Some quick thoughts as I watch through this classic Japanese Special Effects TV series.
Storms, landslides, and other natural disasters are as characteristic of Eiji Tsuburaya’s special effects as are giant monsters. Here, as in the 1954 Godzilla, a typhoon is herald to a monster’s coming. This time, another subterranean burrower, Gavora. It’s one of those monsters that people instantly recognize by name and thus must be a reoccurring pest with a long history. According to the UltraWiki, this script originally was going to feature the return of Pagos from an Ultra Q episode — another burrowing uranium eating kaiju. That would explain why it was recognized. Gavora’s armor plated head makes sense for its lifestyle. It actually looks like the classic Dungeons & Dragons monster, the Bullete or ”land shark.” Given that the Bullete was based on a plastic monster toy from China, they all may be one big family.
This must have been an expensive episode, since it includes a whole troop of Boy Scouts and an actual helicopter. One thing that’s kind of obvious whenever there’s a real vehicle in the show, is how much more throughly labeled all its controls are, compared to the SSSP’s craft. I don’t see any of the Jet VTOL’s numerous buttons or switches having labels. Hayata gets to fly this helicopter — and of course it crashes in the usual flaming explosion, but only the Scouts question how he survived.
Ultraman’ s fight with Gavora is another harsh one, with a Ultraman ripping gorey chunks off the thing until it thrashes and dies in pain, no Specium Beam needed. The Color Timer starts flashing during the melee, but nobody calls attention to it.
The Mysterious Dinosaur Base
This episode features our first real, cackling man scientist, obsessed with dinosaurs, creating monsters in his secret laboratory. The monster in this case is Jirahs, famed in Ultra lore for being a barely disguised Godzilla. A Godzilla costume was reworked for Gomess back at the beginning of Ultra Q, but Jirahs is Godzilla with a paint job and an awkward looking frill. And the frill even gets torn off eventually, leaving just… Godzilla. I’m using the spelling of “Jirahs” from the Blu-ray subtitles — which, in retrospect, might not be the best reference. I’ve noticed a couple spelling mistakes, and the Jet VTOL at one points is subtitled as the “Beetle.”
We see a bit more of Hayata’s transformation into Ultraman, as spirals of light swirl from the Beta Capsule to engulf him. He doesn’t get the elaborate animated sequence of, say, a transforming Sailor Moon, or even that kata-like special gestures and poses of a Power Ranger. Ultraman is more taunting and even cruel in this fight that we’ve seen him before. He actually laughs at his opponent, and even uses Jirahs’s ripped off frill like a matador’s cape to play with and enrage him. And is it Hayata or Ultraman who is copping this new attitude? The show still has not explored where one stops and the other begins…
The Rascal From Outer Space
The usual gang of unsupervised scamps and ragamuffins are cavorting in their usual empty lot and junkyard. The game they are playing is what I know as “Buck Buck” from its description in Bill Cosby’s Fat Albert routine — which came out a couple years after this show. No idea what the game is called in Japan; maybe it, like rock-paper-sissors, has a complicated international provenance.
A meteorite that can turn into anything you imagine is found. I kind of wish that this has been an Ultra Q episode and we could have stayed with the kids as they wrecked havoc with this extraterrestrial toy. But no, it ends up in the hands of the SSSP who turn it over to scientists.
That is until some goofball (a clever one, but still a goof) steals it and creates a monster to play pranks on a hotel’s staff. When he looses control his creation, named Gango, the show goes into kaiju and building smashing mode. There are some nice composited shots and rare human-level views of the monster. Eventually Hayata shows up, of course crashing the VTOL, and then it’s Ultraman’s time. The battle is a quite intensional clown show with pratfalls, taunts, tricks, and tickling — a contrast to other recent dismemberment-filled fights. It’s also another conflict where the Color Timer starts flashing, but doesn’t get much mention, though we are supposed to be worried about it.
Cry of the Mummy
Updated opening credits, with new monster silhouettes, a mixture of creatures from this show and from Ultra Q. It’s becoming clear who the stars of this show are, if it wasn’t already. The episode opens with a 7000 thousand year-old mummy being discovered. It hardly looks human, though everyone seems to assume it is. As future episodes will hint, the Earth of this show has a much deeper, and weirder history than ours.
The thing about mummies of course is that they find a way to come back to life, as this one does, and they start killing people, as this one does, with both the traditional method of strangulation, and with eye beams. A violent confrontation breaks out, but Arashi gets the chance to show off what he does best, managing to defeat the mummy with his Spider Shot.
Unfortunately, before it fell, the mummy was able to awaken its partner/protector Dodongo, a giant kaiju, whose appearance should be familiar to anyone who knows Asian mythology, plays Dungeons & Dragons, or drinks Japanese beer: it’s a Kirin. Arashi wants to go after it as well, supported by Ide’s newest invention, a potable force field. IDE is firmly established now as the genius inventor of the team. He and the others manage to gruesomely blind Dodongo, but that’s not enough to stop it. Cap conveniently orders Hayata to separate from the rest of the team, so Ultraman is soon on the job to finish things up.
After the battle is over, we get a very odd “reverse transformation” where Ultraman sends out an energy bolt that then forms into the human Hayata. We don’t see what happens to the physical form of Ultraman. It leaves me wondering if Hayata actually ever “becomes” Ultraman, or if the giant alien form just appears when summoned and Hayata transmutes into energy and enters into it.