Welcome back to Watch Club, folks! I’m EJ Couloucoundis, editor-in-chief of Ultraman Connection. It’s taken me a week, but I’ve finally recovered from “Super Weapon R-1.” Ready to keep watching!
And I’m Sarah Last, staff writer and content creator for Ultraman Connection. Last week was a doozy of an episode, it’s true. While Ultraseven has some fantastically dark episodes that hit the audience hard, it’d be really tough to watch if that was the only tone presented with each episode. This week’s story isn’t nearly as heavy, but it does get pretty spooky, so I’m looking forward to checking it out.
This episode thankfully is willing to travel into camp and have a lot of fun with it, so let’s just jump into Episode 26, “Operation Cyborg!” And like any good episode of Ultraseven, it starts with a spooky forest shuddering as an alien spacecraft touches down, eager to start an invasion!
Shortly afterwards, an unsuspecting couple find themselves on a holiday road trip through the same forest, celebrating their newly-announced engagement. I’m sure only good fortune is in store for our lovely guest characters this episode, right?
More than just being happy lovebirds, we learn that one of them, Nogawa, is also a communications technician who works for the TDF — the larger organization which includes the Ultra Guard under its supervision. More than that, he’s also a friend of Soga’s! All this of course, makes him a prime target for the aliens hiding out in the lake. As soon as the couple starts to drive away, the UFO captures them in some sort of magnetic tractor beam, and pulls the car into the ship!
I have to wonder, did the aliens land here with the intention of targeting Nogawa specifically? Did they know that he and his fiancee Sanae would be traveling here? Or were they just hoping to get lucky and find someone to use if they waited around long enough?
I’m willing to believe that the Alien Borg, the villain of this episode, has been following this guy for weeks. Spying on his calendar, all that good stuff. As the two are mid-drive, well — there’s no good way to say this — the ship rises out of the water like a giant fish and eats their car in one bite.
And yet, shortly after, Sanae is found unconscious in the forest…
The Ultra Guard has no clue what’s happened here, and Sanae seems to have lost her memory of the incident. The only clue they have to go on is a trail of spilled oil that goes over the bank into the lake. The team concludes that their car must’ve gone over the side, which also doesn’t make any sense, since they know Nogawa was a good, upstanding guy who wouldn’t drive recklessly like that.
Still, with no other occurrences in the area, and nothing else to go on, the whereabouts of Nogawa himself are still a mystery to the Ultra Guard. But not to the audience!
We get to see inside the Alien Borg’s ship, where they lay out in very clear detail what exactly they have planned for Nogawa now that he’s under their control. As you might expect, readers, it’s nothing pleasant.
It’s true. Nogawa has been forcibly converted through an operation… that made him a cyborg!
Well, not quite, but I wanted to sneak in a bit of a title drop. There IS sort of an implication that the Borg killed and resurrected him. That actually brings up a point I think about. How often do humans in the Ultraman Series end up resurrected by evil aliens – usually with less challenges behind it than the Ultras?
Admittedly, the Ultras tend to give their human partners free will along with their lives, and that’s NOT something the Borg gave Nogawa.
Right, they’ve only given him his life back for one reason, and that’s to destroy the Ultra Guard, of course. Funny that Ultraseven himself seems to be a complete afterthought, but I think we’ll see the reason for that here shortly. Anyways!
With everyone assuming he’s dead, Nogawa finally shows up out of the blue, to his fiancee. Out of this entire episode, this scene here is the one I remember the best because of its stark lighting. There’s warm shades of light showing Sanae, contrasted with dark shadows hiding Nogawa. She’s overjoyed that her fiance is alive, but he refuses to tell her anything about what’s happened, only that he’s been assigned a very secret mission and that she can’t tell anyone he’s appeared here.
Then he immediately disappears around the corner! That’s pretty strange.
The next day when he shows up at the TDF base, everyone’s just happy he seems to be okay, but only Dan realizes that there’s something… off about his appearance. He even describes his as seeming like a “dead man”. He quickly heads off to tail Nogawa, but doesn’t have to wait long. The guy literally knocks out half a dozen guards and then disappears into thin air again the minute he steps out the door!
The UG base goes on alert, as the Ultra Guard comes to the conclusion that “there’s definitely something strange about Nogawa.” Bit of an understatement. And literally a minute later, Dan catches sight of him, traveling one of the trippiest hallways I’ve seen in this series. That cannot be up to code – especially since the doors are apparently permeable enough for Nogawa to just pass through them!
Not permeable enough for Dan to see through, even with his Ultra-powered X-Ray vision that we’ve seen used in other episodes. He’s stumped, clearly something’s going on with Nogawa, but they have no clue what he’s up to next.
The small window of time after he loses Dan gives Nogawa just enough opportunity to put the alien Borg’s plan into action — planting miniature bombs around the base. The rest of the Ultra Guard catch him in the act this time, but they’re hesitant about actually fighting him, since they have no idea that he’s being mind-controlled. They don’t know at this point if he’s an alien doppelganger, brainwashed, or what’s going on.
Dan immediately jumps into action once again though… but here’s the real challenge of this episode. The “cyborg” procedure that allowed the Borg aliens to control Nogawa also made him practically indestructible! He shrugs off all of Dan’s punches and literally beats him unconscious with his bare hands before the Ultra Guard finally scrambles to the scene and tases him.
Sheesh, we’ve seen Dan put down by surprise attacks before, I think this is the first time where he just straight-up gets thrashed like this in a hand-to-hand fight, as Dan Moroboshi at least.
It’s not like Dan hasn’t gotten beaten up before, but it’s usually out of surprise or ambushes. This time, Dan walks right up to the Borg Nogawa, ready for a fight, and just gets walloped. Dan is stronger than a normal human, even when not in Ultra form, but we just see his hands bouncing of Nogawa’s body — and these are real-looking chops and punches. Don’t fight cyborgs, folks.
The TDF studies Nogawa’s body and learns about his cyborg nature, but manages to deal with the hypnotic plate in his head that was controlling him. With the last of his strength, the old Nogawa shines through, and manages to clue the Ultra Guard into finding the UFO that kidnapped him.
The Ultra Guard makes quick work of the UFO after it reappears in the swamp, but the Borg aren’t finished off yet! There’s still one more bomb left, which is powerful enough to blow up the entire base by itself.
And… it’s just right there on Dan’s boot. Seriously, you hauled him all the way up to the medical center and NOBODY noticed that?
To be fair, the UG uniforms are already the bomb.
…Nobody? That did nothing? Rough crowd.
Before the UG can find the bomb, the Borg woman that captured Nogawa in the first place just… gets into the base. (Why did they need to make a sleeper agent if they could find their own way in.) Knocking out everyone with some kind of strobe necklace, she prepares to kill Nogawa for his “betrayal” of the thing he was forcibly rebuilt into doing, before Dan wakes up, shooting her necklace weapon and forces her to retreat.
Even though their plan to destroy the base needed… er, a little more refinement, I genuinely love the design of the Borg aliens. They look like a living, animated suit of armor without being obviously medieval. It’s just strange and asymmetrical enough to look distinctly alien. It also fits with what I think is their scariest aspect, the Terminator-esque indestructibility, and how they seem to just no-sell every single one of Seven’s attacks.
For a moment, it looks like Seven may not be able to stop them at all, let alone in time to prevent the last time bomb from going ka-boom… But it seems there’s one attack even the Borg weren’t prepared for.
Right after the Borg gets cocky and tells Seven that the bomb is on his foot, the giant just grabs it and throws it at the alien. No longer desperate to find the bomb, Seven fully engages the Borg… and frankly, it goes kind of rough to start! Nogawa clearly got his fighting lessons from his alien masters. Thankfully, one slugger toss and it’s off with the Borg’s head.
The story ends happily, two weeks after the Borg incident, Nogawa and Sanae are married, the horrible invasion a distant memory. The last shot we see is them getting in their car, flanked by friends and loved ones, off to a new life together.
“Operation Cyborg” is a great episode. While not impactful like “Super Weapon R-1” or “The Targeted Town,” the story is a great sci-fi romp with fun, slightly trippy visual effects and one of the coolest aliens of the series.
Next week, we’re taking a look at an absolute fan-favorite episode, filled with thrills, chills, and a DINOSAUR TANK! It’s Ultraseven Episode 27 “The 700 Kilometer Run”! We’ll see you there!