Trigger warning for discussions of assault and allusions to assault.
Hello, and welcome back to our Ultraseven Watch Club! We’ve spent two good weeks commenting on the triumphs and tragedies of Ultraman Leo, but we’ll leave Future Dan’s problems in the Future. Current Dan has enough going on. I’m EJ Couloucoundis, editor-in-chief of Ultraman Connection.
And I’m Sarah Last, staff writer and content creator at Ultraman Connection!
So, at this point in the show, we’ve seen everything from alien invasions stealing tanker ships, alien experiments using cigarettes laced with psychoactive drugs, alien serial killers, alien robots living under a coal mine, what else can we expect from Ultraseven this week?
Sarah, I’ll level with you. This episode, Ultraseven episode 21, is called “The Human Farm.” It’s gonna be a dark one. Goes to show you that Dan’s been dealing with nightmarish alien plots the whole time — maybe Leo’s just more of the same.
Speaking of dark, this opening sequence is a pretty interesting contrast between darkness — cinematically speaking — and a lighter tone. The audience is once again following Anne’s perspective during her time off from the Ultra Guard, this time at a ritzy birthday party for a friend. But as they’re all cutting into the cake and singing Happy Birthday, the dark night outside holds a new set of horrors for them.
This is… a horror movie. Honestly, it’s just a horror movie at this point. The creature stalking the beach, poor John the dog — and what they find left of him, the terrifying green eyes of the alien when Anne’s friend finds it… The color choices are practically out of an old British Hammer horror movie! Especially that impossibly red blood on the ground…
This introduction hits so many different horror genre cliches and tropes that Anne really should have been aware of the most important one: never split the party!
Unfortunately for Ruriko, Anne’s friend, it’s too late to stop her from disappearing as well, leaving behind only the jeweled brooch that Anne just gave her as a present a few minutes ago. But fortunately, Anne isn’t any ordinary horror movie heroine — she’s a member of the Ultra Guard! She immediately knows something dangerous is afoot, and calls for backup.
You saw that too right? That is absolutely meant to be a call-back to the original Ultraman series with how she pulls her signal flare out of her boot. It’s framed identically to how Shin Hayata uses the Beta Capsule to become Ultraman!
Yeah! It’s actually kind of rare that we get references to Ultraseven’s predecessor over the course of the show, so when it happens here, it’s super obvious. When Anne catches sight of a saucer in the water in the light of her flare, the Ultra Guard comes soon after, and we get what is really an excellent little sequence of forensic science as they identify elements of the threat. It isn’t exactly a CSI episode, but I was nevertheless impressed by the sensible conclusions they came to.
It really is a huge difference compared to what we saw in Ultraman Leo over the past couple weeks. No one tries to second-guess or blow off Anne’s fears about her friend, the rest of the team just immediately launches into a serious investigation, trying to understand what happened and to prevent more harm from being done if this unknown threat is left unchecked. In many of the later series of the Showa era (not just in Leo), a lot of conflict happens within the defense team, challenging the protagonists and their teamwork within the group. Here, the conflict is all external from the defense team — something poses a threat to innocent lives on the planet, and they’re the only professionals equipped to stop it.
With no time to waste, they all pile into the Pointer and take off to investigate the mysterious saucer craft…. As the car turns into floating hovercraft over the water?
Man, I meant “equipped” in a much more abstract sense, the Ultra Guard always seems to get the coolest toys to play with in this show.
As the Ultra Guard putter around the waves, the saucer rises, just out of view of them. And within, poor Ruriko, now in a trance, under the light of a mysterious alien machine. And as the TDF meeting happening in the next scene indicates, she’s not the first to be taken like this. This alien’s footprints have been found as far away as the Swiss Alps and Africa — this is a worldwide threat.
Surprisingly, Ruriko doesn’t stay missing for long; the Ultra Guard finds her on a different beach only a short time later. She’s unconscious though, with strange lesions on her body. Medical examination later reveals something even more terrifying — the chromosomes in her cells are disappearing at a rapid rate!
This strangeness is compounded by a stark change in the cinematography at the same time. The film goes to a brown sepia-monochrome, and frames the medical exam as if it was reflected from the overhead lights, detached from the horrifying events unfolding on the table before them.
I interpret this as being Ruriko’s own perspective. For better or worse, she’s been, well… very badly treated by her captor. This scene and her… listlessness after her horrifying ordeal read as well… like she’s been assaulted. There’s not really a better way to phrase it. My stomach was turning watching this part in particular because it really felt like it.
The situation continues to deteriorate as the Ultra Guard redoubles its efforts to find the saucer, hoping that the solution to her deteriorating chromosomes can be found. Unfortunately, while they’re all out, Anne is still taking care of Ruriko, alone… and alone is how the alien, Braco, finds her.
As we’ve seen in this episode already, Anne is no helpless damsel in distress. She knows how to handle herself, and takes charge of dangerous situations. But the alien Braco literally gets the jump on her, and Anne seems to fall victim to the same mysterious illness which struck Ruriko.
Even Dan almost falls to its attack too! It takes Captain Kiriyama and his laser gun to finally put the threat down.
With the alien now dead at the halfway mark of the episode, shouldn’t the threat be over? Well, unfortunately, the Braco is only half of the problem now. The REAL threat is the “disease” that it passed on to Ruriko and Anne. The viral spores in their body, draining their chromosomes, turns out to be the aliens’ food source, as discovered during a dissection of the Braco’s corpse. The spores grow by consuming the chromosomes of females specifically, hence why they’ve been being targeted.
Y’know, the first time I saw this episode, I thought it was about a farm for humans, not literally turning humans into farms. Yikes.
This strikes me as a twist on an actual phenomenon in nature, where organisms in a parasitic relationship lose chromosomes and genes because they become so dependent on the host to provide basic functions that their own cells don’t need to provide any longer. This is a disturbing inversion of that concept. Here, the “hosts” — human beings — are literally reduced, rendered unconscious and drained of their very genetic makeup to only serve as food for these aliens.
Considering the aliens here also only target women, I wonder if there’s some commentary going on about the objectification and dehumanization of women in other ways in our world and society… or perhaps I’m reading far too much into this creepy sci-fi horror plot.
Regardless, the doctor acknowledges there is only one chance to cure the victims of their infection, but it’s a long shot.
A very, very long shot — the source of the radiation needed to destroy the spores can only be produced by a specific ore found on Saturn.
Keep in mind, going to Saturn is not an impediment to the Ultra Guard. Unfortunately, the trip would take three days, and by the. It would be too late to help Yuriko and Anne. They only have 15 hours. It’s a challenge beyond human ability to overcome. Human ability.
In the meantime, though, the Ultra Guard finally discovers the flying saucer; and it’s brought friends. Were all of these hiding under the water?
Who knows how many other legions of UFOs are hiding under the oceans, waiting for their own chance to start an invasion…
Before this point, Dan and Captain Kiriyama had been brooding over their options, and their inability to do anything to help Ruriko and Anne’s situation. They don’t have any time to think now, only react, and both of them immediately jump into action. Almost recklessly so on Dan’s part, he immediately dives his jet straight into a pack of UFOs and seemingly is shot out of the sky!
Oh wait, it’s a good thing Ultraseven arrives just in time to distract them during this dogfight. Gee, he always appears at the luckiest moments to save Dan and the rest of the Ultra Guard.
A lack of a color timer gives Seven a perfect sense of narrative timing, y’know.
After saving the Hawk 2, Seven rushes off to get to Saturn, only to be caught by the remaining saucers! Oh no! Thankfully, the Hawk 2 returns the favor, disrupting the net of alien tractor beams to allow him to escape. And thanks to Seven’s aid, the Ultra Guard is in rare form, annihilating the remaining ships with some truly impressive flying, including an actual aileron roll! (It’s not a barrel roll, Star Fox.)
It’s only a short wait for Seven to return from Saturn with the ore, and the Ultra Guard quickly uses its radiation to eliminate the infection from Ruriko and Anne’s bodies. Everyone seems relieved… but Dan is still missing, and the last anyone saw of him, he was plunging to almost-certain death in a fiery explosion.
The Captain seems to have faith that he’ll turn up eventually though, it wouldn’t be the first time Dan’s cheated almost-certain death in this show! Sure enough, we end with him just sitting in the control room, admiring his painting of the rings of Saturn on a display console.
Really, Dan? You’re not even going to say “hi” to anyone when you get back? The first thing you decide to do is draw a commemorative painting of your trip?
For some reason, this is one of the most human moments Dan has to me. It’s such a human reaction to just be immediately obsessed with capturing the marvel he encountered.
“The Human Farm” is a moody thriller of an episode, with immediate stakes and a fun resolution. Next week, we’ll be looking at a very different sort of thriller, when we watch Ultraseven Episode 22, “Search for Tomorrow”! Don’t miss it!