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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

From Beyond Television: Ultraman Episode #6


Directed by Nagase Samaji

Hoshino and his two friends are playing down at the harbor in Tokyo Bay. One of the kids, Chiro, sees a monster break the water, but the others never see it. An old fisherman explains to the kids that what they saw must of been Gesura, an amphibious, but not giant, creature from South America. Attracted to the cocoa beans, Gesura feeds off of bugs and other insects that eat them. The old man explains that without Gesura, the kids would have less chocolate to eat, so now they're even more smitten with the monster. Meanwhile, a smuggler named Diamond Kick is on the hunt for a shipment of jewels hidden in a consignment of cocoa beans. The kids end up crossing paths with the crooks, and are kidnapped by them. The Science Patrol arrives on the scene just as Gesura appears to ransack the warehouse.

This is one of those episodes that will make you want to revisit your childhood days. Sort of a precursor to Honda's under-appreciated GODZILLA'S REVENGE (1969), children play a central role while the adults are more in the background. The paradigm of the innocence and inquisitiveness of the young is the driving force of this entertaining, if simplistic episode. Hoshino and his two friends' interests lie not only in chocolate and the monster Gesura, but the criminal known as Diamond Kick; so for a brief period of time, our trio of youngsters become adolescent investigators. Hoshino acts more like his age this time, nothing like the monster-killer-in-training of the action-oriented episode three. These Japanese Hardy Boys (and girl) get themselves captured, then escape--once from the thieves and again from the rampaging amphibian just in time for Ultraman to arrive and save the day.

Gesura is another Ryosaku Takayama creation. Recycled from his alligator creature seen in episode 26 of ULTRA Q (1966), Takayama gave this modification (see below) a fishy appearance with the addition of fins and an exotic, multi-colored outer skin. We're informed it has poisonous feelers that, when severed from its body, will kill it. Gesura's rampage is relatively brief, as is its fight with Ultraman. The choreography is unremarkable, utilizing the standard chops and wild swinging. The one highlight is where Gesura seems to roughly tackle Ultraman right into a building. The shot isn't slowed down, so it looks powerful against the rest of the fight.

Teruo Arakaki returns for his second time under the rubber on ULTRAMAN. He "appeared" in episode one as Bemular, and played monsters in over a dozen more episodes. As Gesura, he spends the bulk of the episode in the water; one of the most dangerous, and exhausting places to be for a suit actor. Arakaki passed away in April of 2014.

There's some eye-catching composite work and some good models on display; most especially a shot of Ultraman saving Captain Muramatsu and Hoshino who are about to be crushed inside the SP car by Gesura.

Yamada Masahiro, who wrote the aforementioned third episode, handled writing duties on this, and four more episodes after it. 'Coast Guard Command' was the eighth episode shot, but aired sixth.

Not a particularly fantastic episode, merely a serviceable one with some points of interest--particularly the melding of a crime and monster story. This kids vs. criminals motif will be an especially potent winner for that contingent of the audience. Aside from some mauled ships and a couple demolished buildings, there are no explosions, nor does Ultraman use any beam attacks. The next episode changes things up a bit with a new location and a wider expanse of storytelling.


To be continued in Episode 7: THE BLUE STONE OF BARAJI!!!

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