Hello folks, and welcome to Ultraman Connection RACE DAY! I’m your commentator-in-chief, EJ Couloucoundis.
And I’m your Eye in the Sky, Sarah Last, here to bring you the latest updates as we count down to the green light- Er, we might be getting a little too into character, but both of us have been excited to finally get around to this episode. It’s a real special one, for a number of reasons.
And we’re not the only ones excited over the idea of race cars either, just look at Dan and Anne here watching a newsreel hyping up a cross-country rally!
Something that I forgot when I watched this episode again for this was just how funny Dan is at the start of this episode. I guess the Land of Light never had any sort of motorsports, because he’s buzzing like a kid. It’s very charming to see him spinning the teacups on his date with Anne like a steering wheel.
I don’t know what it is, but I feel like Japan around this time into the modern era really inherited the west’s love of the big race. The story of the Cannonball Run has been retold countless more times in Japan than here in the states. We have, uh… NASCAR?
We have Burt Reynolds, a fact which I think sweeps the whole category. Anyways!
Dan’s newfound enthusiasm for motorsports comes at just the right moment for the Ultra Guard. Much like Reynold’s titular Bandit, the team has to plan an operation to smuggle a new piece of technology after an unknown enemy has targeted the TDF’s previous attempts. But they’re not carrying bootlegged alcohol, the TDF has developed a special new explosive, named “Spyner” which needs to be escorted to a top-secret testing site. Dan comes up with the brilliant idea of disguising the transport operation under the cover of a rally race, with the explosive device cleverly hidden in the back of their car!
It’s foolproof! What could possibly go wrong?
Well, Amagi is one of our main characters this episode…
Right, we should talk about our star of the show, and his bad luck with these kinds of operations, shouldn’t we?
We had already seen Amagi take center focus in episode 17, “Escape Dimension X!”. In that episode he was teamed up with Soga, a more impulsive, passionate member of the Ultra Guard, who contrasted with Amagi’s level-headed, rational and analytical personality. He is the technical and mechanical brain of the team, it makes sense why he was chosen for this assignment, accompanying Dan in the rally car.
However, in the previous ordeal he faced with Soga, they were both trying to survive in an alien jungle. It was a challenge more suited to that cautious, analytical mindset. In this episode, with espionage, traps, and high-speed danger behind every twist and turn in the road, Amagi starts to crack under the pressure.
It also doesn’t help that, y’know, he has severe PTSD from a factory explosion when he was a kid.
Amagi is actually one of my favorite members of the team — maybe my favorite member. He’s presented as the brain, and I don’t disagree with him as the brain, but — Sarah, have you ever seen Star Trek: The Next Generation?
Amagi is the Barclay, and that’s why I love him so much.
Alas, I’m more of a Star Wars gal than a Trekkie, but I’ll take your word for it.
About 50 percent of our readerbase will get the reference.
Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that Amagi is kind of just a normal joe — a supremely talented one, but still normal in a way that the others aren’t — in a team of super geniuses. And he has bad luck with aliens. That makes him more admirable to me in a lot of ways, though — He deals with his fear and pushes through, even when he’s really scared. And this episode, for him, is among the scariest, for personal reasons. 700 km with a highly explosive compound in the trunk? Just a day for Amagi.
And what a day it turns out to be.
It starts out ominously enough, with suspicion and subterfuge as Dan and Amagi eye their “competition” taking off from the starting line. That suspicion is certainly not unfounded, shortly afterwards they’re almost killed by a motorcycle suicide bomber. Later on, another rally car is accidentally destroyed in their place when it hits a landmine intended for the Ultra Guard, and they’re ambushed by gun-wielding assassins when they try to check for survivors!
This is serious, and you can feel both Dan and Amagi’s nerves start to fray as they come to understand the stakes of their race. It never was about trying to “win”, but will they even be able to make it to the finish line in one piece with the Spyner?
Can I take a moment and just note how invested I am in this espionage drama to this point? This reminds me a bit of the first few scenes of The Ultra Guard Goes West, which were set up much more like a James Bond or Mission Impossible-style spy story. It’s easy to forget that Dan’s actually a silver-and-red clad alien who’s 50+ meters tall, when you’re in the middle of this plot. The production values, location shots, and all-around outstanding acting from our leads really sell the episode in a gripping way.
You said that as we were setting up for this and I couldn’t agree more. We get into this terrifyingly lit night scene in a thick forest, and the sense of tension is palpable — at this point, Amagi has confessed to Dan his fears at this point, and it leads to this… frankly, completely insane scene involving the rest of the Ultra Guard, and Soga wielding a mandolin-gun.
I can only assume that Soga is mad he was left out of this operation and really wants to show off his shooting skills.
After that, Amagi has had it, and asks the Captain to replace him on the mission. It’s a good thing he does, too — the awkward silence lets the others hear the ticking of a hidden bomb!
This scene is incredible. We’ve discussed the professional demeanor and skilled talents of every single member of the team, but you can cut their tension and stress with a knife at this moment. The brief distraction allowed their unknown enemies to sabotage their car, putting their entire operation at risk, Amagi is in the middle of a full-blown panic attack, and they’re running out of time. It would be entirely reasonable for any other team to give up, cut their losses, and go back home, but this isn’t just any other team. This is Ultra Guard, the last line of defense for the Earth against threats that no one else can handle.
Regardless of Amagi’s phobias, or the very real chance that they’ll all be blown sky-high with one slip of his hands, he is the only one of them who has a chance at disarming the bomb. It takes Captain Kiriyama literally slapping him back to his senses for Amagi to buckle down and get to work, and even then his nerves nearly fail him again. Thankfully, Dan’s around for moral support.
In the previous scene, after facing down a hail of bullets from their assassins, Dan even admitted to Amagi that he’s scared too, but reminded him that this is their duty. Even though it seems unfairly cruel to put him through this, Amagi is still a part of the Ultra Guard, and is held to the same expectations as everyone else on the team. Honestly, it’s wonderful to see Dan stand beside him in this moment, not as Ultraseven, but as a member of the Ultra Guard, and a friend.
It comes down to a nail-biting last second, but the trust they all put in Amagi’s skills pays off. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief when the bomb is safely disarmed, and they can get back to the race.
An aside — we get to see everyone in their outdoor clothes when the next scene hits and my god, Sarah, these folks are so stylish. Furuhashi in the bomber jacket and shades, Anne’s hat and jean jacket — the sheer amount of drip on these guys is ridiculous.
The morning has come, and there’s 100 km left. The captain is willing to replace Amagi after the ordeal he’s been through the previous night, but now Amagi is feeling brave. He just faced his fear and now he’s ready to see the mission through. A great showing for the guy.
Of course, our mysterious villains have another plan, now. They… Well.
They stick a big balloon to the top of the car and lift it away. Can’t fault them for creativity!
Hey, all the normal supervillain plans have failed them so far, it’s time to think outside the box! Captain Kiriyama orders Soga to fire on the balloon, potentially risking Dan and Amagi again, but they’ve earned their composure under pressure this time, and make a safe landing with the Spyner still intact. You can really tell that the two of them have come out of these challenges more confident and trusting in all of their skills.
The enemy’s helicopters retreat, seemingly for good this time, and our heroes FINALLY make it to the testing site without going kaboom. Upon arrival though, there’s one last surprise for them… They never were in danger of going kaboom! The Spyner was in the back of the other car, with the rest of the Ultra Guard members, the entire time! Everyone has a good laugh, a lesson learned, and we can ride off into the sunset…
Oh wait, did I say the “last” surprise? Just kidding, there’s still one more twist that I’m sure all our readers have been looking forward to.
And what a surprise it is! Emerging from the mountainside towards the testing site, weighing in at 70,000 tons, at 60 meters tall, it’s the DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINOSAUR TAAAAAAAAAANK!
It’s almost a shame how awesome this monster is — I consider this episode to be a five-star classic, but Dinosaur Tank is so memorable, so off-the-wall fantastic, that it almost eclipses the rest of the story.
It’s so much fun to show this episode to someone who has never seen it before and not give any spoilers before this. Trust me. There is NO hint whatsoever as to what’s coming for the Ultra Guard until Dino Tank literally explodes out of the mountain at this moment.
It’s a dinosaur. It’s a tank. It’s Dino Tank. There’s no other way to describe it. I am in awe of this absolute unit.
I honestly just… want to tell folks just to watch this fight. It’s so incredible, featuring broken legs, people being buried in landslides… Should we just stop here, Sarah? This isn’t my favorite episode but it’s one of the absolute can’t-miss ones, and past this point, it’s can’t-miss for the sheer spectacle.
This isn’t the first time Seven’s struggled against opponents, but just the incredible force of Dino Tank’s onslaught makes the fight feel especially dangerous. Not to mention, it has also stolen the Spyner from the testing grounds, and… well, for lack of a better description, holds it hostage in its jaws during their battle.
Despite the ordeal that it took to deliver the explosive here, Seven is forced to make a choice to save the lives of the engineers and the rest of the Ultra Guard. He destroys the bomb with his Slugger, destroying Dino Tank in a spectacular fireball along with it.
There’s your test for the TDF scientists, I suppose! I’d consider that a rousing success.
The explosive certainly blows up well. Who’d have thunk it?
The UG pulls Dan out of the explosion — I’m stunned Seven could survive a blast like that, frankly — and he wakes up to see Amagi standing over him. The loop has been closed, and his trauma has been well and truly conquered.
MAN, what a great episode..
You said it! This episode has everything, a thrilling espionage-focused drama challenging our favorite characters, cool stunts and miniature work, and lots and lots of things blowing up.
And Dino Tank. Can’t forget about that.
Next week, we continue with the Cold War-style flare that this period of Ultraseven is remembered for with Ultraseven Episode 28 “The Earthling All Alone”. See you there!