Ultraman New Generation Stars Episode 16, “An Inescapable Bond” is a melancholy exploration through the complexities of holding love for a long-lost companionship. Ultraman Orb has received his Dimensionizer card but instead of moving on, he can’t help finding himself tracing the memories of his old frenemy, Jugglus Juggler. He is joined by Ultraman Z who also has Juggler on the mind, however their perceptions of him don’t necessarily coincide. Orb and Z dive into their memories in an attempt to decode Juggler’s true nature and what they find is fascinating.
Jugglus Juggler had once been a good friend of Ultraman Orb’s human host, Gai Kurenai. In fact, they were so close that Orb still describes him as “someone in my heart that I must never look away from.” However, their brotherly relationship began to violently collapse when Gai and Juggler climbed to the top of Crusader’s Peak only for Gai to be chosen by the light, leaving Juggler with nothing. Hebikura’s envy unraveled into a lifelong dedication to defeating Ultraman Orb and strengthening his bond with the darkness so he might someday possess as much power as the Ultra he never got to be.
While this existence seems spiteful and classically evil, it’s important to remember that we’ve all felt resentment and maybe have all even wanted revenge in the name of what we feel is just. We’ve all felt wronged and defeated. We’ve all wanted something we couldn’t have.
The only reason that Orb fights Juggler at all is because he prioritizes the defense of humanity and his own preservation, but that does not stop him from viewing Juggler compassionately. Orb understands his privilege in having been chosen by the light and he honors the title of Ultra by refusing to discount the loving relationship he once shared with Juggler. As a true Ultra does, Orb acknowledges the flaws of humanity and without pitying or entertaining those flaws, he holds space for them. While Juggler only sees Orb for his powerful Ultra exterior, Orb still sees Juggler as the Hebikura he once held dear.
Maybe Orb holding that space is part of what gave Juggler the opening to knock him down, but it is also undoubtedly what motivated Orb to dust himself off and dive back into battle despite his Color Timer blinking. When Juggler frustratedly asks where Orb got this second wind from, Orb replied that he’s running on “all of the strength [Juggler] threw away.” In this moment Orb is acknowledging that had Juggler harnessed his jealousy, he might’ve been able to receive the strength of light as well. I believe Juggler knows that truth deep within and that is the fuel his darkness runs on. I also believe it is that comment that disarms Juggler to be overridden by the power of love and ultimately scared off.
As Orb lets himself get lost in the centuries of memories he shares with Juggler, he can’t help but reminisce on a taxing battle he once faced against Magatano-Orochi the Giga Lord Monster. Seemingly out of the blue, Juggler jumps in to help Orb defeat Magatano-Orochi, fighting with all his might until all he has left is himself to sacrifice while Orb takes a chance to channel the light of his predecessors and come out victorious. Such a selfless act could not be conceived out of a heart of darkness, and despite Juggler’s past actions, Orb sees the true light inside of him.
We see this light shine through again, despite Juggler’s repeated attempts at snubbing it, in a final flashback, this time guided by Ultraman Z. We see Juggler in his human form, but this time he proudly wears the title of Captain Hebikura of the STORAGE defense force. He seems to be a playful, kind leader whose relationship with his crew is strong. This gets confusing when we also see him lurking around with a stolen Ultra Z Riser.
We aren’t the only ones confused though. When Haruki (Ultraman Z’s human alter) catches his captain battling Five King, controlled by the intergalactic parasite Celebro, in a seeming effort to steal the Ultroid Zero robot the parasite had manipulated humanity into building, for the sake of “showing those who believe justice is absolute just how fragile it really is.” At first, Juggler disregards Haruki’s life as disposable and continues his fight for power, but when Celebro forces Juggler to decide between Ultroid Zero and sparing Haruki’s life, Juggler quickly defends his subordinate, even seemingly at great personal cost.
It appears Juggler’s determination to embody the strongest form of dark power is not bred out of a genuine hatred of light but rather a desperate yearning to have an identity of his own. Besides his very personal vendetta against Orb, Juggler seems to have a soft spot for the Ultras and in turn the Ultras have a soft spot for him.
In his reflection of his fight with Juggler, Orb states that “at the end it was a battle of wills but only I had something to protect.” If we stay close to our integrity and true values, we are defending our soul, but if we choose to simply react, the only thing we are defending is our ego.
I also believe, however, that Orb and Z both know Juggler does have something to protect deep down. It is always of beauty and benefit to think of what we could be if we omit our pride and fight for the greater good. I think the Ultras see that same potential in Juggler and that is what makes the memory of him so hard to shake. There is purity under all that hurt, and it very well can be retrieved.
It is the Ultras’ faith in the inherent goodness of all that allowed for Juggler’s own Dimensionizer card to emerge from the future and for his character to be woven into their legacy. Who knows? Maybe this incident, unique in a “chronicle” show mostly comprised of flashbacks, will have a permanent impact on canon and be what turns Jugglus Juggler around for the better.
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