Hello and welcome, Ultraman Connection readers! Last week left off with things seemingly at their worst for Captain Hiruma Gento and the rest of SKaRD. But you know, sometimes you have to hit rock bottom in order to start climbing your way back up again. And sometimes, starting from the bottom can provide the change in perspective you desperately need. And sometimes… I just end up extending a metaphor way too far and should get on with the actual review for this episode. Ahem.
So far this season, the SKaRD team has faced obstacles beyond a multitude of giant, stomping Kaiju monsters. Repeatedly, the pressures of GGF’s upper management have posed just as much of a threat to their operation. It’s no surprise then, after the trouncing the Earth Garon took from Gebalga last week, that this episode starts out with SKaRD receiving a humiliating dressing-down from their supervisor, Chief of Staff Retsu Haruno.
This opening scene is even more infuriating because we watched the fight from SKaRD’s perspective last week, and know how hard they fought against the Space Kaiju. It seems completely absurd to blame a lack of effort for the mission’s failure, but Haruno still lays it plain for the team – they are only there to destroy the threats against the Earth, and anything less than total extermination of Gebalga won’t be tolerated. On top of that, we learn that Gento himself is suspected of desertion, since he apparently woke up some distance away from the Earth Garon… after Ultraman miraculously saved his life, of course.
The funny thing is, that’s completely truthful! Blazar did, in fact, save Gento’s life by dragging him away from the fight, at the end of last week’s episode! But I wonder if anyone else on the team, or the GGF itself, has started to suspect that Gento has more of a connection to Blazar besides just getting saved by him all the time…
Regardless, it seems easier for the GGF’s commanders to shift blame for these failures onto their subordinates, rather than trying to understand these events – and their subordinates – as they truly are. For all of us, we often see only what we want to see, and can easily remain in denial about our own flaws. Don’t worry readers, I’m not going to launch into another extended philosophical metaphor here – not yet, anyways. I bring it up now because this idea does form a core theme around Gento Hiruma’s character, and his eventual realization later in the episode. More on that in a second.
At this point, it would be very easy for our main characters to just give up and accept that they can’t do anything against Gebalga’s attacks here. They can’t even get close to it, thanks to that same EMP attack, let alone landing meaningful hits against the Kaiju. Unlike their commanders, however, the SKaRD team takes accountability for this mission, and throws themselves into planning a counterattack against Gebalga.
Here we see a fantastic example of one of my favorite tropes in media in general, not just in Ultraman shows: the success of this counterattack relies on the synthesis of almost every single victory the SKaRD team has earned over this season! First, the Tilsonite “spear”, a lightning rod made of the same material from Garamon in episode 9. SKaRD’s R&D support team from episode 5 also shows up again, to offer their help with the Mega Shot guns, now modified to fire the rod into Gebalga’s EMP-emitting organ. On top of that, we even get to see Captain Gento’s old special forces team from the first episode, assisting with the operation!
It’s such an effective way to show how far the team has come since the first episode, how they’ve grown stronger, gained so many allies, and made a real, significant impact on the world around them through the many challenges they’ve overcome. On the other hand, it also directly challenges Gento himself, and how he’s chosen to lead his different teams throughout this season.
In the midst of all the eager planning and preparation, with everyone else making use of all the tools, resources and skills they’ve gained, in order to have the best shot at taking down Gebalga, Gento notably refuses to include one very important member of his team… Ultraman Blazar himself.
To be fair, I can understand why he chooses to leave Blazar’s stone in his locker. To him, this operation must seem too big, too important to leave anything to chance. Everything seems to be falling into place – thanks to his superiors pulling some strings, we all assume – but he just can’t bring himself to trust Blazar as part of that plan. After the past several episodes, with Blazar actively fighting against his control when they’re transformed, I’m sure he sees the power of Ultraman as a wild card, and isn’t willing to rely on it in such a crucial moment.
I appreciate that someone else is willing to step in and (gently) talk some sense to him, and I’m also unsurprised to see Emi take the lead on that. She, and Anri, both refuse to let him take the job of driving the team’s van to lure Gebalga into range. He insists that since it’s the most dangerous role, he should do it himself. But his teammates also insist that his role is one of a leader, and he cannot lead anyone if he is constantly throwing himself into danger alone.
This character flaw has been pretty clear to the audience for the past several episodes, if not longer. But being able to see and admit to your own flaws is a difficult thing, and often requires taking a step outside of your own perspective – to see yourself through another person’s eyes.
Even if that person is an alien.
In the first episode, Gento stated that the mission was “to make sure everyone comes home safe”, but he never seemed to realize that “everyone” also includes him. His connection with Blazar allows him to finally see things from this perspective, to understand that his team fights their hardest for the same reason. They want their captain, their friend and teammate, to be able to go home safely too! Realizing that Blazar also has the same desire, the same drive to protect lives, provides the wake-up call Gento needed to truly be able to stand alongside all of them.
What a powerful demonstration of the strength of these bonds, of the responsibility and relationships – the literal light – of Ultraman! Readers, I can’t gush enough about how good this episode was, but especially for this scene. I love that Blazar finally was able to reach Gento and communicate with him just by showing him all these experiences they’ve shared, but from his own perspective. Rather than trying to fight for control, they now can understand each other in a new way!
I think this new understanding allows Gento to step back, and stop trying to control Blazar’s power when they’re fighting while transformed. The subsequent battle against Gebalga was ridiculously fun to watch. It almost seems like Blazar was able to cut loose and fight with the wilder (and more… uh, vocal) style that we saw in the first episode.
And of course, this being Ultraman, unlocking a new epiphany about one’s strength in a personal sense almost always comes with unlocking a new, fancy way to beat the crap out of Kaiju in a very literal sense. I appreciate that the Tilsonite sword, forged by Blazar’s power during this fight, has the same sort of raw, crystalline design as the rest of the stones, and the changer that Blazar uses. It really looks like a weapon which naturally fits Blazar’s style and designs.
So Gebalga is sliced in two, explodes into massive fireworks, and the day is saved for the Earth, right? Well, Gento still has to figure out how to explain the massive hole left in the wall back at SKaRD’s headquarters, from where Blazar busted out of his locker. But there seem to be other mysterious threats which remain unresolved, and are only hinted at during the end of this episode.
Concerningly, Haruno calls Gebalga’s attack the “second wave”. If you remember, the first episode of the show, where the GGF faced Bazanga, was titled “First Wave”. Are the two attacks connected to each other? Is there a “third wave” coming next? How much does the GGF know about these Space Kaiju? I have no idea, but it seems like we might get some more hints regarding these mysteries in the next episode, “SKaRD Nocturne”.
Starting in the “New Generation” Ultraman shows, episode 13 has served as a recap of events, since it usually falls right at the halfway point for the series. But the darker, cryptic tone of the episode’s preview (not to mention a title like “Nocturne”) reminds me of darker and more cryptic stories in the franchise, such as Ultraman Nexus. That series certainly had its share of conspiracies and bombshell revelations regarding the defense organization overseeing the main characters’ team. I can’t help but wonder if we’re headed towards something similar in the second half of Ultraman Blazar.
We’ll just have to wait and see, so make sure to stay tuned right here to Ultraman Connection for all your news, stories and commentary in the meantime!