“Can you protect the life you’ve built from an oncoming Kaiju?”
One of the funniest moments from this episode came from the fake insurance commercial at the beginning – and it was one of the most widely-shared moments I saw on social media too. It seems like just a throwaway gag for the world of Ultraman Blazar, a world where Kaiju attacks have become so common that companies have jumped on them as a business opportunity. But this line actually forms the central theme of this episode. It’s so central to this week’s plot, and so well-developed within its own little story, that I consider this episode to be my favorite of the entire show so far.
Yes, I know I say that almost every week, but believe me, I really mean it this time.
First of all, the concept of insurance itself. The commercial phrases it as a way of protecting “the life you’ve built”, but what does insurance actually protect? Your house, expensive investments, material wealth. These things are certainly important, after all. They provide a roof over your head, a way to provide food and income so you can carry on with your life after a disaster. Do they actually represent the true value of a person’s life though?
The “Japan Kaiju Damage Insurance” company certainly seems to think so, at least. Tetsuo, our titular “Insurance Hero”, works as a salesman with the company, but he seems to only be valued based on his ability to bring in a profit for their shareholders. He’s berated and belittled by his boss and coworkers alike while working at the office. And when he goes home at night to a tiny apartment, he berates himself for not living a more glamorous or successful – a more valuable life compared to his old friends and classmates.
In a last-ditch attempt to make his sales quota, Tetsuo goes door-to-door selling insurance policies. This almost fails him too, except for a chance encounter with an elderly widow, Michiko. Her life seems to have been quite valuable; rich in memories and times long past with her family, all scattered around through mementos filling her old-fashioned house. Tetsuo tries to persuade her to sign an insurance contract, but she doesn’t see the point in protecting these material things. Her husband is gone, her children are grown and away, and the house with its furniture and keepsakes seems worthless without anyone to share it with.
Both of them find something truly valuable as a result of this coincidental meeting. Michiko finds an unlikely friend, and someone to help her with day-to-day life in her house. Tetsuo finds work more meaningful than just selling insurance, by helping Michiko with these chores. He admits that selling insurance was just a job that he fell into, more or less. He doesn’t particularly like his work – and seeing how he’s treated at the office, it’s not hard to understand why. Michiko reminds him that even someone with a seemingly “dull” life can still have small goals to look forward to, things that are still valuable to them, even if it’s as simple as watching flowers bloom in the springtime.
It’s clear that he takes Michiko’s advice to heart. Later on when a Kaiju attack threatens her neighborhood, Tetsuo’s boss and the rest of his coworkers seem to only be concerned about profit loss from having to pay claims to their clients, instead of worrying about the safety of the clients themselves! Tetsuo runs straight to Michiko’s house to help her evacuate though, and both of them survive to enjoy another home-cooked meal together.
It’s an endearing, sentimental slice-of-life story, and I loved this modern-day fable even more because it directly parallels the main themes and conflicts from the rest of the series! In fact, Tetsuo’s anxiety with his job, dealing with a company which only seems concerned about protecting its own profit margin, seems very familiar compared to the hostile workplace environment we’ve seen around Captain Gento and the rest of the SKaRD team within the GGF. Even in this episode, the team struggles with the neverending pile of paperwork and bureaucratic red tape dumped onto them by their superiors.
I also thought it was funny that Tetsuo has his own spin on Gento’s “I’ll go!” catchphrase. He instead says “I’m headed out!” as he leaves to meet his clients face-to-face.
Seeing Tetsuo become a successful salesman, and successfully protect Michiko’s life during the Kaiju attack also gives me hope that Gento and his team can do the same. Not by selling insurance contracts, I mean. I hope they can continue their fight against dangerous Kaiju attacks, while still protecting the things that have true value, the precious lives around them.
Of course, there are two other reasons I loved this episode – Guigass and Red King! Or rather, Red King II. Funnily enough, it actually makes sense that he’s called “Red King II” within the context of Blazar. Vice Captain Teruaki points out they’ve already encountered a Red King, on Tatari Island. That name-drop, along with the old stock photo of the first Red King, references the first appearance of the “Skull Kaiju” in Ultraman franchise history. “The Monster Anarchy Zone”, episode 8 of the original 1966 Ultraman series, featured the SSSP’s first encounter with Red King, along with several other Kaiju (and Pigmon!)
Both Red King II and Guigass show up in a later episode, “The Mysterious Comet Tsuifon”. Now, Ultraman fans with a sharp memory might remember there was also a third Kaiju featured in this episode, Dorako! It doesn’t reappear in person in Blazar this week, but you can hear its distinctive piercing cry used for the Kaiju in the insurance ad at the beginning of the episode!
Anyways, “Mysterious Comet Tsuifon” is a bizarre episode to say the least, but it’s become a very memorable one for fans because of the massive three-way Kaiju slugfest that erupts between Guigass, Dorako and the foul-tempered Red King II. All three Kaiju have loads of personality, and a lot of that charm carries over into this episode of Blazar too. Even without any spoken lines, you can immediately tell what kind of… uh, relationship Guigass and Red King II have. Red King’s always been a sort of bully, a classic wrestling “heel” who you can always cheer against in a match. Guigass acts as its groveling lackey, or favorite punching bag in the scenes they have together.
Seriously, it’s amazing how much physical comedy the suit actors can get from their performances as the Kaiju. It’s always been one of the most memorable parts of the franchise ever since the original series, and I loved seeing it recreated and used in a modern show in such an expert way.
Even Ultraman Blazar himself gets in on the fun when the match turns into a two-on-two battle, pitting him and the Earth Garon against the pair of destructive Kaiju. There’s lots of good old-fashioned punching, wrestling body-slams and chokeholds in this fight choreography, but Blazar loves pulling out unexpected abilities in addition to that. In previous episodes, we’ve seen his “Spiral Burrade” attack used as a fishing pole, or a joystick for a UFO crane game. This time, the fiery sword he uses with his Firdan armor becomes a matador’s red cape, and Blazar uses it to deftly throw Guigass around the arena.
No slouch himself when it comes to putting on a show, Red King II goes out in a spectacular explosion after getting hit by two simultaneous beam attacks from Ultraman and the Earth Garon!
To wrap up this review, this episode was simply a joy to watch. It was all about the simple joys of living and how sharing those joys with others provides the true value for our lives, more than any monetary wealth, fame or status we could hoard for ourselves.
And, sometimes, the simple joys we find in our lives come from watching giant robots and giant silver aliens beat the crap out of Kaiju. The day I stop enjoying that, you just might as well put me in the ground.
Or maybe I shouldn’t joke about that, because judging from the next episode’s preview, Captain Gento himself might already have one foot in the grave… We’ll just have to see what happens next week on Ultraman Blazar, so until then, stay tuned right here to Ultraman Connection for all your news, articles, commentary and more!