Friday, April 26, 2019

Best Boy: Utsumi from SSSS.Gridman

He's the fanboy you need by your side!!

Utsumi is probably one of the most useless characters from SSSS.Gridman...but I also think he's one of the most interesting characters of the series. The villain of SSSS.Gridman is a nerd who has created a world filled with friends and kaiju to make up for her loneliness. And on the side of the heroes, there is Shou Utsumi, a nerd who keeps his distance from a popular girl that he likes and is obsessed with stories about kaiju.

While I think that a character like Akane Shinjo is someone that most people watching SSSS.Gridman can relate to and then eventually applaud her salvation, I think that Shou Utsumi is more representative of the audience. I mean, towards the end of the series Utsumi says that he represents normal humans. More likely than not, the people watching SSSS.Gridman are geeks who like anime, tokusatsu, or just geeky things in general. I know that I fit in that category.

Utsumi is representative of geeks and that includes some of the worst parts of geek culture. Throughout SSSS.Gridman, Utsumi shows that he's one of the worst kinds of fanboys but eventually goes through his own character arc and realizes his own importance.

Probably one of the worst parts of almost every geek community is how sexist some fanboys can be towards women who like geeky things. Obviously, not all geeks are sexists but there are a vocal few who can be obnoxious and insulting towards women. Utsumi has this problem. After establishing the "Gridman Alliance", Utsumi is almost always butting heads with Rikka and suggests that she's not any help to the team...even though he's probably just as useless.

Another example of Utsumi being a sexist fanboy is when he and Akane have a run in and start talking about kaiju. At first Utsumi is surprised that Akane likes kaiju since it's not something girls really like. Then he starts quizzing her, testing her kaiju knowledge to see if she is a real fan. This is something that I hear a lot of women in geek communities have to go through. They are often subjected to tests to prove that they're real fans, while men don't really have to go through such things.

Utsumi is also the kind of fanboy who loses himself in fiction. After forming the "Gridman Alliance", Utsumi and Yuuta try to figure out the reason behind the appearance of the kaiju. Because Yuuta is a human who can turn into Gridman, Utsumi suggests that it's possible that the kaiju are just humans that can become monsters. This theory shakes up Yuuta and he can't bring himself to destroy kaiju like he did before because he doesn't want to hurt humans.

Unlike Yuuta, Utsumi doesn't deal with that kind of moral dilemma. He just encourages Yuuta to do whatever it takes to defeat the kaiju. Utsumi is just able to ignore the possibility that the kaiju are human and doesn't think about what it would mean for Yuuta to destroy them. Utsumi is living out a fantasy and he doesn't realize the gravity of the situation. 

As the final battle approaches in SSSS.Gridman, reality finally kicks Utsumi in the shins and he realizes the severity of the situation after Yuta is shanked by Akane. He realizes the consequences that were always just around the corner while the "Gridman Alliance" were fighting kaiju. He also realizes how little of a contribution to the team he's made, even compared to Rikka. In the end, Utsumi is just a human - almost nothing compared to the might of Gridman and the kaiju.

But in that despair, Utsumi learns the value he has as a member of the "Gridman Alliance". He is Yuuta's best friend. He's a friend who has your back when you need support and he'll enthusiastically cheer you on until you win. It is a friend that is worth protecting and one that inspires you to be something great.

So while Utsumi is useless and maybe even the worst version of ourselves, he is a good reminder of our value as people. Utsumi reminds us that even if we feel like we have no purpose and that we're just losers who watch anime all day, there are people in our lives that love us. There are people who love having us around and want us by their side.

So while it is easy to make fun of a character like Utsumi, I'm kind of fond of him. I'm not going to call him the best character of SSSS.Gridman, because that's obviously Akane, but I will say that he's valuable to the expressing the themes of friendship and humanity that are prevalent in the show.

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