Ultra Seven

Originally reviewed June – July 2018

The Invisible Challenger – Far from the strongest of introductory episodes, with somewhat clunky pacing, but nevertheless introduces us to all we need to know, with a good intro to Dan Moroboshi (Plus his Capsule Monster Windam), who we’re left wanting to know and more about. The Alien Cool’s plan is very vague (Just collecting humans as specimens), but given how much else had to be established in this episode, it’s understandable. Introduced is the Terrestrial Defense Force (TDF), a UN-backed military organization that serves as the parent organization for the Ultra Garrison. They are stated to have been around for at least 15 years prior to the show, so just where they were during the events of Ultraman, and what they’re relation to the Science Patrol is (Also parent organization? Did the two join forces after the Zetton invasion, resulting in the Ultra Garrison?) is not clear (Though given the lose connections between Ultraman and Ultra Seven, it is understandable) Guest stars Akihiko Hirata (As Dr. Iwamaoto perhaps? Unlikely…) in an unfortunately small part. 3/5

The Green Terror – Stronger than the first episode, though still a little rough around the edges. A pretty standard Invasion of the Body Snatchers-type alien invasion story, there are some pretty atmospheric moments (With the alien feeding on human blood), and decent characterization for Dan. This episode marks the first time we see Seven in his giant form, as he remained human-sized last episode. Nothing noteworthy, but certainly entertaining. 3/5

The Elmer’s Glue cow is on a rampage!

The Secret of the Lake – The first episode to be produced, and a very fun one that introduces one of the franchise’s more recognizable monsters, Eleking, along with his all-female race masters, the Pitts. Also featured is the recurring plot point of Dan’s Ultra Eye being stolen. Introduced is the second of Dan’s three Capsule Monsters, the buffalo-like Miclas. An engaging plot and cool monsters make this a very good episode that seems to have nailed the show’s basic formula, despite it being the very first filmed. 4/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-26-13h26m08s439Respond, Max – A pretty run-of-the-mill alien invasion story that again involves the Ultra Eye being stolen, but done pretty well. Provides several moments of characterization for several of the Ultra Guard members, including Dan being quick to take notice of unusual behaviors. The confrontation between Ultra Seven and the giant Godora is a little weak (barring some nice size-changing effects), but overall a good episode. It is rather a shame that the Godoras did not return, as they could have become the show’s equivalent to the Baltans in Ultraman. 3.5/5

The Erased Time – Another pretty typical alien invasion plot (Something pretty commonplace in this show), but with a quite unique alien that’s impressively brought to life. Also notable for a scene in which Dan snaps and gets locked away for it. Not amazing, but well worth your time. 3.5/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-26-13h28m34s712Dark Zone – One of the more heavy-handed episodes in the series in which the Ultra Garrison have to face a horrible choice. Though the choice they may have to make is certainly horrific, the aliens, the Pegassas, involved don’t come across as particularly sympathetic, as they are given an offer, only for them to flat-out ignore it, with it later being revealed that they were intending to make the same choice if the people of Earth were unable to comply. The episode has a “survival of the fittest” theme throughout it, with both mankind and the Pegassas prepared to make the same decision in order for them to survive. 4/5

Alien Prisoner 303 – An insignificant episode that’s a pretty standard “cops and robbers” story. The idea of an alien fugitive certainly has potential to be fun, though we sadly don’t see too many crimes committed. The climax is also quite weak, though is unique due to the fact UltraSeven himself has next to no involvement. Is notable for a glimpse at a possible friendly relationship between the people of Earth and planet Quaroso however. Also featured another cameo by Yasuhiko Saijo. 2.5/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-26-13h30m06s288The Targeted Town – Akio Jossji’s first of four episodes directed, and one of his most memorable. While not quite as kooky as some past or future episodes of his, it is still filled with beautiful cinematography and social commentary. A relatively clever plot by the alien playing with the humans’ trust (Which the narrator admits could not occur in the real world due to our lack of trust) mixed with Jissoji’s typical cinematography (The final battle is particularly nice) make this episode a classic. Should also scare one away from smoking. Received a sequel 38 years later in Ultraman Max‘s 24th episode…possibly (Ultraman Max’s place in the M-78 universe continuity is very confusing). 5/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-26-13h35m54s215Android Zero Directive – An unusual, but enjoyable episode with one of the more demented plots by an alien involving brainwashing children who buy toy guns from him (therefore displaying levels of bloodthirstiness) and creating an army out of them. Perhaps more relevant in the United States in the age of heavy gun-related violence among young people. There’s truly no positive outcome to his plot – either the child army will kill or be killed. The climax set in a toy store is filled with all sorts of creative scenes, as to be expected. Guest stars Yukiko Kobayashi. 4/5

The Suspicious Neighbor – An episode similar in plot to Hitchcock’s Rear Window, if it featured alternate dimensions and big-eared aliens. The Icarus alien’s dimension is certainly odd (Filled with yellow balloons) but creative. Not quite a stand-out episode, but very entertaining. 4/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-26-13h37m57s778Fly to the Mountain of Evil – An excellent episode featuring very little Dan and focusing mostly on the fellow boys of the Ultra Garrison (Anne is absent as well). A well thought-out mystery with a genuinely tragic scene make this a stand-out of the early episodes. The monster of the week, Narse, is among the more impressively portrayed during the final fight, being a marionette, while its alien master, Wild, is among the show’s freakiest aliens (Even if his exact plot is unclear). The only minor flaw is we don’t find out much about exactly how the camera-like weapon used works or how Amagi and the team of scientists were able to configure it, though that likely would have eaten up too much of the episode’s 24-minute runtime. 4.5/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-26-00h50m25s975From a Planet With Love – The infamous banned episode, banned due to its aliens appearance and origins hitting atomic bomb survivors (hibakusha) a little too close to home. Notoriety aside however, the episode is among Jissoji’s weakest, lacking in much social commentary (Outside of a minor anti-nuclear warfare message), tragedy or humor, thing that usually make up his episodes. The Spell aliens’ plan of giving children watches (As long as they draw a rocket…for some reason) had already been done basically (and much better) with Chibull giving children mind-controlling pins with their toys. The cinematography is still fantastic, as per usual with Jossoji, but overall not one of the his finer efforts. Guest stars Hiroko Sakurai. 3/5

The Man from V3 – A good episode that gives Kiriyama some time to shine, introducing an old colleague of his from Space Station V3, Kurata. Filled with lots of action and fun moments along with a unique alien (Though their plan isn’t exactly the most menacing), even if the climax drags on a bit too long. 4/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-26-13h42m09s991Westward Ultra Garrison – A superb two-parter filled with action, suspense and plenty of twists and turns, along with showcasing members of TDF’s US base. Worth wondering is if the Pedan aliens were truly mistaken in their belief that the Earth wanted war with them, or if they simply used the opportunity of Earth probes visiting their planet as an excuse to wage war on them. The only minor flaw occurs in part two, when a weapon is being developed to combat the robot King Joe. When the process begins, Seven and Joe are fighting, and by the time its finished. they’re still fighting. So how long were they fighting for? Regardless, an excellent pair of episodes. Guest stars Yoshio Tsuchiya. 4.5/5 (Both parts)

The Eye That Shines in the Darkness – A mostly substandard episode that repeats the idea of aliens believing an observational probe sent to their planet by Earth is an invasion threat, something seen just one episode ago. The alien, however, is somewhat unique (And the whole invasion threat thing seems to be a genuine misunderstanding here unlike the incident with the Pedan), and it is good to see the regular Ultra Guard roster switched up a bit (Instead of the usual Dan, Soga and Furuhashi paroling its Dan, Anne and Amagi). 3/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-26-13h43m41s615Underground! Go! Go! Go! – The episode that reveals the story behind Dan Moroboshi, as a man identical in appearance and spirit is trapped in a cave after a mysterious quake. Worth noting is the fact that the enemies, a group of robots, are implied to not be from space but rather from Earth’s past, continuing with the idea of an ancient civilization with technology far great than ours. It isn’t confirmed, but it is heavily implied. It is little odd how nobody notices the striking resemblance between Dan and the man Jiro, and the fate of the mouse (not canary) trapped in the coalmine that Jiro stays to rescue (Resulting in his entrapment) is never actually revealed, but a solid, and important episode that is well worth your time.4/5

vlcsnap-2018-05-11-20h58m38s449Escape Space X – An enjoyable, action-packed episode that isn’t too heavy on plot, but is filled with plenty of fun set pieces and creative ideas. Worth noting is that Commander Morabe claims to have encountered a virtual space like the one in the episode when stationed in Washington a few years back. The final battle between Seven and the Bell alien is also quite fun, especially with just how ready to rumble Bell was. But sorry, the skydiving effects are bad even by 1968. Early drafts for the episode state that Bell created the virtual space to capture humans as potential food source for his race. A disturbing concept that sadly didn’t make it into the final cut. Was deemed good enough to be released theatrically as apart of the Toei Manga parade in 1968. 4/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-26-13h55m42s365Project Blue – A bit of mixed bag with many interesting ideas and set pieces, but several plot holes and other technical flaws. There are several eerie moments early on (And the general concept of a race terrorizing a single man’s home is fairly creepy), and the idea of a barrier that keeps aliens out of Earth could be quite useful, but it never gets used again after this episode. The gaijin actress playing Dr. Miyabe’s wife is quite bad, though I’m not sure if its fully her fault or the actress that dubbed her (Probably a mixture of the two). The Bado commander claims that they all destroyed all living life on Pluto back when the Earth was still a fiery ball, which would have been over a billion years ago. Whether he’s simply referring to his race or he himself isn’t quite clear, but regardless, that might possibly make his the oldest known race in the series. 3/5

Destroy Earthquake Epicenter X – A decidedly average episode, but worth your time. The character of Dr. Iwamura is delightfully crabby, and something is clearly up with either him or his assistant. The subplot regarding two young women stumbling across a strange stone adds almost nothing to the main plot, however, and the monster Giradorus isn’t one of the better realized monsters in the show (Despite a unique design). Not great, but far from the worst. 3/5

Pursue the Undersea Base – Another episode with virtually no plot, but lots of action. The first half or so kind of drags, with there just being a lot of undersea searching, but once things get going, it’s a pretty enjoyable romp, with a tense climax. Seven’s main foe, an amalgamation of various sunken ships including the Battleship Yamato, is among the most unique in the series. Not much to say (Again, hardly any plot here), other than its fun, albeit a bit slow at first. 3/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-26-13h56m26s668The Human Farm – An unsettling episode with a rather disturbing premise involving aliens creating a food source from humans (A concept that was in the original script for Escape Space X), though only through women due to the spores only working with female chromosomes (Sort of a play on the whole “Mars Needs Women” plot, though more or less disturbing depending on who you ask). A real sense of dread is felt throughout, especially once Anne becomes infected. Several scenes have unusual cinematography (Including a scene shot entirely in Sepia and another with a green hue) almost reminiscent of Akio Jissoji. The only real downside is the aliens themselves are less than stellar looking, though they thankfully seldom appear in the flesh. 4/5

shadowSearch for Tomorrow – An enjoyable episode that gives Captain Kiriyama some focus and doesn’t even feature Dan until about 10 minutes in (With him said to be on a mission, even if it would have been cool for them to follow up on his MIA status at the end of last episode). The fortune teller Yasui is among the more fun guest stars. Nothing spectacular, but very enjoyable. It is strange when watching the episode to think the Shadow aliens (Dubbed “space guerrillas” for their violent methods) would become a major plot point in Ultraman Geed almost 50 years later. 4/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-26-13h58m20s497Return to the North! – An emotional episode focusing on Furuhashi featuring one of the most intense scenes in the entire series. Though most of the episode is taken quite seriously, the battle between Seven and the monster (Which happens to be capsule monster Windam possessed) is incredibly goofy. Slightly inconsistent tone aside, an excellent episode. 4.5/5

“We are the Hot Dog men!”

Showdown at 140 Degrees Below Zero – Another snow-based episode, this time in the form of a massive blizzard covering all of the world. This episode places Dan in serious peril, as winter apparently does not exist on M-78, with the rest of the Ultra Guard and TDF unable to accomplish much with the power out, having to work the hardest they can. The aliens responsible for the massive blizzard claim to have been behind the ice age. A highlight of the show. 4.5/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-26-14h10m07s923Super Weapon R-1 – One of the darkest episodes in the series that’s a warning against nuclear weapons and features several characters displaying rather messed up thoughts, with most (Though not Dan) being excited at the prospect of an all-powerful missile destroying a planet to prove Earth’s power. Also worth mentioning is the final battle, which is among the show’s saddest and goriest. Despite the lesson learned in the end, this will be far from the final time in the series that a super weapon is either tested or used in defense, only to make matters worse. Some people never learn. A pretty poignant message. 4.5/5

Operation Cyborg – A mostly mundane infiltration story that moves at a slow pace. The Borg aliens are rather cool and have a very neat design (And is a rare female adversary), though the final fight is rather weak. Pretty unremarkable, but certainly not unwatchable. Guest stars Rei Maki. 2.5/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-26-14h13m33s540The 700 Kilometer Run! – An enjoyable “race” episode that provides character development for Amagi, who is arguably the least developed main character in the show. Lots of fun (and tense) scenes, but worth noting is the monster at the end – Dinosaur Tank. One of the goofiest, yet best monsters in the series, if only for the mere concept of it (A dinosaur on a tank). Despite being one of the show’s best remembered beasties, it has yet to make a return in any other series. Also notable for the shot of Dan eating a gigantic cracker while in a theater, much to the annoyance of the man in front of him. 4/5

The Forsaken Earthman – A Tokusatsu version of the popular kids’ book My Teacher Is an Alien. A pretty standard fare, but has some highlights, most notably the final fight (Which is not only set in a fairly unique location but has a twist to it). Also introduced is Soga’s fiance, who will never be seen again. Features the first of several appearances of Masahiko Naruse in the role of an evil alien. 3.5/5

Joji Yuki: “I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hand!”

For Whom Takes the Glory – An episode that introduces a potential new member of the Ultra Garrison, the glory-thirsty TDF member Aoki. It is easy to see why Aoki would be considered for the team given his great skills, but his hunger for glory out a clear hamper on his duties and relation with other members. Though the pacing is a little slow and the alien is just plain bizarre, a great episode. Guest stars Takehisa Yamaguchi. 4/5

vlcsnap-2018-06-12-18h27m26s188The Devil Who Dwells in a Flower – An unconventional story with a unique climax similar to Fantastic Voyage. Though kind of slow moving in the middle (With it almost playing out like a medical drama), a very fun, different episode with some nice, dreamlike cinematography in certain scenes. The episode ends on a somewhat strange note, which only solidifies its dreamlike nature. Guest stars Keiko Matsuzaka. 4/5

The Wandering Planet – Originally written as an episode of Ultraman, with Pagos making a return, the episode has an intriguing idea, but a pretty substandard execution. The monster Riggah (Originally meant for Pagos) isn’t among the most impressive looking monsters, but it is nice to see a dinosaurian beast for a change as opposed to the more commonplace humanoid aliens. One thing to note is the abrupt ending, where the Garrison has no choice but to leave Dan (Whose currently Seven), and never get confirmation of his survival. Introduces Agira, the third capsule monster and my personal favorite of the three. 3/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-26-14h22m59s436The Dead Invaders – An often overlooked episode with one of the show’s more unique alien invaders in what disturbing process they use to invade. Not breathtaking, but a nice change of pace with a memorable sequence in which Seven is trapped in a glass cup that would later be homaged 48 years later in Ultraman X. 3.5/5

The Vanishing City – An interesting, occasionally atmospheric episode that features very little Dan. Worth noting is while the aliens’ method of their goal is somewhat harsh, they are ultimately just trying to survive, similar to the incident with Pegassa. The climax in which Seven chases the monster down the empty city is unique, even if the set itself isn’t among the most convincing. Guest stars Annu Mari (Whose stage name was derived from Anne Yuri). 4/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-26-14h36m13s860Horror on the Moon – Featuring the return of Captain Kurata, not as strong as his debut, with some slow-moving moments, but a worthy comeback. Worth mentioning is the scene in which Kiriyama and Kurata reminisce about battling the Zamppa on the moon four years ago, which would put that incident before the events of Ultraman (Though the continuity between the two shows is loose) when the timeline was revised. Strangely though, they seem to treat that time as the last time they saw each other, even if they were reunited in Iyros’ episode. The monster is sadly unimpressive, feeling like a rehash of Greenmons from Ultraman. Despite some shortcomings, a good, spacey episode. 3.5/5

The 0.1 Second Kill – A Soga-centered episode featuring very little of the other members that feels more like an action film than science fiction story, with Soga even ditching his UG uniform for a suit for much of it. Soga’s rivalry with the elitist TDF officer Hirota (Who like Soga is an expert marksman) is shown, with Hirota is willing to make a deal with the devil just to beat Soga at a shooting match. The alien Pega’s goal is to prevent the creation of an artificial sun near the Earth, something no reason is given for its creation (To keep out Balloonga?). And given what we’d later learn about the Ultra’s homeworld, its a wonder why Dan didn’t speak out against it. Pega (Not to be confused with the Pegassa boy of the same name from Ultraman Geed) is among the silliest looking in the show, bearing a great resemblance to the Blue Meanies from Yellow Submarine. During the scene where Soga is helping the scientist escape from Pega’s flying saucer, a man in black (presumably a crew member) can be spotted in the distance unconcerned. Maybe he’s Seven’s Superior? Not really one of the stand-outs, but a solid episode. 4/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-26-14h37m16s836The Stolen Ultra Eye – A very different kind of episode (Despite it focusing on the stealing of the Ultra Eye yet again) that features no real visible alien threat (Nor uniquely designed aliens) and dives into the themes of expendability among soldiers. The scenes set in the nightclub Noa are shot in unique ways. A very good, though tragic episode. 4/5

ultraseven-bd_38-mov-01_16_14_08-still004The Courageous Battle – An enjoyable story featuring a unique robot menace and a rather emotional promise for Dan to keep. There is one major flaw in the logic of his promise however: Anne is seen tending to another one of her many one-off friends and her sick brother the entire time, so why couldn’t she take Dan’s place in battle (Just like she did last episode) while he tends to them as promised? Even if its her day off, kind of a dick move on her part. Still, a good episode that also features one of the most unique enemy defeats. Despite press material and a later episode giving the show a future setting, the year 1968 can be seen at the top of a newspaper at one point. 4/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-26-14h43m08s389The Seven Assassination Plan – A grand two-parter that features quite possibly Seven’s deadliest foes up to this point, with Seven being rendered helpless and crucified to a cross. The second part features very little Seven and leaves almost everything up to the Ultra Garrison, who are given a limited amount of time to deal with the situation. The Guts aliens are shown sending a monster to analyze Seven’s strength and abilities, a concept that will be used several more times throughout the franchise. The exact element needed to help Seven being within a pendant received by Furushi from his (alleged) lady friend could come off as contrived, but its fortunately handled well with them needing much more of it and recruiting said friend. The only real downside is the lack of a proper psychical confrontation between Seven and Guts at the end. A very  rip-roaring two-parter. 4.5/5 (both parts)

The Challenge from the Deep – A lighthearted episode that starts out entertaining, but loses steam midway through and becomes kind of a bore. The Kappa researchers are a fun enough set of characters, but aren’t enough to save this episode. The Tepetos (Kappas) are virtually identical in appearance to the next episode’s foes the Nonmalt. Normally, I’d save a complaint like that for the next episode, but this episode was actually produced AFTER episode 42. Why the two episodes were aired back-to-back when the enemies have such similar appearances (But are unrelated) is unknown. 2.5/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-26-14h49m25s034Ambassador of the Nonmalt – By far the stronger of the two “fish people in black spandex” episodes that deals with a threat that, for a change, may not be from outer space but a race that predates humankind. Comparable to the 1970 Doctor Who serial “Doctor Who and The Silurians”, a great episode that raises questions about both Earth’s distant past and also the actions taken by the Ultra Garrison. Features a cameo from Masanari Nihei. 5/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-26-14h51m01s121Nightmare on the Fourth Planet – Akio Jissoji’s return to the series, and a great one at that. The dreamlike-feel and surreal situation our heroes are put in make it a stand-out entry, and the theme of humans putting too much reliance on machines, only for them to take over is always great. The heavy usage of empty sports arenas, sound stages and offices give the episode an atmospheric, otherworldly feel despite them all being normal Earth locations (Rather similar to Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville, in terms of both setting and story) and the cruel, authoritarian robot villains (With the Chief being portrayed by alien-regular Masahiko Naruse) of the episode are certainly among the show’s nastiest, not to mention the officer’s constant chewing of his hard candy that creeps down your spine. A classic. Features the return of Masahiko Naruse as the villain. Also worth mentioning is when Dan and Soga awaken from their journey, the ship’s controls read “2000”, which may indicate the date the episode is meant to be set on (Early promotional material stated it being set in the 1980s). Regardless if this was the case or not, the futuristic setting will be retconned by the time Return of Ultraman comes around (And given the ambiguity present throughout the episode, who knows if it’s “true” or not). 5/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-26-15h01m06s599The Terrifying Super Simian – An episode reminiscent of an old poverty row horror film in terms of its somewhat ludicrous plot involving the transferring of ape and human brains. The character of the mute apeman Gorry (Not to be confused with Dr. Gori of Spectreman) is confusing, as one scene makes it seem as if he’s broken free of his captor’s control, and lets Anne loose to save her from receiving the same fate as him. But then the next time we see him, he’s trying to capture Anne. So what happened? There’s also another case of “Just how long were they fighting for?” with Seven and the Goron alien (The entire segment with Gorry trying to capture Anne occurs during their fight), though it isn’t super jarring. The frequent cutting to random footage of monkeys is mildly unsettling. Silly? Undeniably. But entertaining? For sure. 3.5/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-26-14h56m13s172The Boy Who Cried Flying Saucer – Akio Jissoji’s final episode of the Showa series (He would later direct episodes of Ultraman Tiga, Dyna and Max along with the 1990 critical and commercial bomb Ultra Q The Movie: Legend of the Stars), and while not his strongest effort, an enjoyable, lighthearted episode nonetheless. The incredible cinematography isn’t quite up to par, but still features several unique scenes including the glitter-like stars (Especially when reflected against the window) and the psychedelic confrontation between Seven and the Perolyngas. The Perolynga alien claims to be from the Pegassa Nebula, which is a nice little nod. Probably not Jissoji’s perfect swansong, but lots of fun. 4/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-26-14h57m27s611The Duel: Dan vs. Seven – An episode light on plot but entertaining nevertheless. Features something that was bound to happen eventually – Seven vs. Seven. The Salome aliens, being entirely human-like are a nice enough change of pace, though despite being billed as one of the universe’s very smartest races, they exhibit some James Bond villain-level stupidity by simply leaving Dan to die in the crumbling building. Far from a masterpiece, but very fun. 3.5/5

Who are You? – A Twilight Zone-esque story that leaves you with just as many questions as answers. The aliens’ plot hardly makes any sense, but the way it affects characters (With a drunk man coming home one night only for nobody in his apartment complex to recognize him) does make you feel quite sad for them, in a plot point some have interpreted as commentary on the rapid growth of housing complexes at the time. Despite more and more people becoming housed and living close together, the urbanization of them prevented any sort of desire for communication. The final fight features Seven pitted against not one, but three aliens. Despite supposedly being set in the year 2000, the notion of there being a show on TV at 3:00 AM plays a part in the investigation of the plot. Guest stars Akiji Kobayashi, who adds a further layer of sympathy to his character with his performance. Worth noting is a scene in which he shakes hands with Kiriyama, therefore making it a meeting of both captains in a sense. 4/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-26-14h58m58s153The Greatest Invasion in History – Quite possibly the greatest finale of any Ultraman show. Filled with tension and drama, with all of the recurring Ultra Guard/TDF cast members present with the cities of the world at stake in what may be the deadliest alien invasion so far, and Dan at his weakest, nearly unable to fight at such a dire time. We are introduced to UltraSeven’s unnamed superior (Who looks identical in appearance to Seven) for the first and last time. Episode 49 was voted by fans as the greatest episode of any Ultraman show in 2016, and it is not hard to see why. 5/5 (both parts)