A week can seem like an interminable amount of time to wait when the last cliffhanger involved the betrayal of a major character, the end of the world and humanity with it, and then a new hero dropping out of the sky who hijacks the power of Ultraman Decker to try and fight back against said end of the world. And fails.
Now, returning to this week’s episode, the audience probably expects answers to the many, many questions raised by previous events. Some answers were received, certainly, and these will necessarily involve discussing major open spoilers for Ultraman Decker episode 15. Those who have yet to see this episode should probably stop and fix that right now before continuing.
Right. Now that we’ve taken care of due diligence, let me explain.
No, there is too much. Let me sum up.
We here at Ultraman Connection, along with most of the audience, had been expecting some sort of twist with Professor Asakage and his ultimate invention, the Terraphaser robot. The Terraphaser, and Kanata’s role fighting alongside it as Ultraman Decker, should have been the crucial key to victory needed to turn the tide of battle. This teamwork between the power of Ultraman and the ingenuity of humanity seemed like it would allow GUTS Select to finally defeat the UFO menace of the Spheres and free the Earth from their barrier. However, the audience grew to suspect that another shoe was going to drop, with Asakage’s increasingly suspicious behavior, and an emphasis on sheer, uncontrolled power represented by the Terraphaser, which has often led to unfortunate consequences in other Ultraman series.
When that other shoe dropped, however, it proved to instead be a boot that was thrown at our collective heads from off-stage. It wasn’t just that Asakage was actually a villain and intended the Terraphaser to be a weapon turned against humanity; the real magnitude of the twist was the reveal of the true, terrifyingly huge scale of the fight against the Spheres themselves.
Professor Asakage - now revealed as the alien Agams, had in fact enabled the Sphere’s arrival on Earth in order to destroy it. The mysterious Decker who appeared at the last second to save Kanata’s life, and stand against this new nemesis, had crossed dimensions to try and stop him. But even more than that, more twists kept dropping. Both characters were from a future timeline. The Decker from the future was the original bearer of the power of Ultraman and sent it back in time for Kanata to use in the first episode! And then finally – the most shocking twist of all, in my opinion – the discovery that Agams’ whole mission was one of self-destructive revenge, to destroy humanity because their expansion was responsible for the destruction of whole other worlds under the Spheres’ attacks. Including his own!
That’s a lot to drop all at once, and in another show, it would have been overwhelming. It could have easily pushed the characters we had followed to this point and their much smaller, Earth-bound concerns out of the picture entirely. Why should we, the audience, care about Kanata’s fondness for his grandpa’s rice crackers when the fate of the entire universe of sentient life in a future timeline is riding on the battle against the Spheres now?
Here’s where the real brilliant work of storytelling in Decker takes place. Of course, we should care about Kanata and his goofy eagerness, his character’s motivations, and his family’s rice cracker business, because those small things drive him forward to find the strength to fight against the Spheres in the first place.
In fact, in the middle of this episode’s apocalyptic crisis, all the exposition explaining these future events is delivered precisely because of rice crackers! It’s such a small thing, a shared connection between Kanata and the man who wields the power of Decker in the future, but that mutual everyday experience prompts the future Decker to explain what’s happening and create that bond between the two of them.
It’s been said repeatedly – Ultraman stories are at their best when they can parallel huge cosmic conflicts with the smaller, personal stories that take place within those larger contexts. Over and over again, Decker has done a phenomenal job of this. Within the spectacular battles and huge scale of powers wielded by the heroes and villains alike, the audience comes to care about the stakes because we see how the individual characters themselves relate them.
Just explaining all the stakes riding on Decker’s fights in the future against the Spheres doesn’t create the kind of emotional connection the audience needs to truly become invested in that fight. But seeing Kanata’s determination to protect all the lives he can, and even the life of his descendant, to ensure that he’ll be able to enjoy his family’s rice crackers in that future? That had me cheering in the final decisive battle of this episode.
These are not only good storytelling conventions to create an emotional response for the audience. The heroes themselves are not driven forward by high and lofty abstract goals, hopes for some vaguely imagined future. Kanata finally finds the underlying answer for why he fights by focusing on the lives he’s personally responsible for immediately around him. Those lives include his friends on the GUTS Select team, but also all the lives on Earth and Mars, and even the life of his descendant in the future!
His descendant – the future Decker, aptly named Decker Asumi, which makes writing this article surprisingly difficult – finds the strength to support him through this shared connection as well. He finally takes Kanata’s own determination seriously because he can see the lengths his ancestor goes to carry out that ideal in a real, immediate sense.
That immediate physical presence creates a new power as well. In characteristic Ultraman fashion, the power of that bond becomes a light. This one is unique to Kanata however, rather than being a power he merely borrows from the future.
And oh, dear sweet Noa is this new power a sight to behold. Forget cheering, I was yelling so hard when Dynamic type first hit, pushing out an incredible wave of light before it like a crashing tsunami. Forgive me for being overly poetic but dang this was so cool to watch.
Again, it’s not just the spectacle of the fight itself that was so thrilling. It’s what Decker Dynamic type represents. It is Kanata’s commitment to protecting lives in the present, his strength of character, at once straightforward but unmatched in strength because of its single-minded focus. That single-mindedness may have come off as a weakness in other episodes, but it’s true power brilliantly cuts through despair in a remarkable way here. In fact, this happens in the same way that Ultraman Decker’s new form effortlessly cuts through Spherasaurus in this week’s battle.
I will never get tired of how literally this franchise plays its metaphors. It’s wonderful.
At the end of the day we see that true power comes from everyday choices we make, and seemingly ordinary experiences that we all share. Those connections that are built through experiences reach across time, into the future, and truly change the universe around us for the better.
And it all starts with such small things. Rice crackers.
Flowers. Trees. The sky. Winds and clouds.
When Future Decker leaves at the end of the episode, he charges Kanata with one last mission. The real crux of this conflict in the second half of the show won’t only revolve around fighting against the Spheres. How could it, after we just witnessed the level of power Kanata can wield with Decker’s new form? How could this show possibly top that spectacle? I mean, I certainly hope it tries because I want to see more fights with this suit, believe me.
As we’ve seen, the emotional connection which drives the show doesn’t come from just destroying monsters and saving the Earth. It comes from protecting the small, everyday hopes, borne through bonds between individuals. Now Kanata’s real test will come with restoring Agams’ specifically. After all, Decker Asumi’s last words to Kanata are, “Save him.”
It will likely be his most challenging trial yet. But I have hope he’ll see it through, and I eagerly await the second half of this show leading towards what will assuredly be a spectacular conclusion. I hope you’ll join us as well next week here at Ultraman Connection.