Hello and welcome, Ultraman Connection readers! This week on Ultraman Blazar, we got a chance to follow the newly-formed defense team SKaRD on their first official deployment. Last week, Captain Gento, along with his crew members Emi, Teruaki and Anri, all worked together to bring down the Kaiju Gedos. With additional help from Ultraman Blazar himself, of course. This week however, the entire team has formed up, including their mechanical genius Yasonobu Bando, and the final member of the team, the massive mechanical robot called Earth Garon!
It should go without saying at this point, but if you haven’t seen this week’s episode, this article will contain open spoilers! Feel free to come back when you’re all caught up.
Back again? Great! Let’s get started.
Episode 2 took an interesting tack in terms of its setup, because it focused so much on the disparate elements of the team coming together to make an effective force against Gedos’ rampage. In my opinion, the actual Kaiju threat was something of an afterthought — which isn’t a bad thing, mind you. The emphasis instead was on the team dynamic within SKaRD. This week’s episode also has a similar focus on the team’s dynamics, but now it starts with the initial attack from the beetle Kaiju, Taganular, framing the whole plot.
On the surface, that plot seems very simple and straightforward: the team investigates the pattern of its attacks, figures out that it’s feeding on a new energy source called “teaterium”, and then mobilizes Earth Garon to fight it off. When Earth Garon’s formidable weapons and the team’s tactics fall short of stopping the monster, Blazar comes in to save the day. At the end of the episode, Taganular has been defeated, SKaRD averted a catastrophic meltdown from a runaway nuclear fusion reaction, and everyone goes home safe! Not too much to talk about, right?
Oh, there is so much to talk about, trust me. I actually had trouble narrowing it all down to write this article! Then after re-watching the episode, and discussing it with some friends, I realized it reminded me of something specifically notable which I want to cover. Something which readers might find unexpected. This episode actually has a lot of similarities to a particular anime series produced by Sunrise — and it’s not just because of the giant mecha our team pilots, or the fact that Tomokazu Seki is a guest actor. Rather, the insight this episode revealed about Gento’s first encounter with Ultraman Blazar in his past reminded me a lot of some elements from the 1979 series The Ultraman.
Ultraman Joneus has had a recent resurgence in popularity thanks to his appearances in the Ultra Galaxy Fight miniseries. However, I think many fans may not be as familiar with the series which originally introduced him, or the defense team which fought alongside him. The Science Defense Squad (SDS) in that show, much like SKaRD, consisted of some of the most accomplished pilots, soldiers and researchers on Earth. This specialized team also included one pilot and astronaut who became Joneus’ host, Choichiro Hikari.
In fact, the manner in which Hikari becomes Joneus’ host and partner in the show’s first episode is a really interesting twist on the usual pattern we see elsewhere in the franchise. Hikari seemed to experience a vision, or a dream, where Joneus appeared to him… and then barged into his head without really asking for permission first. Of course, Joneus’ strength was more than welcome to help defeat the many Kaiju and aliens which the SDS faced throughout the show. Despite that, he remained pretty cagey and cryptic about the reasons why he chose Hikari specifically, and why Hikari must keep that fact a secret.
Similarly, Gento almost appeared to be forced by Blazar to transform in the first episode, with no explanation given. We had no idea why Blazar chose him or how Gento came to possess this power in the first place. Regardless, Gento trusts in Blazar’s intentions, and this week even seemed to welcome him to help lend his power to the team. This week also gave us a hint as to how Gento first encountered Blazar, and I think that flashback defines his character in a significant way.
A similar flashback defined the relationship between Hikari and Joneus in The Ultraman as well. Later on in the show, the SDS fought a mutated alien moth, a threat that Hikari recognized from his time working on a space station before he joined the team! But every time he tried to relate the story of how he fought off one of these metal-munching bugs in space, no one cared to listen to his story because they all thought he was bragging about it. Desperate to prove himself, and to stop the catastrophe, Hikari flew off to try and fight it single-handedly — and almost died as a result.
At that point, Joneus reminded him that he didn’t have to prove himself to anyone. It was during that previous encounter with the Kaiju, when Hikari was fighting to his literal last breath in the vacuum of space, pushing himself further than he thought possible for the sake of saving all the lives on the station, there was actually one other person who recognized his heroic courage. While monitoring Earth from space, before the events of the show started, Joneus himself witnessed this fight, and at that moment decided Hikari would be the perfect human to join as Ultraman.
Gento’s first encounter with Blazar wasn’t the result of anything as spectacularly extraordinary as fighting alien bugs in space, but I think that makes his character even more admirable. He has a well-known reputation within the GGF for diving into danger to try and rescue others in impossible situations, but it’s clear Gento doesn’t do it for the praise. He never acts with the expectation of recognition or reward for the risks he takes. I’m sure he also didn’t expect to witness something which seemed like a tear in reality that day in his own past — a black hole which opened up in a building as he searched for survivors in the middle of a Kaiju attack. And when he saw something that looked like another person reaching out of that glowing rift, of course there was only one decision Gento could have made, only one impulse which still drives him as the Captain of SKaRD in the present day.
He reached back, and tried to rescue him too.
Readers, I’ll admit that I was completely floored by that moment in this week’s episode, just like the episode where Hikari’s origins were revealed in The Ultraman. We talk all the time about the qualities which define a hero as Ultraman, but man, what a phenomenal way to illustrate it here.
And once again, Gento Hiruma distinguishes himself from almost every other main character in the franchise — even Hikari, who I mentioned. It’s not just the fact that he’s a captain in this show that puts him so far above and beyond the expected call of duty when it comes to Ultraman protagonists. Rather, it’s the realization that he is such a selflessly brave leader that he put his life on the line to try and save Ultraman himself!
I mean, Blazar may not have even needed saving. We still have no idea why he appeared at the scene of that Kaiju attack, three years ago. It could have been just a coincidence that Gento saw him! Those factors don’t really matter though, the most important fact was that Gento’s first reaction was to reach out to him, before thinking of his own safety or reward. That is what truly makes someone a hero like Ultraman, regardless of whether they can transform into a 50-meter tall silver giant of light and shoot laser beams out of their hands.
There are so many other points I could expound on from this week’s episode. I could talk about how fun it was to see the SKaRD team bounce off each other as friends and professional peers. I could talk about how Gento deliberately encourages each one of their talents, to help even inexperienced team members, or ones who lack confidence to become even stronger and more sure of themselves. I could talk about Earth Garon and how awesome it was to see the giant stompy robot dinosaur throw down against the beetle Kaiju Taganular. Heck, even Taganular itself was a very cool, unique Kaiju design with a fun twist providing a puzzle for the SKaRD team to overcome in this episode.
All of these elements are classic parts of the Ultraman franchise which I always look forward to experiencing in any season, and I’m especially glad to see them continue to be an important part of Blazar. But the way in which Gento’s character, and his connection to Blazar, seems to be unfolding in these episodes elevates these early parts of this show to become something truly special. I am beyond excited to see where the story is going from here! Next week can’t come soon enough, and I hope you’ll also continue to join us here at Ultraman Connection for all the latest news in the meantime.