Hello and welcome back to this week’s recap of Ultraman Decker! If you haven’t seen episode 23, “The Sky of Despair” then let this serve as a big old warning that this article will contain major, open spoilers throughout the piece. Read on at your own peril!
Speaking of peril, last week certainly ended with a lot of it. The Earth itself faced the peril of annihilation after the Alien Bazdo, Agams, used his Terraphaser robot – and his own body – as a catalyst to accelerate the Spheres’ destruction of the planet. While Kanata’s desperate attack managed to halt it for the time being, their battle caused cataclysmic damage to the surrounding city. If that wasn’t concerning enough, Kanata’s mission as an Ultraman and as a member of GUTS-Select was also left in a perilous position when his teammate, Soma Ryumon, found him knocked out cold on the ground, and finally figured out his identity as Decker.
To be honest, I’m more shocked that it took him twenty-three episodes to put two and two together. It was almost humorous to see this week’s episode pick up with Ryumon reliving through the events of the season and silently questioning why he didn’t notice before this point. This isn’t the first time that an Ultraman hero’s identity has leaked out before the finale of a show – although to draw connections between shows on that point would be more spoilers on top of the ones I’m already reviewing for this article! If my readers haven’t done so already, you should probably watch the original Ultraman Tiga and Ultraman Dyna series.
Just a suggestion.
Getting back to my original point, this episode starts out similarly to last week with a more quiet, subdued scene that helps to establish the characters. Everyone seems to be questioning their failures, where things have gone wrong, and how to move forward from the disastrous events of the previous fight. Ryumon questions his own judgment. Captain Murahoshi questions how to find a way to defeat the Spheres’ invasion for good. Kanata questions how to reach out to Agams, even now that he’s lost his memory of all the events since he arrived on this present-day version of Earth.
These are all very simple, short, plainly shot scenes. They’re effective, however, because they all firmly establish something important about the GUTS-Select team. Each one of them, when the chips are down, when everything seems to be at its worst, still holds out hope that they can find a way out of disaster. And most importantly, that hope lies in something crucial I noted in last week’s review. Even in their darkest moments, each of these characters responds to disaster by relying on the bonds they’ve built with each other.
Note: the captain’s concern isn’t just over the threat of the Spheres, but also over how Agams has “closed himself off” from the team. He could have suggested many other ways of forcing information out of Agams, even with his amnesia. The most eloquent argument to be made for Murahoshi’s integrity of character – his sense of almost naive trust and compassion for others – comes from the fact that even now he still sees Agams as a fellow comrade, and a member of the team.
Similarly, Ryumon still treats Kanata the same as he always has, even after the realization of his friend’s identity. Again, he doesn’t try to force Kanata to fix everything as Decker or rely solely on his power as an Ultraman. The first thing he does after Kanata rejoins the team, following his recovery from the previous fight, is to encourage him to talk to Agams! Like the Captain, Ryumon also recognizes the strength of those bonds, more than just Kanata’s ability to turn into a Giant of Light who can karate chop Kaiju in half. Because of that bond with Kanata as a teammate, and the long time they have fought alongside one another, Ryumon also still sees him as a teammate and encourages him to fight his hardest while he does the same.
Later in the episode, the interrogation scene between Agams and Kanata was remarkably intense. Speaking from a more technical point of view, this conversation was very simple on paper – shot and reverse-shot of both characters talking face-to-face – but it found ways to provide visual interest alongside the dialogue. The wavering, ever-shifting lighting, smokey air, and occasional rigid intrusion of objects framing Agams’ imprisonment – both literal and metaphorical – helped to represent the hazy, uncertain atmosphere and perspective of both characters.
Speaking from a screenwriting sense however, there is another very clear purpose for this scene beyond just setting a mood and conveying simple exposition. The show wants the audience to empathize with Agams’ suffering as much as possible at this point when he’s truly lost everything – even his cause for revenge. For a moment, we get to see who Agams really was, a brilliant scientist full of hope and a desire to protect that which he held most dear. Not just his planet, but also the planet called Earth and the people on it who he believed fought so bravely, and for the hopes and dreams of his wife as well.
All that becomes very clear to the audience, for a moment, that is. For a very, very brief moment.
Before this episode premiered, when talking about this finale arc of Ultraman Decker with friends, I joked and said something like “Well, the Earth is already doomed and we left a smoking crater in the city last week, how much worse could it get?”
For a few seconds, things seemed like they might be okay. The bonds between our characters provided the strength we had hoped for, Kanata seemed like he could reach out to Agams, and Agams in return hinted at a secret weakness that could be the key to defeat the Spheres once and for all. All it took to destroy that hope was one look at the Spheres’ attack. Unlike the main characters of GUTS-Select, the reminder of Agams’ own failures and mistakes did not encourage him to fall back on those same connections, but rather to fall back into an even deeper sense of despair.
And now, all the pieces seem to be in place. Agams has abandoned himself so totally as to be consumed by the Spheres. Even his rage against the Earth is bled dry – in a way that seems very similar to Yapool’s ignoble fate in episode 19. Kanata and the GUTS-Select team seem to have the courage and strength to stand against the Spheres, but even Decker’s spectacular fight against three monsters seems like only a temporary stopgap that does little to halt the real endgame from arriving.
At the end of the episode, a threat which has only vaguely been hinted at for the entire season – the Sphere “Mother” – has arrived through a wormhole out of space and time. Even worse, it was summoned by the only character who knows how to stop it.
Will Kanata’s mission to “save” Agams be truly impossible? It seems to be a necessary piece of this puzzle to defeat the Sphere for good, but how can he save someone who has totally given up any hope of salvation himself? I suppose we’ll find out the answer to that question…
…Two weeks from now?
Forget Agams, I’m despairing at the thought of having to wait an extra week to see what happens in the penultimate episode! Next time though, we return to the TPU’s Technology Division for their take on these events. Until then, stay close to Ultraman Connection, and I will see you all in the new year!