Hey look, more Ultraman! Welcome to part 3 of my on-going review series! February is a short slippery little month that kind of got away from me, so this time I’m only breaking down episodes 6 and 7. Click here for Part 1 (series intro and pilot episode review), click here for Part 2 (episodes 2-5), and click here to see a fat raccoon somersault down somebody’s hallway.
We’ve got a pair of rad adventures on the docket this month: a kaijuified diamond heist by the sea, and an ancient cult of Ultraman worshippers in an exotic faraway city! Both episodes push the show in exciting new directions, and as always, pack in some kickass, over-the-top monster-mashing mayhem!
Fire up the Corvair and grab your diamonds and your giant blue magic gems, because it’s time to
make some jewelry save the world from killer kaiju! Two more times!
Coast Guard Orders
The diamond heist one! This is where we start to see the show play with the formula and the different types of stories they can squeeze into. I get a kick out of seeing the show branch out and surprise me.
We get a couple different leads into the mystery of this episode, with some of the expository scenes only available in the original Japanese version. Fuji gets a call that a big-ass shark washed up dead and a bunch of ships have gone missing. Plus Hoshino and his fellow free-range children spot Gesura while they’re out ship-watching.
Actually Hoshino’s bud Chiro is the one that sees Gesura, H-money misses him all together… but he does spot our human villains! Busy day at the docks I guess!?! This episode is crazy front-loaded with exposition, but I guess they really wanted to make sure the Science Patrol had good reason to schlep down to the bay. The kiddos try to track the two shady dudes, but settle for calling the Science Patrol when the trail goes cold.
For some reason the Science Patrol doesn’t give a shit about Chiro’s monster sighting, but they do take Hoshino’s Diamond Kick sighting seriously. It seems a little out of character for our main cast, but it does give that crusty ol’ seaman a chance to overhear our young heroes and regale them with more exposition.
The sailor believes in the kids’ monster sighting and explains that it must be Gesura! Gesura’s a gentle giant aquatic lizard from South America that loves to eat cacao and keeps shipments of it safe by keeping bugs away.
It’s goofy and we’re at exposition overload at this point, but I also really appreciate the effort. Plenty of Ultra episodes just settle for “oh yeah it’s such and such monster and we know A and B about him. Because we just do.” Plus somebody is kind enough to break up the exposition party for us!
Gesura is pretty cool. He’s our first straight-up fish monster in Ultraman, he sounds like a sick goat, and the hairy shit on his back grosses me out. I dig it. The jumpcut to Captain Mura at Science Patrol HQ going “You heard? Let’s go!” in the middle of Gesura’s rampage was weird though. Does Cap have a Spider-Man-style kaiju sense or something?
So here’s when all those disparate plot points start converging. Diamond Kick and his little goon are using the chaos of Gesura’s attack to bust into warehouses and root around in cacao sacks for their smuggled diamonds! Meanwhile the kid heroes are in the same warehouse looking for evidence of Gesura’s egg! DK and his shitty little intern easily spot and catch the youngbloods. It’s kind of funny how often cutthroat thieves pop up in kaiju stories as the human antagonists. Dogora beat Ultraman to the punch by two years, Gamera vs. Barugon (FUCKIN’ ONODERA!) came out the same year as this episode, and Godzilla’s Revenge came along in ’69.
When our Science Patrollers arrive on the scene, they’re partially caught up on Gesura and his whole schtick. How? They were informed by their Brazilian branch, of course! It’s another cool and semi-rare bit of world building in this series. Even though most episodes take place in Japan, little hints like this–not to mention the plot of the entire next episode–establish that the Science Patrol and the monsters they battle are a global phenomenon. It’s rad!
The Science Patrol hatches a solid, straight-forward plan. Lure Gesura away from civilization by E.T.ing a trail of cacao beans that lead out into the open ocean. Thing is, they find contraband gems and a kid’s shoe when they start rounding up cacao! AND THEN GESURA COMES BACK SHIT FUCK
We get a quick Japan-only scene of Hoshino and pals trying to bust out of captivity before we get one last info-dump on Gesura. Because apparently you can just look him up in a textbook?!
So we learn Gesura will freak the fuck out over loud noises, he’ll blast out lethal poison when riled up, and the only way to kill him is to yank the “tentacle” from his head. I think this was kind of a wonky translation, because that’s clearly a fin and not a tentacle. For the rest of the episode I was looking for a floppy octopus arm to be dangling from Gesura’s forehead, but (spoiler!) Ultraman knows what they meant and gave me the context clues I so desperately needed:
AHHHH OWWWWW FUCK! I don’t even have a head-fin and I could feel that.
So the Science Patrol has all the facts they need (FINALLY) to really take on Gesura. Step one: don’t spook him!
Gesura consequently flips a Volkswagen-sized shit, and we get some spectacular destruction out of it. It looks great in long shots:
With a tasty composite shot too! Our Science Patrollers evacuate the kiddos, but Hayata, ever the inspiring and heroic do-gooder, goes in to rescue the thieves too. It doesn’t go very awesomely:
It’s a terrifically dramatic moment, and it gives Hayata the seclusion he needs to Ultra out! But wait!
Ito, Arashi, and Mura have no idea Hayata’s gonna pull through, so they get a kick-ass vengeance moment:
Sadly, their anger and grief don’t make their lasers any more effective against Gesura, so they have to bail in a random cop car. Gesura makes for the car, and after all this, it just kind of seems like they’re completely bone-zoned. BUT WAIT (again)
YEAAAAAHHH! YES FUCK YES! I love shit like this. It’s a fantastic hero moment for Ultraman. I love seeing him use his powers for something in addition to monster-mauling, I love that the Science Patrol get to have a very close encounter with him, and I love that it’s the weird, lumpy, and very alien looking Suit A version of Ultraman. It reminds me of a scene in Frankenstein Conquers the World, where the titular Frank gently delivers a person he rescued.
It really is one of my absolute favorite moments in the show so far, and GUESS WHO CRASHES IT LIKE A BIG ASSHOLE?!
JUST KIDDING IT’S GESURA! HE’S A DOUCHE! G and UM go H.A.M. on each other, and we get our first water-fight! I already showed you how it ends, but here is a little bit of their tussle up til that (ghoulish, gross, groovy) moment.
The novelty of the show’s first fight at sea and the fin-rip really are the best parts. With Gesura dead, Hayata makes a heroic return, complete with the dumbshit diamond thieves.
They joke about one of the kiddos horking down chocolate like a little Gesura Jr., and that’s the episode! It’s a little overstuffed and gets off to a fitful, rocky start, but it also packs in some terrific visuals and dramatic moments. If anything it seems like it’s wonky because they’re flexing their formula, and I won’t fault them for that.
The Blue Stone of Baraj
…Or Baraji, or Vallarge, or Baradhi, apparently? Looks like different video and broadcast releases had a lot of different names! This episode plays around with the formula too. “Blue Stone” sends the Science Patrol and Ultraman to an exotic region rarely explored in kaiju stories: The Middle East!
So a meteorite crashed near Turkey and has been causing some funky shit to happen. Our Japanese Science Patrollers are called in to help investigate with an agent from one of their sister branches. Which sister branch? Depends on if you watch in Japanese or English. The Japanese original says they’ll work with Jim from the Paris branch, but the English dub says it’s Adam from the US branch. Storywise it doesn’t really matter, because “Jim” and “Adam” both tell our SPs about a French expedition into the Middle East that’s gone missing.
Fuji holds down the fort at HQ while the rest of the team jets out for the desert with Jimadam. They’re having a pretty chill flight until they encounter this:
Whatever it is, it fucks with the jet’s controls and they can’t seem to fly around it. Since it looks like a tornado, Mura paves the way for Super Mario Bros. 3 and commands the SPs to fly OVER it. They manage to break away from the rainbownado, but it fucked up their engines and forced them into a surprisingly Spaceballs-looking crash landing.
Ito got pretty fucked up in the crash, so the rest of the gang sets out to find help. We get a cool glimpse into Mura’s role as a leader when he gives Ito a sweet pep talk that not only gets him motivated to fix the jet’s radio, but helps ease his (justified) fears. Then we’re treated to the first of many awesome looking and incredibly dramatic spaghetti western-style shots.
Our Science Patrollers find the meteorite by Geiger Counter (yikes!), while a weird sound echoes through the desert and something plows through the sand towards the jet and poor Ito!
It’s a great sight gag that also gets Ito back with the group. He corrals them back to the jet, only now it’s in shambles at the bottom of a mysterious new pit… a new pit inhabited by a new “friend”!
This new friend’s name is Antlar, and he’s responsible for the crazy colornados that have been popping up all over the desert. Said tie-dyenados are also magnetic!! We know this because dudeman uses this power to yank the nuke-gun out of Mura’s manly mitts!
Antlar is played by Ultra series suit-stalwart Teruo Aragaki, and the creature itself is directly based on antlions. Specifically, the antlion’s ferocious larval form, which famously dig pits to trap their prey. The name is fun portmanteau of antlion and antler, and the creature design is a dead ringer for its real world counterpart:
Unarmed and with no way home, the Science Patrollers decide it’s time to just get the fuck out and go anywhere besides Antlar’s snackbar. They get lost in the desert trying to find the missing scientists and wind up outside some mysterious, forgotten town. This is achieved with a bad matte painting and fantastic sets:
Our SPers explore the ghost town at a slow, moody pace with an appropriately spooky and atmospheric score. It’s a cool, low-key moment for the show that delivers legit eeriness. Adjim points out Mt. Ararat in the distance, and Arashi mentions that it’s traditionally believed to be the final resting place of Noah’s Ark. I’m always fascinated when Japanese monster fiction makes reference to Abrahamic religions, and it’s especially interesting that Arashi makes the Noah connection. It’s a little detail that feels like it’s inspired by Eiji Tsuburaya’s Catholicism.
It isn’t long before the Science Patrol finds out this town isn’t abandoned! It’s also when we find out why there aren’t many kaiju stories that take place in the Middle East!
I think they handled this about as well as they could, especially compared to movies like King Kong vs. Godzilla or Gamera vs. Barugon that straight up have Japanese actors in brown-face.
The villagers speak an ancient dialect Adamjim doesn’t know, but thankfully the lovely Princess Charta does… or at least her brain does, ‘cuz she’s PSYCHIC AS FUCK
Charta explains that the gift of telepathy has been passed down through her royal lineage, and that the city they’re standing in was a thriving marketplace and hub before Antlar came around and dicked everything up. Their city used to be protected from beasts like Antlar by a magic being they called “Ooltra.”
Hell yeah! I love this concept. It’s impossible not to immediately start imagining Ultra adventures in the ancient world. I wanna see Ultraman save the Pyramids by uppercutting a space sphinx (a spanx?!), or battle his way through a tournament of alien gladiators in the Coliseum. Charta explains that the blue gem Ooltra holds was a gift from him and that it has the power to keep monsters away. Hayata is intensely intrigued by all of this.
Before Hayata can have an existential crisis, Antlar decides to hit the town!
Hayata helps an old woman get to safety and finds a secure place to Ultra out. With his burrowing and magnetism, Antlar proves to be one of Ultraman’s weirdest opponents to battle yet. The villagers still revere “Ooltra” and dramatically pray for his victory and the safety of their home.
Ultraman wises up and starts using some tricky maneuvers and fake-outs of his own, but once his Color Timer starts beep-beeping he says “Fuck it!” and busts out the ol’ hand lasers!
So that’s it, right? Ultraman dies, and then Antlar rules the planet for the rest of the series? Not if Charta, Mura, that big blue gem, and Ultraman have anything to say about it!
Yayy! That’s it! Charta and our crew speculate that Ultraman must have left that gem behind all those years ago for just such an occasion. Charta assures us and our heroes that their village can finally rebuild. Fuji comes and picks up our heroes, and Hayata gives the lost city one last meaningful look. The episode is impressive in its scope, monster effects, and exotic setting, but what really sticks with me is how it forces us to question the nature of Ultraman, his symbiosis with Hayata, and how Hayata must feel being connected to such an immense, powerful, and apparently ageless protector. I was happily surprised to encounter such a slow-burn thinker of an episode!
I initially planned to do a 4-episode block of reviews like last month, but February turned out to be a jam-packed month that flew by too quickly. The cool part is that with their common themes and narrative experimentation, these two episodes almost feel like intentional companion pieces. Both explore new settings, dip into different genres and moods, and both episodes’ stories happen to prominently feature priceless jewels!
The episode reviews will keep coming (I’m gonna see this thing through to the end, damn it!), but next month I’ll be taking a short break from Ultra-reviews to get a certain monkey off my back. 😉 Until then, stay Ultra, Science Patrollers!