For many fans of SSSS Gridman, Akane Shinjou (disaster, nerd, vengeful god) is their favorite character in the series, and the true protagonist. I agree with this: Akane is great! But let’s take a moment to recognize the contributions of Rikka, she of the Thighs, to the Gridman Alliance. As the series aired, I’d joke each week about how rather than Yuta or his friend Utsumi, it was truly Rikka who saved the day again and again. Let’s take count of the times when Rikka saved her friends’s asses:
Episode 1: Rikka types into a computer in order to broadcast the winning strategy to Gridman.
Episode 2: Rikka asks Samurai Calibur (the other best character in SSSS Gridman) to save Gridman. Using his Sword powers, he does so.
Episode 3: Rikka is inspired by her new friends, the Neon Genesis Junior High School Students, to call Yuta back from death via literally calling him on her cellphone. Yuta responds, and Gridman saves the day again.
Episode 4: Rikka investigates the kaiju attacks on her own, taking matters into her own hands. Later, she is smart enough to “reboot” the malfunctioning Junk by unplugging the power cord, and then plugging it back in again.
Episode 5: Rikka saves the day again by remembering somebody’s cellphone number, because Yuta and Utsumi forgot.
Episode 6: Rikka befriends the murderous program Anti (the other other best character in SSSS Gridman), setting him on his path to redemption. Anti goes on to become Gridknight, who saves Gridman’s ass on countless occasions near the end of the series.
Episode 7: Rikka takes a deserved break from saving anybody’s asses this episode. Good job, everybody else! I guess you can fend for yourself after all, even if only for 24 minutes.
Episode 8: Through deciding to apologize to Utsumi first (despite Utsumi being at fault 100%), Rikka inspires Yuta’s tactical stroke of genius that saves their school’s cultural festival. Rikka also wears a cool suit in this episode.
Episode 9: Rikka wakes herself up from Akane’s kaiju-influenced dream, despite being a human program created by Akane to desire her friendship. She then tells goes on to tell everybody what she learned in the process.
Episode 10: Rikka helps Yuta and Utsumi find Akane’s house (it’s right next door.)
Episode 11: Rikka finds Akane and attempts to shake her out of her funk, despite the fact that she’s a murderous god who stabbed her friend and threatens everyone in her life. She almost succeeds in making Akane interact with another person like a regular human being, and poses the single greatest threat so far to alien virus monster Alexis Kerib. Unfortunately Alexis Kerib is one stubborn bastard and turns Akane into a kaiju to spite her.
Episode 12: Rikka types in the passcode that unlocks the true form of Gridman: “Special Signature to Save a Soul.” Later she gives Akane the notebook at last, and is able to convince her to return to her home dimension—ours. She does so despite loving Akane more than anyone. We then find out shortly after that Gridman chose Yuta as a host because he gravitated towards Rikka, while everyone in his class loved Akane.
What’s most impressive about this tally is that Rikka possesses no ties to the world of tokusatsu at all. Unlike Yuta, she does not share a mind link with the dimensional Hyper Agent known as Gridman. Unlike Utsumi, she knows nothing about the Ultra Series and doesn’t seem to understand the genre of story she’s in. She can’t turn into a sword like Samurai Calibur, or become a giant mutating warrior like Anti can. She can’t invent marvelous kaiju like Akane. The Gridman Alliance is based in her mother’s cafe and junk shop, but she pointedly insists that she knows nothing about technology at all. She struggles to juggle her group at friends at school (who do love her, as they say near the end of the series) with her responsibilities as a member of the Gridman Alliance. Akane constantly attempts to assert control over her to appease her own crushing loneliness. But despite these difficulties, I’d argue that Rikka is the single most crucial member of the Alliance. If it wasn’t for her, Gridman would be crushed. If it wasn’t for her, Utsumi would moan and complain. Her relationship with Akane is what gives Akane the drive to move forward and become a better person, despite the pain and suffering she has caused. In a series powered by endless references to tokusatsu, Evangelion and Obari-style robots, a world organized by its god according to the rules of the Ultra Series and its ilk, ordinary high school girl Rikka is the skeleton key that unlocks all obstacles. Other than Akane, she’s easily its most well-defined character.
Does Akane know this? Some writers have theorized based on the very end of the series that Akane’s true form in our world is similar to Rikka. When Akane made the deal with Alexis Kerib, she changed her own body and made her old digital friend look just like her. Rikka would remain safe in her carefully built cage, while Akane continued to mete justice unto those she despises. But Rikka refuses to sit still. It was Yuta’s attraction to her that allowed him to serve as Gridman’s vessel. It was Rikka’s crappy computer that served as Gridman’s power supply. Every week Rikka saved Gridman, saved her friends, saved the Cultural Festival, kept her town safe. And in the real world, fanart of Rikka was just as prominent, if not more so, than fanart of Akane. Everywhere you went, Rikka was loved. Rikka the shadow of a self-hating deity. But does Akane know? Does Akane know she is loved?