Hello and welcome, Ultraman Connection readers! For many of you at the moment, the season of uncanny and spooky festivities is probably in full swing. It happens to be one of my favorite times of the year, so while watching Ultraman Blazar this week, I found myself thinking about the very fine line between horror and comedy. The shocking events in the most recent episode, “Terror from the Underground” deliver on the title in spades, and also provide a lot of unexpected laughs – made even more effective because of how unexpected they were! Without further ado, let’s get into the details of those events with this week’s recap.
Things start out as they often do in Ultraman stories, with rumors of a giant Kaiju coming to the attention of our defense team. Despite the SKaRD team’s investigation however, they can’t seem to get any clear details on the monstrous creature which emerged from a massive sinkhole in the city. Each of the witnesses at the scene gives a different image of what it looks like. One reports seeing a huge furry creature with long arms, another sees a demonic bird, yet another, a scorpion, and so on. (Sharp-eyed Ultraman fans may note some specific easter eggs here, with different Kaiju suits from the franchise making appearances straight out of the construction workers’ nightmares. Can you name them all?)
After staking out the site, Vice-Captain Teruaki witnesses the Kaiju for himself, but can’t provide any clear information either, other than it resembling… a giant bean cake? Apparently he finds the experience terrifying enough to faint right in Yasunobu’s arms anyways. Anri is the first one on the team to put together a conclusion from the string of terrified and traumatized victims, and realizes that they all saw something related to their most dreaded individual fears.
Yes, that means that the one thing Teruaki loathes and fears the most… is a bean cake.
Unfortunately, just knowing something about the threat doesn’t guarantee protection against it, and the next day the rest of SKaRD’s field team, Anri herself, Yasunobu and even Captain Gento, all are affected by the Kaiju’s attack. Anri and Yasunobu’s fears are more expected, both reliving experiences of other Kaiju or aliens from earlier in the show. Gento’s is also unsurprising; he later describes it as “failing a mission”, and visualizes it in the moment as the broken and smoldering wreckage of the Earth Garon.
It seems that his connection to Ultraman Blazar lets Gento shake off the terror quicker than the others, and his moment of clarity brings the team to another conclusion. The cause of all this mayhem comes from a flash of light emitted by the Kaiju in question – eventually named “Mogusion”.
I appreciated how well this Kaiju threat was analyzed within the episode this week. The whole process of understanding its behavior and habits from a logical, scientific perspective really helped to develop each of the team members in characteristic ways. It also fits very closely with some of the oldest themes of the Ultraman franchise, showing how humanity encounters monsters that seem irrational and bizarrely unbelievable at first, then growing to understand these Kaiju as living creatures rather than just eldritch evils to be destroyed.
Okay, this might be a bad example since Mogusion definitely needs to be stopped by lethal means in this case. This episode makes a point of depicting its aggressive ferocity, especially by stating that it uses this fear-inducing electromagnetic radiation to hunt other Kaiju underground. On the other hand, I liked the fact that the fear it creates has a specific natural reason behind it, an evolutionary adaptation it uses as an apex predator. Kaiju can be many things in Ultraman shows, including eldritch evils from beyond our world. Regardless, the idea of Kaiju as natural creatures which have a place in a natural ecosystem is also a common trope in the franchise.
One show which continually develops that point also had a burrowing, mole-like Kaiju which creates illusions, coincidentally! In episode 6 of Ultraman Cosmos, the defense team EYES launches an operation against a Kaiju named Mogrudon. Unlike Mogusion though, Mogrudon was not a predator, and EYES was trying to get it out of the ground to avoid further damage to a construction site. Those attempts to “fish” it from its underground burrow accidentally drag it straight into a power plant anyways, and so our hero, Musashi Haruno, transforms into the titular Ultraman Cosmos to wrangle the situation back under control.
This element of the episode was the main reason why I wanted to bring up Cosmos. Many of the themes Blazar seems to be developing, such as understanding the defense team’s responsibility as a mission to protect life on Earth rather than just destroying Kaiju, are strongly developed in its run. Often in Blazar we’ve seen how the short-sighted ambitions of the GGF’s superiors oppose the efforts of the SKaRD team to truly carry out that mission. This also plays out during Cosmos between the EYES team and other military leaders. In Mogrudon’s case, in episode 6, Ultraman Cosmos calmed the monster down and it was taken to an island which served as a reserve for other pacified Kaiju. It, along with several other Kaiju, even helped Cosmos later in the show to defeat the corrupting influence of Chaos Header!
I don’t know if a threat like Chaos Header will be revealed in Blazar at some point, but it is interesting to think about an entire ecosystem of Kaiju existing on this version of Earth, in hidden areas of the world, which the defense team has yet to uncover.
I mentioned that Mogusion’s attack also revealed some interesting sides to the characters in SKaRD. Some of them are funny, like Teruaki’s commitment to his role on the team even when he’s recovering in the hospital, or Yasunobu’s continued habit of giving cutesy nicknames to every machine the team works with. Some of them are more somber, like Captain Gento’s fear for the team’s safety under his command. However, another somber reflection of the burdens carried by the team members comes from Emi – who has become almost something of a deuteragonist, a secondary lead in the show alongside Gento himself.
Unlike her fellow teammates, who visualize their worst fears as an external threat like a monster attack, she pictures something quite different. She sees herself attacking Ultraman, in place of Mogusion.
Readers, I have no clue what to make of that, and the sheer unexpected shock of seeing it play out on screen was one of the most horrifying things I’ve witnessed in this show. Is it unresolved guilt over her father’s disappearance? Guilt over her actions compromising the GGF’s secrets? Or secrets of her own which are still hidden from her teammates? Whatever the source of that fear, it paralyzes her in the cockpit of the Earth Garon, until…
Wait, what do you mean I haven’t mentioned the newest member of the team yet? Are you kidding? There’s just so much to discuss this episode that I almost left out the most important part!
When almost the entire team is incapacitated by Mogusion’s attack, Emi is the only one left to pilot the Earth Garon, which was designed for two team members. Thankfully, Yasunobu and SKaRD’s support team had created a new addition for its system, an AI assistant named “EGOISS”. I loved the sassy-voiced, automated recruit this week, and it reminded me a lot of HANE-2 from last year’s Ultraman Decker. The robotic “Hanejiro” was also a fun addition to the defense team in that show, and I hope EGOISS has a similar sort of banter between the other members of SKaRD in the future.
Anyways, with the help of EGOISS and her other teammates cheering her on, Emi overcomes her own doubts and fears, and helps fight back against Mogusion. The rest of the fight between Blazar and the predatory mole Kaiju was a ton of fun, with other unexpected twists, like the Stretch-Armstrong punches and a spiked head-crest which spun like a buzzsaw! Mogusion seemed like an intelligent and malicious opponent, something more along the lines of the classic “bully” Kaiju like Red King in the original Ultraman. In short – a threat which allows the audience at home to enthusiastically root against, and for Blazar to defeat in the most spectacular way possible.
Yes, including the Masami Obari-esque sword pose. Fitting that we get a new, sentient robot ally in the same episode, of course.
Once again, Ultraman Blazar takes a relatively straightforward “Monster of the Week” plot and elevates it, thanks to a combination of engaging character drama contrasting with surprising bursts of surreal physical comedy. All three elements are hallmarks, calling-cards for the Ultraman franchise, and I love seeing the tradition carried on with new casts and new Kaiju each year. In addition, this episode also suggests some darker aspects of the SKaRD team which will certainly become important as we draw closer to the show’s endgame. Until then, make sure you stay tuned right here to Ultraman Connection for news, commentary, events and more!