Ultraman: Towards the Future

Originally reviewed August 2018

vlcsnap-2018-08-08-17h27m10s265Signs of Life – Though occasionally a little clunky (As with most of the show), a pretty decent start to the series that certainly sets up a lot with the Gudis virus making its way to Earth and infecting the wildlife, in this case, a tadpole. The members of UMA are all introduced well and have decent chemistry and some humorous moments (With Charles and Jean getting the chance to shine the most) and Jack Shindo displaying the right amount of intrigue. Jack shows reluctance in fighting the Gudis-mutated monster, stating it to just be confused, something will be expanded upon next episode. The show’s placement within the Showa continuity is up for debate, as UMA does not appear to recognize Ultraman and Captain Grant believing him to be hostile (Though with the Gudis virus infected all sorts of lifeforms, it is understandable). However, during astronaut Haggard’s transmission on Mars, he refers to him as Ultraman. So really, its up to you (The show being set in Australia could in part explain their initial unfamiliarity with Ultraman). 3.5/5

vlcsnap-2018-08-08-17h33m15s870The Hibernator – Essentially the second part of the previous episode, and like the one before it, pretty solid with just a few hiccups. The environmental repercussions of Gudis’ infestation is explored, with the ice caps melting even faster. Intelligence agent and typical(ly unfunny) comic-relief Ike is introduced, and revealed is Haggard’s survival – as a tool of Gudis. Despite his blatant shadiness and inability to abide by the rules, Grant wants Shindo to become a full-fledged UMA member, knowing the value in his knowledge of Gudis. Charlie states that they have been keeping monsters and other supernatural threats under wraps for a very long time, but now can no longer do so with the Gudis virus and Ultraman, which would seem to contradict monsters being very common knowledge in past shows, though he may just be referring to Australia (With Gudis being by far the biggest threat the country has ever faced). In a very interesting scene, Shindo debates with Great about saving mankind from Gudis, with Shindo expressing his disillusionment with mankind isn’t exactly a stellar race and the virus isn’t bound to make things any worse and was perhaps meant to be. Certainly a different point of view from a typical host, and his disdain for mankind would certainly explain his choice to be an astronaut. The monster Gigasaurus is portrayed through a mixture of a puppet and suit and comes off as somewhat inconsistent (with the puppet looking quite jerky), but rather unique. 4/5

vlcsnap-2018-08-08-17h29m54s774The Child’s Dream – Nothing extraordinary, but a decent episode with themes reminiscent of past shows. The titular child’s anger fueling the Gudis-mutation (formerly his pet lizard mixed with the DNA of an ancient creature) is quite similar to how several Choju born after Yapool’s demise mutated from his remains are fueled by the negative emotions of people, and certainly draws parallels to the Minus energy seem throughout Ultraman 80. Shindo is finally recruited as a full-time UMA member here. The child’s supposed closeness with his pet lizard is barely explored, giving us barely any attachment to him, and Kim somehow knowing him prior to the events of the episode is pretty pointless. Not amazing, but alright. 3/5

The Storm Chaser – Another insignificant, but perfectly serviceable episode. The monster is among the show’s more fun, essentially being a giant Tasmanian Devil from Looney Tunes. Said to be an ancient god of sorts, it is debated throughout the episode if it has been infected by Gudis or is simply punishing mankind for the damage done to their planet, perfectly evidenced in the beginning with two bogans disturbing the wildlife with a machine gun. Nothing stellar, but entertaining. 3/5

vlcsnap-2018-08-08-17h30m57s092Blast from the Past – A very good, tense episode that follows up on the Gudis-infected Haggard. In a lot of way, its a remake of Decisive Battle! Ace vs. Hideki Goh with a Haggard essentially being Gudis in disguise (Much like the alien disguising himself as Goh under Yapool’s orders) and earning UMA’s trust by defeating a monster with a weapon (Like the imitation Goh earning TAC’s trust). The friendship had between Shindo and Haggard certainly adds an extra level of intensity to the whole situation, as does UMA having to figure out which of the two mysteriously alive astronauts to trust. Jean calls the choice between death or becoming one with Gudis “bullshit”, a fairly hefty word for the program that apparently made it past the censors in the US. A great episode that ends on a cliffhanger. 4/5

vlcsnap-2018-08-08-17h35m14s908The Showdown – The finale to the Gudis arc of the show, and a great one at that, with every UMA member getting a chance to shine. Picking up where the last episode left off, UMA is put under martial law after being unable to defeat the ever-growing Gudis and are led by the psychotic General Brewer, who is hilariously over-the-top, even willing to nuke the entire continent to destroy Gudis (Australia has nukes apparently). All of the UMA members work as a team the best they can to prevent that from happening, while also stopping Gudis, giving the whole thing a nice “teamwork” feel (Even Ike shines a little). Gudis is said to feed off of fear and submission, which was how it apparently took over Haggard. Great’s final confrontation with the revived “Super Gudis” is quite unconventional, and though it ends a little abruptly, is quite clever. All-in-all, a great action-packed mid-series finale that’s on-par with some of the classic episodes of the original shows. 4.5/5

The Forest Guardian – The first non-Gudis story in the show, and a pretty good one, with UMA again defying orders from higher ups in order to rescue a girl. Arthur displays a lot of empathy, determined to rescue the young girl before time runs out. The wild boy living in the forest is completely pointless, but could have been used to further sympathize the monster, whom is only attacking due to the disruption in the forest. The show’s environmental theme is definitely played up here. A decent, occasionally “feel good” episode despite a few hiccups. 3.5/5

vlcsnap-2018-08-08-17h39m02s264The Bitter Harvest – A pretty cool episode with another environmental message, this time warning of the abundance of pesticides, a concept seen previously in Betamay Has Dissapeared!,though it’s definitely upped here. The swarm of monsters are among the show’s coolest, and while they are mutant freaks born from pesticide, the Queen does meet a rather sympathetic end (After all, they can’t help it). The only real gripe is the crooked farmer behind the pesticide (Whom apart from that is also abusive to his mentally slow assistant nicknamed “Sandman”, who’s basically Lenny from Of Mice and Men) doesn’t at all pay for it, as he’s last seen getting away in his truck. A quick scene of Majaba stomping on it would have been fine. Still, a lot of fun. 4/5

The Biospherians – Another episode with a heavy-handed environmental message, this time involving plans wanting to dominate us out of revenge for our destroying of them. As suggested by the title, a biosphere plays a big role in the story, and makes for a pretty unique setting. The mastermind behind it, Dr. Krankstein is extremely over-the-top and a hoot whenever she’s on screen. Nothing extraordinary, but a fine romp. But why didn’t Charles use ZAT’s plant-translator when attempting to communicate with one from the biosphere??? 3.5/5

vlcsnap-2018-08-08-17h41m25s602Tourists from the Stars – A lighthearted Charlie-focused story that’s a lot of fun and at times heartwarming. The husband/wife dynamic of the aliens is pretty interesting, with the husband being disgusted by all of humankind’s atrocities while the wife thinks they can still be helped. Charlie’s befriending of Veronica, the wife, is nice and lead to some good character moments for him. Despite him doing a heroic deed the last time we saw him, Ike is back to being a bumbling comic relief character (Receiving a well-deserved punch to the face by Jean) that’s desperate to catch an alien. A truly incredible scene occurs early on when Charlie gets into a feud with a drunkard believing his name to be “Cheese”. 4/5

vlcsnap-2018-08-08-17h42m05s672The Survivalists – A take on the “perfect race” concept, and while nothing stellar, enjoyable enough. The man behind the whole “master race”, Norberg is insanely over-the-top, basically being a combo of Dr. Strangelove and Davros. The episode’s monster is a bizarre organic flying saucer of sorts that Norberg desperately wants his hands on to escape from the soon-to-end Earth (Some foreshadowing perhaps?), only for the two to merge into one. Could the creature be from Black Star? You never know…3/5

vlcsnap-2018-08-08-17h42m36s077The Age of Plagues/Nemesis – A good finale to the series, though a few notes short of being a classic. The idea of mankind venturing beyond their knowledge is really played up here, with UMA attempting (and failing) to repair Earth’s ozone layer, resulting in a near-apocalypse, deemed the last straw of all of the constant environmental damage done to the Earth. The monster Kodolar and Shiralee aren’t at all evil beings determined to destroy the Earth, rather its guardians that destroy anything harming it, in this case, man. Certainly lots of interesting concepts are present (With a pretty massive twist that’s certainly over-the-top but fits within the context of the show), but it is somewhat hampered by a low-budget (it seems the budget had run out by this point) being unable to really showcase the scope of the situations, resulting in a lot of stock footage being used throughout (Some tolerable like missiles firing or buildings burning, others not so much like a NASA rocket launch representing Charlie going into space). But more notably, the two-parter puts a rather good deal of focus on Ike, of all characters, with him quitting his job and joining a doomsday cult only to redeem himself towards the end. We certainly know the character, but for the finale to focus on him more than most UMA members, especially when he already had a redemption of sorts in The Showdown is rather bizarre (A smaller supporting part like in that episode would have worked better). General Brewer is back as well, and is only slightly more subdued than he was last time. Some hiccups that prevent it from being great, but a nice cap to a show that ended far too soon. 3.5/5