We are nearing the end of the Ultraman: New Generation Stars series with episode 21, "To Every Encounter..." serving as the second to last installment and things are starting to fall into place. With most of the necessary Ultra data collected, the Land of Light legacy has been completely restored! Well almost… This week we follow the Ultra that’s been pioneering this whole endeavor, future Ultraman Zero, as he journeys through the depths of his mind to retrieve his own data.
Knowing this is a task only he can fulfill, Ultraman Zero delves into a memory right off the bat. The Plasma Spark, the item of pure energy responsible for all Ultras, sits in front of him, shining like a beacon just within his grasp. He is cut off, however by his father, Ultraseven who warns him against claiming the power unprepared. Zero listens to his father and trains under Ultraman Leo to assume the role of the Plasma Spark’s keeper but his plans are hijacked when the evil Ultraman Belial steals the Spark and wields it in the name of darkness.
Zero follows Belial to the Monster Graveyard and jumps into battle, declaring that he “fought Belial as the son of Ultraseven.” There is something very powerful in the idea of assuming legacy as an extension of identity. Oftentimes in societies that value individualism and personal success over cultural success, we overlook the value in claiming the identities of those that came before us.
We see this idea that we shouldn’t define ourselves by our relation to others and while that can be true to a certain extent, there is also great benefit to submitting ourselves and honoring the names of those that helped us become who we are. For Zero, there is both an invigorating and humbling quality to proudly taking on the title of Ultraseven’s son and it allows him to fight as well as he does.
Naturally, Zero pulls out of the memory when it verges on becoming painful and resorts to his usual cool-guy mentality: “Looking back on my past just ain’t my style.” It’s ironic that the Ultra orchestrating a mission that relies on reflection is the most hesitant to reflect, but that does tend to be the way of the world. Regardless, his resentment for Belial is so strong that he’s pulled right back into the memory of their first encounter.
After self-proclaimed Galactic Emperor Belial’s first anonymous attempt at debilitating the Land of Light, Ultraman Zero flies to another universe to find him. He’s joined in his determination to defeat Belial by Ultras of this alternate universe. Glenfire, Mirror Knight, and Jean-Bot fight alongside Zero but are all met with extreme force when Belial transforms into Arch Belial, the giant monster.
The Ultras fight to their limits, refusing to accept defeat, focusing their collective love and maximizing their group strength. This grand expression of hope channels Ultraman Noa who gives Zero the power of Ultimate Aegis to defeat Belial and create the Ultimate Force Zero team with his fellow Ultras.
Future Zero reminisces, admitting that the Ultimate Force Zero would’ve never assembled if it hadn’t been for Belial. This realization would be difficult for anyone to admit. It isn’t instinctual to feel grateful for our worst experiences, but this episode makes it clear in the title alone that every encounter is integral to building who we are, even if they only feel like obstacles in the moment.
Zero hones in on a particularly difficult Ultimate Force Zero battle. Joined by Jean-Nine, the crew is even more powerful and ready for action but then Belial takes control of Zero’s body, turning into Zero Darkness, and using it to kill every member of the force.
In seeing this memory, it becomes very clear why Zero feels so hesitant to look into his past. It’s not because he’s too much of a stud, it’s because he’s traumatized. He even identifies that the memory of his body being taken over is an especially hard one to face. Belial violated Zero’s home, his friends, and his even his body, sending him into a rage so blind he threatens to send Belial straight to hell.
Although his passion seems justified, Zero’s anger seems out of character for an Ultra. We see Zero losing himself to his fixation on defeating Belial instead of maintaining his resolve as an Ultra and moving out of love.
Luckily, the souls of the Ultimate Force Zero penetrate the material realm and assure Zero that hanging his head in defeat is not the answer because there are far more souls to touch. They remind him that it is because they rely on him that they can go ahead of him, a similar sentiment to the one many of us share with younger generations or have heard from older ones. A sentiment that simply and beautifully encapsulates the importance of passing the torch.
And they’re right! In adopting this belief into his heart, Ultraman Zero is given a new power: The Miraculous Form, Shining Ultraman Zero. While in this form, Zero reminds Belial that he is an Ultra too and basically questions why he has deviated from the Ultra code of conduct by asking him why he doesn’t protect anything.
When Belial dismisses this, Zero absorbs him into his own body of light, reinforcing the idea that if you are not going to individuate for the purpose of protecting others as a warrior should, then you should not be rejected but rather be returned to a greater collective and repurposed for the better.
The Ultimate Force Zero members are all revived by the light of the absorption and revitalized by love, hope, and Zero’s new powers, similarly to how the older human generations are invigorated by the force of the generations that follow. It all serves as a beautiful microcosm of the life cycles on Earth. Despite how it may feel sometimes, we really do all need each other.
Zero acknowledges he wouldn’t be strong without the strength of his friends. He recalls another time friends made all the difference in helping him train for a stand-off with Absolute Tartarus in the aftermath of the Land of Light’s defeat against the Absolutians.
Ultraman Joneus, Ultraman Leo, and Ultraseven work together, training Ultraman Zero to tap into his primal instincts so as not to be predictable to Absolute Tartarus. Zero then realizes that his primal instinct is one of protection, not retaliation and he’s been hardened into hatred against his own best interest. His true goal isn’t to beat Tartarus, it’s to grow into the best support he can be for his fellow Ultras. If he truly wants to fight as the son of Ultraseven, he must remember love.
And so, he succeeds, beating out Tartarus using the summation of power from every battle he’d previously fought, keeping his core values close to him throughout. Passion is essential to battle but it must be tamed, and it must be understood. Is the passion that drives us fueled by love or by rage? This is the question we must never stop asking.
Ultraman Zero is a being that is affected by trauma, just like any human. He becomes passionate and obsessive when he feels wronged, he verges on giving up when things begin to fall apart, and his repression of his memories keep him hindered. By taking that leap of faith and allowing himself to look at the past he’s been hiding from, Zero realizes that his mind doesn’t have to be a Pandora’s box.
In fact, despite his fear of what may reside in his subconscious vault, most of Zero’s memories actually center on love and not hurt. In realizing this, Zero unlocks a part of himself that he hadn’t previously had access to. The part of himself that exists on the other side of pain.
In moving through his problems instead of shutting them out, Zero learns to rightfully honor the memories of those who helped him the most. In avoiding introspection, we also avoid giving credit to the positive parts of ourselves and therefore, the positive things bestowed upon us by our loved ones.
With that, Zero unlocks his Dimensionizer card and leaves us on a cliffhanger. With all of the memories now restored, we have to wonder why the Dimensionizer was in Zero’s image, what is the reason for this madness, and of course who is the culprit behind all of this? Next week we will finally understand so be sure to check out ULTRAMAN: New Generation Stars on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/@ULTRAMAN_OFFICIAL and stay tuned for more here on UltramanConnection.com!