Hi there folks, welcome back to the UC Watch Club. Got a real doozy for you this week. Before we get into that, though, I’m EJ Couloucoundis, editor-in-chief for Ultraman Connection.
And I’m Sarah Last once again, staff writer and content creator for Ultraman Connection!
Man, Ultraseven just keeps giving us some truly wild stories, huh? Imagine being a kid today and turning on the TV to watch your show about an alien terrorist cell hunting down people who see them. The reception to this episode must have been CRAZY when it first aired.
To be fair, that's not even the most unbelievable invasion plot we’ve had to this point, but there’s a couple other big reasons for why this episode is memorable.
There’s just so many details that go into each 25-minute episode of Ultraseven which help to immediately pull in audiences. They always do such a fantastic job of dropping you straight into the bizarre-yet-familiar world of the show, and I feel like I’m repeating myself sometimes with these articles when I point out those elements. For example, say, immediately starting with an oddly-dressed funny looking man running, screaming in terror away from a gigantic dump truck driven by a sinister person in a black mask? That’ll do it.
Thus begins our roller coaster ride this week. First the man seemingly escapes from the truck, but falls exhausted in front of the Ultra Guard’s Pointer as it’s out on patrol! Captain Kiriyama and Furahashi nearly hit him on accident, but stop and revive him long enough to hear only one frightening message — Warehouse 03 will explode!
What’s Warehouse 03? Why is it going to explode? How does this man know about it? No time to ask more questions, when the same sinister truck shows up for round two! But this time Furahashi and the Captain take the initiative, chasing the truck to an abandoned factory and then find it abandoned as well, when they jump out to investigate.
It isn’t until everyone goes back to the base that we finally start getting some explanations… only the explanation itself just makes this whole series of events even MORE bizarre!
The man, Yasui, is a fortune teller, and his crystal ball seems to ACTUALLY be able to predict the future, considering we, the viewers, are seeing a properly shot scene of an explosion. The Ultra Guard is certainly skeptical, especially Furuhashi, but even when early intel suggests no danger to the warehouse, Captain Kiriyama orders a double-check. He’s been in this thing for 21 episodes up to now and he is not taking chances. After all, Warehouse 03 is the hidden site where all of the TDF’s next-generation weapons are being developed. The fact that this random fortune teller knows about it at all indicates that there’s something off about this whole situation.
Plus, y’know, he’s being hunted by aliens, according to his telling.
The primary conflict which drives this episode centers on that division, between Kiriyama who takes Yasui and his predictions seriously, and the rest of the Ultra Guard who only joke around and blow him off. Furahashi and the others are suspicious of the fact that he knows about the warehouse and think he’s a charlatan trying to con the captain.
Later on in the episode, his own superior, Manabe, even begins to doubt Kiriyama’s reasoning after he orders a thorough investigation of a supposed UFO landing that Yasui “saw” in his crystal ball, which also turns up nothing. He remarks that it’s out-of-character for the ordinarily stoic captain who holds his own team to such high expectations of performance. Why is he entertaining such clearly outlandish ideas in the face of all evidence?
Well… compared to everything else we’ve seen in this show, is the fortune-teller’s claim really that outlandish? The thought that an invading alien force could pass undetected through the Ultra Guard’s defenses? It’s happened before already! The idea that this supposed fortune-teller has legit clairvoyant abilities? There've been many, many other examples of things which we thought impossible or beyond reason in this show, which nevertheless are real.
And more importantly, are real threats to the Earth. If you ask me, I think Kiriyama is the only person acting rationally in this dilemma.
It’s something that comes up a lot in later entries in the series. How many times in Ultraman Ace does does it happen where Seiji declares that a strange phenomenon is tied to the evil Yapool, everyone laughs it off, and then Yapool is responsible?
The answer is every time. Every single time.
Nevertheless, the TDF’s head brass can’t justify the time or expense spent on this supposed wild goose-chase, so they cut Kiriyama’s investigations short. With no other official options, the rest of the Ultra Guard ship Yasui back to his house, wish him the best of luck, and leave the terrified man clutching his briefcase with his crystal ball, waiting for the unknown alien assassins to undoubtedly return for him.
Sounds pretty heartless, right? Well, Kiriyama may have exhausted all his official options, but he can’t leave his personal conscience alone, and decides to conveniently take a leave of absence at the same time.
It’s good that you mentioned Ultraman Ace because I was going to bring it up too, and this episode also shares a lot in common with the series which sits between them both, Return of Ultraman. All the team captains from those three shows share a lot of character elements, and I think this is the most important one.
Whenever the lead characters in each show make some unbelievable claim, each of the captains always weighs their decisions with the welfare of their team and the rest of the Earth in mind. They never jump to conclusions, but remember, dismissing such claims skeptically itself is a conclusion you can jump to. And most importantly, their faith in their team is so strong that they will literally put their own lives on the line to make sure nothing is left to chance, and they have tested every possible route of success — or even survival.
Kiriyama makes the same decision here.
It’s also a really funny inversion of the usual “You’re a loose cannon cop, turn in your badge and gun!” trope in western detective shows. Here Kiriyama gives up his authority willingly, and then the Director, Manabe literally hands him a pistol to take matters into his own hands.
You want to know how good this episode is as a Kiriyama focus episode?
I didn’t realize Dan wasn’t around until he shows up a few minutes later, having been in space the entire time. His story and performance are so compelling that I genuinely forgot that the name of this show was Ultraseven. Of course, once Dan hears the story about what’s happened and what Kiriyama is doing now, he immediately believes his captain is onto something and goes to find and help him.
The dynamic between the members of the Ultra Guard isn’t something that’s given a lot of specific facetime during episodes — after all, the threat always takes priority — but it’s really charming how much faith Dan has in Kiriyama. It really reads like he’s the human that he respects the most out of everyone in the series. After all, he’s the man that Ultraseven himself chose to follow, right?
I never thought of it that way, but you’re right. Dan in the first episode is a sort of carefree wanderer, but he sticks around on the Ultra Guard after helping to defeat the Alien Cool’s invasion. It makes sense that the reason he joined the team at all, instead of just going back to wandering, was because of Kiriyama’s leadership and example.
Anyway, Kiriyama’s lost. Guy has no idea where Yasui’s gotten to, and starts hunting for what he left behind — or, to perform a title drop, he “searches for tomorrow.”
He ain’t gonna find Yasui, though — that guy’s been nabbed. There’s a really spooky turn when he starts going up to people, and everyone he speaks to turns out to be a golden-faced alien!
Hey, I would like it if this show would stop stealing bits from my recurring nightmares. That’d be great, thanks.
I think this is supposed to be a comedic scene on some level. Yasui’s actor is pretty hilariously expressive with body language and big goofy reactions, but man. The idea of being lost, alone in the dark, surrounded by things which seem familiar and reassuring at first glance, but hide deadly threats around every corner? And they’re all coming for you? It’s a nightmarish experience, to be sure. Even the appearance of the “Shadow” aliens here fits with that concept, since they’re disguised as human beings, but have impassive, metallic-looking faces which are literally inverted, turned inside-out.
I have some friends who still consider the Alien Shadow to be the scariest Ultraman characters they ever encountered. Even when one finally returned in Ultraman Geed, one of them turned off the show whenever he showed up! And he was a good guy in that!
Even then, Zena, the AIB agent in Geed, was still a secret agent and operated undercover in a human disguise. There’s a clear line of development between how they’re established here, and Zena’s own secretive character, and militaristic past in that show. Ah, but to say more would be spoilers, you guys should go watch Geed to see for yourself!
The Shadows here, however, are absolutely not good guys. Moments after Dan finds Kiriyama and expresses his faith in him, the bomb Yasui predicted is thrown in from above, and Warehouse 03 EXPLODES, injuring Kiriyama’s arm in the blast.
Faced with the reality of Yasui’s predictions, the Ultra Guard realizes their mistake and apologizes to Kiriyama; but of course, he’s not interested in apologies. After all, Yasui was right about Warehouse 03 — and he also claimed that aliens were trying to kill him. He’s been right once… and now he’s missing.
Missing, because he’s been kidnapped by the Shadow aliens! The next scene cuts to him literally being tortured, and this definitely is not supposed to be humorous at all. The alien Shadows want him to go back to the Ultra Guard and make new predictions — now that they’ve been cued into the warehouse explosion being suspicious — but they intend to force him to make false claims, in order to cover for their attack on the TDF base itself!
It’s ironic that only now, when Yasui and the Ultra Guard itself is in the most danger, does anyone take his fortune-telling seriously. The Shadow leader of the group even calls him “frightening” for his ability to see through their schemes!
Yasui doesn’t want to harm the Ultra Guard with lies, and so the Shadows begin to, uh… torture him. With electroshock torture. No fun effects to it, just agony and twitching.
Luckily, the Ultra Guard have already managed to find the Shadow base with a tool that allows them to see invisible entities and objects. They infiltrate their spaceship base and begin the attack! …Not that the Shadows didn’t see them coming. When Dan and Amagi are deep in the base, the ship part takes off, destroying it and burying them in rubble! Of course, that’s Dan in there, not a normal human, and he’s able to transform into Seven, jumping out and smashing the fleeing ship.
The Shadow aliens have one last trick up their invisible sleeves though. When Seven approaches the downed spacecraft — rather menacingly, I have to say — they claim to surrender. Seven hesitates, only for them to unleash their kaiju weapon on him, Gabura!
Speaking of menacing, this guy is one of the most memorable monster designs from Ultraseven in my opinion. Half scaly reptile, half slobbering attack dog, and 100% ugly as sin. Like the Shadow aliens themselves, its face even is a strange rearrangement of the features you might expect on one the afore-mentioned creatures, but shoved around in weird places, and with a mouth too wide and full of sharp teeth to resemble anything other than a shark.
And did I mention it drools?
Did you mention that its head comes off and keeps attacking after Seven beheads it?
Thanks once again to Tsuburaya Productions for giving me new nightmares to look forward to tonight.
Even after Seven saves Yasui, it’s only through the fortune teller’s warning that Seven isn’t totally wrecked by the last-ditch attack by the kaiju cranium. This time, though, Seven isn’t going to give the Shadows another chance to surrender — an Emerium Beam at the downed saucer, and that thing goes sky-high — and Gabura drops to the ground, finally totally dead.
Geez, these guys played dirty.
Captain Kiriyama and the rest of the Ultra Guard find them exhausted and injured, but safe after the grueling battle. Even Yasui seems to have recovered from his torture after some time back at the TDF base, but he didn’t escape from the Shadow aliens entirely without incident. He quickly finds that he’s lost the ability to see the future!
Rather than being disheartened at the thought of losing his livelihood though, Yasui is ecstatic. After all, the Shadow aliens targeted him in the first place because he inadvertently saw the outcome of their plans in his crystal ball. He can live safely without being attacked by other aliens in the future, as just a normal human being now!
At least, until the next group of aliens try to destroy the Earth.
Er, this was supposed to be a happy ending, wasn’t it?
It’s… kinda happy. Yasui gets to escape the cycle of violence against alien threats! That’s… something.
A-anyway, we’ll see you guys next week when we catch up with Officer Furuhashi in episode 23, “Return to the North!”