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Sunday, September 8, 2013

From Beyond Television: The Return of Ultraman Episode #2



While going through the various MAT training courses, Hideki Goh aces them all garnering perfect scores every time. When the monster Takkong surfaces again sinking a tanker vessel, Goh and other MAT members plan to eradicate the beast with torpedoes. During the undersea attack, Goh gets trigger happy and nearly gets him and Minami killed. With Minami unconscious, Goh tries to change to Ultraman, but fails to do so. The monster retreats and Goh is released from MAT duty. He returns to his friend Sakata so as to build his specialized race car, Ryuusei #2; but he doesn't want to work with him, either. Meanwhile, Takkong attacks an oil refinery trapping Minami below ground leaving Captain Kato and his crew helpless to get to him and workers trapped below. 

This follow-up to episode one carries over the sole surviving kaiju from the debut show. Almost as soon as he signs up with MAT, Goh is already in trouble with his superiors. After having whipped his colleagues in Kendo, Karate, and on the shooting range, Goh is fired from MAT after botching a crucial mission. It's all an attempt to establish some viewer identification with the character even though we know he won't remain out of work long. At the same time, Goh (at far right in insert pic) is shown to be an unusually emotional man. He's just as heroic as his two predecessors, Hayata and Moroboshi, but Goh is far more impulsive. This is seen more as the series progresses.

This second show provides a bit more exposition than the first one did, but still manages to focus a lot of attention on action. The opening and finale is where the bulk of it lies, while the middle is reserved for building more on the title character's human host. Goh's friend Sakata gets some screentime, as well as his sister Aki, whom we sense has affection for Goh. The little boy Jiro Sakata is also on hand. These three will play an important part of a major story arc later in the series. 

The SPX are what you'd expect, but they're noticeably better than the two previous Ultra shows. The attack on the refinery is well staged, and includes some nice composite work. The battle between Ultraman and Takkong is relatively brief, though. The creature appears to have no special powers save for a moment where it spits some sort of liquid into Ultraman's face. It's a bizarre design that looks like a cross between a blow fish and a sqeaky dog toy. During the final battle, one of Takkong's arms is torn off, but not in graphic fashion -- unlike so many dead kaiju torn asunder in ULTRASEVEN (1967). 

The MAT submarines make their introductions here. They're smaller than the S Subs of ULTRAMAN (1966) and the Hydranger's of ULTRASEVEN (1967). However, they're much wider and look like a cross between a car and a hydroplane. We saw a glimpse of the MAT underwater facility in episode one; and since a portion of this episode takes place under the sea, the narrator briefly tells us about its functions here.

It's just two programs in and THE RETURN OF ULTRAMAN maintains its position as a strong action show -- light on plot, but high on creatures and explosions. Episode 2 rolls out with a nice balance of characterization and giant monster fights that will surely please Tokusatsu fans.

WEAPONS: MAT Submarine #1, #2, Arrow-1, MAT Gyro

To be continued in Episode 3: EVIL MONSTER REALM OF TERROR!!!

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