Hello and welcome, Ultraman Connection readers! This week we’re back in the action with an all-new episode of Ultraman Blazar, after taking last week off to highlight the Kaiju of the series in a “Special” recap episode. Ironically, this new episode also opens up with some familiar reappearances of those Kaiju. Specifically, apparitions of the monsters Blazar and SKaRD have defeated have been wandering around the city for unknown reasons!
While they haven’t done any damage, everyone is understandably weirded out by the ghostly figures, and the mysterious man who seems to appear alongside them. During Gento’s investigation of one of these scenes, he’s caught by surprise when the man shows up to summon the Kaiju phantoms. Even more surprising than that, or man’s identity as an alien, is his reason for seeking these spirits in the first place. And, as we’ll learn, his reason for approaching Gento himself.
This is an episode where the “mystery” of the Kaiju, and the SKaRD team outside of Gento, takes a backseat to the rest of the story. Almost half of its runtime this week involves scenes with Gento and the alien “samurai”, named Zangill, discussing matters over coffee! I don’t mean that as any sort of complaint, though. This is one of my favorite episodes of the show – and I know I say that almost every week, but it’s true! I could spend three articles’ lengths talking about all the reasons why, but I’ll focus first on one unexpected cameo from Zangill’s story.
Many alien characters in Ultraman shows are villains, and come to Earth for nefarious reasons, but Ultraman himself is also an alien. In addition, there are other aliens who are more neutral towards Earth and humanity, or even seek to protect it just as the titular Giant of Light does. Zangill arrives on the planet for a benign – even admirable – reason as well, he’s on a mission to put to rest 108 Kaiju spirits, and stop their wandering through the universe. He didn’t pick up this quest on his own, however. Another wandering swordsman gave it to him, as a sort of penance.
They never name this swordsman in his flashback, but if you’re a long-time fan of Ultraman you probably recognized the suit as Zamsher, originally appearing in Ultraman Mebius! This is a fascinating callback, not just because I love Mebius and consider it my favorite Ultraman show. (I mean, I do, but that’s not the point of this article.) In that series, Zamsher first arrives on Earth for the same reasons Zangill gives for his youthful folly: seeking out battles needlessly and only desiring to fight the strongest opponents, to prove his own strength. Zamsher tries to challenge Hunter Knight Tsurugi – Ultraman Hikari – but fails because his blade was broken by Mebius before their duel had even begun
His fight against Mebius wasn’t even to decide the strongest swordsman in the first place! Mebius fought him to protect the GUYS Japan base, not just to defeat Zamsher himself. Although Zamsher can’t understand this kind of self-sacrificing honor, he has enough humility to leave, seeking to grow stronger in the future. Later on, he actually shows up again during the finale of Mebius. He fights alongside both the Ultra heroes and humanity with the newfound strength he has discovered by protecting lives instead of just seeking to take them!
In other stories throughout the Ultraman franchise, we see that this version of Zamsher isn’t the only one to carry this name, and there are other members of his kind who also carry sweet-looking swords into battle. Some of them are also heroes, some aren’t, and fans who were at the stage shows during New York City Comicon this year probably spotted Blazar fighting one of the latter, named Nodachi Zamsher. It’s not too much of a stretch to think that other Zamsher sword-fighters are out there in the wider universe where Blazar is set.
Zamsher’s cameo is more important than just giving us an opportunity to copy a certain memetic pointing-at-the-TV-screen moment. It emphasizes a critical point of Zangill’s story, and a crucial theme in the Ultraman franchise as a whole. In fact, Zangill’s quest mirrors the arc which carries Zamsher’s character through Ultraman Mebius. At this point in Zangill’s journey, he has already learned humility in his defeat, and the futility of trying to prove himself as the strongest only through bloodshed.
Unfortunately, lots of bloodshed and violence has also happened through the events of Blazar, and the ghosts of the Kaiju which Zangill seeks are still bound to the Earth because of it. Most of them just wander aimlessly until Zangill dispatches them, but he’s approached Gento in this episode because of one notable exception. After all, there is one Kaiju who was summoned specifically from one person’s violent hatred, and killing it once apparently did nothing to exorcize that grudge.
Yep, it’s our old buddy, Nijikagachi! He’s literally too angry to stay dead and Zangill’s quest now has accidentally given him a physical body to wreak undying vengeance on humanity once again.
Even though matters become dire extremely quickly after their meeting, Gento and Zangill’s scenes together are hysterically funny as they discuss this threat and work together to confront the Kaiju. Zangill himself has adopted an elevated, affected historical accent to reflect his admiration of Earth’s samurai, which is also played perfectly in the English dub track by J. Michael Tatum. It takes a special kind of VA talent to lean into the delivery of “Forsooth!” with zero irony and 100% sheer force of character. It works astonishingly well to cement Zangill’s personality in just the space of one episode.
But we’ve already defeated Nijikagachi once, right? How hard could it be this time, especially since Gento and Blazar have several new tricks up their sleeves to use against the Kaiju, and a new ally to fight alongside them? Well, Nijikagachi also has some new tricks. It can phase through missile attacks, and seems to be powered up with the burning strength of its vengeful spirit now!
As a side note, I love how suit acting in these shows can also work to sell the characterizations of the different heroes, and even the Kaiju they fight against. Even though there’s no words exchanged in this battle (that the audience can hear, at least), Zangill and Blazar’s teamwork is a lot of fun to watch, and it’s clear that Zangill gives Blazar some tips for how to fight with his new sword against Nijikagachi! With both their skills combined, they manage to defeat the Kaiju again…or so it seems.
Remember, Nijikagachi is running on the pure, high octane fuel of hatred against humanity, and just striking it down doesn’t fix the problem at first. It even takes over Zangill, and turns his blade against Blazar! Readers, for a moment I was terrified I was going to have to talk about Ghost Reverse in this article – not because I dislike that special, but because I’d need to open a new box of tissues to rewatch it!
Thankfully, Blazar knows that just cutting Zangill down with his sword won’t stop this cycle of vengeance. He strikes Nijikagachi’s soul out of the swordsman in a more fitting manner, with the blunt edge of his Tilsonite blade. It’s their combined willpower which overcomes the Kaiju’s dark grudge in the end, more than just the strength of their swords.
So that’s it, right? Problem solved, Zangill has his 108th soul taken care of, and his quest is over now! Well, yes… and that’s the tragedy of this episode.
After rewatching it, I realized the implication of Zangill’s fight against the Zamsher warrior. He took a lethal blow in that duel, but just like the Kaiju spirits we see in the episode, he also would have been left to wander merely as a ghost, bound to existence by the violence which severed his own life. Or worse, he would’ve been twisted by unresolved hatred and bloodlust to become a vengeful threat like Nijikagachi’s ghost.
I think the Zamsher warrior realized that as well, and gave him this mission to ensure that wouldn’t happen. Zangill’s tragic flaws led to something better, a redemptive quest that brought his own peace, as well as the peace of the Kaiju ghosts he encountered. In the same way, it also redeems Zamsher’s mistake – the very act of killing his opponent was itself a sin which required atonement.
Even though his story is resolved at the end of the episode, Zangill’s loss is still keenly felt when he disappears from the coffeeshop, literally right in front of Gento. In a strange way, he was the closest thing to a friend Gento and Blazar have had in the show. He could fight alongside them honestly, holding nothing back as a comrade in a way that’s unique from the rest of the SKaRD team. Zangill was a remarkably memorable character in this episode overall, and I appreciated the quieter, more spiritual focus of his story. I would’ve liked to see more of him, and I wonder if his spirit might make a surprise appearance if needed in the finale, the same as Zamsher did in Ultraman Mebius.
We’ll just have to wait and see in the meantime. Until then, readers, stay tuned right here to Ultraman Connection for all your news, info, commentary and more!