Hello and welcome, Ultraman Connection readers! We’re back once again with this week’s analysis and commentary on Ultraman Blazar, and the story this time is a doozy so let’s get straight into it.
Ultraman as a franchise is all about bonds, so it’s no surprise that the bonds of family are a recurring element in many of the franchise’s stories. But although Gento is known as a father with a family of his own, those bonds have only been obliquely mentioned, in passing, or vaguely hinted at in previous episodes.
Until now, that is!
The episode starts with Gento planning his day off with his family instead of organizing the SKaRD team for once. More shocking than seeing our fearless leader doing the dishes at home, however, was seeing Ultraman Blazar take an interest in those bonds as well! Last week, it was clear that Blazar had started taking a… well, more active role in understanding the new and strange world around him. It is just really funny to see what attracts his attention though: a glass of vegetable juice, or a kid’s TV show with literal baby-talk in this case.
It’s fascinating to think of Blazar as actively trying to learn and interact with human society through Gento’s perspective, and I genuinely cannot think of another Ultraman series with this same kind of dynamic. In other shows where there is a clear distinction between the Ultraman and the human they join with as a host, there’s usually more direct conversation happening between the two (for example, Ultraman Z and Haruki Natsukawa, or Ultraman X and Daichi Oozora), or it’s more like the Ultraman in question is aware of what’s going on, but simply chooses to remain silent until they’re needed.
During this time at home, Gento suggests that his son, Jun, should pick where they go on his day off. Like any kid I know, of course he wants to go see the giant Kaiju egg that was just dug up, and is being featured all over the news. C’mon, what self-respecting grade-schooler wouldn’t want to check that out?
Unsurprisingly, once they get to the site of the Kaiju egg, they’re just in time to see something hatch from it! Jun and the other tourists crowding the area are excited, but Gento very clearly is worried. He knows this is likely going to turn into a battle involving the rest of the GGF forces observing the site, and recognizes the danger that could now corner his family.
At this point, with the scene precipitously toppling into violence necessitated by the GGF’s protocols against Kaiju appearances, several important aspects of this show collide at once. First of all, we need to highlight the GGF’s response against the Kaiju, Demaaga.
From the very first episode, I was shocked by how blatantly this organization lacked accountability of any kind. Any sort of large, global organization is going to have its mistakes, bad actors, screw-ups and scandals to deal with, of course. But look at how often those scandals in the GGF have directly caused, further empowered, or led to greater casualties during Kaiju attacks in the show! It’s obvious that the figures in charge, above Captain Gento’s authority within the SKaRD team, are simply more concerned with passing blame. Their decisions are made to minimize any damage to their own reputations, rather than actually protecting human lives – or even the lives of the GGF forces under their command!
So when the egg hatches into a baby Demaaga (with downright adorable squeaky roars to boot), the only response that Chief of Staff Restsu Haruno, and the other GGF leaders can command is the use of force. Extreme, injudicious force. First by attempting to tranquilize the baby Kaiju, but then when its desperate cries wake up its parent, the GGF immediately defaults to firing missiles at them.
Even when Earth Garon is deployed, it’s clear that SKaRD isn’t there to study the Kaiju, or to plan a more effective strategy for minimizing collateral damage, nope. The orders given are certainly intended to stop the threat, but I fail to see how indiscriminately attacking Demaaga – while civilians are still evacuating the area! – minimizes damage. If anything, the missiles are more damaging to Earth Garon than Demaaga’s own attacks!
Seriously, what kind of leader orders an artillery strike directly on top of the team which you are supposed to be commanding? It was unbelievable to see the horror evident on the faces of the GGF’s mission control operatives, as they desperately tried to restore communications to the damaged Earth Garon, and then compare that reaction to the utter lack of concern from Haruno. He doesn’t so much as bat an eye at calling for another round of missiles – missiles he knows will catch the Earth Garon and its pilots under its destructive hail of fire.
Sadly, however, this misconception that you can make problems go away just by chucking enough firepower at them, is not a novel thing in the Ultraman franchise. The GGF has a lot in common with several other defense teams from prior Ultraman shows, but the one I wanted to mention was the “Monster Attacking Team” MAT from Return of Ultraman.
This episode reminded me quite a bit of episode 24, “Horror! Birth of the Apartment Monster!” The “apartment monster” in question started out as an adorable, tiny pink dinosaur-looking Kaiju. It seemed like it would pose no harm at all to the people of Earth, but because it was a space Kaiju, the defense team MAT immediately tried to destroy it with dynamite.
In many other episodes of the series, MAT responds to the threat of Kaiju with knee-jerk quickness to deploy their formidable weaponry, not considering any other option. In these episodes the threats they face invariably escalate into a situation which requires Ultraman’s intervention to prevent the further loss of life. And in episode 24 of Return of Ultraman, the once-adorable little creature turned into Kingstron, a terrifyingly powerful Kaiju now with a thirst for revenge!
The GGF makes the same knee-jerk response here. Again, remember that the parent Demaaga is only acting to protect its child! The GGF is being ordered to act, not because the parent and child Kaiju pose a current threat to the populace, but because of the possibility that they might attack. And yet by deploying the Earth Garon and volleys of missiles at the Kaiju, they make that possibility an absolute certainty.
Even SKaRD can’t be completely absolved from their involvement in this operation – although it’s clear that Vice Captain Teruaki has significant concerns about this situation while he co-pilots the Earth Garon. Their mission is to respond to Kaiju attacks, and while they’ve done so with a conscientious awareness of collateral damage and effective strategies, the definition of a “response” according to the GGF only involves lethal solutions.
It’s also the only solution that is ever considered by Captain Gento himself.
If this sounds too harsh, remember the previous conflict against Nijikagachi and Professor Yokomine, who controlled the legendary Kaiju. Gento tried his best to convince the professor to stop the Kaiju, and rethink his plan for vengeance against humanity, but when that failed, he was willing to kill him in order to stop Nijikagachi.
In this week’s episode, the same sort of “Zero-Sum” game mentality is present. He feels as if he must kill Demaaga to protect the civilians – and his own family! But his own son, Jun, puts it the best: if Gento and the GGF have to fight to protect them, then why is it bad when Demaaga is doing the same? His father doesn’t have an answer for him, but something else even more shocking happens to force Gento to see the reality of this situation.
Blazar himself actually fights back.
I know there’s been a lot of discussion regarding this moment, since it’s shown without any spoken dialogue whatsoever, and no insight from an internal monologue for either character. All the audience knows is that Blazar, at first, seems to advance on Demaaga with the Spiral Burrade lance ready to skewer the Kaiju like we’ve seen many times before, and then suddenly stops.
And then… starts punching himself?
It would be comedic, if it didn’t also come at one of the most emotionally charged moments of the entire series. (Okay, to be fair, it still is really funny to watch.) But the turmoil between Gento’s determination to protect the human lives he’s responsible for by any means, and Blazar’s determination to protect the innocent lives of Kaiju, is a remarkable twist to witness.
At the end of the fight, Blazar appears to be the “victor”, so to say, in that he uses his power to seal the Kaiju pair away deep underground, rather than killing them. I’m not sure how Captain Gento feels about being overruled by that objection, let alone the rest of the GGF and SKaRD’s own members. Would they feel betrayed? Will they be suspicious of Blazar and his power now that he’s actively countered the GGF’s efforts? Regardless of how the rest of the military establishment feels, Gento’s son, Jun, is undeniably happy that the parent and child Kaiju were reunited, and survived in spite of the GGF’s attack.
In some way, I think seeing the happiness on his son’s face after that fight, and how he admires Blazar’s strength when it is used to protect those Kaiju, might help Gento to understand that conflict better in the future. Questions regarding the purpose of power, the use of violence, when it is justified and when it is not, are never solved easily in any Ultraman show, and I doubt that this one crisis will be the only time it comes up in Blazar. Until we face that reckoning in the future, stay tuned here to Ultraman Connection for more!