Wednesday, January 1, 2014

From Beyond Television: The Return of Ultraman Episode #4



MAT receives word of a monster sighting, so they disembark aboard the Arrows to fight it. Goh's ship is taken down by the four-legged, horned monster and immediately engages in battle with it as U-Jack. Proving to be a formidable opponent, Ultraman ultimately loses the fight. His color timer expires and he disappears. As a result, Goh ends up in the hospital with numerous injuries. While Goh is out of commission, the other MAT members believe the beast thrives on atomic power. Goh's friend Sakata helps him train to strengthen his injured leg so that he can have a return match with the monster, Kingsaurus III.

The fourth episode of U-JACK jumps right into the action. Jack appears within the first couple of minutes and goes man-a-mano with a dragon-like creature christened Kingsaurus III. Jack throws his arsenal of laser weapons at the beast and everything bounces off of its force field. It's kind of early in the series to have your hero in serious peril, but if Gamera can do it in every sequel, than Ultraman can do it here. The silver and red suited martian hero isn't down for long, though.

In the middle of all this monster action, an Ultra love triangle is hinted at. When Aki and Jiro Sakata go to see Hideki Goh in the hospital, MAT member Oka (who's very attractive, by the way) picks them up. At one point, Oka wants to talk monster business with Goh, but doesn't want to divulge info with two civilians in the room. So Jiro equates this with Goh wanting to be alone with his teammate; this of course perturbs Aki (who is also very adorable in her own right).

The return match with Kingsaurus III is over with relatively quickly. U-Jack realizes the secret of the monsters force field and takes advantage allowing his Specium Ray to finish the job. The monster itself is somewhat smaller than most of the four-legged kaiju, and is distinguished by possessing powers of its own other than its force field -- radioactive breath (akin to Godzilla) and some sort of shock wave weapon. There are a lot of optical effects here and a nice visual from the perspective of the monster (still in frame) looking down at Goh as he approaches just before transforming into U-Jack.

This is an entertaining entry that is basically a 30 minute version of the sort of HK kung fu movie that became popular by the end of the decade; a fighter would be injured, trains, and comes back for revenge against the villain that beat him. In this case, Sakata aids Goh in nursing his leg back to health -- the training of which consists of Goh carrying a huge log on his shoulder up a hill much like Schwarzenegger in COMMANDO (1985). The little kink in the chain between Goh and Aki was a nice touch, and it remains to be seen how this relationship will play out as the series progresses. The action heats up in the next episode.

MONSTERS: Kingsaurus III
WEAPONS: Arrows 1-3

To be continued in Episode 5: TWO GIANT MONSTERS ATTACK TOKYO!!!

From Beyond Television: The Return of Ultraman Episode #3


Two young college students die while scaling Misty Mountain, a legendary summit where monsters are said to dwell. Meanwhile, Goh and Ueno are out on patrol and Goh feels the presence of a creature nearby. Back at headquarters, none of the other MAT members believe him, but Captain Kato thinks there might be something to the legend. Without informing his team, Kato sets out on foot to find evidence. He finds it in the form of a gigantic monster, and ends up trapped in a cave. Having seemingly disappeared, and with no one knowing of his whereabouts, Goh heads for Misty Mountain to find the Captain.

This episode has little going for it aside from featuring two monsters again; although they both look like fang-toothed Michelin Tire Monsters. The script does find time to create an arc between Goh and his Captain. Goh goes out to find his missing leader and recalls when his own father went missing under similar circumstances. It's a nice touch for this series which, up to this point, has shown its lead character to be a rebel and always in trouble over something.

Aside from this, there's a small amount of exposition paid to a possible budding romance between Goh and Aki, the sister of his mechanic friend and partner, Sakata (Mori Kishida)

There's really only one rather laughable aspect to the script here, and it's a device that has cropped up in the other series', too. Goh (who possesses a super hearing capability unique to U-Jack) senses a monster somewhere around Misty Mt., but nobody believes him; or seems much interested in investigating. That the MAT Patrol would not believe Goh's assertion that a monster(s) is hiding out on the mountain is ludicrous considering it's the reason for their existence. And the frequent bickering over searching the mountain is equally confounding. 

For instance, MAT member Minami gets all worked up over whether or not a monster is roaming the mountainside. When there aren't creatures attacking civilization, what exactly do they do? There must be tons of paperwork to be done as opposed to following up on a lead from a guy who has been right about his "intuition" the previous two episodes.

It might be expecting too much, but it'd be refreshing to hear an argument about how many taxpayer dollars it takes to keep these monster police squads in business; and how the economy is affected by kaiju attacks. But I digress, these are essentially kids shows after all; they live or die by their monster action more so than there plot intricacies.

The battle at the end is well staged for the most part. The fog-enshrouded terrain adds an extra dimension to the duel. The Specium Ray comes into play with the usual explosive results; but Jack uses his Ultra Slash weapon to loosen the head of one of his kaiju combatants. 

It's a standard show that makes a minor attempt at expositional expansion. So far, storyline doesn't seem to be the most important thing in ULTRAMAN JACK, but it's nice to see some effort put in. However, there's a great many episodes to go -- and some shocking surprises.

MONSTERS: Sadora, Detton
WEAPONS: Arrow #1, MAT Gyro

To be continued in Episode 4: CERTAIN KILL! SHOOTING STAR KICK!!!

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