Episode 24: RETURN TO THE NORTH! (KITA E KAERE!) ***
Dubbed title: MOTHER KNOWS BEST
Directed by Koichi Takano
"If his plane blows up, that will save 300 lives. If he sacrifices his life, he will save theirs. That is the Ultra Guard's duty."
An Ultra Squad patrol craft mysteriously crashes into a commercial plane in mid-air. The Ultra Garrison investigates the incident. Meanwhile, Furuhashi's mother visits him in an attempt to coerce him to quit the force. At that time, Furuhashi is airborne in the Ultra Hawk 3. A beam emanating from a lighthouse has somehow caused the Ultra Hawk aircraft to malfunction, forcing it on a collision course with another airliner. The lighthouse is actually an alien base doubling as a UFO. Ultraseven and Windom (one of his monster helpers), attempt to destroy the Kanan base before Furuhashi collides with the other plane potentially killing 300 people.
Kaiju and Tokusatsu fans might be sorely disappointed with 'Return to the North'. This is strictly a character driven programmer centered around Furuhashi Shigeru and his mother. It's easily one of the most engaging 25 minutes in that regard. It's a touching episode, and in that it does quite well. It also caters to 'Disaster' movie cliches via its SciFi template -- Furuhashi can't control the Hawk-3, and within 20 minutes, he'll smash into a commercial plane loaded with passengers. Commander Kirayama then has to make the difficult decision to blow the Hawk-3 out of the sky.
This suspense angle collides seamlessly with the humanist portion of the show. Furuhashi has contemplated quitting the TDF to be with his mother, but he may never see her again. None of the Ultra Guard inform her of her son's predicament in the hopes of an uplifting outcome. Furuhashi never shares a scene with his mother, but he does talk to her over the ships communicator. If you were a kid watching this, you might of been bored out of your gourd by this point (I'm sure I would have); but hang in there, kids, the last ten minutes or so is all monster action.
Half of 'Return to the North' is heavy on the exposition and the other half caters to the small fry in us all. On the latter note, the monster action is about as infantile as you can get. Nothing wrong with that, but it's played strictly for laughs; very much in the vein of GODZILLA'S REVENGE (1970).
In an unusual, if creative move, U7 doesn't actually battle an enemy opponent here. He instead is pitted against one of his monster helpers -- in this case it's that lovable, metallic lug, Windom. The aliens put him under their control then sic him on Seven; and the two duke it out in the most childish manner imaginable. This was Windom's second appearance in ULTRASEVEN. The costume shows severe signs of wear with several noticeable tears and rips in the monster suit.
The Kanan aliens are seen fleetingly and aren't even given a purpose other than standard alien plot. No doubt they plan to take over the world somehow or other. They've apparently been based in the Arctic for a good amount of time, though, as they take a gang-like stance to anyone trespassing on their turf, so to speak -- shouting about that the "Arctic is our territory, nobody's supposed to set foot in it".
Refreshingly, the snowy locations (both real and fabricated) are a nice departure from the typical green countryside that saves on urban miniature construction. The mattes are attractive and appealing to the (Ultra) eye. In addition to this, the expansive of the snow covered Japanese mountains adds some production value to these 25 minutes of ULTRASEVEN.
Overall, this is an entertaining episode; and curiously most appealing for its exposition instead of its kaiju action. Had the last half been taken as seriously as the first half, it'd easily be a four star show. I have nothing against a childish atmosphere (as violent as these things can be at times, most all of them are kid-oriented), but the seriousness of the human drama could have used an equally serious last half. The cold setting carries over into episode 25, but the action really heats up.
MONSTERS: Kanan alien; Windom
WEAPONS: Ultra Hawk #3
WEAPONS: Ultra Hawk #3
To be continued in Episode 25: SHOWDOWN AT 140 DEGREES BELOW ZERO!!!