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Monday, February 4, 2013

From Beyond Television: Ultraseven Episode #12 (Banned episode)



A number of young ladies have fallen ill and all seem to be wearing peculiar looking metallic watches. An all male group of space vampires from the planet Spehlia (like Spee-lia) are on Earth seeking the blood of young girls. They use these watches as a means of draining the blood from their victims in a bid to save their race after some unspecified space war. After a small boy puts on his sisters watch, the blood encapsulated within turns out to be of even better interest to the aliens. Turning their attention towards children, the otherworldly bloodsuckers devise methods to entice kids into their grasp.


This, the twelfth episode of the ULTRASEVEN series, is the one that's banned in Japan for certain aspects of its content. Outside of a few disturbing scenes where the space vampires ponder the killing of children, there's really nothing else that would be deemed morally corrupt, at least to North American eyes. Still, there's something here that the Japanese found offensive enough to keep this bizarre 25 minute episode locked away in the vaults indefinitely. It's not even a very good episode, and one that sports a fairly unspectacular looking monster.

The real uproar is over the references to A-Bomb survivors via the irradiated, scarred giant alien seen in the episode. To the Japanese of the time period, this was found to be offensive to those who died, and continued to suffer from the after effects of WW2 with the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The aliens (who take on a human guise, but appear free of body hair and spots of burn scars in their alien form) are portrayed as villainous and likely this too was found to be in bad taste; that these skin-scarred creatures, the result of bomb effects from another planet, would be evil beings.

The monster battle itself is nothing to write home about, although there's some experimentation with editing and freeze-frame techniques that adds a modicum of flavor to it. This is one thing that can be said of the overall bizarre qualities of the ULTRASEVEN series is that there was a willingness to do something different than the average 'Alien Invasion of Earth' shtick.

The sequence where the ghoulish blood-drinkers from beyond devise their plan of sucking the kiddie population dry is bordering on adult material, although the envelope is never given the chance to be pushed to its limit. About the time dozens upon dozens of screaming tykes enter the 'Draw a rocket and win a free watch' contest, the alien beast abruptly shows up, which more or less makes their whole plan inconsequential.

To American eyes, the notoriety concerning the burned aliens as offensive doesn't seem like it would be problematic; but then, the very real scenario of radiation poisoning is something that is still a sensitive issue with some Japanese social and political groups

It's far from a hallmark of the series, but it does present some interesting ideas. Sadly, these aren't explored to any great degree. The highlights are the unsettling scenes aboard the alien spacecraft (complete with creepy background heart-beats), the photography in these shots, and some of the peculiar human moments that border on avant garde. Akiko Fiji, Hiroko Sakurai from ULTRAMAN has a guest starring role in this episode.

***With this episode being banned in Japan, it's also missing from the ULTRASEVEN DVD set from Shout! Factory. Frustratingly, the producers of this DVD set decided to plaster 'The Complete Series' on this release. Considering other companies DO NOT state completeness on DVD releases for television series' when music rights issues, etc are problematic, it's odd Shout! Factory would be misleading in this way. Still, the booklet included discusses this episode and it isn't hard to come by and can be viewed on youtube, and other similar internet services if you look around long enough.***

MONSTERS: Spehlia alien

WEAPONS: Electro-H Gun (a special rifle that resembles a compact gatling gun and fires automatic rounds).

To be continued in Episode Thirteen: THE MAN FROM V3!!!

1 comment:

Valjean said...

Episode 12 is unavailable because of a self-imposed ban from Tsuburaya. Seems like an illustrated book published in the early 70s somehow labeled Alien Spehl as a nuclear bomb monster or something to that effect. One or more support groups for survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings (including some of the survivors themselves) took offense to (allegedly) drawing parallels between real-life survivors of the bomb and villainous deformed aliens, loudly complained to Tsuburaya, who removed the episode from TV and banned future video releases (reportedly, some laserdisc sets somehow include the episode). Keep in mind, Spehlians were deformed due to radioactive contamination due to atomic bombings in their home planet.

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