Whoa I haven’t reviewed any Ultraman episodes all year! Time to fix that with a trio of titanic tales! If you’re new here or just need a refresher, be sure to hit up the six previous installments in my review series: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
Real talk: it’s a little disquieting to see that it’s been over a year since I started reviewing the original Ultraman series and I’m barely halfway done. A lot of that is because I take plenty of breaks–I don’t want MONSTERS CONQUER THE WORLD to become an all-Ultraman all the time blog–but still, damn. Does it bug anybody, or are we all cool with my meandering pace? (For real, let me know in the comments) I was cool with it until I started crunching the numbers… maybe I’m just impatient? There’s a lot of giant monster/kaiju content out there, and I wanna review as much of it as I can!
I might change how often I review Ultraman episodes, but I do NOT plan on lessening the depth I go into for each episode: this show is too influential and too iconic for a quick skim.
Speaking of episodes, we got three winners on the docket for this month! They’re all kinda spooky-creepy too! It’s an exciting change of pace considering the last two I reviewed skewed a little lighter and goofier. The show in general feels like it’s getting more confident, telling bolder and stranger stories as it goes on. This month we get a gaslighting asshole from outer space, mind-melting fourth dimensional fuckery, and the return of Ultraman’s most sinister villains! Strap in Science Patrollers, shit’s gettin’ EERIE!
Science Patrol Into Space
This episode is also known as “The Science Patrol to Outer Space” or the comically curt “Science Patrol to Space.”
The episode opens with a realistic, Cape Canaveral-looking space launch.
At the very least, it’s more grounded in reality than the rocket launch we saw in an earlier episode:
Realistic-looking as it is, there are rumors flying that there’s something fucky with the second stage of the Ohtori, so the Science Patrol are ready for a daring mid-launch rescue if anything goes tits-up. The launch goes off without a hitch, so Hayata just gives the Ohtori the coolest airborne escort ever:
Most of the Science Patrollers are geeked that the Ohtori was such a success, but Hoshino is genuinely bummed. Not because he’s an astronaut-hating lunatic, but because he’s sad Dr. Mori beat the SP’s friend Dr. Iwamaoto to the punch. They were both vying to build the first Venus-rocket, but Iwamoto’s Phoenix rocket wasn’t ready as quickly as the Ohtori.
The SP’s watch the live telecast of Mori’s Venus voyage:
Ito mimics eating while he watches Mori eat a three-course meal (in space???), which has gotta be the food equivalent to watching porn and jerking it, right? But Ito’s vicarious meal is interrupted by a blast of incomprehensible static. The SPs sort out the scrambled signal, only to reveal the inhuman visage of a foe they thought was long gone:
Hayata looks on in disbelief and helpfully recaps their last encounter. Specifically, Ultraman killed off (what he thought was) their entire species when they came to take over the Earth and enslave humanity. Baltan (in a disappointingly nerdy kind of voice) explains that a segment of the Baltan population survived and resettled on the nearby Planet R
where presumably they all drink malk. After suffering a bout of genocide, it’s not a huge shock that they’re making a beeline for Earth to come and revenge our monkey asses off.
Phase 1 of Baltan’s Bal-plan: send this glowing space orb to frick up the Ohtori:
Mori calls in his emergency to the Science Patrol, who turn to Dr. Iwamoto for help. The Phoenix is ready to go (PAYOFF!), but it doesn’t have any weapons to fight off the Baltans. So instead of having the SPs fly the Phoenix itself, he’ll attach a VTOL to the Phoenix rockets. He’s the guy for the job too, because he designed the frickin’ VTOL in the first place!
We cut back to the Ohtori, where things are going not so awesome:
The new Baltan suit is a little different from the previous one. The most obvious, immediate difference is the cool color-changing/light-up forehead, but the face is proportioned a little differently. Here’s the original Baltan suit for reference:
I kind of like the original look better, but the light-up head is undeniably cool. What’s not cool? BALTAN POSSESSING MORI.
Back on the Earth, the SPs are gearing up to kick some serious space ass. The VTOL gets outfitted with that cool half-circle booster rocket assembly:
And Ito just calmly and coolly pulls out and starts assembling a bad-ass looking new laser gun.
Little do our intrepid (and now totally strapped) SPers know, Dr. Mori and the Ohtori are a distraction! While Hayata, Captain Mura, and Arashi are putzing around in outer space, a big nasty orb full of Baltans are screaming toward Earth ready to fuck shit up!
Luckily Ito’s stayed behind and jury rigged a mount for his new gun in the Sub VTOL! He’s able to chase the Baltan orb and pick off some of the invaders as they’re pooped out:
Of course, Ito is still Ito, so he has to do some Cowardly Lioning before he can get his shit together enough to start zapping baddies:
Fuji radios Hayata, Mura, and Arashi to tell them about Baltan’s bamboozlery, but they’ve gone too far, and they can’t just leave Mori stranded in space. Speaking of Mori, Hayata and pals safely bring him aboard the VTOL, and surprise, he’s being a fucking weirdo!
Mori is full-blown Looney Tunes: he cackles like a maniac so hard that Hayata loses control of the VTOL and it crash-lands on Planet R! When they name-dropped PR earlier I didn’t expect to actually see it, but hey, that’s still set-up and payoff, baby!
When our crew comes to, Mori’s dicking around outside just having a ball!
Arashi wakes up and tries to run Mori down, but Mori works some psychic juju on Arashi, dropping him like a sack of potatoes!
After this Mori just says “fuck it” and goes Balltans to the wall:
Baltan shoots gale force winds out of his claws (“I am Baltan, and I have lots and lots of powers”), flipping the VTOL over. Hayata’s had enough, it’s ULTRA time, baby!
Ultraman wastes no time and sends a volley of hand laser screaming towards Baltan! We know these guys are super-susceptible to UM’s beams, so that’s it, game over, right? NOPE!
All credit for the phrase “reflecto-tiddies” goes to (former?) Tumblr user mekagojira3k. But yeah, as the beam-bouncing breasts (or plasma-parrying pecs!) demonstrate, the Baltans have adapted! That’s probably why they have lots and lots of powers now! Baltan tries to blow Ultraman away with his wind wakers, and that does throw our silver savior off balance for a bit… but check this out!
According to the Ultraman Wiki It’s called the Ultra-Slash or the MOTHERFUCKING DISMEMBERING HALO. In my Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters review I called the “that’d be a great name for a band” joke old and busted (and I mostly stand by that), but it totally, absolutely, 100% non-jokingly applies here. Please, someone, name your heavy-ass thrashing metal band DISMEMBERING HALO.
Ultraman may have murdered the shit out of the Mori-Baltan, but the other Baltans are still on Earth torching an oil refinery (achieved with re-used footage from the episode Oil S.O.S.?) and they’ve coalesced into one big Baltan! But Ultraman’s way the hell out on Planet R! Well guess what babies?!
TELEPORTATION! I’ve been goofing on this episode for doling out a slew of exciting new powers, but I really like that they actually address how huge a deal interplanetary teleportation is. The narrator straight up says that using this awesome ability is a major drain on Ultraman, so it’s not something he’ll be busting out on a whim. Baltans teleport like it’s their job though, so it’s no shocker that Big Baltan bamfs the second he sees Ultraman phase into existence. Ultraman then adorably does the 100 ft. tall superhero version of the John Travolta/Pulp Fiction meme:
Baltan eventually pops back into reality, and Ultraman’s ready with another DISMEMBERMENT HALO. BUT GUESS WHAT!
Ultraman zaps the forcefield away with his eye-lasers, than conspicuously repeats the kick-ass bisection-by-frisbee from earlier:
It’s totally fucking metal and they absolutely earned the right to double dip. Except this time Ultraman put some additional stank on it!
Fucking bra-vo, Ultraman! With outrageous villain-kills like this, Ultraman is basically space-themed “Ash vs. Evil Dead” for kids. Which is honestly some of the highest praise I can possibly dole out.
With the Baltans satisfyingly and hilariously murdered, Hayata un-Ultras, and we return to our heroes stranded on Planet R. Interestingly, Hayata’s body has been present but unconscious during today’s Ultra-action. The exact mechanics of Hayata’s transformation to and from Ultraman are muddied by this: previous episodes have shown or at least implied that Hayata’s body is gone while he’s Ultraman.
The nuts and bolts of Hayata turning into a giant alien superhero aren’t the point of the show though, so I won’t press this too much. It is interesting to think about though, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for any more little hints in the future! Anyway Dr. Iwamoto’s goof-tastic space contraption lands on Planet R to rescue our marooned heroes!
The rescue party includes Hoshino, looking great decked out in Science Patrol orange!
The episode ends abruptly, so that’s it! It’s great to see the Baltans return. Like plenty of Ultra-villains they are menacing and dangerous, but they’re also conniving in a way that makes them scary on an immediate and intimate level. As a whole, this episode isn’t quite as strong as the Baltans’ debut (Shoot the Invaders!). The fantastical space travel is exciting, entertaining, and quaint, but it also takes the edge off the episode’s horror, even in a story that includes the mental possession and annihilation of a decent, innocent man. Science Patrol Into Space loses the creepy mood and tension about halfway through, but it more than makes up for it with petal-to-the-metal, balls-to-the-wall combat action. Works for me!
Passport to Infinity
Passport to Infinity opens with a rare token white guy examining a little blue meteorite. His name is Sir Yesterday, which is an adorably weird name for a human.
Sir Yesterday is a weird name, but according to IMDB he is played by an actor named Hans Holiness. That is a name only fit for a porn director that specializes in naughty nun movies and/or a clergy-themed supervillain. Also this is the dude’s only role.
Anyway Yesterday taps the strange blue space rock, and suddenly it does this!
That’s pretty freaky right? BUT THEN IT DOES THIS!
It’s a trippy, simple, and great looking effect! We’ll get a bunch more rad sequences like this before the end of the episode, too! After being missing for a week, the Science Patrol is called in to investigate. Arashi and Ito question Yesterday’s secretary Yoko. Things take a turn for the strange when their investigation is interrupted by brief, freak (briefreak?) earthquake!
DON’T. TRUST. BLUE. SPACE ROCKS. Yesterday’s pretty shook up, but he has it together enough to tell Ito and Arashi that his friend Ichiro Fukui is in trouble… not knowing the danger of colorful space rocks, Yesterday recently gave a red one to Fukui!
Arashi confiscates the red space rock and assigns a security detail to keep an eye on the understandably paranoid Fukui. But that blue rock is still out there!
Dr. Kawaguchi (who is apparently such a baller scientist he has a chauffeur) stumbles onto the diabolical rock and takes it back to his dope-ass geodesic dome laboratory for further, laser-y study. It didn’t like getting tapped by a tiny hammer, but maybe it’ll be chill about getting zapped with heat beams?
The space rock warps Kawaguchi’s reality, but not the same way it did for Yesterday.
Yesterday literally got zapped into next week, but Kawaguchi is trapped between a bunch of invisible walls like a labcoat-clad mime. But it’s a big facility, surely someone will hear him screaming and stumbling around and come check on him, right?
Hayata and Captain Mura go to check out Kawaguchi’s lab while Ito and Arashi lock down the red meteorite. With the SP’s all busy (Fuji’s holding down the fort at HQ and keeping communications open), Hoshino goes out snoopin’! When Hayata and Cap get to the lab, there’s a great gag where the scientist that saw the fourth dimensional clusterfuck earlier opens the door, expects reality warping weirdness, but instead gets a boring, empty lab. Shit gets crazy immediately after that though!
Hayata gives zero fucks and just grabs onto the telekinetic, sentient(?!) space rock. They can’t use their communicators, so Hayata starts to think that maybe they’re trapped in some kind of energy field or alternate dimension. That’s a bit of a leap based on bad cell phone signal, but he’s right! Hayata figures if they can get the rock away from them, they can get out of its sphere of influence. Hayata: “fuck it, I’ll chuck it!”
Time and space are thoroughly dorked in their immediate vicinity, so Hayata can’t just toss the rock away from them. In a surprising character moment, Cap starts to freak a little. It’s interesting becuase he’s normally the cool, calm, level-headed voice of reason, but that was all before he ever had to exist outside the laws of physics. He snaps out of it pretty quick, but it’s a neat moment. They find Dr. Kawaguchi, still goochin’ it up in a glass case of
They’re able to get out of there with Kawaguchi just as Ito and Arashi show up… with a little extra something they found on the way!
Now they have both of the dangerous meteorites in their possession, so they figure they might as well lock ’em up together! Why not!
Cool cool cool cool cool. Hey, so what’s Hoshino been up to this whole time?
Getting the inside scoop from Yesterday, good work Hoshino! Yesterday tells Hoshino that the two meteorites should never, under any circumstance be kept together. Kawaguchi’s studies have also found that the rocks are actually living things! Left in close proximity, they could combine into a monster.
Hoshino rushes back to HQ with his findings, but Fuji leads him away thinking that he’s just goofin’ around. It’s too late anyway though, because those space rocks are already gettin’ bizzay!
The silver lining is that Hoshino and Fuji are clear of the building (and meet up with Hayata) when the rocks turn into Bullton and the fabric of reality within HQ gives itself a wedgie. Everybody else has their work all the way cut out for them.
Ito is tasked with escorting Fukui and Yoko to safety while Arashi and Mura set off to destroy the two meteorites. Both of these tasks are mundane and easy… right up until they’re not:
Ito, Yoko and Fukui give up on the stairway to heaven pretty quickly, and Ito determines that they’ll need to jump off the nearby cliff into the lake below.
Unsurprisingly Yoko and Fukui are not into this plan and try to stop Ito. This idea is nonsense, but they’re in a nonsense world, so at this point it’s as good as anything else they could come up with! They really take the time to milk a little bit of tension out of this sequence, right up until….
Meanwhile on the outside, Fuji’s called in the JSDF to deal with Bullton (not to be confused with Bolton)! We also get our first really clear look at this episode’s freaked-out monster.
Bullton is simply unlike anything we’ve seen before. Not just in Ultraman, but in the whole giant monster/kaiju genre. It’s kind of a funky, glittery, red-white-‘n’-blue meteorite with exaggerated, protruding “craters”. I fucking love this thing. It’s a gigantic, evil Bumble Ball from outer space:
Or a malevolaent Katamari:
The Ultra Wiki says Bullton gets its name from French surrealist poet André Breton, who died a few weeks before the episode aired. It wouldn’t shock me, especially considering upcoming Ultra baddie Dada is named for and inspired by the absurdist Dadaist art movement. Ultraman writers are fine art nerds and the show is better for it. Bullton’s vocalizations are reused sound effects from Dogora, and apparently suit actor Teruo Aragaki is in there at least some of the time!
So first comes the tank battalion! Bullton’s a big stationary blobbery kinda orb, this should be a short fight, right?
Hahaha, fuck no! The tanks lay into Bullton, but it responds by sticking a weird little feeler out of one of its protrusions and firing off a beam of pure chaos magic!
After the tanks get spanked, the JSDF sends in a screamin’ squad of fighter jets. Surely this will work, right?
Bullton is a straight-up brain-melter. This is crazy, but I’m sure JSDF can dig those tank dudes out of the ground and–
Maybe they’ll… safely continue flying through the air, or?…
A lot of Ultraman episodes will have a spooky, Twilight Zone-y first half that switches to more traditional kaiju action-fantasy for the second half, but Passport to Infinity makes the giant monster showdown just as trippy and eerie as the first half, and I am bananas about that. This is already a classic episode in my book, and it’s not even over yet!
Seeing that the JSDF are hopelessly outmatched, Hayata Ultras out and does his best to end the madness! But Bullton just freezes him in mid-air!
Bullton extends a second little doo-dad that starts spinning Ultraman faster and faster in place:
Then another little dinger pops out that sends him plummeting through the surface of the Earth and into some kind of ghostly nether-realm:
Through sheer force of will (awesome) Ultraman overcomes Bullton’s dimension-shredding fuckery, blasts back into our plane of consciousness and starts like… Tasmanian Deviling in place?
With some of Bullton’s accoutrement cooked, Ultraman busts out his trusty hand laser and just blows the ever-loving piss out of Bullton. It’s a really spectacular multi-stage explosion with individual pyrotechnics satisfyingly blowing out of each crater exactly how I hoped it would:
Bullton understandably tries to bail, and of course Ultraman ain’t havin’ it.
Bullton’s weirdness isn’t done just yet though! After it goes up in a ball of fire, a little mini-Bullton materializes on Earth. Maybe the Science Patrol will take it in for study to see if–
With Bullton Bull-done, the SPs all regroup at the (hopefully returned to normal) HQ. Hayata thanks Hoshino for his sleuthing and asks “What kind of reward would you like?” We’re answered with a heartwarming crossfade:
We already saw Hoshino in full Science Patrol gear in the previous episode, but it’s exciting to see his official promotion, especially in a show like this where major, permanent character developments are so rare. After facing one of their strangest, deadliest, and most powerful threats, the Science Patrol is now a little smarter, a little stronger, and a little braver. Great episode.
Brother from Another
Not to be confused with 1984’s charmingly low-key and wonderfully offbeat The Brother From Another Planet.
Great flick though!
Continuing this month’s theme of creepy episodes, Brother from Another Planet starts with a mysterious smog rolling in over the city–smog that contains lethal amounts of radiation!
The Science Patrol are on the case right away. According to their intel, this isn’t the result of a nuclear weapons test or launch… or at least, not a test or launch from our world. Arashi and Ito are dispatched to patrol the streets, and apparently putting their visors down is enough to protect them from lethal amounts of radiation?!
Visor goofs aside, Arashi and Ito patrolling the smoky city streets is deliciously moody and atmospheric. All the lights have a fuzzy, blown-out quality to them, the streets are foggy and sinister… it’s like an accidental sneak preview of Blade Runner‘s grimy, rain-soaked future noir.
Ito and Arashi spot this incredibly suspicious-looking weirdo and try to question him.
BTW “GADDAM ALIEM” is exactly how I took it down in my notes. Brother From Another Planet is off to a wild start! Ito is (fully understandably) startled by this development, and needs Arashi’s help to re-capture the actual fucking spaceman.
For a second it looks like the culprit has mysteriously given our heroes the slip, but they happen to glance up and spot some legitimately unsettling and surreal horseshit:
This freaky-ass thing is like jigglin’ up the side of a sheer building, accompanied by some absolutely perfect “wee-woo” sci-fi creature feature music! Arashi’s had enough and does his Arashi thing:
The creature writhes around in agony (still halfway up the building!) and then fades away. Arashi thinks they’ve wrapped up the whole “random extraterrestrial roaming the city streets threateningly”, so he starts to call it in:
The alien stuns them both with a piercing sound and just plows right past them like it’s no big thing. His name is Zarab, and like Baltan that’s also the name of his species and home planet. He’s got a really cool, strange look. His big, dome-like, metallic head merges seamlessly with his organic looking body–this is a truly alien being. And he’s made out of a heavily modified, repurposed Ragon suit!
Zarab hijacks the SP’s radio frequency and starts talking to them! Series stalwart Teruo Aragaki is the actor in the Zarab suit, and in the original Japanese he’s voiced by Takeshi Aono. Video game fans might know Aono as the Japanese voice of Col. Campbell in the Metal Gear Solid games or as Roy in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, while anime fans might know him from his work on various Dragon Ball Zes or Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. But I’m a dub fan, so instead of Aono’s dulcet tones I heard unintelligible, reverb-blasted fat guy voice.
Oh and guess who instantaneously drops in to chat?!
I was barely able to glean that Zarab claims he wants to be a helpful big brother to humanity. Zarab’s name even comes from jumbling up the word “brother”, publications have listed his English name as Therrob, making the brother connection clearer. Cap wisely tells Zarab to prove it by cleaning up the irradiated mist swirling around downtown. Zarab’s like “sure,” and then they all carpool out in the Corvair.
Zarab Moses-es the smog away!
Zarab’s true to his word! The toxic fog clears, so the SPers give him a place to stay the night as thanks. I mean, it’s the least they can do for their helpful new friend!
The next morning the SPers attend a classified government debriefing regarding their encounter with Zarab. Arashi’s holding down the fort at HQ, and is very surprised to see Fuji stayed behind. She brought him tea though, so that’s nice!
At the debriefing Ito looks and acts biggity-baked.
Hayata notices pretty quickly. Or at least, he notices Ito’s comm badge antenna is up and transmitting the top secret meeting. This little sequence is fascinating to me: it’s simultaneously a dry physical comedy bit and a legitimately unnerving WTF moment for Hayata.
After the meeting they take Ito to a doctor who confirms that he’s under some sort of spell and that he’ll have to be treated with electroshock therapy. So that’s, you know, genuinely upsetting if you really let it sink in.
Some guys from Japan’s space agency (in 1966 its real-world counterpart would have been NAL) roll into Science Patrol HQ to take Zarab into custody. Mura (still thinking Zarab’s on the up and up) says no, but Zarab forcefully says yes! Zarab blows up the SP’s translator, whips out his own translator that he built on the down-low and bails with the space agency goons!
Hayata knows this is fishy as fuck and tails them out of the building. When Zarab takes to the sky (despite it’s name, I don’t think Japan’s “Space Department” is actually located in outer space), Hayata follows suit!
Zarab boards a Saturn rocket that’s been in orbit around Earth. Hayata suits up and space-spies on him!
Hayata scrambles back to the VTOL (which didn’t need the booster rocket ring attachment for space travel this time? Magic xylophone, I hope somebody got fired for that blunder, etc.) to get back to Earth and warn everybody that Zarab’s a space-douche. Hayata’s fires up the jets, starts zooming home… and then the jets crap out.
Time for a little troubleshooting! Hayata goes to re-ignite the thrusters–
Zarab suddenly materializing inside the VTOL is scary, but the fact that he constantly has to lug around his jambox also makes it pretty funny. It gets scary again when Zarab reveals that he knows Hayata is Ultraman! He even knows about the beta capsule! Zarab explains that he’s a born conquerer, and he has his sights set on Earth. Holy shit! Zarab’s got plans for Hayata, and they start with Zarab teleporting the two of them off the VTOL and letting it crash in the middle of the city.
Arashi’s barely been dispatched to investigate the crash when reports start streaming in that Ultraman is attacking the city.
That fucking weasel Zarab cruises into the council room and starts talking mad shit not just about Ultraman, but about the Science Patrol. He says they’ll refuse to fight Ultraman because they’re working together to overthrow the government.
Zarab finishes Mean Girls-ing Ultraman and the Science Patrol and goes back to check on Hayata, bound up in high-tech metal restraints in a secure location. Zarab gets all handsy with Hayata, making one last desperate attempt to find the beta capsule:
Zarab gives up on the beta capsule and moves forward with his own mysterious backup plan, leaving Hayata behind. Good thing Hoshino was made a full member, because guess who rappels in right after Zarab bails?!
While Hoshino frantically works to cut Hayata loose, we see what Zarab’s plan B looks like:
Seeing Ultraman attack the city and fight his way through JSDF artillery is surreal… and pretty dope if I’m being completely honest! His angular, menacing face (especially the angry, amber eyes) remind me of Belial, the evil (non-imposter) Ultra we get in a later series:
Hoshino cuts Hayata loose and makes the extremely odd choice of rappelling out of the building instead of just trying the stairs. Stairs would’ve made (way, way) more sense, but they wouldn’t have led to a crazy-thrilling action setpiece: Fake Ultraman snatching up Hoshino!
I always find it super exciting when kaiju interact directly with us squishy little humans, and so far we haven’t seen it happen a ton on Ultraman. Hoshino’s in for the ride of his life, because here comes the REAL Ultraman!
Ultraman immediately reaches for danglin’ Hoshino, and the two Ultramen brawl each other for custody of the plucky kid!
The real Ultraman manages to wrench Hoshino away without splattering the poor kid, gently sets him down, and continues the fight with his dastardly doppelgänger!
After some grapplin’, Fake Ultraman tries to get the fuck out, but real Ultraman ain’t having it!
They tussle on the ground a little bit before they take their fight to the sky!
Zarab shoots off a crappy little hand blaster before Ultraman gut-checks him mid-air and they wrestle as they plummet back to Earth.
Ultraman nails the pin from low orbit!
But you know this can’t end with a pin, even a crazy-sick one from the stratosphere. Time for ye olde hand-lasers!
That’s it for Zarab and this episode! I dig the creepy and atmospheric first half, Zarab’s plan to turn the world against Ultraman is a fresh, funky storyline, and the action in the back half is exciting and stuffed with striking, iconic visuals. Unfortunately the hiccups in the story are noticeable too though. With a tighter script, this could have been a crown jewel of the series. As it stands, it’s more of an unpolished gem.
That’s it for this month Ultrafans! I’m gonna take a break next month for Pacific Rim Uprising, but I definitely see more Ultraman in our near future!