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Thursday, January 2, 2014

From Beyond Television: The Return of Ultraman Episode #5


Three boys just out of school run across an unusual rock-like shell that falls off a truck at a construction site. Naturally they believe it to be some sort of fossilized monster egg (from 'the Jurassic Era', as one kid puts it). Shortly thereafter a burrowing creature emerges from the side of a mountain near the building site. MAT is on the scene but fails to obliterate the beast with bombs after Goh sees a little girl on the ground nearby. This refusal to follow orders gets Goh placed under house arrest for three days. Meanwhile, a second creature appears, and a battle ensues between both monsters and Ultraman.

Goh is in hot water with his teammates yet again. He just can't seem to stay out of trouble. In between causing drama, Goh takes a bit of time to work on his race car and flirt with Aki. We're five episodes in and Goh is already the most anarchic of the men to play a Nebula M-78 alien up to this point. It's a constant tension fest with this guy. His persona is definitely different, but understandable considering this was the early 1970s and the societal shift and tumult going on around the world. 

The brevity of the drama and human interaction is interrupted a few times by an earthquake; and when the ground is shaking in a Japanese SciFi or fantasy movie, or TV show it's a good sign a monster will make an appearance at some point. And as the title suggests, Tokyo gets no respect on the small screen as the stomping ground for the monsters here.

When it does appear, this second beast (named Twin Tail) causes a cave-in inside an underground mall. Aki and a couple of her girlfriends are among the civilians trapped below ground. This leads back to the disaster movie cliches we saw in the first two episodes, and was a concept that was to become immensely popular both in Japan and America around this time. Goh's heroism and penchant for speaking his mind further establishes him as not only a troublemaker, but a lifesaver as well.

Going back to his prowess as an agitator, a last minute surprise has Goh quit the force only moments after being told to come back! Kishida, the teammate that was butting heads with him, quits, too. They both join forces again to try and save the trapped civilians, but then the mysterious growing egg hatches and out pops a most peculiar looking kaiju. Known as Twin Tail, this monster is a bizarre design. It's head is on the bottom of its body while the upper portion has two large tentacles that whip around wildly. The monsters roar is the same as Jiger from GAMERA VS. JIGER (1970). It quickly gets the upper hand on U-Jack during the episodes closing minutes. 

The other monster, Gudon, joins the fray. It has spikes along its body, whips for hands, and burrows under the earth. Both creatures resemble one another.

The intercutting between Kishida and Sakata trying to dig their way to those trapped underground and the monster fight is a nice touch, and increases the worth of this episode. It also ends on an exciting cliffhanger as Ultraman is faced with fighting two adversaries once more.

Some viewers might notice this episode does something strange with its plot. In the beginning, three boys are introduced after discovering the shell-like egg. Considering how connected kids and kaiju were at the time in Japanese monster movies and TV programs, it's odd that, outside of this opening scene, we never see the three kids again. However, this is the best episode thus far, and another exciting two-parter. Just as it was in the series opener, there's a strong balance between the human and monster action. It's a great recipe, and one that tastes great here.

MONSTERS: Gudon, Twin Tail

To be continued in Episode 6: BATTLE! MONSTERS VS. MAT!!!

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