Nocturne, noun: a short composition of dreamy or pensive character, suggestive of the evening or night, typically written for piano.
If there is one way to describe this episode of Ultraman Blazar, it would be as a nocturne in this sense, rather than just a “clip show”. Although this week’s story does replay many scenes and battles from the first dozen episodes, the context in which they’re presented, and the way in which they’re recalled by the characters gives some important new context. Plus, it’s just fun to see the cast of SKaRD hanging around the base, chatting and engaging with each other in ways we haven’t seen before!
Most of those conversations happen in relation to Anri’s perspective. I find it interesting that she’s the closest to a sort of “Everyman'' character on the team, an “ordinary” person thrust into these events. She reacts to them in ways that the audience can relate to easily. The way she describes her own history though, she would likely have been the high-achieving “ace” on any other team within the GGF – graduating from an engineering program, and with a clear interest and talent for martial arts and mechanical engines. But on the SKaRD team, around characters like Yasunobu Bando, or Emi Aobe, it almost seems like she feels out of her depth, compared to her teammates’ prodigious skills.
And yet, Emi and Yasunobu have been equally likable and relatable characters because they both share the same sort of matter-of-fact humility about their talents. Yasonobu’s hard work and genius engineering has enabled most of the Earth Garon’s upgrades so far in the show. But when Anri asks him, he says he works so hard because he genuinely loves what he does.
Emi even brushes her own incredible achievements aside (like graduating from MIT at seventeen years old?) and is much more interested in teasing Anri about her supposed crushes. For all of Emi’s talents when it comes to intelligence gathering and spy work, it’s downright heartwarming to see the two of them connecting on such a natural, authentic level.
That’s really why this episode works so well, it allows all the SKaRD members to take a step back, take a deep breath, and actually relax around each other. They’ve all been so hard at work protecting Japan (and the rest of the world) from Kaiju attacks and alien invasions that it feels like we haven’t had this opportunity to watch them when they’re off-duty.
Or, after-hours, if you will, keeping with the “Nocturne” theme.
I also want to highlight the incredible performances from the English dub cast in this episode! The delivery from Madeline Dorroh (Emi Aobe) for the line “Have you ever been in looove?” in that scene had me in stitches – in the best way possible. Her banter with Madeline Morris (Anri Minami) really feels as natural as the original actors in this conversation. If you don’t usually watch the English dub I would absolutely recommend it for this episode specifically.
Of course, I would be remiss not to mention the scene which immediately follows, between Captain Gento and his Vice Captain, Teruaki. This conversation is a much-needed follow-up (almost a debriefing of sorts!) from the highly charged emotional drama of the previous episodes. Teruaki questions whether they can still trust Blazar after everything they’ve seen the giant alien warrior do to help – and at times to seemingly hinder – humanity’s efforts to fight the various Kaiju. Gento still doesn’t have a clear answer. However, now he is much more assured of his initial gut instinct to trust Blazar’s intentions in good faith, even if they don’t know everything about him yet.
The English dub actors similarly knock a series of home runs out of the park in this scene too. Admittedly, since I was already very familiar with Johnny Yong Bosch’s voice work in many other shows and video games, it took me a bit to really start hearing him as Gento, but now I always love hearing his stellar talent really bring the character to life. Alongside him here, Nicholas Andrew Louie (Teruaki Nagura) carries just as much weight, and I love how naturally he goes from the serious, conscientious and analytical side of his character straight into him nerding out excitedly about the astronomical phenomenon of black holes classified as Blazars.
Yes, readers, if you didn’t know already, Blazars are actually a real thing, but that’s an article for another day…
Aside from his interest in cosmology, this scene also seems to suggest that Teruaki has other more pertinent questions than just asking about the origins of Blazar’s code name. I’ve wondered about this before, but does he suspect Gento has a deeper connection to Ultraman than just naming him? I suppose that’s one mystery we’ll dig into as the second half of the show begins.
Speaking of mysteries, this episode provided a lot of them to consider, for both the members of SKaRD and the viewers at home. In Episode 12, Chief of Staff Haruno called Gebalga’s attack the “second wave”, connecting it to the “First Wave” which featured Bazanga from the first episode. This week we also learned from Emi’s snooping that there’s another connection between the two of them – along with a third unnamed Space Kaiju from a meteorite which landed in 1999, and led to the creation of the artificial sea angel Kaiju, Leviera! All three Kaiju apparently traveled from the same trajectory, suggesting they all had a similar origin from some point in space.
More concerningly, it also suggests that they were sent deliberately to Earth.
We can only assume the GGF is also aware of this fact, since they seem to be censoring any sort of speculation circulating around the internet related to it. You know, more than anything else, now I’m just curious about how social media and message boards look in this universe. Has someone leaked classified documents about the Earth Garon’s specs in certain game discussion forums yet?... Ah, never mind, silly question.
Regardless, there are plenty of other more serious questions which will undoubtedly drive the second half of Blazar. If these Space Kaiju all come from the same place, what sent them to Earth? For what purpose? Is Blazar himself connected to these appearances? How did he come to Earth in the first place? What happened in that lab explosion three years ago to unite him with Gento? How much does the GGF know about all of this, and how far are they willing to risk the SKaRD team in order to stop this seemingly unknown threat?
I have no idea where any of that speculation might lead (plausible deniability in case the GGF men in suits start screening my emails…) but things are certainly getting more interesting every week. I can’t wait for the next episode, and I hope you’ll continue to join us here at Ultraman Connection for more news, stories and analysis in the meantime!