Hello, and welcome back to Watch Club! If you’ve never checked us out before — buddy, we are 32 episodes in. Check out the backlog! But if you’re impatient, well, I’m EJ Couloucoundis, editor-in-chief of Ultraman Connection.
And still here after 32 episodes of Dan getting his Ultra Eye stolen, 32 episodes of Kaiju attacks, alien invasions, giant stomping robots, and even weirder threats against the Earth, I’m Sarah Last, content creator and staff writer for Ultraman Connection!
32 episodes in and we’re approaching one of the weirdest episodes yet. Technically, we don’t even SEE any invaders in this one, do we Sarah?
Well, there’s certainly an invasion against the Ultra Guard in this episode, but as for the culprits… no, we actually don’t see them! Shockingly, there’s no alien suits or Kaiju to be found at all this week, but that doesn’t stop this episode from being just as eerie and frightening as the rest of Ultraseven. And it doesn’t take much time for the threat against the Ultra Guard to be established either. Just like last week, this story moves at an absolutely breakneck pace from the start.
It begins only with a statement about “classified documents'' being transported via submarine, and escorted by the Ultra Guard’s Hydrangers. Captain Kiriyama may have a bad feeling about the mission and its risks, but the scene immediately cuts back to their home base, where an even creepier plot is unfolding -- a series of fatal accidents where civilians seem to throw themselves into collisions with the Ultra Guard’s vehicles.
The first few minutes of this episode are an experience of some insane whiplash, EJ.
No kidding. And the makeup job on these “corpses” is… truly intimidating. We’ve seen characters die on screen, but these look like dead people.
And they still look dead when one jumps up and starts strangling Furuhashi from behind!
Romero’s Dawn of the Dead didn’t come out for another 11 years. Is this one of the first zombie stories like this? Ever?
I am really not the person to ask about that, I am a huge wimp when it comes to horror movies, especially ones involving zombies. All I know -- and all the Ultra Guard knows -- is that a dead body somehow came to life just to try and choke the life out of Furahashi!
Man, he almost has worse luck than Amagi, with how some of these episodes have gone.
As a side note, I really appreciate that Anne is here in her role as the Ultra Guard’s doctor, although she’s serving more as a coroner right now. We haven’t had a lot of focus on her for many of the episodes recently, so it’s great to see the show hasn’t forgotten that she has her own special skills and experience to distinguish her from the rest of the team.
Yeah, Anne is great, and she’s a very competent doctor as well. I feel like the only reason we don’t see her in action enough is because the UG is really good at not getting hurt, I guess.
More walking corpses start showing up, trying to invade the base and steal the classified documents — and fittingly for corpses, they won’t stay down. Dissection and study reveals that these “Shadowmen” as they are called, have no identification and match no known people on any database. Are they even human? Nobody can quite say. And the moment eyes come off them, they change, fittingly, into formless, roughly humanoid shadows!
C’mon, Dan. You were specifically given orders to not take your eyes off of them. How do you mess that up?
On a more serious note, it really feels like whatever evil force is controlling these corpses is testing the Ultra Guard. They’ve sent in these bodies almost like decoys, because while the Ultra Guard is busy puzzling over how dead people keep getting into their base, I’m pretty sure that no one on the team expected their animated shadows to infiltrate through their secure defenses!
Like I said before, there’s no alien or monster suits here, but seeing the vague figures of those -- quite literal -- shades wandering around the hallways is undeniably creepy.
Honestly, Dan’s record this episode is rough. He becomes Seven early to try and solve the very major problem that the shadows have stolen the documents. Immediately, they somehow shrink him and trap him under a glass like a spider. How embarrassing. I don’t think we’ve ever seen Seven taken out of action this easily post-transformation.
We joke a lot about how often Dan loses his Ultra Eye or gets it stolen, but I think this is the first time that he’s been so effortlessly disarmed and captured after he’s transformed into Seven.
I almost wonder, is he reluctant to fight back, to use his full strength as Seven specifically because the invaders in this episode chose to use human bodies?
We’ve glossed over a lot of the episode so far because much of it is darkly atmospheric. It’s a striking episode, different from some other famous episodes of the series (like the ones directed by Akio Jissoji) but still has this sort of loose, dreamlike -- or, rather, nightmarish -- feel that made it stand out when I watched it for the first time.
Hey, actually, this predates it by a good bit, but now that I consider it… this episode reminds me a lot of Mirrorman.
Ooh, I love Mirrorman, but I don’t know if the people reading know what it is. Mind filling them in, Sarah?,
Not at all! Mirrorman was another tokusatsu series produced by Tsuburaya in 1972, and focused on the heroic exploits of the main character, Kyotaro Kagami. He finds out that his father was an alien, an inheritance that gives him the ability to turn into the titular Mirrorman and fight against the sinister “Invader” aliens trying to take over the Earth.
While the original series isn’t strictly part of the Ultraman universe, it’s been referenced and called back to a number of times, and Mirror Knight (part of Ultraman Zero’s boy band- er, group of comrades called the “Ultra Force Zero”) is a big walking shout-out to him.
The series itself is absolutely worth watching for anyone interested in Tsuburaya’s penchant for giant monster fights and special effects, and it has a notably darker, more mysterious and moody atmosphere than many of the other Ultraman series of the 70’s. Aside from just the general creepiness of the show, the “Shadowmen” in this episode of Ultraseven remind me a lot of how the “Invaders” in Mirrorman operated -- subtly, almost as if to make the characters doubt themselves and their own gut feelings when confronted with strange circumstances just on the edge of reason.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Mirrorman drew a bit of inspiration from this episode, frankly. I’ve never thought about it before, but it kind of makes sense — the Shadowmen feel almost exactly like the invaders.
The only thing missing is that they’re not wearing their sunglasses at night.
With Seven taken care of, the Shadowmen kind of overrun the base, setting a fire in the monitoring room and using this gas attack that I hope just knocks out the personnel. Those coughs sound pretty nasty…
As the UG puts out the flames, they wonder where Dan is. It’s not like him to be missing at a time like this. (Editor’s Note: It is extremely common for him to be missing at a time like this.)
In the middle of the frantic evacuation, someone just happens to kick over the glass tumbler -- a very sophisticated device for trapping Seven helplessly at a tiny size -- and then Dan miraculously appears as the flames die down.
He regains his bearings quickly enough to realize that the Invaders (no, seriously, they just call them “Invaders”, this really is the lost pilot episode for Mirrorman) must have transmitted the stolen documents to a spaceship. Even more alarming, we now know the documents contain the locations of every TDF base on Earth. Once they get that information, there’s nothing stopping the Invaders from wiping out the planet’s entire defense system in a single strike!
It’s so wild to see Seven turn back into Dan before the threat is dealt with in this show. It’s a good thing he does, though, as the Ultra Guard has traced the source of the invasion to the sky! Taking off in Hawk 2, Dan pursues the invaders… only for the Hawk 2 to get caught and destroyed almost immediately. Womp womp.
During that chaos, the Shadowmen attempt to take off themselves, only to be destroyed from behind by Seven, who’s doing double-duty today!
I think whatever budget they saved this episode by not having a Kaiju suit went to filming this entire space battle, it’s nuts! There’s a huge dogfight which erupts between the Invaders’ ships and the Ultra Guard, and although Seven tries his best to help, he’s taken captive by the invaders again.
In fact, I think the Ultra Guard really takes credit for the victory in this episode, they rescue Seven himself multiple times.
For sure. It’s honestly quite a rough showing for Seven this time, he gets beat up about three or four times across both forms. Thankfully, once Seven is freed, he wipes out the last of the invaders, and the Ultra Guard returns home… where they’re promptly spooked by their shadows in a very silly ending sequence I love.
This is a wild episode, and a ton of fun. I think we were onto something when theorizing that this may have been where some of the ideas that would show up in Mirrorman come from. Next week on Watch Club, we get to check out one of my absolute favorite Kaiju from his period, the sudsy Dancan, in “The Vanishing City.” See you then!