Hello and welcome, Ultraman Connection readers! If you’re like me, you’ve been eagerly waiting for the premiere of Ultraman Blazar for the past several months. Now that it’s arrived, you should expect open spoilers for the first episode of Ultraman Blazar from this point forward. If you haven’t seen it yet, I would highly advise you fix that now.
Back again? Good.
From the very first previews, Blazar seemed to promise a different kind of show compared to the “New Generation'' series, representing the franchise ever since Ultraman Ginga. And from the very first moments of this episode, I think it’s delivered on that promise. Readers, I can confidently say I’ve never seen an Ultraman series that starts with the main protagonist making a HALO jump into the middle of a Kaiju attack. At night.
But that’s not the only unique aspect of this pilot episode. In this article, I would like to draw a few comparisons with other first episodes from the Ultraman franchise. While Ultraman Blazar still captures everything I love about Ultraman as a hero, and as a science-fiction narrative, these comparisons with previous shows also highlight the reasons why I was so thrilled by the unique possibilities presented this week.
Before our main protagonist, Gento Hiruma, launches himself out the back of a perfectly good airplane, we get an excellent scene establishing not just his character, but the details of the mission assigned to his team. There’s an easy camaraderie between his teammates, which doesn’t suggest complacency as much as it informs their experience together. Gento’s team seems like a group of seasoned professionals, who have been through many challenges already, even before their current operation against the Kaiju Bazanga.
This isn’t the first time an Ultraman show has started with the main characters already serving a role on the defense team in the setting. One example which immediately came to mind while watching the episode was 2020’s Ultraman Z. Our protagonist for that show, Haruki Natsukawa, was also introduced as one of the pilots for the STORAGE team. However, unlike Haruki, Gento isn’t just a rookie pilot, a hot-headed recruit who has to earn his experience and respect – he’s already a Captain!
That shouldn’t come as a surprise to most of the audience. After all, the promotional information for Blazar has already advertised that detail many times over. But it’s a selling point for a good reason: this is the first time that the main perspective character for the show, the character who serves as Ultraman’s primary host, holds such a high rank within the setting. Most Ultraman protagonists are more like Haruki – hotheaded, inexperienced, and fight with something to prove. Instead, Gento has nothing to prove other than his pride in his team.
And his team proves themselves admirably in these events. I was totally impressed by the level of trust and respect they pay to Gento throughout the entire episode. When their superior officers fail at leadership, Gento immediately devises new plans to stop Bazanga’s rampage. More importantly, he acts with such clear determination in order to protect all the lives he can, including his team. In the first scene, when everyone is waiting to jump into the fight, he even says that their most important objective is to bring everyone back alive.
That may seem counterintuitive, seeing the insane risks he takes after the operation against Bazanga goes pear-shaped – oblong, and completely FUBAR’d, among other things. Gento even jumps into the Kaiju’s path himself, trying to rescue a group of downed pilots. The orders he gives to his team in these moments might seem like impossibly high expectations, but they do their best to live up to those expectations, specifically because he is the one giving them.
There are many defense team captains in other Ultraman shows who follow these same standards of leadership, but presenting one as the primary protagonist is a welcome change for this series. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how he leads the team of SKaRD when it officially forms up in the next episode.
While Gento may be the first captain we’ve had as a protagonist, there is one other example I can recall of an Ultraman show which begins with an experienced and trusted member of the defense team. If you’re also thinking of the original 1966 Ultraman, congratulations, you’ve won this week’s contest! Give yourself a pat on the back as a prize.
If you’ve never seen the classic show which started it all, you should know that the SSSP team also begins with an easy sense of camaraderie, and the understanding that they’re experienced professionals when it comes to weird occurrences. Once again, however, this comparison highlights something drastically different about Blazar.
During the events of the original Ultraman, the SSSP were more like scientific researchers with cool jets. They investigated all kinds of strange phenomena, like a mysterious, blue glowing orb crashing into a lake. That particular orb heralded the arrival of the Kaiju Bemular, but the team didn’t know that at the time. Shin Hayata definitely didn’t know that until he crashed into the other orb – and Ultraman – when he went to get a closer look. In other words, the first episode of Ultraman started out with a seemingly isolated disaster, a cosmic accident where lives were unexpectedly flung together.
In contrast, the events of the first episode of Blazar put the emphasis on “disaster” and definitely not on “isolated accident”. The “Global Guardian Force”, or GGF, the organization fighting for the defense of the Earth against these threats, is immediately set up as a military organization. Their purpose isn’t to investigate, but to destroy Kaiju, and to prevent them from destroying entire cities in turn.
To put that in perspective, the first episode of Ultraman took place with Ultraman and Bemular fighting in a lake in the middle of the woods. The fight against Bazanga here is a full-scale crisis, and the audience keenly feels those stakes from the perspective of Gento and his team. Once they land on the city streets, and are immediately left in the lurch by the inaction of their superiors, they are trapped between a rock and a hard place—literally between towering skyscrapers, and the seemingly-unstoppable onslaught of Bazanga’s attack. For all the firepower the GGF has, they feel truly helpless to stop the Kaiju’s destruction, or even to protect their own lives.
Here’s where the most striking, arrestingly bizarre, and utterly fascinating aspect of Blazar makes its entrance – Blazar himself.
There’s one other point I could note about the first episodes for both Ultraman Z and the 1966 Ultraman. Both of them feature a conversation between their respective Ultra Heroes and the individuals with which they choose to join. The scene where Haruki first talks to Ultraman Z is itself a big visual call-back to the original series, and the first encounter between Shin Hayata and Ultraman! There’s no such conversation in this show. Gento hardly has time to wonder about the bracer and shining stone which appear in his hands before he seems to be forced to transform into Blazar.
In that moment (and a shot which reminds me a lot of the first “rise” of the titular Ultraman in the movie The Next), Ultraman seems truly alien, something outside of humanity, beyond our understanding. The GGF seems to have a rumor of a name – Ultraman, of course – but that’s all they know of him. Reactions from everyone witnessing Blazar’s arrival combine awe, wonder, and stark fear. No one expected this, and no one has any idea what will happen next.
Even for the audience at home, Blazar’s appearance is immediately distinguished from every other Ultraman who has come before. The glowing red and blue lines, the asymmetrical head shape, and of course the distinctive crystal blaze rising from one eyebrow, all create such a dramatic visual which contributes to the impact of the scene. For the first time in a long time, the arrival of Ultraman in this show feels like something equally miraculous and mind-boggling.
At the end of the day however, Ultraman is a hero for a specific reason, which applies to all of the series, whether it’s the original, Ultraman Z, or now with Blazar. Ultraman always fights with humanity to defend against threats which seem impossible to overcome, which are beyond our own power as individuals. The moment that Gento’s own heroic courage seemed like it wouldn’t be enough to save his team, Blazar arrived to give him the power to achieve the impossible, and live up to his own ideals. Regardless of the design of Blazar’s suit, wild fighting style, or intimidating roars, regardless of the mystery his arrival holds, and the mysteries sure to be faced by Gento and his team in the future, that is one thing we can always count on from Ultraman.
This first episode presented a lot of unique “firsts” of its own, but at its heart, that familiar courage to challenge the impossible is still front and center in Ultraman Blazar, and will surely guide it as the story continues. I’m beyond thrilled to be able to watch that story unfold each week. I hope you’ll join me for the next episode and beyond, right here at Ultraman Connection. Stay tuned.