Tuesday, July 14, 2015

From Beyond Television: Ultraman Leo Episode #6


Directed by Tojo Shohei

"I'll avenge Yoko-san, you damned alien!"

Officer Shirato arrives on Earth from MAC's space station to spend time with both Gen and his girlfriend, Yoko, before attending a meeting. Gen is escorting Yoko home when they're attacked out of nowhere by the alien known as Karly. The invader grows to giant size and squashes Yoko like a bug. Gen transforms into Leo, but is easily defeated by the monster. Shirato blames Gen for his girlfriend's death and lobs insults at Leo for being forced to retreat by Alien Karly. Shirato then trains intensely to defeat the monster on his own. Meanwhile, Gen furthers his own training to hone the skills needed as Ultraman Leo to defeat the new alien threat.

Primary series writer Taguchi Shigemitsu keeps things moving with a simplistic plot that's piled high with melodrama as big as any giant monster. Ryu Manatsu continues to overact terribly, if occasionally deriving some sympathy for his character during his calmer moments--particularly during the rivalry between Gen and Officer Shirato (see insert); the latter of which gives Gen hell for the death of his girlfriend. Manatsu is not a bad actor at all, he just gets far too carried away at times. He gets extra points for doing his own stunt work, though. An athlete and singer, Manatsu really does throw himself into the role. 

Gen not only gets verbally beat down by Shirato, but also by his commanding officer. One of the best dialog moments in a show drowned in action is a scene shared with fellow alien masquerading as MAC Captain, Dan Moroboshi, formerly Ultraseven. After Gen demands the Captain halt operations that may put MAC members in danger if patrolling alone, Dan scolds him as to why he's not very good at the whole superhero thing. 

These sorts of dramatic conversations are par for the course during the first several episodes wherein Otori Gen must learn some martial arts style that correlates to the method in which Leo met his defeat. Here, he has to fine tune his reaction time by kicking and punching sharpened logs that swing dangerously in his direction; and, more curiously, learning how to defeat Karly has something to do with flipping over a moving jeep. 

Basically ULTRAMAN LEO is, for the time being, a kung fu movie assigned to a Tokusatsu template. Other than an obvious KAMEN RIDER influence, LEO would change a few more times during its desperate bid to attract ratings. The series started out with average viewership, but declined steadily from there.

The downbeat atmosphere often attributed to LEO is in evidence at times in this episode, if not heavily steeped in it like the first few shows (episodes one and two are arguably among the best, and unique approaches in any Ultra series). We're barely three minutes in and we have a monster crush a woman under its foot, leading to a battle with Leo wherein he loses. If you've kept up with this series to this point, you've noticed the darker tint to the storyline. This will change later on when the plots get more erratic and kid-friendly, although these more violent episodes make a return.

The Karly alien has two forms. It's man-sized form looks very different from when it goes giant.  The one recognizable factor are these large spikes on each shoulder. When it's a giant monster, these spikes possess laser capabilities, emitting electrical beams that shock Leo when he attacks. The monster has a charging-bull attack, lifting Leo off the ground, and slamming him on his back. Karly's demise is similar to the previous installment's monster, Kanedoras, keeping with the trend of brutal monster deaths. Additionally, the suit for the giant version of Alien Karly looks like it's stitched together from other monster suits.

Director Tojo Shohei is behind the camera for the second of six times on LEO. Having helmed the previous episode, these two are about even in terms of entertainment value. The sentimentality is stronger in episode five, but both shows, while sharing similarities, have different writers (Shosuke Watarukai). The young children, Toru and Kaoru, intro'd in episode three, and recurring characters, have a cameo during the finale; 'You're A Man! Fire Up!' has been serious the duration, so it ends on a comical note at the expense of Japanese giant monster movie favorite, Yu Fujiki.

For the time being, ULTRAMAN LEO remains an enjoyable show before later going off the rails where the utter bizarro factor and noticeable budget cuts will determine continued viewer interest.

MONSTERS: Karly Seijin (Alien)
WEAPONS: MAC Attack Jeep (MAC Roddy); MAC Gun

To be continued in Episode 7: A BEAUTIFUL MAN'S WILL!!!

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