Hello and welcome, Ultraman Connection readers! Today we have something a bit different for you, since Ultraman Blazar itself is doing something a bit different this week as well. But as you might have figured by this point, many things that happen in this show already have a long lineage within the Ultraman franchise, and this “Special Episode” recap is no different. You know the saying – the more things change, the more they stay the same!
Well, okay, usually that’s meant as a negative, but like other call-backs we’ve seen so far in Blazar, I think the framework of this episode makes some important comparisons that I wanted to highlight for our readers. The most obvious point would be to explain that other Ultraman shows also have recap episodes, but the way in which this one is framed is the important part.
This week’s “Special” episode takes a look back at Blazar’s fights in the past five episodes, specifically highlighting the Kaiju he’s faced off against. Bazanga, Gedos, Taganular, Leviera and Dorgo all provided unique challenges to both Blazar himself, and the team of SKaRD tasked with countering them. However, this recap doesn’t analyze those fights from any of their perspectives. Instead, we are introduced to a completely new set of characters: a TV program director, his tech assistant, and a local news reporter. All of them come together behind the scenes to discuss how to create a news “Special” of their own, ironically very similar to what we’re already watching in the episode itself!
I’m not going to recap the recap’s storyline – that’s too many levels of metatextual recursion, even for me. Not to mention, EJ and Jeff already did a fantastic job of providing additional commentary breaking down their perspectives and reactions to the Kaiju fights thus far. Go check out the video right here on Ultraman Connection if you haven’t listened to them yet.
No, instead I wanted to talk about that framing device itself. This is far from the first time a news crew has become involved in the storyline of Kaiju attacks, bizarre threats against the Earth, and even the arrival of Ultraman himself. These kinds of characters, brave intrepid reporters and ordinary bystanders who find themselves caught up in events beyond their understanding, have a history going all the way back to the original Ultra Q series in 1966!
Although each of the episodes in the show were (usually) self-contained plots, they almost always featured a core cast of three characters: Jun, a stoic and sensible commercial airplane pilot, Ippei, his partner, mechanic and generally goofy sidekick, and Yuriko, a headstrong photojournalist eager to prove herself. Each of these characters, along with the various guest stars they encounter each week, give unique perspectives on the weird events they stumble into…. Or, in Yuriko’s case, events she specifically tries to uncover for an exclusive scoop.
Regardless of their motivations, each week also inevitably turns into a struggle for survival against whatever threat the three characters encounter, whether it’s by accident or completely on purpose. Something similar happens in a later season, which has a much stronger resemblance to our three characters from this week’s episode of Blazar. In the 1998 series, Ultraman Gaia, the KCB news crew starts out more or less as bystanders, trying their best to cover the upheaval of Kaiju attacks and apocalyptic scenarios gradually escalating across Japan – and the world.
Much like Yuriko in Ultra Q, they also often struggle to get their important coverage out, against the interference of executives who are only concerned about ratings and monetary gain from their TV broadcasts. This is also a challenge that’s all too familiar to Sabu, the program’s director in this week’s episode of Blazar.
On a more serious note, the search for truth and the struggle to communicate it to others lies at the heart of the KCB characters’ sub-plots running through the show. It even becomes a crucial point of Gaia later on, when miscommunication, doomsday scenarios and fear purposefully seeded through mass media, all become tools of evil forces seeking to manipulate humanity into self-destructive despair.
Not like we’d ever have to worry about that today, right? What a relief to know that only happens in science fiction stories!
Anyways, I’m not going to spoil the rest of Ultraman Gaia here, not when you can just watch it for yourself to see how the story ends. I do think the KCB news team, and other similar groups of characters throughout the franchise, influence how the characters in this Blazar recap special are established. I mean, the reporter we’re introduced to this week even shares a name in common with the KCB’s reporter on the scene – Reiko!
More than that, however, bystanders who are recurring characters in Ultraman stories never stay just as bystanders for long. Encounters with such huge, bizarre, destructively earth-shattering events as Kaiju attacks always seem to draw questions, and the subsequent search for answers.
Will those questions also drive our newly-introduced trio to become more involved with the plot of Ultraman Blazar? Might we see them in an officially-numbered episode later on? I can’t say yet, but I really enjoyed their brief introductions this week, and would gladly welcome a more significant appearance in the show.
I’m sure every person reading this also has many questions around the arrival of the Kaiju in this series, their reasons for attacking, and Blazar’s reason for appearing on the Earth alongside them. We’ll have to wait another week to see what happens next though, so stay tuned right here at Ultraman Connection for all the news in the meantime. Also be sure to catch each new episode here, or over at the official Ultraman YouTube channel each Friday night!