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Friday, July 1, 2016

From Beyond Television: Ultraman Ace Episode #4


Directed by Yamagiwa Eizo

On her day off, TAC Communications Officer Noriko Mikawa accepts an invitation for a high school reunion from an old schoolmate of hers, an eccentric horror comic book artist named Mushitaro Kuri. Mushitaro reveals he has kept a love letter she refused when they were in high school. Now accepting it, Mikawa opens the letter and finds, in addition to the letter, a drawing of a monster named Garan, a prehistoric creature from the Devonian Period. Time passes and Mikawa discovers that no one else is coming to this party. She also finds that she has been drugged. Tied up and held captive, Mushitaro reveals he has been given telepathy by "the Devil", and that she will marry him; if not, she will die. After a scuffle she manages to escape. Mushitaro uses his telepathic powers to bring Garan, his comic creation, to life to bring Mikawa back to him and destroy TAC.

ULTRAMAN ACE (temporarily) drops the kid-friendly nature, taking a detour into darker territory about a murderous artist who literally loves women to death. Curiously, the portions about the crazed comic book creator (played by Koji Shimizu) are engaging to the point that the monster segments feel intrusive. The previous three episodes contained substantial amounts of action, explosions and wanton destruction so it's unusual when the dramatic (in this case, horror) elements rob the show of its rubber suit bread and butter. 

The first of six episodes written by Ichikawa Morichi is far more subversive than your average kiddie-tainment. It's certainly a storyline suited for the likes of the adult-leaning ULTRASEVEN than the superhero antics of U-ACE. Ichikawa's disturbing tale of an obsessed kook who is given the power of bringing his creations to life is a bizarre mixture when the tone occasionally leaps into the typical monster scenario. The writer dives into even more cerebral areas during the last scene when Captain Goro states the Yapool didn't give Mushitaro the power to realize the demon--the power was always with him to forge demons of his own.

Koji Shimizu imbues Mushitaro Kuri with just the right amount of creepiness. There's a bit of Norman Bates in him; this is especially prominent when the captive Mikawa is shown what happens to women who don't love him back--the skeletal remains of a previous victim. He gets a generous amount of the 25+ minute running time all to himself--skulking around, ready to snap at any moment; promising to kill all the members of TAC; and threatening Mikawa with his bow and arrow!

The plot of a monster comic character, or some other monster drawing, coming to life to wreck havoc had been done before in the original ULTRAMAN, episode #15, 'Terrifying Cosmic Rays'. Unlike here, the set-up was different and much easier to digest for small fry consumption. For the purposes of this U-ACE program, the series will maintain a weirdly playful, if a more grim GAMERA-like marriage of monsters and morbidity for a spell before finding a balance.

If it weren't for this horror slant, episode 4 would have nothing going for it. The monster section about Garan is kind of confused since a much smaller version of the beast is laying dormant in an aquarium. Mushitaro's Garan is brought to life through his psycho-telepathic tendencies. Feeling a lot like an episode of OPERATION: MYSTERY with an ULTRAMAN scenario tacked on, if it weren't for the horror story this episode would rate 2 stars at best.

Prolific monster and mech designer Akihiko Iguchi (the designer of the original Mechagodzilla) reportedly adapted the Garan design from an original sketch by a 21 year old dental technician. The creature is a prehistoric origin, revamped by the Yapool for their Super-Beast purposes. Garan's weapons are a sort of tornado mist emitted from its mouth that absorbs whatever gets into its path. A large horn on the end of its snout contains a type of magnetic force; when it glows, it can either cause the TAC aircraft to lose all function or destroy them. Garan's roar is the same as Kemular from ULTRAMAN (1966) episode 21 'Breach the Wall of Smoke'. Series suit actor regular, Toru Kawai, is inside the Garan suit.

The big battle between Ace and Garan is a nice brawl with some high-flying moves by Ace. The Ace Vacuum is introduced, a weapon wherein Ace can absorb poisonous gas type weapons of Super-Beasts when his hands are cusped together. The Timer Shot does some serious damage, followed up with a blast from his Beam Lamp (in his forehead) brings Garan to a cruel end.

The next episode continues the gloom and doom streak with some rather horrifying monster action. As for episode 4, it's a weak entry that, ironically enough, is kept strong because of its human characters as opposed to its monsters.

MONSTERS: Garan; Yapool (Dimensional image)
WEAPONS: TAC Falcon; TAC Arrow #1, #2; TAC Bazooka; 5-0 Laser Rifle; TAC Gun

To be continued in Episode 5: GIANT ANT BEAST VS. THE ULTRA BROTHERS!!!


Dr. Theda said...

Some cool Ultraman posts... have not seen them since childhood (4:00 afternoons).
A great Holiday weekend to you and yours...

venoms5 said...

Thank you. I have several more to post including three more of ACE. I hadn't done any of these in a while and they don't take much time to write up. A great holiday to you and yours as well, Dr. Theda.

Dr. Theda said...

Thank you, kind Sir...
Was just dropping by to show these posts...

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