying to change your mind about your opinion on either show as the content will not sit well with some people, just having a discussion about why a personal objection doesn’t mean others can’t enjoy content).

Goblin Slayer1a

As a fan of the action genre, the horror genre, the sci-fi genre, among many others I’ve seen all manner of gore-fest, characters with murderous intent, and plenty of scenes in live action and anime that have made me feel a little squeamish. And I enjoy that feeling while watching a fictional entertainment, because it is safe. All of those horrible things are happening on a screen and not to me and not in my real life or to someone I know, or even to a real person. That distance of fiction is really an important element. Watching them play out is entertaining, but it also raises questions and makes me wonder about the motives and whys and wherefores of the characters and their actions and when well done can even make me curious about the real world and the implications of such events for real people.

The main scene that has been criticised in Goblin Slayer is the rape scene. For victims of assault or just for people who are quite sensitive to that sort of content, it crossed a line that they have drawn. The content is not for them.

For me, watching this scene was difficult because it was brutal. I couldn’t look away as that poor girl was overwhelmed by the hobgoblin and thrown to the others before being pinned. The look on her face as she knew exactly what was happening to her was intended to be and is distressing to say the least. It was horrific and it made me horrified for her. For me, this scene didn’t glorify anything. It didn’t condone the actions. If anything, the exact opposite.

It made me feel that the story believed rape was a monstrous act committed by monsters. And that put it firmly in the camp of acceptable viewing for me. There was none of the uncomfortable moments where they tried to later justify the rapist as anything other than a monster. Admittedly, it does this by making the perpetrators actually inhuman monsters so subtlety might be lacking, but the message was clear to me and its purpose of showing the danger, the terror, and the way things can go so horribly wrong worked within the episode.

However, that doesn’t mean everyone is going to view it that way, nor does it mean that everyone is going to want to view that kind of content regardless of the message or how the scene is framed. For some people, this scene will most definitely trigger that fight or flight response that will make them hit the stop button and walk away from the screen and not want to come back.

Reading other bloggers thoughts on the scene, there’s been the suggestion that the scene is fan-servicey (and that’s something I’ve seen in a number of blogs this week as the myriad of goblin slayer reactions, defences, and rants have come out). I’m not going to disagree but I wasn’t seeing it when I watched the scene. I was seeing a horrible nightmare play out and a victim in need of a rescue that would come too late.

Goblin Slayer Promo

With The Rising of the Shield Hero, I didn’t have any issue with the content. Clearly the accusation is being used as a plot device. It isn’t the most nuanced of devices but it gets the job done in terms of setting Naofumi on the path from naive and optimistic to resentful and bitter, as it would if you were on the receiving end of such treatment. I do get that in the current social context there are some less than great parallels that can be drawn, however the story was written well before the current climate, and it does not claim that all women are lying about sexual assault, only that one character that has been framed as fairly repugnant has done so. I don’t feel this is something that should be generalised into a message about an entire gender, though the absence of female characters that aren’t morally questionable or enslaved is an issue the story in general has and I kind of get why some viewers might not like the story.

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But back to that idea of hitting the stop button and walking away, I know that feeling. I don’t get it very often because my big trigger is fairly specific but when it gets set off it gets set off.

And do you know which anime is the only anime I couldn’t finish because I was triggered and absolutely could not watch another episode of even though I know from reading episode summaries they don’t repeat the event ever again? It’s an easy guess given the first image in this post.

Yep. It’s ‘Free‘.

I actually wrote a post (linked above) almost exactly two years ago about why I was putting my watch of Free on hold. I haven’t gone back. I can’t. Even looking for the image I’m about to include in my post caused me to break out in a sweat and feel my stomach tightening into knots. There’s no way I can watch it.

Free1

Drowning in the ocean shown, outside of the context of a horror or thriller where it is so over sensationalised there’s a disconnect from reality, hit me hard while attempting to watch Free. And I have plenty of reason to feel that way about that sort of sequence.

That said, I don’t discourage anyone else from watching Free. I don’t judge the entire rest of the show to be of lesser quality simply because they chose to be overly dramatic in the mid-season in a manner that managed to trigger me. And I certainly don’t claim that the show is encouraging unsafe practices in the water just because someone nearly drowned.

Free has every right to exist as a story and it is one that many people enjoy. However, for me it brought about a memory I don’t want and emotions I’m still not really equipped to deal with and that most certainly is not what I am looking for in my ‘entertainment’.

I think sometimes we need to be careful when we call for bans on things or for things not to exist. Because, it is usually worth remembering that our reaction isn’t the only one and what triggers one person isn’t necessarily going to have the same impact on another. Now, I still stand by what I said at the start about including warning labels. Going in blind without at least someone giving you a heads up is not a pleasant experience.

Goblin Slayer Episode 1

But to say that something created as entertainment shouldn’t exist just because it doesn’t entertain you creates a very slippery slope where the opinions of some group (whichever group it might be appointed to determine which entertainment can and cannot be viewed) get to exert their influence over everyone else. I find that to be more objectionable than occasionally crossing paths with a piece of entertainment I personally object to.

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Goblin Slayer, Vol. 1 (light novel)
Goblin Slayer, Vol. 1 (light novel)

SSSS.Gridman Episode 1: So That Happened

SSSS.Gridman Episode 1

I know I’ve mentioned this before on my blog but I’ll just say it again so that it is clear going into this review: I don’t like Trigger very much. Visually I’m not a fan of Trigger works with the exception of Kiznaiver and a quick scroll through their titles on MAL reminded me of what I kind of already knew. That is, I’ve yet to actually really enjoy any anime by the studio (Okay, Gurren Lagann). They come with great ideas, fairly bombastic first episodes, and great animation for the most part (and usually some great music) but the narratives by and large fall fairly short when they don’t completely go off the deep end of silliness (yes, I am generalising horrifically but the point stands that I don’t much like them). So I wasn’t expecting much from this (less after I looked up the original Gridman).

That said, for those who don’t mind Trigger or stories that end up going off the wall and stuffing in a million references or being quirky because it can be, this was a decent first episode. But, history tells me that its all pretty much a downhill slide after the first episode and I’m just not in the mood for that kind of frustration this season. So after thinking it over I decided that this one is going to be watched but not reviewed until I either drop it or I get to the end and do a series review.

SSSS.Gridman

There are a couple of things you will notice during this first episode that will either be great or annoying depending on your take. The random scenery shots (sometimes stills, other times not) while characters are talking or thinking. I’m sure those witches hats are really important and probably there’s a reference somewhere I’m missing, because it is Trigger after all, but to be perfectly frank I’d like a chance to figure out who these characters are and staring at the worn out pile of shoes isn’t helping with that.

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Points at least for taking the character with amnesia to a hospital for once.

The other thing is the dialogue between characters and this is most notable between Rikka and Yuta the first time they talk in the shop. It is almost as though someone has stuffed up the timing of the voice acting and the pacing is off. At times lines seem to almost come on top of one another or feel repeated as the conversation circles. This is clearly a stylistic choice but I’m not sure if its a good one.

Gridman1f

Then of course we get giant monsters and robots fighting in the city before night comes, we all go home and the next morning it is like nothing ever happened. Throw in a talking computer and a voice only Yuta can hear and we’ve got a weird mix of mysteries to become more mysterious and normally this would get me super curious but again, its Trigger.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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