Ultraman

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vlcsnap-2018-01-25-22h03m17s915Ultra Operation #1 (ウルトラ作戦第一号) – Worth seeing for its historical value alone. Though certainly not the strongest of episodes, one that establishes the show’s formula well, introducing the Science Patrol (and Hoshino) and Ultraman while leaving plenty of time for action. 3.5/5

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“The lobster men are multiplying!”


Shoot the Invader (侵略者を撃て)
 
– The first alien invasion episode and one introducing one of the franchises’ most popular foes, the Baltans (whose sister race and spaceship were previously seen in Ultra Q’s Garamon Strikes Back). Well-paced and creepy in many scenes. The only downsides are Ide’s constant scenes of cowardice, which could come across as annoying (don’t worry, he gets better!) and the final fight between Ultraman and Baltan, which is poorly executed (so much so, it was re-filmed for a 1979 compilation movie). Guest stars Susumu Fujita. 3.5/5

Sally Forth Science Patrol! (科特隊出撃せよ) – A decent, though insignificant episode that establishes the show’s formula well enough. The monster Neronga’s ability to turn invisible is interesting and could have led to some interesting scenes, but has little bearing on the plot. Guest stars Baragon as Neronga. 3/5

Five Seconds Before the Explosion (大爆発五秒前) – Another good (but unspectacular) episode featuring a giant Ragon (last seen in Ultra Q). Out of all the Ultra Q monsters, Ragon was an odd choice to bring back (given they were human-sized originally), but he works well enough with the explanation given that he was mutated through radiation. A minor complaint is the constant close-ups of Ragon’s face, making the actor’s breathing holes very visible. 3/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-25-22h15m19s850Secret of the Miloganda (ミロガンダの秘密) – An atmospheric episode. Greenmons is sadly among the least interesting of foes fought by Ultraman, though it is somewhat reminiscent of an enemy that could be seen in Ultra Seven. The Death Star-looking greenhouse visited by Arashi and Ide was filmed at the Izu Cactus Park, a common filming location in numerous Tokusatsu shows. The park will be seen again later on in the series. Sadly, the greenhouse was demolished in 2003. Guest stars Akkiko Wakabayashi. 3/5

The Coast Guard Command (沿岸警備命令) – A fun episode with an enjoyable mystery subplot involving diamond smuggling that Hoshino gets wrapped up in. The whole thing indicates the show is finding its footing. Gesura’s suit is a modified Peter from Ultra Q, which might indicate a relation between the two monsters. Worth noting is Fuji’s hysterical reaction to Hayata’s possible death, needing to be held back from searching. This and a few other scenes early on would seem to tease a potential romance between the two of them, but any hints of that will pretty much be dropped entirely. 3.5/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-25-22h05m44s235The Blue Stone of Baraji (バラージの青い石) – A great episode that establishes mythos for the show, revealing other Ultramen have defended the Earth in the past. Introduced is the ancient Ultra Noa, who is slightly implied to be the biblical figure. Noa would go on to become one of the most confusing entities in the franchise, though nothing in the episode is hampered by his presence. The only minor fault is the Science Patrol member from France, who adds almost nothing to the story and could have easily had Fuji in his place. The sets featured were originally seen in Toho’s Adventure in Kigan Castle. 4/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-25-22h18m07s264The Lawless Monster Zone (怪獣無法地帯) – An action-packed, exciting episode from begging to end, showcasing five monsters, including the iconic Red King. Garamon from Ultra Q is repurposed here as the human-sized Pigmon, though a possible relation between the two is not at all specified. Also returning is Peguila, here given ears and called Chandorah. The only minor quibble is the timing regarding Ide, Arashi and Fuji following Pigmon and being led to the scientist while Muramatsu tends to Hayata, which don’t seem to add up. Regardless, a riveting adventure story. Also guest stars Baragon as Magura. 4.5/5

Lightning Operation (電光石火作戦) – A decent, if standard episode originally meant to be the return of Pagos from Ultra Q. Instead, a new monster, also made from Baragon’s suit called Gabora was created. Gabora is an interesting monster, but is too similar to Pagos to the point where they should have just been the same. Strangely, the Science Patrol still seems familiar with Gabora (A leftover relic from his time as Pagos), indicating he was previously encountered before the events of the show. 3/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-25-22h23m50s369The Mysterious Dinosaur Base (謎の恐竜基地) – One of the most popular episodes of the show due to its monster Jirass, who is a barely disguised Godzilla (using the body of 1964 suit and head of the 1965 with an added frill). Notable monster aside, a fun “mad scientist” episode with some interesting set design, most notably the professor’s laboratory. Ide and Ms. Kubo suddenly becoming friends is out of the blue, and the “Scooby Doo” revelation at the end don’t add much, but seeing Tsuburaya’s two most popular creations battle is well worth the price of admission. Apart from Godzilla, Yasuhiko Saijo makes a cameo as a fisherman. 3.5/5

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The Ruffian From Outer Space (宇宙から来た暴れん坊) – A comedic episode, and a very good one at that. Featuring one of the more outlandish concepts of a magic stone that transforms into anything you wish for, which can naturally fall into the wrong hands. A lot of fun from start to finish. 4/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-25-22h43m30s696Cry of the Mummy (ミイラの叫び ) – An action-packed episode, featuring one of the creepiest creatures in the show in the form of the mummy man. A little bit light on plot (almost nothing is really learned about the ancient man uncovered), but big on thrills. Features an invention created by Ide that emits a barrier around a Science Patrol member blocking attacks from monsters which sadly is never seen again. 4/5

Oil S.O.S (オイルSOS) – A standard episode made up for featuring one of the more unique monsters in the show (both in terms of design and execution) and also giving Ide more development, with him paying the penalty for a careless mistake made. Marks the final appearance of the A-Type mask for Ultraman (Thank god!). 3/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-25-22h45m17s655Pearl Oyster Protection Order (真珠貝防衛指令) – The first episode aired to be directed by Akio Jissoji. Sadly, this is probably his weakest as the plot isn’t super engaging and also featured scenes involving Fuji heavily grieving over the loss of pearls which could have sexist accusations made (though given the slight satirical tone of this and many of Jissoji’s other episodes, I’m not sure), but is still worth seeing for its dream-like nature and incredible cinematography (Particularly the scenes featuring Ide and Fuji shopping in Ginza). Marks the first appearance of the much improved B-Type mask for Ultraman. 3.5/5

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Weirdest James Bond gunbarrel ever.

Space Ray of Terror (恐怖の宇宙線) – Jissoji’s second episode aired (Though first directed production-wise) and definitely the one to set his unique style. A bizarre, yet oddly touching episode that features one of the show’s funniest scenes involving the Science Patrol debating on how to defeat the monster. Rather than sensibly wash away the graffiti that comes to life at night time, they go for a direct attack approach, which naturally endangers lives, wanting to put up a “fair fight”. 15 episodes in, and the show is already spoofing itself. Great stuff. 4.5/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-25-22h48m52s571Science Patrol to Outer Space (科特隊宇宙へ) – The return of the Baltan aliens, and what a return it is! An action-a-minute episode featuring the first full-scale invasion of the show. The revamped look of the Baltans is in my opinion superior to the first and I wish had remained their “default” look. Worth noting however is the very ending, which features Hoshino is a Science Patrol uniform, something he would not receive until the next episode. Clearly, the orders of these episodes were reversed. 4.5/5

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“There’s a lady who’s sure
All that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven”

Passport to Infinity (無限へのパスポート) – One of the show’s strangest episodes (at least to not be directed by Akio Jissoji). Not too heavy on plot, but is made up for with its very interesting visuals including the confrontation with the enemy, which is among the most unique in all shows. Hoshino receives his Science Patrol uniform in this episode, despite him being seen with it in the last one, meaning Passport to Infinity should be viewed before Science Patrol to Outer Space (It’s the order for these episodes were swapped in order to prevent two alien-invasion stories in a row, though it’s not like there weren’t other episodes they could have placed between them). 4/5

vlcsnap-2018-07-04-00h07m24s700Brother From Another Planet (遊星から来た兄弟) – Another alien invasion story featuring one of the more clever aliens in the series. Though the outcome is predictable, the episode is still a lot of fun and features the very first enemy to replicate the appearance of an Ultraman in the franchise, something that will become pretty common. A minor complaint is the scene in which Hayata breaks out of his chains through Hoshino’s tears hitting them, though it can be argued that water is its weakness (Episode 9 of Ultra Galaxy NEO, produced 42 years later would again allude to that). Guest stars Yoshio Tsuchiya. 4/5

vlcsnap-2018-05-11-20h08m29s812The Demons Rise Again (悪魔はふたたび) – An entertaining featuring two ancient monsters rudely awakened and ready to fight! The concept of an ancient (300,000 years old to be precise) civilization with technology far more advanced than ours is an interesting concept that future shows may allude to, but its sadly underdeveloped here. Regardless, a fun episode from start to finish. Features a repainted and redressed Red King as Aboras. 4/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-25-22h54m54s617Terror on Route 87 (恐怖のルート87) – A pretty solid episode with a fairly unique plot, even if stories in the same vain would follow in subsequent shows. The ending, however, is head-scratching (Spoilers), as while the monster Hydra’s backstory in sympathetic, allowing it survive may not have been the best of ideas, given its tendency to destroy cars and the uncertainty that it would never do so again. Much of this episode (including the Hydra statue) was shot at the Izu Cactus Park, seen previously in Secret of the Miloganda with its Death Star-looking greenhouse. Though the greenhouse was demolished in 2003, the bird statue still stands and has been seen in numerous other Tokusatsu shows including Kamen Rider, Ultraman Ace, Kyodyne, Bioman, Maskman and Kamen Rider Black. 3.5/5

Break Through the Smoke (噴煙突破せよ)  – A sadly substandard episode that only has some character development for Hoshino going for it. It initially seems as if Fuji will get a chance to shine alongside Hoshino (which would have made the episode more fun given their strong dynamic), but the opposite is quickly proven, with her being injured and having to sit out in the hospital. Nothing inherently awful, but not one of the stronger episodes. 2.5/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-25-23h04m25s784Destroy the Surface (地上破壊工作 ) – Another Akio Jissoji episode that perfectly showcases his unusual directing style. Filled with eerie scenes and unique, dreamlike camera work (most notably the scenes set underground), one of the best in the show. Apart from introducing the iconic monster Telesdon, the episode also introduces the concept of an advanced race of humans living below the surface, something that would reappear in several subsequent show. In a nice bit of continuity, Dr. Fukuyama from The Demons Rise Again is consulted. An excellent episode from start to finish. 4.5/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-25-23h06m04s053My Home is Earth (故郷は地球) – Akio Jissoji returns once more for one of the most tragic episodes in the show. Similar in concept to Nigel Kneale’s The Quatermass Experiment, the episode starts a little slow with a mildly confusing plot about an invisible spaceship, but once the real conflict is revealed, things take a dark turn. Notable about the episode is Ide’s struggle on how to handle the threat. To see a usually comical character so conflicted is rare. One of the very best. Also worth noting at the very end of the episode is a tombstone that reveals the show is set in 1993 (which is a little amusing considering the Space Race is established as still going on in the episode). The then-future setting of these shows is something that would be retconned starting in Return of Ultraman, setting them in the years they were produced. 5/5

The Undersea Science Center (海底科学基地) – A fun “base under siege” story with a very fun monster (and one with a dose of sympathy given he was just rudely awakened) Nothing great, but good fun, with Fuji getting a chance to shine, along with further. development for Hoshino who really solidifies himself as a Science Patrol member. 3.5/5

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“Don’t you know who I am? I am…Mr. Bad!!”

The Dreaded Comet Tsuphion (怪彗星ツイフォン) – An action-a-minute episode marking the return of Red King (Originally meant for Gorgos from Ultra Q) alongside two new monsters. Not the most complex of episodes, but pure unadulterated fun from start to finish, much like Red King’s first appearance. Ends on a cliffhanger that may be resolved if a future show is set in 3026. Suit actor Haruo Nakajima cameos in-person as a worried onlooker. Marks the last appearance of Akihide Tsuzawa as Hoshino, who had to leave the show after sustaining an injury during skiing, which is a shame, as more development for his character would have been great. 4/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-25-23h18m30s355The Monster Prince (怪獣殿下) – The show’s first and only two-part adventure introducing Gomora, widely viewed as the Godzilla of the franchise. A great pair of episodes with a scope equivalent to that of a Toho monster movie. The action is set in Osaka, with some very nice location footage present. Hayata loses his Beta Capsule at the end of part 1, putting him in a serious dilemma. Though it’d be over 40 years before Gomora would become a heroic monster, he is still portrayed in a sympathetic light being rudely awakened. A strange scene occurs early in the first part where a kid (the titular “Monster Prince”) is teased for believing in monsters, despite their frequent, large-scale attacks shown. Regardless, a great two-parter. 4.5/5 (both parts)

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I’d crack a Michael Jackson joke, but I’d be far from the first to do so.

Human Specimens 5 & 6 (人間標本5・6) – An unusual episode that features very little Hayata and focuses mostly on Captain Muramatsu. The true plan of the now-iconic Dada aliens is almost entirely unrevealed (their human-shrinking ability is reminiscent of the microscopic people from Bride of Frankenstein), as are their face-changing ability (aside from simply trying to make it seem as if there are more than one), making this a difficult episode to judge, but the overall eeriness, Muramatsu’s focus and confrontation between Ultraman and Dada make the episode worthwhile. 4/5

Challenge to the Underground (地底への挑戦) – Perhaps the most overlooked episode in the show, and somewhat understandably, given the substandard nature. Despite this, there are a few scenes that make the episode worth sitting through, such as the somewhat unique fact that there are two rather than one of the monster and the tense scenes of Muramatsu and Ide being trapped in the underground vehicle. Not one of the stronger episodes, but worth seeing. The final appearance of the B-Type mask for Ultraman. 3/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-25-23h28m23s927The Phantom of Snow Mountain (まぼろしの雪山) – One of the darker episodes in the series in that genuine misery is felt for the girl Yukinko and the misfortune she is treated with, in what can clearly be viewed as an allegory for racism and discrimination. Nearly every pedestrian present is loathsome and deserving of whatever the monster may bring to them. Apart from that, the spiritual storyline is a nice change of pace (though slightly similar to the concept in Terror on Route 87) with an interesting, if underdeveloped parental theme and the snow country scenery (shot on location) is beautiful. Another instance in which the usually-funny Ide is conflicted about the monster. Worth noting is a scene in which Hayata’s wounds are tended to and in an out-of-character moment, lets out a comical cry akin to Ide. An amusing scene in a fairly dark episode. Also marks the first appearance of the C-Type mask for Ultraman, which is viewed by most as the best looking of the three. 4.5/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-25-23h39m56s539Who Goes There? (来たのは誰だ) – A good, large-scale “alien invasion” story (Though Keronia isn’t actually from outer space but deep within the Amazon, something that sadly wasn’t elaborated upon more), though not among the very strongest. A small, but noteworthy flaw occurs early into the episode where Ide and Arashi express how weary they are of Mr. Gotoh (actually Keronia), while Hayata brushes off their suspicions. Being Ultraman, Hayata should be one step ahead of everybody, and should have immediately realized something was up with the man, especially since he was abducted by an alien (or underground human) disguised as a Science Patrol agent from another country not even ten episodes ago. Still, the episode is notable for one major revelation: that the Science Patrol has been around for at least 20 years prior to the events of the show. So where were they during the events of Ultra Q? 3.5/5

The Endless Counterattack (果てしなき逆襲) – Not bad, but VERY standard, with lots of explosions and fire that are fun initially, but drag on for too long. A Science Patrol member from the Indian branch, Pati is present on vacation, and though she adds little to the plot, she nonetheless provides an interesting change of pace. Worth watching for some minor development for Hayata (Something surprisingly rare despite the show basically being centered on him). Guest stars Annu Mari. 3/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-25-23h42m10s597The Forbidden Words (禁じられた言葉) – A great episode introducing one of the most interesting aliens in the series, Mephilas. Aside from having a much different approach at conquering the Earth than past aliens (through humiliation), he is shown to be equal to Ultraman in strength and surpasses in intellect. Apart from several past aliens making cameos, there is also a scene involving a giant Fuji that is am amusing reversal of The 1/8 Project. Introduced for the first and only time is Fuji’s younger brother Satoru, whom judging by his role was likely meant to be Hoshino (ironically enough, the English dub cleverly makes Hoshino Fuji’s younger brother, meaning she has two in the dub), but due to Tsuzawa’s departure, had to be changed. Only minor gripe is a scene in which Muramatsu has no choice but to leave a frozen Hayata in a collapsing ship citing that there is “no time”, but given that the frozen Hayata is holding a Beta Capsule, it is possible he knows something…The very same Mephilas would return nearly 40 years later in Ultraman Mebius, voiced once more by Seizo Kato. 4.5/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-25-23h44m59s053Present from the Sky (空の贈り物 ) – Another Akio Jissoji episode, and his funniest. Surreal and dream-like with plenty of gags and unique cinematography to go around. Features a nice reference to Gamakujira’s attack (Another Jissoji-directed episode) along with one of the funniest gags involving Hayata’s Beta Capsule. Great stuff. 4.5/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-25-23h51m30s584The Monster Graveyard (怪獣墓場 ) – Jissoji’s final episode and my personal favorite. Both sad and funny at the same time, what happens to monsters after Ultraman kills them is revealed, and suffice to say, it makes both you and the Science Patrol feel sorry (there have been past episodes where members have expressed sorrow for the monsters, but it’s here they realize they are all living, thinking things), but at the same time know that they have finally found solace. The scene in which Hayata realizes this is and gives a “salute” to the monsters as Ultraman is among the most powerful scenes in the whole series, and provides some depth to Hayata (something admittedly lacking in the show). The climax involving Ultraman, the lonely monster Seabozu and a space rocket is among the funniest in the show. Brilliant from beginning to end. The concept of the Monster Graveyard will appear again throughout the franchise (With Seabozu sometimes making cameos). 5/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-25-23h55m45s940Don’t Shoot, Arashi! (射つな! アラシ) – An excellent episode focusing on Arashi that shows the consequences of his trigger-happy actions. Intense with several scenes that make you feel genuinely sorry for Arashi along with Ultraman being in one of his biggest pinches make it a highlight of the show. The monster Zaragas is a modified Gomora suit. 5/5

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The Littlest Hero (小さな英雄) – Another excellent episode that not only brings back three past monsters (Including a new one!) but also provides more development for Ide, who after all of Ultraman’s victories against monsters questions if the Science Patrol is even needed anymore. Features the return of Pigmon from The Lawless Monster Zone (the titular littlest hero), Telesdon from Destroy the Surface and Dorako (Without wings but the addition of hands) from The Dreaded Comet Tsuphion. Apart from a sad scene towards the end, this episode also features a rare scene with Hayata losing his cool towards Ide for his careless actions. A great episode from start to finish. 5/5

The Spaceship Rescue Command (宇宙船救助命令) – A fun episode that while light on plot, takes the Science Patrol to somewhere they’ve never been before – another planet (“Planet Q”)! The scenes representing the planet while characters walk on its surface a little laughable, but commendable for the strange color palates applied. The monster Kiyla’s blinding ability Is rather similar to Zaragas’, which is a little odd considering he was only two episodes ago. As a side note, the monster Saigo (defeated by the Science Patrol early on) was originally intended to be the final foe fought by Ultraman in the entire show, but was wisely replaced by Zetton (As seen in the next, final episode) and instead given a secondary, cannon fodder role in this episode. 4/5

vlcsnap-2018-01-26-00h00m01s963Farewell Ultraman (さらばウルトラマン) – The first true finale of the franchise, and a great one at that. Featuring a full-scale invasion by the Zettonians (who have gone on to become among the most common aliens in the series) that raises the stakes for the Science Patrol more than ever (even in comparison to the invasions by the Baltan IIs and Keronia). Zetton itself has since become quite overused in the series, but is nevertheless a very formidable adversary here. Though the defeat of Zetton could maybe come across as a bit anticlimactic (and somewhat reminiscent of the villain’s demise in Live and Let Die), it does show how the Science Patrol has evolved (with similar weapons being used in past episodes). *SPOILERS AHEAD* The episode also marks the introduction of Ultraman’s superior Zoffy, who seems to initially question Ultraman’s love for humankind, but will eventually join forces to protect the world in shows to come. Though a bit rushed, an excellent end to an excellent series. On a side note, Hayata appears to be when separated from Ultraman, remembering nothing after his collision with the fiery red orb. The English dub, however, makes Hayata be sure that Ultraman will return, and narrator confirming that once repaired, Ultraman shall return to Hayata. The dub’s closing narration seems to have since been integrated into canon, as Hayata will go on to make numerous appearances in future shows merged with Ultraman. 4.5/5

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