Ultraman Review Part 4 of ∞ Episodes 8-10

ultraman-logoMy in-depth review of the entire Ultraman series continues this month with some Ultra-tasty Ultra-selections! (If you haven’t already, check out Parts 1, 2, and 3!)

With this batch of episodes we get the introduction of three iconic Ultra monsters, a poignant visit from a VERY familiar face, and  Ultraman’s goriest kaiju kills yet! …Though they’re pretty tame compared to what will come later in the franchise! (big thanks to desro’saur 3300 for finding the clip!)

Grab your beta capsule, a pink ballon and hop into your monster-face shaped car because shit’s about to get ULTRA!

Episode 8
The Lawless Monster Zone

I’m just gonna say it right now, this episode fucking rules.  “Lawless Monster Zone” finds a way to tweak the Ultra-formula like its two immediate predecessors, but unlike those eps it doesn’t reach into different genres or settings, nor does it raise compelling questions about Ultraman as a character or lifeform. Instead, it gives me what I always want: A FUCKTON OF MONSTERS

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Including the series’ first monster-on-monster fight just a few minutes in!

How could such a beautiful miracle occur? By setting this episode’s story on the kaiju-infested Tatara Island, a.k.a the (F)Lawless Monster Zone! The name makes me think of Tartarus: Greek mythology’s double-secret-super hell.  Tatara Island’s high concentration of murderous monsters makes me think it might be an intentional reference.

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Just like regular hell, this place is metal as fuck.

All four members of an expedition to the island have gone missing, because holy shit how could you not.  Naturally the Science Patrol is called in to save the day, and as soon as they fly in they almost get murdered by Red King (corn Godzilla) and Chandora’s (the walrus-bat) horsing around.

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Chandora is alternatively known as Chandlar or just Chandler.  Could he have any more names?!

In my notes I wrote him down as Peguila instead of Chandora, and it turns out Chandora is (more or less) the old Peguila suit with bat-ears added! Godzilla and Baragon aren’t the only monsters Tsuburaya modified and recycled for Ultraman! I love that thrifty ingenuity.  The monsters brawl and bleed(!), ending with that wing amputation up above.  Chandora staggers off to die, Red King laughs his sadistic ass off, and then some other asshole burrows up from the depths of the Earth!

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THIS IS THE COOLEST PLACE EVER 

His name is Magular and we’re getting married! he’s the third ultra monster to be created out of the old Baragon suit! Magular’s sudden emergence helps establish the wonderfully brutal chaos of the Lawless Monster Zone, and it sets up a later subplot.

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I love efficient, visually-driven storytelling almost as much as I love big-ass monsters.

It’s only after all this monster madness has unfolded that the Science Patrol can even land their jet safely. They waste no time searching for signs of the missing expedition members, starting with the trashed observatory. In classic Scooby-Doo fashion, the gang decides to split up. Arashi, Fuji, and Ito delve deeper into the jungle while Mura and Hayata investigate a trippy-looking canyon.

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In the spirit of fairness, both groups have a pretty shitty time!

Before the vines get all Evil Dead with Fuji, Ito, and Arashi, our heroes discover scattered tools and ripped, bloody clothes! They can’t call it in though, because the island is just slathered in Skull Island-style electromagnetic bullshit that borks their radios and compasses.

It’s the 60’s version of “I don’t have any bars!”

Meanwhile Mura and Hayata are trying to calculate the best angle to throw a grenade at Magular!

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“Granny-style don’t fail me now!”

Magular is a big awesome oaf of a monster, and the dirt looks rad flying off his craggy bod.  Hayata hucks the grenade at Magular, but Magular tail-whips our hero off a fucking cliff! The stunt’s achieved with a delightfully corny-looking dummy:

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I love a good-bad dummy fall.

Mura mura-ders Magular with his grenade and rushes to attend to his fallen comrade.

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His shoes didn’t fly off though, so we know Hayata’s alive!

Thanks to Arashi’s expert gunsmanship, our other group of heroes are free from the hentai vines and take a breather at a small pond.  WHERE THEY SPOT MOTHER FUCKING PYGMON!

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YEAH FUCK YEAH

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FUCKING YEEEEEEEAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHSSSDKLFJHA:LKFA

I hope his clarifies the fact that I like Pygmon.  He perfectly hits that same odd sweet spot for me that Minya does: just his existence and his presence cracks me up and cheers me up.  Both cracked-out critters are ugly cute in a nutshell: charming, ugly, endearing, wonky avatars of delightful, strange goofiness.  In some ways Pygmon has a slight edge for me over Minya: Minya’s connection to Godzilla and baby status makes him a little easier to comprehend and skews him slightly towards traditional cuteness.  Pygmon on the other hand is totally fucking weird and just completely unexplained.

Pygmon (or Pigmon) is a friendly, man-sized beast that looks like he’s made out of bacon and bones. If the Science Patrol are kaiju Ghostbusters (they are), then Pygmon is definitely their Slimer (née Onionhead).  Like two(!) other monsters in this episode, he was also created by re-purposing a previous monster suit, Ultra Q’s Garamon:

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Fun fact: Garamon’s a robot!

So Arashi’s got a hunch that Pygmon doesn’t mean to hurt them.  Arashi as always is quick on the trigger, but he sets his blaster to stun and shoots wonderful laser-donuts at Pygmon instead of his usual murder-beams.

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So either someone at Industrial Light & Magic is an Ultra-fan, or translucent blue Cheerios are the universal standard for knock-out lasers.

I really liked this whole moment not just for Pygmon’s electrifying intro, but because we get a cool switch-a-roo with Ito and Arashi.  Normally Ito’s a childlike goober proposing outside-the-bun solutions and Arashi is a gung-ho, serious business hothead: but here Arashi is the one that suggests they follow and trust Pygmon while Ito SMHs and declares “I don’t trust monsters.”

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Arashi says “I’m not bad at figuring things out,” which kind of got to me. Dude wants to prove he’s got good instincts and isn’t just dumb muscle.

Arashi basically says “you guys do whatever you want, but this frowning forest bacon is our best lead so I’m going after him” and charges into the jungle after Pygmon.  Ito and Fuji hesitate at the pond for a minute before a bird or something starts making a racket that spooks them into following along.

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“Did Mura dose my Dr. Pepper with LSD again, or do you guys see him too?”

They trail Pygmon who skips his way through the jungle, and Ito gets the bright idea to tag him with a high-tech tracking device. It’s a high-contrast, high-visibility, gas-filled latex sphere fired from a gun that harmlessly adheres to its target.

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THEY SHOOT HIM WITH A PINK BALLOON

Pygmon leads the gang into the cliffs, where the sole surviving scientist has been hiding out.  He lets our Science Patrollers know that if it wasn’t for Pygmon’s help, he would have been mauled by horrible island monsters just like the rest of the expedition. Just in case this wasn’t enough to convince you that Pygmon is good people, he tries to hold off fuckin’ Red King all by himself.

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P.S. Red King is back.

Following Pygmon’s lead(!!!), the Science Patrollers open up on Red King, and manage to set his big corny ass on fire.

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Just like I do with the Jiffy-Pop every. Damn. Time. 😦

It looks fucking boss, but it also means Red King’s way too tough for SP’s lasers.  It does piss him off though, so he throws a bunch of boulders down the mountain, bowling over poor sweet Pygmon. The tumble knocks the balloon loose, so the SPers wait as it floats up to Red King’s face.

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We get a super tight close-up of Red King’s face as the balloon rises, and his eyes even cross a little as he watches it! Really cool (and surprising) articulation.

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BA-BLAM! WOOOOOO! But for real what the hell was that balloon filled with

Red King drops the boulder on his own toe like the stupid fucking asshole he is and swats at his head in agony, but it doesn’t change the fact that Pygmon, our sweet prince, is not long for this world.

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Shhhh, no more tears.  Only dreams now.

Which is weird because I know for a fact he shows up in one of my favorite episodes later in the series.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  Red King gets even madder somehow and goes apeshit, tossing rocks like a goddamn lunatic. Without any real options left, Ito shoots up a flare and hopes for the best.

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“Ha ha! Did somebody call for ‘the best’??”

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I will never get sick of Ultraman combining his triumphant entrance with a back-breaking flying double-kick.  Why isn’t every superhero doing this?  Why isn’t every person doing this?

This episode is packed with monster action from front to back, so the final battle with Ultraman can afford to be a little straightforward.  The double kick entrance is great, Ultraman thwarts some of RK’s rock-tossing bullshit with lasers, and we get a big spin-n-throw.  Other highlights:

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Just straight-up stranglin’ a bitch!

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Ultraman pulling off some Kong-like tough guy posturing!

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And the over-the-shoulder throw…

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…. is a fucking gangster way to finish the fight.

The Science Patrol members and lone scientist regroup for a somber closing scene.  After such a wild ride through a kaiju-kontrolled jungle hellscape, it’s a welcome breather and a bracing return to reality.  Three good men are dead and a strange new friend gave his life protecting the last survivor and aiding his rescuers.

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With tons of fun action and violence, the introduction of two iconic Ultra monsters, and a simple story with some real heart, this is a great fucking episode.  It’s definitely my favorite since Shoot the Invaders! (episode 2).  It’s funny reviewing this right after Kong: Skull Island, because there are some serious parallels.  Both tell stories of smart, scrappy humans venturing into a tropical, kaiju-filled funhouse of death, getting split up, and getting some much-needed and unexpected help from a local critter to save (what’s left of) the day.

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Episode 9
Operation Electric Stone Fire

So until I saw the alternate titles I was like “hooray for word salad!”   This episode is also known as Operation: Light Speed, Operation: Lightning Strike, and Lightning Operation.  Those titles all have the benefit of being phrases my brain can derive meaning from, but none of them really tell you what the episode is about.

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Flower Gamera.

His name’s Gabora, he’s played by Haruo Nakajima (Godzilla himself!) he eats Uranium-235, and he’s here to fuck. Shit. Up..

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Exhibit A: Gabora fucking shit in an upward direction.

But I’m getting ahead of myself! A typhoon’s hit rural Japan hard, notably destroying a bridge that leads into a kids’ summer camp.

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It’s either some kind of mountaineering boyscouts, or Japan’s largest Pinocchio convention.

It’s a bummer because without that bridge, they can’t get any supplies into the camp, and they’re almost out of food! Two of the bigger kids are recruited to bike into town and bring back provisions.  We also see some very real looking clean-up and construction crews (so real that I wonder if it was a case of Tsuburaya and co. “shooting the rodeo”), and it all just reminded me of how much I love when crazy kaiju stories can include a down-to-earth slice of life.  This is one of the coolest examples I’ve come across: before the monster and the Science Patrol show up, this feels like a Stand by Me-esque coming of age yarn.

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You know, if Stand by Me revolved around a couple Pinocchios struggling with a comically huge and unwieldy bike-mounted Thermos.

Surprisingly engaging as it is, the slice of life of course has to make way for the wild sci-fi spectacle. Those construction workers are at a loss: something underground keeps causing massive vibrations that are fucking up their clean-up and rebuilding efforts.

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“HAHA YEAH, GUILTY!”

Gabora bursts up out of the ground, at this point looking like a cross between a Graboid from Tremors and a Skullcrawler from Kong: Skull Island.

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And a lot like Baragon, because holy shit Tsuburaya got their money’s worth with that suit.

Gabora’s big featureless skull-head is pretty unnerving, especially in this first sequence! He loses that eerie gravitas when he opens it up and reveals his little goofball face, but that ability:

  1. Is cool as balls
  2. Gets homaged in Pacific Rim by Raiju, AND
  3. Sets up his gory demise

After spending time establishing the camp kids subplot, this episode doesn’t bother with a backstory or explanation for Gabora.  When he pops up out of the Earth, witnesses literally see the carnage and say “Look, it’s Gabora!” Since he’s already on a first-name basis with the locals, Gabora wastes no time ambling into the first town he can find and, as we discussed earlier, just fucks its shit all the way up.

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Here’s Exhibit A again for your reference. Please note the thorough shit fucking happening in the image.

After leveling the town, Gabora doesn’t even bother with a union break or a nap or nothin’ and starts making a beeline for the next unlucky burg. The Science Patrol are ready to roll: they know Gabora appeared near a nuclear power plant and they either already know (since Gabora seems to be a known quantity) or correctly speculate that Gabby chows on Uranium-235.  With all this intel, they suit up, pile into the Corvair and floor it to the next town in Gabora’s nuclear pub crawl.

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And damn it if they don’t look like a million bucks doing it!

I have mixed feelings on the lack of development Gabora gets.  It’s odd that he just rolls in from out of nowhere and everybody just accepts his existence, but on the other hand, his story isn’t really the thrust of the episode. It would’ve been a waste of time to build him up, because the real meat of the episode is the kids’ camp and the wacky plan the SPs come up with to contain Gabora.  Plus I always have fun filling in blanks like this myself: I get the impression that Gabora’s caused trouble in Japan in the past, and the Science Patrol have probably even dealt with him before they had an Ultraman Ace up their sleeve. 😉

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A huge silver ace from outer space.  A Space Ace if you will.

The SPers meet up with the mayor of the town that’s next in Gabora’s buffet line, and SURPRISE it reminds me of the scene in Ghostbusters where they meet up with NYC’s head honcho.

Unfortunately, it differs in that Hayata doesn’t get to deliver a classic dick joke.

But the Ghostbusters parallel continues (seriously, Dan Aykroyd must be a huge Ultra fan) when the Science Patrol are granted assistance from the JSDF.

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Not sure if they got to run any red lights, but they did get MOTHER FUCKING FLAMETHROWER TANKS.

The flame tanks work!  Gabora fucks right off!… and sets a new course to demolish that camp full of scared hungry Pinocchios. This seriously pisses Arashi off, who wants to just run after Gabora and blow the beast’s brains out, gun style. Mura tells him to calm his tits, and Hayata suggests they helicopter around with some Uranium to lead Gabora away from civilization.

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60s bubble-copters look super fun and super dangerous!

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It was surprising and awesome to see they actually shot some scenes with a real chopper lugging around that big Uranium canister prop! Gabora quickly notices the flying Scooby snack and Fuji and Hoshino reveal that they stowed away on Hayata’s incredibly dangerous mission. Radiation and rampaging kaiju be damned, Hayata still has time to go full road-trip dad and tells them to “Sit still, will ya?!”

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“If you little shits don’t straighten up I’ll turn this helicopter right around!”

The chopper chase gives us some overdue payoff with those two Pinocchios and their enormous thermos in the form of a fun sight gag:

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The only way it would be better is if one of them did a double take and then emptied out his hip flask. Or maybe a good pigeon double take.

This is when our stories really come together (and it’s a nice, crisp composite shot!).  Gabora gets pissy and opens his face up to shoot lasers at the chopper, Hayata spots the Pinocchios in trouble and lands to help them out.

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It’s all good until Hayata lands the chopper by awkwardly clonking down on top of the can full of Uranium.

The landing is goofy.  So much so that I even wrote “Why show this?” in my notes. I have to assume the answer is that Tsuburaya paid for a real goddamn helicopter, so they are going to use EVERY SECOND they shot of it. Fuji and Hoshino hop off to help the two camp-kids evacuate, and Hayata takes back to the sky to try and pied piper Gabora off to Timbukthree.

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It uh… doesn’t go so well. How many vehicle crashes has Hayata been in?! Dude is a live-action Launchpad McQuack at this point. Hayata’s non-Ultraman super power is clearly his ability to walk away from horrifying crashes.  This also means Hayata has been left alone with a kaiju, and we know how that tends to go:

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Wait no no no, stop imagining sexy sax music and porny bass licks, that’s not what I meant!

Ultraman looks fucking awesome compared to his charmingly frumpy and dumpy opponent.  Their grappling turns into UM rodeo-riding Gabora, which is delightful.

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Okay now you can imagine that sexy sax and porny bass guitar. You’re wel-cum. 😉

UM launches another bad-ass flying kick, and Gabora’s satisfying THUD really sells it. It’s a fun, solid fight, but the real kicker is when UM starts yanking off Gabora’s, uh, “meat-petals”?

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I thought for sure he was going to go full “he loves me, he loves me not,” but poor Gabby perishes before UM can peel a third petal.  Gabora’s eye-lights go out, and the lumpy-faced Suit A Ultraman looks on for a moment with cold detachment before taking off.  It’s a kids’ show and I’m sure I’m not supposed to, but I can’t help but wonder what’s going through his head here.  Does he feel kinda fucked up about dismembering Gabora so gruesomely?  Is he horrified to find himself unmoved by his own gory handiwork? Or is he just like “I saved the day! Good job, me!”?

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Again, kids’ show, so like a 99.99% chance of that last one.

With Gabora a lifeless husk, the SPers help the kids’ camp resupply.  The 2 bike-kids are particularly suspicious of Hayata: they doubt that an “ordinary” man could survive such a dramatic helicopter crash.  Hayata gives them a sly look and asks “who said I’m ordinary?” before hopping into the Corvair and driving off into the sunset with his comrades.

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“No ‘ordinary’ man could look this fresh in a skintight orange jumpsuit/sports coat.”

It’s a solid episode that kind of reminds me of Charge Forth, Science Patrol! (epsiode 3). Like Charge Forth, Operation Stone Speed Lightning Fire Blast takes a more traditional approach to a 25-minute kaiju story.  But where Charge Forth focuses on the finding and tracking of the monster, Fire Speed Lightning Operation Stone Light focuses on the real people caught in the crossfire and trying to minimize collateral damage. It’s a good ep, but for me it’s overshadowed by the one before and the one after.

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Episode 10
The Mysterious Dinosaur Base

The Mysterious Dinosaur Base kicks off by taking us into the cheerful, well-lit laboratory of the sociable and sane Dr. Nakamura.

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Haha just kidding he’s evil and crazy as fuck and lives in a haunted mansion!

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Huge spooky Army of Darkness moon?  CHECK.

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Creepy old– actually his house looks really nice from a distance.  I guess “mad scientist” and “good housekeeper” don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

“Haunted mansion” isn’t quite right.  It’s an eerie old house with secret passageways and tricks and traps, but there aren’t any undead lurking in the Nakamura home.  JUST SHIT TONS OF RANDOM GROSS AND/OR THREATENING ANIMALS

The camera pans us through this malevolent menagerie with a spooky but downbeat score.  Then we get to Nakamura’s main lab, and it is wonderful.

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Is it a laboratory, or is it Call of the Wild in Gaylord, Michigan?

I joke now but this episode makes SUPER good use of this odd set. It’s a cave with monolithic stone slabs covered in furs… and bunsen burners and beakers.  There are big inaccurate paintings of dinosaurs on the walls, and taxidermied animals decorate the remaining space.  It is charmingly bonkers, and effectively clues you in that Nakamura is a whackjob that obsesses over animals and prehistoric beasts.

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I know it’s hard to believe, but this man is not 100% mentally stable.

The show is quick to establish that Nakamura does truly care for his creatures. He lovingly feeds some squirmy unseen critters and gently ribs them for being li’l piggies, but is also proud of them for growing so big and strong.  He’s also got one more pet to check up on…

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JIRASS! For now we only hear his kaiju roaring and see this monstrous splashing, but we already know something big is lurking beneath the surface! If you’re somehow reading this and don’t already know about Jirass (or “Keera” in the dub?), I’m gonna try not to spoil it before the reveal! Nakamura gives the unseen beast a pep talk, and the camera cuts in closer and closer to the mad doctor with each shot.

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“Good ‘Keera,’ good! Ignore the chocolate stains on my labcoat! It’s not poop. I fell asleep on top of some Easter candy.  Shut up.”

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“I SAID IT’S NOT POOP”

It’s one of several unusual visual tricks the episode tries out, and I dig ’em.  This crazy zoom helps establish Nakamura’s off-kilter mindset, and in general these ambitious shots make the episode feel more dynamic and cinematic. We jump to the next day, and there’s a Japanese-only scene of fishermen at the lake pulling in tons of fish, with a particularly excited duo contemplating using poison to catch even more fish.

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Now I’m no Bassmaster, but I feel like there are several notable problems with that plan.  I get why they cut this little interlude, but it actually does set a up a cool moment later on.  We see the Science Patrol find out about this weird surge in the fish population pretty quickly (rendering the prior scene non-vital), and they’re dispatched to go investigate.

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“Oh my God couldn’t they have called first?  I haven’t vacuumed in like six months!”

We get some action with the Science Patrol submarine (S-21) for the first time since the first episode! Hayata and Ito air-lift it to the lake via jet (awesome) with Arashi inside and ready to rock.  Once he makes splash down, he putters around beneath the surface of the water taking (adorable) readings.

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Who knew doing science would look so much like Super R-Type?!

Mura and Fuji are monitoring Arashi’s readings from HQ which is cool because the whole team is involved, and they all have different but equally important jobs to do.  There’s a not-entirely effective attempt at building tension here: Arashi takes some readings, then we cut back to progressively closer/stranger shots of Mura and Fuji, then we cut back to Arashi taking readings, and so on.  I appreciate the effort (we get some more creative and unusual camera work), and we have a close call where Arashi almost scans Jirass’ tail, but the suspense doesn’t quite click.  It could just be because I’m too familiar with the show’s formula.

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Also audiences today aren’t jazzed about submarines like we were in the 60s.  (The James Bonding podcast touched in this idea in their Thunderball episode and it really stuck with me)

With no signs of trouble, Mura tells Hayata, Ito, and Arashi to go ahead and punch out for the day to relax and enjoy the fresh air and nearby hotel.   Hayata and Ito in particular are fucking ecstatic.

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They look like you and your friend after your mom begrudgingly agrees to let you have a sleep over.

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They literally shake hands so vigorously that I couldn’t capture it.

Are “fresh air” and “hotel” code words for blackjack and hookers? Nope! Dudes just really need some chill time!

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Ito hits the shower

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Hayata catches up on homework

 

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Arashi sets out to make Golden Corral regret their business model

These guys are fucking dorks.  That’s why they’re so cool. Speaking of cool, look at this radical hot rod:

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So who’s driving this bitchin’ Death Race 2000 reject? Dr. Nakamura? Lord Humungus? Gwar?  Dick Dastardly’s bad-ass cousin?

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I bet you weren’t going to guess “a pair of frumpy reporters”!

They’re here to interview Dr.  Nakamura: he’s an expert on unusual animals, so they want to get his thoughts on the Loch Ness monster for their magazine.  He shows them around his cave lair, providing suitably nonsensical descriptions for the artistic-licence-asauruses he’s decorated the walls with.

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“And this is the dreaded Gleep-gloop, a fierce monster that feeds primarily on Blopnars and Jork-jarks.  I am an accredited scientist with published, peer-reviewed journals.”

He segues out of pure gibberish long enough to speculate that Nessie is most likely an Icthyosaurus, and then reflects on the fate of his associate, the long-lost Dr. Nikaidou.  Nikaidou was an obsessive Nessie expert (Nexpert? Nesspert?) who scoured Loch Ness on his own 20 years ago, and went missing without a trace.  Nakamura says that if Nessie ate Nikaidou then there’s “no doubt he died a happy man.”

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Before the reporters have a chance to grill him on what the fuck he means, Nakamura breaks the dude’s lighter and throws them out. I mean the guy is an “expert” on animals and dinosaurs, not hosting guests.  But hey, the reporters shacked up at the same hotel as our heroes!

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And it has an arcade! I think I’m starting to understand why Hayata and Ito were so psyched.

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Not only that, but Tomoko Kubo (the lady reporter) and Ito are out doing a little uh, “night fishing” 😉 😉 😉 😉 😉

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And again maybe I’m reading too much into a kids’ show, but they don’t look like they’re fishing to me! 😉 😉 😉 😉

Before they can heheh, bait each others’ hooks, they see something huge splashing around out in the lake, plus Dr. Nakamura fucking around in a raft SUPER suspiciously.  Being a reporter and a Science Patroller, of course they try to follow Nakamura and see what kind of bullshit he’s up to.

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It goes slightly less than awesomely.

Nakamura can’t let his big secret get out, so he puts the wonky paintings of pseudo-dinosaurs to good use.  That’s right, they’re not just “tasteful” decor, they conceal hidden panels and traps and shit!

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“Just a moment, I need to push the button hidden in the eye of this zebra.”  “… Isn’t that a dinosaur?” “I HAVE A GUN”

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I was initially gonna goof on this Gary Busey-asaurus, but the fact that the teeth actually open up is cool as hell.

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As cool as this gadget is, it’s practical usefulness seems dicey.  Nakamura just yells into the mouth to tell Jirass to come eat/murder Ito and Kubo.  We also get our first partial glimpse of Jirass!

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Hey wait a second…

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HEY WAIT A SECOND!

If the source of Jirass’ handsome looks aren’t clear yet, we get a full daylight reveal soon after. With Ito MIA, Mura and Fuji jet out to help Hayata and Arashi track him down.  We also catch up with the idiot fishermen who are now poisoning the lake to catch poisoned fish.

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I love fresh fish, but it never has enough of that rich, poison flavor I crave.

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They celebrate their haul of inedible fish corpses with Hayata+Ito style EXTREME, joyous handshaking.

I talk a lot of shit about catching fish with poison because it sounds insane, but apparently it’s a real technique that’s been around forever! It relies on naturally-occurring chemicals that can “stun” fish, allowing them to be easily caught.

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Unlike my assumption that they were just dumping fucking turpentine into the lake and scooping up carcasses.

The fishermens’ grab-assing is cut short by Jirass’ mighty roar and eruption from the lake!

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It’s Godzilla with yellow highlights and a dilophosaurus frill Jirass!! He’s even played by the original Godzilla suit actor, Haruo Nakajima! It really comes through in his body language, making Jirass feel like Godzilla in addition to looking like him. The Jirass suit is made up of the 1964 Godzilla body with the ’65 head. The overall suit is recognizably Godzilla, but the mouth seems different to me: Godzilla has a pretty nice set of chompers, while Jirass looks like he has a gnarly mouth full of yellowish, jagged fangs.

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So they either modified the head, or I’m projecting some dental weirdness onto Jirass.

I was a little bummed out to see the wires when Jirass rises from the lake, and the suit looks pretty shabby around the leg-seams (mostly noticeable when he takes a tumble fighting Ultraman), but it’s a TV production with a TV-sized budget. Tsuburaya has to flex that thrifty ingenuity to make Almost-Godzilla happen.

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FUCKING WORTH IT

Sometimes the frill is just too huge, goofy, and uncooperative, but that gets uh… “solved” soon.  Arashi does the Arashi thing and just opens up on Jirass:

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But Nakamura rushes in and literally tackles him mid-blast! The Nak-ster gets some  more classic mad scientist scenery-chewing in:

[Jirass was] created with these two hands! The work of a genius! [Jirass] is a masterpiece! I know that [Jirass] is the greatest creature on Earth!

So far Ultraman has had space aliens, ancient beasts, and monstrous mutants, so I really dig that we finally get a man-made kaiju.  One of the most important things for a kaiju TV show to do is deliver a wide variety of monsters and stories, and Ultraman continues to NAIL that.

We’re only ten episodes in and already have a colossal cornucopia of crazy creatures!

The Science Patrollers plead with Nakamura to be reasonable, so Nakamura fucking rips his own face off

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He was Dr. Nikaidou all along! He faked his own disappearance/death so he could become a monster-making hermit weirdo! I was legit shocked by this revelation, and it elevated an already fun episode to classic status.  In hindsight it’s probably obvious, but there’s so much going on in this story (not least of all a Godzilla sort-of apperance!) that it totally took me by surprise.  Nikaidou commands Jirass to “Show them what a great monster you are!”…

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…and Jirass complies by carelessly stomping Nikaidou’s fucking guts out.

Secret identity or not, it is a perfect, darkly comic demise for a monster-worshipping lunatic villain.  And similarly to the beginning of the episode, the Science Patrollers break off into different groups to accomplish their goals.  Ito and Kubo do some MacGuyvering to fix their radio and contact the other SPs, Arashi distracts Jirass by hammering it with lasers, Fuji and Mura race to find Ito and Kubo before Jirass does, and Hayata conveniently finds a good moment to slip away…

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He’s probably just doing more homework.

Arashi’s laser is out of juice, Jirass is crushing the Nakamura house with our heroes inside, and all seems lost until:

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…Ultraman does a Dad-grab to Jirass’ wrist mid-fist slam! I had to include Hayata’s more elaborate transformation too.  It’s another sick detail in an episode packed with SO MANY sick details, but I always like seeing how the Beta Capsule actually works.  But hey, monster fight!

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YEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAUUUUGGGGGHHHSSSSS

Jirass roars menagingly, and Ultraman answers back with an “ewww, doo-doo breath” gesture, AND a “bring it bitch!” gesture!

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Ultra sass!

We get more posturing and taunting: Jirass picks up a boulder, tosses it skyward, then blasts it mid-air with his breath beam.  Ultraman follows suit(mation), tossing up two boulders and nailing them with his hand-beams.

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“Captain, Ultraman is giving off lethal levels of sass!”

Then Ultraman just straight up laughs at Jirass! Jirass retaliates with a barrage of beams that Ultraman manages to dance around before doing…. this:

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Jesus dude.

So that’s it, right?  UM ripped off a body-part, so Jirass dies like Gabora did?  NOPE!

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Jirass keeps on truckin’! It’s a testament to Nakajima’s suit acting and the design of the suit that it looks so fucking painful.  Jirass’ head bobs gruesomely as the freaked-out monster pats around for it’s now-phantom phrill:

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Then Ultraman switches from sassy to sociopathic:

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“DURR DURR LOOK AT ME I’M JIRASS I LOVE STUPID NECK FLAPS DURRR!”

Then he uses the severed frill like he’s a gigantic matador because holy shit this show is amazing:

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Suddenly Redman makes a lot more sense…

After some impromptu bull-fighting, UM and Jirass grapple a bit more, and the fight takes a more serious tone.  UM might have made a fool of Jirass, but Jirass has taken way the fuck more punishment than most Ultra-monsters, so it’s time to quit goofing around. As Ultraman and Jirass size each other up, it’s impossible not to think of the climactic showdown in a samurai movie or a spagetty western.

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They dash past each other, but Ultraman lands a final critical blow on Jirass. What happens next would have been right at home in Kill Bill:

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It’s a deservedly dignified demise for almost-Godzilla.  Even jokester Ultraman shows respect for his fallen, worthy opponent:

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Sad (but not maudlin!) music swells just right, and if you’re a weirdo like me the feelings will creep up out of nowhere and wash over you.  We pan down to the Science Patrollers, who take a minute to weigh in on all the craziness that’s gone down in the last 24 hours.  Arashi’s simple take on Nikaidou really hit me in the gut for some reason:

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“I think he must have loved monsters.”

The voice actor for the dub delivered this line just right.  It’s a surprisingly emotional ending to the episode, and then we get one last dollop of salt in the feelings-wound when we see Nikaidou actually survived getting stomped… just long enough to see the life fade from the eyes of his beloved creation:

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Followed by a fiery(!!!) fade to black!

And that’s it! After all that the DVD just boots my ass back to the menu screen with the theme music cheerfully blaring away like everything’s fine or some shit.  This wasn’t supposed to be an emotions episode!  We were just supposed to enjoy not-Godzilla battling Ultraman!

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Which I did of course, but there was so much going on in this episode.  I try not to do a play-by-play of whatever I’m reviewing, but there was so much fun, funny, or moving shit in this episode it was hard not to.  Here are some last big thoughts that I couldn’t squeeze into the review earlier:

  • My first impression of Nakamura/Nikaidou was that he was a fun predecessor to Terror of Mechagodzilla‘s Dr. Mafune–he’s not.  Not exactly, at least. They’re both monster/dinosaur-obsessed mad scientists that look like evil Einsteins, but there’s a big difference.  Mafune is truly a mustache-twirling villain that wants to get revenge on the scientific community by wiping out humanity with his monster,  while Nikaidou is just a sad weirdo that wants to be left alone in the woods with his pets.  Nikaidou’s still a dangerous nutball, but he’s way more pathetic than evil.
  • I initially thought the sadness of Jirass’ death purely worked in a meta context: that it was only moving because we were watching Ultraman more or less kill off Godzilla.  While it definitely hits hard on that meta level, it also works purely in-universe.  Jirass didn’t ask for this: dude-man just wanted to live in the lake and eat fish and take naps.  Nikaidou not only made him, but made him into a murderous monster.
  • As a Godzilla fan first and foremost, it’s tough to watch (almost-)him get his ass handed to him, even if it’s by a certified G like Ultraman.  On the upside it reminds me of how pro wrestlers traditionally lose their last match–it’s a thank you to the promotion they’re leaving, and a way to boost an up-and-coming wrestler. There are a lot of different ways to interpret Jirass/Godzilla being put down by Ultraman, and what this final fight meant to Tsuburaya himself.
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For example, out of context you can pretend this is a picture of them hugging!

So that it’s! Two great episodes and one solid one this month.  I’ll take another Ultra-break next month, but we’ve still got almost thirty more episodes of incredible Ultra adventure to blast through!  If these first ten episodes are any indication, we’re in for a whole lot of wildly imaginative, action-packed and heartfelt fun! Say it with me, Arashi! “Stay Ultra…

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8 thoughts on “Ultraman Review Part 4 of ∞ Episodes 8-10

  1. To infinity and beyond? The Ultraman reviews are rapidly becoming magnum opus!

    My son loved the Godzilla with the lizard frill when we watched that episode. Gotta love those practical effects. The kids were forced to watch “The Changeling” from the original Trek series recently, they were surprised that you could turn out a good sci-fi story with practical effects.

    Thanks again!

    • I keep thinking that I’ll do a bunch of short episode reviews one month, but then I get episodes like Lawless Monster Zone and Mysterious Dinosaur Base and I just have to talk about them FOREVER. This show rules.

      Jirass is super great and practical effects give you so many ways to create crazy action and excitement. Knowing your actors can literally tear each other apart has to be a goldmine for writers running a show like this!

      Trek is SO damn good. Jess and I started watching Next Generation last November, flew through it and loved every second, and are just about to finish season two of TOS. NO idea why we waited this long to get Star Trek in our lives, but I guess better late than never?!

      Thank YOU! It’s so good to know this is an enjoyable read. 🙂

  2. I just want you to know, that if I ever meet you, it will be with a back-breaking flying double kick. I won’t be able to stop myself now.

    For some reason I was not expecting a “Moonraker” reference. I should know better.

    For what it’s worth, I had the same assumption about turpentine/carcasses too.

  3. Pingback: Happy Mothra’s Day! | MONSTERS CONQUER THE WORLD

  4. Pingback: Ultraman Review Part 5: Episodes 11-13 | MONSTERS CONQUER THE WORLD

  5. Pingback: Ultraman Review Part 6: Episodes 14-15 | MONSTERS CONQUER THE WORLD

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