Thursday, January 2, 2014

From Beyond Television: The Return of Ultraman Episode #6



Continuing from the previous episode, Ultraman briefly battles Gudon and Twin Tail before he is forced out of the fight after his color timer indicator expires. Thankfully, the two creatures -- one the natural predator of the other -- begin fighting one another, and end up taking their differences out to sea. The trapped civilians are rescued, but Aki is seriously injured. Goh, angering his teammates once more, decides to stay at her side till she's well again. Meanwhile Gudon and Twin Tail surface once more and Tokyo is ordered to be evacuated.

With U-Jack having been put in danger already, it's only natural that one of the human characters is, too. Aki is badly wounded, and with the monsters resurfacing for an encore of Tokyo devastation, a nice cliffhanger is set-up on getting out of the city in time. Goh is distracted, and refuses to leave Aki's side reaffirming a possible romance blooming. The drama actually feels real this time as opposed to padding till the monster shows up. It's very well done for this sort of thing; especially when there's very little time to expand beyond monster action.

Furthering the drama is the proposed use of a powerful laser weapon. This causes a bit of tension between the MAT members and their superior officers (one of them played by giant monster movie favorite Kenji Sahara). We never do get to see it, but the amount of potential damage from this laser is vaguely compared to that of the Atomic Bomb.

Action levels are high again in this continuation from episode five, and more so than before. The in-fighting between the MAT team is here. It's a staple for this series up to this point. But while the group are rarely on the same page, they do work very well with U-Jack in combating the monsters in this episode. The "tag team" offense between MAT and U-Jack, and the lengthy monster duel at the end is well edited and moves the action along in a kinetic fashion. It's a showcase for humans working cogently with their savior from M-78 as opposed to just monsters fighting. The big battle is more intricately choreographed than normal, too. There's martial arts maneuvers, wrestling, and some sweeping kicks. 

Like the preceding show, 'Monsters vs. MAT' is an exciting episode that juggles humans and monsters extremely well within the tight 30 minute time-frame. It's also unique in that the two kaiju, Gudon and Twin Tail, are mortal enemies. They not only attack U-Jack, but also each other. This episode also benefits from a plethora of composite shots. This two-parter is very busy with lots going on, as well as being a lot of fun for giant monster fans.

MONSTERS: Gudon, Twin Tail
WEAPONS: MAT Jeep with bazooka mount

To be continued in Episode 7: OPERATION RAINBOW MONSTER!!!

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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