Ultraman, Episode 02: “Shoot the Invaders!”

My comments and observations from watching through this classic Japanese TV series.

This episode introduces one of Ultraman’s most iconic foes, Baltan (or rather the Baltan species.) These lobster-like space aliens are nearly the equivalent of Dr. Who’s Daleks in their popularity. To me they seem inspired by Ultra Q’s Kemur Man, in their unnerving weirdness and proclivity to laugh in your face as you oppose them. They also appear to have some unusual relationship to Spacetime. They can be microscopic or huge, as if moving nearer or farther along a 4th dimensional axis. They seem able to exist in more than one place at the same time, and are can suspend other beings, freezing them in an unending split second — something the show’s special effects depicts efficiently and cheaply by clever use of lights.

We also get complete 4th Wall breaking by Ide (unless he too is operating in some higher dimensional system) as he directly addresses the audience. Effectively the narrator for this episode, he doesn’t portray himself in a flattering light. He’s Jerry Lewis, mugging and pratfalling and playing the scaredy-cat. Ide gets established as the clown of the team now — though that plays against his other main trait, revealed over upcoming episodes: he’s the team chief technician and the genius inventor of a lot of their equipment.

The Baltans are here on Earth as refugees from the destruction of their own planet. Captain Muramatsu, in a very Jean-Luc Picard move, actually offers them sanctuary here, if they will learn Earth’s laws and customs. Two problems: first, there are 2.3 Billion Baltan in microform on their ship; second, they are a bunch of big jerks.

Negotiations go downhill and Baltan turns giant and attacks the city. When Ultraman shows up we get another new type of battle for this genre: an aerial dogfight with both combatants zooming through the sky. After defeating Kaijū Baltan, Ultraman spots the concealed spacecraft, flies off with it and, presumably, destroys it. As in, blows up the space ark with 2.3 billion sentients on it. Yikes!

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