In short, I like it a lot. Might be premature to say that with only five episodes in, since it usually takes a while for me to fall in love with the series I end up loving. But I think my favorable feeling will last, for reasons I'll mention under the cut.
Ah, isn't the protagonist in this one like the youngest henshin hero ever? Oh, nope. (Oops.) Amui (from the Ultraman Tiga side story) is younger.
But middle school, wow. I guess I've gained a liking of middle school kids since I started watching Ultraman 80. (I mean, high school-based media are not difficult to find. I don't see much on other age groups, especially middle school, which is the one Ultraman 80 singles out as being in the middle between kids and adults, so susceptible to suggestions (good or bad) the most.) Really, there should be more middle school-based series, ideally from Tsuburaya Pro. since I seem to like their treatment of middle school kids (and actually, of kids in general). The kids in this series are normal kids, with normal worries. Yet I find them interesting all the same. I especially like that no one is infallible, not even the hero (in fact, he seems pretty flawed for a hero ^^;;) (As it is probably obvious, I also like the treatment of kids in Ultraman 80 and in Ultraman Ginga (even though this one is about high school kids).)
As for the main character, I just like how normal he is. I guess I've seen too much of duty-bound Ultra hosts, so getting a hero who is not always so responsible is such a refreshing change. Granted, he is still young, but the writers could have made him more responsible if they wanted to. (But I guess not since there is already a voice of reason/responsible-ish character as one of his friends.)
And just a random comment, but I didn't know that there are middle schools in Japan that don't require students to wear uniforms. (At the first glance, I even thought the hero and his friends were elementary school kids, but they obviously look (and sound) older for that.)
(I don't watch much in other franchise (non-Ultra tokusatsu or otherwise), so maybe there are already plenty of middle school-based series I don't know about.)
Not sure if I'll watch the American adaptation (apparently it is at least ten episodes longer than the original). But I might end up doing that just for comparison.
Again, here is a series about the darkness in human heart (well, it's only the darkness of one particular human so far). I can never get enough of that. I mean, I suppose most tokusatsu series deal with this subject to some degree, but they don't usually make it so much a focus -- i.e. use it to give lives to monsters.
And social commentary. I can't get enough of that either. ^^; I don't mind how ridiculous the storyline might be, if it points out the fallibility of human society (okay, of Japanese society, but, well, this is a Japanese series). Still, I have to say the token human antagonist has pretty petty (albeit understandable) motivations to make monsters so far.
And kaiju. I am not a fan of monsters in general, but I love how good they look in this series. (One of them (from episode 5) even reminds me of Knifehead. But then I have no monster sense, so perhaps there is no similarity except that their heads are made of (and shaped like) knives.)
And Gridman himself. He seems similar enough to the Ultras that I sometimes forget that he isn't one. Not to mention that there is already an Ultraman Mebius episode (27) that has Mebius fighting monster (Zetton) in a virtual world, so the setting inside the computer world doesn't seem as alien as I thought it might be. (Okay, I love that episode, and it's probably the main reason I became interested in Gridman in the first place.)
For all the similarities, Gridman, in a way, is the opposite of Ultraman Ginga. In Ultraman Ginga, there is barely anyone around other than the main cast (so I guess their ability or inability to carry the show is all the more obvious). The villain of the episode is so far a different person. Ultraman Ginga himself is not around, instead exists as a doll the protagonist uses. The protagonist being in total control of the Ultra reminds me of the human Ultras -- Tiga, Dyna, Gaia, Nexus. (Of course, the Ultras who make their own human forms are also in total control of their Ultra forms, but I don't count them since they are not humans.) Oh, and the kids (except perhaps the main girl) don't seem to have clothes other than the ones they have been wearing. <--(Not that I mind. In fact, makes it seem like they are in uniforms of sort.)
Gridman, however, has a large cast of characters. Each of the main cast comes with a family (two parents and one sibling -- who come with their own sets of problems). The villain of the episode is the same person so far (well, at least he does have a different motivation for making a monster each time ^^;;). Gridman himself is the one controlling the actions, the protagonist just provides the body (and a brave heart -- a la most Ultra hosts out there) so Gridman can fight in the computer world. The friends have more active roles in a fight -- in fact, often it's their contribution that helps Gridman win. And, so far, it doesn't appear that the villain side has any idea who the hero is (but, to be fair, the hero and his friends don't know who (as in the human) they are up against either).
And the main characters. I think I might have mentioned that Hikaru (Ultraman Ginga's host) is a 'traditionally' good guy. In fact, I'm almost sure that outside of straight mind-washing, it is pretty much impossible to corrupt him. (His name literally means light, for goodness' sake.) Gridman's main character, however, actually doesn't give off the same vibe of pureness. In fact, I think I would have no difficulty imagine him as a bad guy. But I don't mean to imply that Gridman's host is not a good person. He is. He simply is not above falling prey to human vices.
Wow, should have started watching this series a long time ago. But better late than never, I suppose. And waiting is good in this case since I can watch episode 1 with subtitles. :) Wish the rest of the series would be subbed, but so far I have no real trouble following the storyline.
Oh man, if nothing else, the theme song rocks big time.