Ultraman, Episode 15: “Terrifying Cosmic Rays”

Some thoughts as I watch through this classic Japanese Special Effects TV series. This episodes needs a whole post to itself. I’m also including more screenshots that usual to prove that I am not just making all this up.

In much of the world, Ultraman is a very well known series, and I have been reading about it for years before my current opportunity to watch through every episode. Reading about this show does not prepare you for what you are actually going to experience.

Detailed information about the production of Ultraman is hard to find in English. Fortunately, the Millcreek Blu-ray lists the screenwriter and director of each episode. I see that this episode is written by Mamoru Sasaki and directed by Akio Jissoji, the same team that created the visually offbeat previous episode, The Pearl Defense Directive. And after this one, we will need to be on the watch for these guys.

Children’s drawings

School kids are admiring drawings of their favorite monsters, which include a mix of kaiju from this show and from Ultra Q, strengthening the continuity between the series. Though are these monsters the kids have seen, just imagined, or… that they have watched on TV? How do they know about Red King aside from seeing him on an episode of Ultraman? My head is already spinning. Mushiba-kun’s original creation, Gavadon is included in the drawings, but gets ridiculed by his schoolmates. He tries practicing his draftmanship in a storage lot of stacks of cement pipes, which the kids have made their playground. It’s one of the most surreal locations this show has yet presented us.

More pipes
Even more pipes

The other kids give Mushiba some notes on his design, even redrawing the tail, but it doesn’t help.

Gavadon A

That night a “strange fluctuation of cosmic rays” brings the scribble to life, creating a kaiju that exactly resembles Mushiba’s drawing. So now it’s a job for the SSSP, who attack with the jet VTOL. Ide correctly spots its weak point: the redrawn tail. This monster for once has no interest in fighting. It just wants to sleep until sunset, when it fades away, leaving only a flickering star in the sky.

And apparently that kind of thing was happening all over the Earth, with 2-dimensional images coming to life! Everyone is concerned that it will happen again the next day. Ide comes up with a plan: let’s just out-lazy it and let it sleep.

Ide and Cap

The kids meanwhile, thrilled at yesterday’s excitement, all contribute to upgrading the monster drawing to make it cooler and more fearsome. What comes into being the next morning (in a quite amazing process as the 2D drawing pulls itself into 3 dimensions) is a much more fully realized and scary kaiju. This new Gavadon still only wants to nap and all of Tokyo is shut down to let it sleep in peace and quiet for the day.

Gavadon BEven though that plan works, neither Cap or the government is satisfied. After all you can’t shut down a whole city just to avoid a disaster. The economic disruption of keeping everyone home from work is too great, and the call is made to end the shutdown and face the consequences and casualties.

Thank goodness this is just a fantasy show and nothing like that could ever happen in the real world.

Ide (he’s the smart one remember) has another idea: let’s just erase the freaking drawing! But of course that would be ridiculous. The kids are disappointed by the lazy day too. They implore their drawing to try harder at being a monster. The next morning everybody seems to get what they want with tanks, explosions, and the usual mayhem (everybody except Gavadon, who still just wants to snooze).

Hayata in the water

But the kids then get upset when they see their monster being hurt. Hayata, this time separated from the others by falling into a water reservoir, becomes Ultraman. They implore him to stop the fight! “Go home Ultraman!” they shout, and are heartbroken when Ultraman carries the beaten monster into space.

Gavadon in the stars

That night, as they sit dejected at the water’s edge that night — the voice of Ultraman speaks to them and shows them that their monstrous friend now lives in the sky as a constellation. I had by then lost count of the number of times during the episode I caught myself wondering if I was actually seeing this, or had drifted into a strange hallucination.

Next day the playground is full of children making chalk drawings of monsters that they hope will come to life too someday. The SSSP are not happy.

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