Kanata Asumi encountered the future in an unexpected way during the climactic mid-season battles of Ultraman Decker and unlocked an incredible new power because of his determined response to rise and meet those challenges. Rather than try to outdo itself in spectacle, the series back half instead brought us a couple episodes with smaller, more personal stakes. It was an appropriate change of pace, which more obviously cemented Kanata’s character development along with the new focus of GUTS-Select’s fights against the Sphere and other threats.
First, we saw how Kanata had grown closer with his teammates, Ichika and Ryumon, and how deeply they trusted each other when facing even greater threats than before. Then, when their captain’s integrity and judgment was called into question by the internal investigators of the TPU itself, the rest of GUTS-Select rallied behind him. As a result, the Internal Affairs inspector Nigel came to understand how the team trusts Captain Murahoshi’s leadership, and how those bonds of trust could inspire the team to achieve feats that were thought to be impossible.
Although this week’s episode was billed as another “Special” recap episode, it fits in neatly with this pattern of emphasis. Like before, we’re treated to the TPU’s Technology Division – consisting of the tireless engineering work of the Alien Metron Marlulu and Masamichi Hotta – and their water-cooler gossip… or rather, their experienced and professional opinions about the previous events from the show.
Jokes aside, the friendly tone of their conversation was absolutely my favorite part of this episode. The bit with Marlulu teasing Hotta for being “just” a boring human after he was also investigated by Internal Affairs had me genuinely laughing out loud. It really does feel like honest workplace banter, right down to Hotta quickly checking outside the hallway before he “spills the tea”, as the kids say, about the Metron inspector Nigel. Rather than interrupting the events of the show, all the recap in this episode fit in perfectly with the friendly, casual, and personal tone we see throughout Ultraman Decker, with all the rest of the cast.
Hotta and Marlulu are primarily concerned with the reputation of their teams after Agams’ betrayal, and Hotta starts the episode out agonizing over the TPU’s investigation. However, the episode itself is titled “The Threat of the Terraphaser”, so they also have a lot of questions about the Terraphaser itself, its origins, and how it relates to other mechanical monsters that have appeared in the universe of Decker and Trigger.
First, the two characters discuss the history of using giant robots on their defense teams. While Terraphaser may have been their first walking giant robot, the GUTS-Select team had made use of the Nursedessei ship even back during the events of Ultraman Trigger. Interestingly, they also bring up the re-configured King Joe Powered STORAGE Custom – try saying that three times fast now – from Ultraman Z, and the other mecha used by the STORAGE team in that show.
I think the connection between STORAGE’s version of King Joe and the Nursedessei is interesting for other reasons too, if you look at the history of defense teams in the Ultraman franchise. While defense teams have been making use of cool jets, spaceships, and drill tanks ever since the beginning, the idea of taking alien technology and killer robots, then re-modeling them for humanity’s own use, is a much more recent type of endeavor. (Speaking of which, when was the last time we had an actual drill tank on a defense team, and who do I talk to about bringing it back?...)
The Nursedessei comes from the giant mechanical Kaiju Nurse from Ultraseven, and King Joe comes from… well, King Joe from the same series. Although the origins of these robots lie in classic Ultraman episodes from the ‘60s, all the defense teams from that era only made use of Earth-based technology. It wasn’t until Ultraman Mebius, and later in Ultraman X, that we see the defense team adapting extraterrestrial weapons or types of energy to use for themselves.
In Ultraman Mebius, that use was also tightly controlled, because those extraterrestrial-derived weapons were tremendously powerful, and dangerous if used incorrectly. This week’s episode of Ultraman Decker specifically focuses on that point in relation to the Terraphaser. They had thought it would serve as a valuable resource to help humanity fight back against the Sphere. But now that Agams has control of it, and has decided to use it against humanity, the thought of those weapons being directed at GUTS-Select – or worse, innocent civilians on Earth – is utterly horrifying.
The thought of the terrible ramifications of weaponized technology was already at the forefront of the minds of the writers behind Ultraman in those early years. Although the design and toy-based marketing of such pieces of technology may have shifted over the decades, the franchise is still very much aware of the dangers of scientific achievements unmoored from conscientious direction. Without the determination to protect others rather than to just cause harm, that technology has proven to be just as dangerous as the Kaiju the defense teams fight – if not more so!
The episode leaves on an optimistic note by considering that point, however. Even though the GUTS-Select team and Kanata himself will have to face even greater challenges against Agams, the full destructive power of his Terraphaser, and the Sphere, Marlulu has faith that they’ll be able to overcome it. Their unique strengths and talents, the specific qualities of humanity that define their bonds of teamwork and trust, and how those bonds in turn empower Ultraman Decker, all have created something stronger than what simple logic or engineering could ever produce.
Something like the Terraphaser could have been a tremendous force for either good or evil, and even though it’s certainly very scary in the hands of bad guys who mean to cause harm to humanity, who knows what good it could accomplish if directed by the hopeful, determined willpower of our main characters?
I would like to think that idea is also what drives the focus of the show towards Agams himself, by trying to lead into a sort of redemption for him. Being able to convince him to change his ways, to atone for what he’s done, and use the Terraphaser for good instead, might be what turns the tide against the Sphere in the end.
But that’s just me thinking aloud again, we’ll find out what happens when Kanata confronts Agams in next week’s episode. Until then, stay tuned to Ultraman Connection!