Previously on Decker… a lot happened! Lots of important events and arrivals went down in the episode itself, in the year between the Spheres’ attack on Mars, and especially in the ten years following from Ultraman Trigger’s finale. That’s a lot of ground to cover, and sometimes shows can trip over themselves by trying to press too many events into the same episode, without allowing it the time to breathe and let its weight settle with the audience in meaningful ways.
Immediately then leading into a hefty endgame plot this week, reminiscent of a classic Ultraman Tiga story, could seem like a bad idea on top of this. On the other hand, a hefty plot is necessary to match the importance of two Ultraman heroes teaming up in the first place! In Ultraman Dyna, such a team-up between Dyna and Tiga was important enough to be featured in its own separate movie, in fact. So, how does one take all the plot lines, character arcs and spectacular battles from a feature-length film and fit it into two episodes within a weekly show without losing the feel of that importance?
Well, like this, actually.
For a plot leading with such dire circumstances – Megalothor returning now with the additional power of the Spheres, and the Dark Giant Carmearra seemingly resurrecting with it – episode 8 paradoxically opened with a more subdued, intimate conversation between our two main characters. By this point in the show, however, I think that character-first focus is a real signature highlight of Decker. The show’s spectacle and high stakes are brought into sharper focus by framing those aspects within the perspective of the characters, their motivations, worries and desires.
Last week, Kengo and Kanata’s personalities bounced off each other with comedic enthusiasm, and that enthusiasm has been a defining point of characterization for both. Contrasting that, this conversation showed how Kengo seems to now treat his role as Ultraman with a little more somber certainty at this point. Appropriately so, considering the trials he’s gone through as Trigger, both in his time on Earth and in the ten years since its conclusion.
Kanata jumped straight into his role as Decker without much forethought, merely instinctual action. That same instinct has guided most of his actions through his own trials since then. This week’s episode made that contrast even more obvious. In this opening conversation, he was confronted with essentially a look into his own future. Not an exact one, but the costs and consequences of being an Ultraman surely must look a lot clearer to him after meeting another one face-to-face.
I also found it interesting that Kengo thought that he failed in his fight as Ultraman. Even though he saved the Earth multiple times and fought equally as hard to protect the people of Mars after the Spheres attacked, the fact that he was unable to make Carmearra smile, liberating her spirit as it were, was his biggest regret. It might seem like a trivial point compared to the other challenges he faced, but that fact is really what defines him as an Ultraman, more than any other.
It also challenged Kanata to think about how he defines himself as Ultraman. If Kengo was willing to stake so much on a single person’s smile, what drives Kanata to fight in the same way? What was he willing to stake his life on – as a human, and as Ultraman – to protect? Even after being confronted with that question thanks to the hallucinogenic pollen from the Gijeran flower, Kanata didn’t have an answer. Still, I also found it interesting that his determination to keep fighting, and find an answer by doing so, was enough to wake him from its illusions anyway.
If it sounds like this article is a little less light-hearted and a little more serious, that comes naturally from the more introspective, serious tone of the episode. It’d be too easy to make this just a blow-by-blow recap of all the interesting tidbits and character interactions from this week. For example, immediately after Kanata woke up from his pollen-produced dream, the exposition about Gijeran was delivered by Yuna Shizuma! In a business suit! Taking over her dad’s business! I could gush for hours about how much I appreciated seeing her take charge of her legacy in new ways rather than just serving as a reincarnation of Yuzare’s power.
It was just one other example of how well this episode used so many points of continuity between Trigger and Decker to establish the characters and the universe around them in memorable, meaningful ways. First, these scenes were rewarding for fans who watched Ultraman Trigger and now can see how Kengo’s example as Trigger helped the people and the wider universe around him. Those actions – even as small as wanting to see someone’s smile – play out in ways that changed the world for the better. The audience also saw this week how those actions paved the way for Kanata to act as Ultraman, and how he can learn from his predecessor’s example.
But the best part of this episode came from seeing Kengo’s legacy as Trigger unfold in a very unexpected way – by bringing back the smile of the one person he never expected to see again. Carmearra herself.
Kengo’s actions, more than his words, always worked to bring smiles to people around him in his own show. Or rather, the fact that his actions always honestly followed his words, emphasizing his true dedication to what would otherwise be a silly, shallow catchphrase. That connection between words and actions, the small things and big things, individuals, and the bonds of those around them, is something very unique to the franchise’s stories. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t getting quite emotional as I watched the power of those bonds play out in Ultraman’s characteristically literal way in this episode too.
And to the show’s credit, it didn’t regard the power of that light – and the smiles it strengthened – as cheap enough to fix every problem facing the characters. The threat of the Spheres remained at the end of the episode. Carmearra chose to leave the Earth and seek her own path with the Dark Giants rather than perfectly reconciling with Kengo and the rest of humanity. Kengo himself still had to leave to go back to Mars and continue fighting his own battle.
At the same time, however, all of them parted ways with new optimism. This two-parter story beautifully illustrated that the true power of an Ultraman hero always comes from the bonds represented by those smiles, rather than having a shiny new sword or Dimension Cards to use in battle.
Although, admittedly, the sword does help.
I’m very excited to see how Kanata goes on to use his newfound understanding of the power of Ultraman – and the sword – to continue his fight in upcoming episodes. The threats against humanity seem to only be ratcheting up from here. After all, if Megalothor can revive thanks to the Spheres’ power, what other dark forces or ancient monsters might rise next? Stay tuned here at Ultraman Connection to find out next week!