Hello and welcome, Ultraman Connection readers! We’re back this week with the latest look at Ultraman Blazar, and what has proven to be an explosive start to a hefty two-part story, in the episode “Rainbow Appears: Part 1”. We’ll have to wait to see how the rest of that story unfolds, but you can bet that this article will contain open spoilers for Part 1. You don’t want to miss out on this one if you haven’t seen it yet, trust me.
I joked about last week’s episode, “The Invading Aurora” being relatable because of Yasunobu’s troubles with being overworked in his job. This time, I’m sure most of the audience can relate to the scorching heat wave the SKaRD members complain about in the opening scenes! Funnily enough, the high temperatures and suffering crops aren’t the things to worry about in this episode. To the characters, they’re just a natural – or rather, an expected – calamity that human civilization has to put up with. Instead, the plot is touched off by something even stranger than that – the appearance of upside-down rainbows!
Nobody is sure of what they might mean at first, so Gento and his team seek out the advice of the famous Professor Yokomine, who had written about this phenomenon. Fortunately, he turns out to be a wealth of other deep knowledge regarding the strange monsters known as Kaiju, and their place within the natural order of the world. Unfortunately, the team learns that the Professor had used that knowledge to summon the cause of the rainbows in the first place, the legendary Kaiju, Nijikagachi. Throughout history it had been revered as a god for its ability to bring both blessings from needed rain – and destructive storms in order to punish the wicked hearts of human beings.
Anyone want to guess which of those reasons Professor Yokomine had in mind when he called up the Kaiju this time?
I really enjoyed how the first half of this episode set up the conflict, and eventually revealed the source of that conflict to Captain Gento and his team. This is a very common type of plot in Ultraman shows – more on that point here in a second – but Blazar continues to impress me with how well it takes classic plots and frames them within the context of believable, grounded and relatable characters. In previous weeks we’ve seen many of these classic plots through the perspective of other SKaRD members. This time it’s Gento’s turn to have some backstory, and his connection to Professor Yokomine as a former student instantly adds some personal stakes to this battle.
It’s clear that Gento admires his former professor’s work, and respects his insight, even after he learns that Yokomine is responsible for unleashing the Kaiju. The scenes with the two of them fishing together and reminiscing about old times feels warm, but also carries a sense of tension. That tension comes from how both characters appear to be having two different conversations about those old times. Gento draws reassurance and certainty in his duty now as a Captain, while the Professor dwells on his regrets and his disgust with humanity that seems to have only intensified over the years.
After all, Blazar has given us several examples of the worst flaws of humanity that anyone would be disgusted over. We’ve seen how greed, megalomania, the inexhaustible industrial expansion of human society, and even the shortsighted failings of the GGF itself have either enabled or directly caused other Kaiju attacks. But does humanity deserve to be wiped out by a flood of quite-literally Biblical proportions as a just response to those failings?
As I mentioned, that is a question which has been raised more than once in this franchise, and it goes back all the way to Ultra Q with its idea of “unbalance”. Many of the bizarre threats of that series become threats in the first place as a result of human influence, which tips the “natural” order of the world out of its balance. Creatures which would have been small and harmless instead become monstrously huge and destructive, and familiar circumstances become terrifyingly dangerous in this “unbalanced” state.
I was also reminded of a specific episode from the original 1966 Ultraman which follows from this concept – episode 10, “The Mysterious Dinosaur Base.”
That episode also featured a wild-eyed misanthropic professor who decides to unleash a legendary monster onto humanity. But instead of an ancient god of rain and storms, the “Kaiju Professor '' raised a dinosaur hatchling – who bears absolutely no resemblance to another famous giant Kaiju, none at all, don’t be silly. He then encourages it to rampage against humanity, murdering tourists who had come to the lake just to enjoy some fishing. The goal of both professors is the same, to correct what they see as an imbalance in the order of nature, by toppling the “arrogance” of human beings who seek to control it for their own gain.
Of course, the fact that the Kaiju Professor in that episode also manipulated nature, and attempted to control it for his own gain, throws a pretty hefty wrench into his claims. Just like how Jirahs dropped a pretty hefty foot onto the professor, killing him in the middle of the rampage that he desired in the first place.
For all of Professor Yokomine’s high-minded claims about the “balance” of nature, it is just as odd to see him accuse his former student of “the typical arrogant thinking of a human” when they confront each other. Gento makes the obvious point: human beings are also a living part of the world, they also have a part in nature, why does this idea of “balance” require their destruction? A further question also goes unsaid, why does the professor think he is exempt from that judgment of arrogance as a human being himself?
Gento doesn’t go that far however, instead he simply calls his professor’s lecture “uninteresting”, which I think is an even more scathing insult. You can see it still hurts him to find that they are at an impasse though. He sought out the professor because he admired his knowledge and their relationship as a student and teacher. It’s painful when he realizes that a brilliant man he once admired had been twisted so totally by his hatred for humanity, and that pain also clearly becomes anger by the time he gets back to the base and orders an attack on Nijikagachi.
Although to be fair, I’d be mad too if I had to walk through a typhoon, soaking wet, after getting knocked unconscious.
Nijikagachi itself makes a huge impact with its first appearance. I love how many new Kaiju concepts and designs Ultraman Blazar has brought us, and this is no exception. The aerial shots of the Kaiju as it exploded out of the mountain felt especially cinematic in a unique way. It also cemented itself as a threat beyond any of the Kaiju SKaRD had faced before now, by crushing Earth Garon into a mountainside without hardly slowing down!
Even Ultraman Blazar couldn’t find a way to stop its rampage. In the episodes before, Blazar at least managed to tough it out long enough in his fights to pull out a finishing blow with the “Spiral Burrade”, or the red and blue lance of twisted beams of energy he uses. But even that attack fails in this fight, Nijikagachi just shoots it out of the sky! In fact, I think this is the first time we’ve ever seen Blazar back down from a fight, when he disappears the moment before getting head-shot by a laser of rainbow energy from Nijikagachi. Although we’ve seen how Blazar fights in a wild, instinctual way before now, it’s clear that this is a tactical retreat, escaping from what was certainly a lethal blow.
Next week, the SKaRD team will be forced to regroup and plan a new strategy, one that involves bringing even more firepower to the fight for the second round match. Will firepower alone decide who is right and who is wrong in this conflict though? More than just defeating Nijikagachi, and more than just protecting the human lives threatened by its attack, SKaRD has something personal to prove now about the reason for their team’s very existence. For that reason, and many more, the next episode looks to be their most challenging trial yet. Until then, stay cool, and stay tuned right here to Ultraman Connection for more!