Welcome back to Watch Club, folks! You came just in time for a real doozy of an episode. I’m EJ Couloucoundis, editor-in-chief of Ultraman Connection.
And I’m Sarah Last, staff writer and content creator for Ultraman Connection!
I don’t know, EJ, we’ve had quite a string of “doozy” episodes of Ultraseven so far, why is this one notable in your opinion?
Because THIS episode has… well, there’s no better way to put it than the absolute funniest alien in the series to me. This is a pretty influential episode in general, I figure, but Alien Wild… well, we’ll get there.
In contrast to the guy I was just talking about, “Fly! To the Mountain of Evil” starts with an incredibly tense image of a golden dragon descending to Earth on a lightning bolt. Purely to avoid sensors, of course; the fact that it is hair metal music video-cool is just a side effect.
Hey, I’m a fan of the aesthetic, you have to appreciate cool details like that. There’s no reason why the big, monstrous Kaiju of this episode has to be a golden dragon, but dang, it looks awesome.
There’s a jarring cut immediately after that entrance, to arrive at the mountain where the alien invader landed… just in time for a joy-riding group of hip teenagers to roll up in a Jeep and stop to take pictures.
I’m sure nothing bad is going to happen to them. Nope. Nothing at all!
That crowned yeti with a bazooka is just there for the vibe!
No but seriously, those teens all immediately fall down dead, it’s terrifying. And then the scene just cuts to a cow skull on the smoking ground, what the heck?! Mt. Itami isn’t just dangerous, it’s a horror movie setting! The narrator mentions that frequent “accidents” keep happening to young visitors, but this place just topped Crystal Lake in one snapshot! 26 victims, yeesh…
I get the sense that Captain Kiriyama of the Ultra Guard is particularly upset by this string of unexplained deaths, because they’re specifically targeting young people. He seems like someone who is already keenly aware of how much he’s asking from his relatively young team to go out against the unknown and risk their lives for the Earth. But the thought of innocent, young civilians who simply find themselves on the wrong mountaintop at the wrong time? He takes that personally almost, when he decides to commit the Ultra Guard’s resources towards investigating the incidents.
And if the fact that they’re flying out to a place called Devil Mountain wasn’t concerning enough, Soga notes something else ominous -- it’s also Friday the Thirteenth!
Soga proves to be exactly correct too, since when Dan comes out onto the mountain to investigate, the mysterious weapon comes out again… and kills Dan. He drops onto his face, his life taken.
Welp, that’s the show, folks! Thanks for watching with us. Bye now!
Not so fast, EJ, we still have almost 40 episodes to get through first! You can’t end the Watch Club when we haven’t even gotten to King Joe yet!
Er, anyways… we’re joking around here, but Soga’s absolute despair over Dan’s seemingly-dead body is really heartbreaking to watch. Poor guy really takes his loss personally. All it took was one moment to look away, and then the literal worst case scenario happens.
The rest of the Ultra Guard is just as broken up about Dan’s death, but they vow to bring the culprit to justice, to make sure that Dan didn’t have to give his life in vain for the Earth.
This scene is so dark, too… It’s mostly without dialogue, and despite it being obvious that Dan will come back (the episode is barely a third in), it REALLY reads like Dan is dead here. Deeply upsetting to watch the first time, and a sharp contrast with, uh… the next bit of the show, huh?
The culprit of Dan’s murder left behind a spur when he rode away on horseback. So, of course, the Ultra Guard goes to talk to the only people who definitely know what to do in a case like this: The, uh… thriving Japanese cowboy industry?
Sure, their organization is located right next door to the Paper-Mache Cactus Factory! Seriously though, I think the directors and writers were trying to emulate the feeling of the high desert of the American southwest. Between the cacti, the barren and lonely mountains, and the cowboys, it feels to me like the Ultra Guard has been transplanted to Arizona for this episode.
Soon, the local police join the Ultra Guard on the hunt, and their search for Dan’s killers brings them to an ominous looking cave.
Might as well have given those police officers red shirts for uniforms, because as soon as they investigate the cave, the group comes under attack from the same insta-death alien gun!
You know, despite Alien Wild’s unassuming looks, he’s honestly very effective. The group of teens, the two policemen here, Dan… If this alien wasn’t such an abject coward, he’d probably be among the Ultra Guard’s most dangerous foes ever. And then, after he runs away (leaving his weapon behind), it’s revealed that he’d murdered and stolen the form of one of the cowboys too!
It’s all for the best, however. Since the alien abandoned the weapon, the Ultra Guard can collect it and start to examine it, revealing — get this — it’s actually a camera that steals your soul. And once they check the film, they find Dan’s spirit still trapped within, along with all the other victims.
Some of my favorite episodes of Ultraman tackle weird ideas like this, which combine supernatural, spiritualist concepts of the universe with scientific, technical explanations. The original 1966 Ultraman constantly had this sense of humanity encountering new and bizarre things that outstripped our scientific understanding. Here in Ultraseven, a scientific understanding of the threats against the Earth also bring certainty to the Ultra Guard, a way to rescue the people who were attacked by Alien Wild, and to protect humanity against further danger.
Now, later episodes in the series will also take that further, and show why a scientific understanding of the universe is not the same thing as wisdom … but we’ll get there eventually. Here, the Ultra Guard members first need to find Alien Wild, to learn the secrets of the “camera” and save the day. When they track down the Alien Wild though, he gives an… interesting explanation of their plan.
Since the people of Planet Wild are all dying of old age, they have determined that they need the life-force of the young to sustain them! No invasion this time, just, uh… harvesting the lives of the planet’s youth?
That’s… That’s not really better.
If the Alien Wild really thought that there was nothing wrong with stealing the souls of dozens of young tourists then you would think they wouldn’t try to cover up their activities and run away in the first place. This scene just comes across as slightly pathetic begging once they’re caught.
It also contrasts the personalities of the Ultra Guard members really well. Captain Kiriyama took his mission personally to protect young, innocent lives. Soga felt like he personally was responsible for Dan’s death. The rest of the Ultra Guard committed themselves completely to stop this menace because they found the thought of this trail of lifeless bodies utterly abhorrent. We’ve already seen how much they value life through this episode. The fact that Alien Wild is so callous about matters is just infuriating.
He’s honestly scummy in a way that other aliens in Ultraseven aren’t. They can at least take pride in their messed-up plans; meanwhile, the Wild is a coward too, resorting to lying and taking Soga hostage; and when all that fails, on Nurse!
I love that we’re given no explanation for why Alien Wild have a giant, golden mecha dragon, it’s just their thing. I’m not even being sarcastic, even though we’re disgusted by their underhanded schemes, I have to respect their commitment to aesthetics.
Soga, Furahashi and the Captain are left to battle against Nurse now, but meanwhile Amagi has been hard at work studying the “scary camera” Alien Wild dropped. He finally figures out a way to restore Dan’s life back to his body — using a really slick editing trick that caught me by surprise the first time I watched it. It’s a little moment, but the attention to detail for something that only took half a second of film impressed me.
Yeah, that moment’s super cool. Honestly though, he could have probably waited until the end of the episode to come back, the Ultra Guard is doing fine. They shoot down Nurse, the Wild is blown up by a well-placed shot by Soga… Of course, then the dragon curls up into a massive golden flying saucer, so maybe it’s a good thing Dan shows up to fight it as Ultraseven.
The dragon is genuinely a threat to Seven too, folding and unfolding to wrap him up — but of course, this is Ultraseven. Dan FLEXES his way free, tearing Nurse apart and ending the threat. Of course, the Ultra Guard is still feeling defeated — after all, as far as they know, Dan is still pushing up daisies inside a polaroid picture.
Nobody expects him to come riding out of the mists on a horse to deliver the news that Amagi’s work back at the base freed the other victims from Alien Wild’s camera.
I already joked about aesthetics, but there is also no reason why Dan has to be riding on a horse like a hero from a Spaghetti Western other than the fact that he thinks it looks cool.
And considering how he shows up later on in Ultraman Mebius… I think Dan just really likes being a cowboy.
The horse budget for this episode must have been tremendous. Maybe that’s why horses don’t show up after…
This is a great episode — there’s less of a moral element than the last several stories, but from an entertainment value point of view, it’s one of the best. Wild is a delightfully terrible character, and Nurse is such an iconic design that it’s shown up 50 years later, incorporated into Ultraman Trigger and Ultraman Decker in the form of the Nursedessei.
It’s one of the most action-packed episodes since “Max, Respond!” Also similarly to that episode, this is arguably the best showing for the Ultra Guard in the series to this point. I mean, Dan spent almost the entire episode dead, but his teammates still manage to uncover the alien plot — and they almost completely defeat Nurse by themselves too!
The next couple episodes in this batch I also remember as being particularly action-focused, so I’m really looking forward to them. Every week I’m continually impressed at how strong Ultraseven comes swinging out of the gate, and we haven’t even gotten to some of the really famous plots yet!
Next week, we’ll be taking a closer look at the Ultra Guard’s eye in the sky, with “The Man from V3!” See you then!