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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

From Beyond Television: Ultraman Ace Episode #7


Directed by Masanori Kakei

TAC radar picks up a massive object on a collision course with Earth. It is the burning planet, Gorath. Earth has seven days remaining before it is destroyed by the flaming planet killer. TAC scientists quickly devise a massive missile, the Maria I, to intercept Gorath before it hits. Meanwhile, TAC officer Yamanaka runs into his girlfriend, Maya, and proposes to her. The happiness is short-lived as mere seconds before the Maria I launches, Alien Metron Junior appears and destroys it and one of TACs bases along with it. Quickly building another missile, TAC members are unaware that Alien Metron has killed Maya and taken over her body to further sabotage TAC HQ. 

Before our heroes can catch a breath, the Super-Beast moth monster, Doragoris, appears and attacks the base. Ace manages to temporarily hold Doragoris at bay after using the Ultra Barrier, but the move has left Yuko seriously exhausted. Meantime, Alien Metron has destroyed the TAC lab with the Maria weapon blueprint, although Dr. Suzuki memorized the plans. Yamanaka finally learns his fiance is dead, her body appropriated by the evil Alien Metron. Going giant, Alien Metron engages TAC; then the Yapool send Doragoris to join him. Hokuto and Yuko transform to Ace and the fight is on. As the battle rages, another monster, Muruchi II, inexplicably appears. Now a three against one fight, TAC's underground weapons facility desperately tries to build the Maria II as Gorath nears closer to the Earth....

What could've made for one helluva way to close the series, the makers of ULTRAMAN ACE pack an incredible amount of action, cliffhangers, and storytelling into a mini-epic very early into its 52 episode run. Toho monster fans will rejoice by the inclusion of one of the company's lesser discussed, but no less magnificent, Science Fiction movies--GORATH from 1962. In that film, Gorath was an enormous star hurtling towards the Earth while scientists attempt to move the Earth out of its axis to avoid destruction. For its ACE appearance, Gorath is akin to any other monster; similar to the Planet Killer from the classic STAR TREK episode, 'The Doomsday Machine'.

Much like a giant monster was wedged into the human drama of Honda's classic, so is Gorath thrust into the plot of a monster series for no other reason than to make the plot as chaotic as possible. For the most part, these two episodes are organized chaos--there's so much going on you barely have time to pay attention to scripting snafus. This two-parter rates highly strictly for its entertainment factor as these types of programs aren't known for subtlety, much less richly written characters. Ichikawa Morichi (and Shozo Uehara for part 2) has crammed enough cliffhangers in an hour to fill a Republic serial. This was his third of seven U-ACE scripts.

Kazuo Sagawa returns as SPX Director. He handled duties on episodes 1-4 while Takashi Ohira took the helm of episodes 5 and 6. There are some nice composite shots, opticals, and fiery explosions scattered about the varied list of special effects. Many of them are effectively utilized to propel the story as opposed to satisfying the obligatory devices these types of shows adhered to. Excluding Gorath, two of the monsters have appeared before. 

Alien Metron first appeared in episode 8 of ULTRASEVEN, 'The Cursed Town'. The appearance of this offspring is slightly different; nor does it speak, unlike the alien from the U-7 episode. The Metrons of the earlier series were pretty nasty creatures and this lone alien shows no less disdain for humankind. Like Gironman of episode 5, the evil Alien Metron II (played by Fuyuki Shinada) isn't one of the Yapool. You could say he's working alongside them, although one merely wants to take over the Earth while the Metronian wishes to destroy it. In an unusual move, when Alien Metron takes over a body, he kills them beforehand; so there's no reviving the host after the monster is destroyed. In this series, the creature's powers are an electrical attack (fatal to humans) and explosives that shoot from his fists.

Making its debut, Doragoris (played by Toru Kawai), the Super-Beast moth monster, is a particularly cruel being. The most vicious of the Super-Beasts seen up to this point, Doragoris has a penchant for extreme body mutilation; not to mention it gives Ace an enormous pounding in their handful of scuffles. Aside from its relentless attacks and enhanced strength, Doragoris is a fire-breather and fires rockets from its palms. The monster's roar is a modified version of Gabara's roar heard in the underrated GODZILLA'S REVENGE (1969).

Muruchi II, the offspring of the original Muruchi from RETURN OF ULTRAMAN episode 33, enters the fray out of nowhere. With Gorath in the plot and two monsters already trouncing Ace, the appearance of the third monster wrings the last drop of disbelief from the audience. You're almost waiting for a giant kitchen sink to fly across the screen. We'll save mentioning the full range of Muruchi's brief appearance for part 2 since it doesn't appear till the final moments of part 1; and the monster's exit is one of the most memorable of the series.

Kaori Seki and stage and voice actor Jun Hazumi are the guest stars in these two shows. In relation to this series, the former is the most interesting of the two. Her character as Maya is actually a really good one, and a nice arc for lending TAC member Ichiro Yamanaka (Shunichi Okita) some exposition. Sadly, it's too little and too melodramatic to mean much. Yamanaka comes off as mostly annoying in his vendetta to avenge his fiance at the expense of his duties. The bulk of the Maya character's scenes are in this episode while she's seen only in flashback imagery for the second half. Kaori was originally set to star as Yuko Minami, but an accident before filming began prevented her from participating so Mitsuko Hoshi got the role at the last minute. Kaori did shoot some photos (see insert) with Keiji Takamine (Hokuto Seiji), the male half of Ace before being replaced.

Speaking of Ace, Hokuto is a lot more serious here. He's still buffoonish at times but has the most commanding presence seen up to this point. Morichi's script gets as much mileage as he can out of the male/female pairing required to form Ace and putting it in peril via the usage of a new ability--the Ultra Barrier (different from the Neo Barrier of episode three). Ace turns himself into a tornado, spinning so rapidly he creates a rip in the air that contains the target for a 24 hour period; the downside to this ability is the amount of energy it requires. If you've seen the entirety of this series there's some foreshadowing of a dramatic change that occurs a little over halfway through.

A fantastic, action-driven episode, the level of energy is maintained in the second half even if the violence gets out of control. Ratings for the series started out strong, but dipped downward quickly, although things took an upturn for this two-parter. To find out how this one ends, stay tuned....

MONSTERS: Alien Metron II; Doragoris; Muchin II; Yapool (dimensional image)
WEAPONS: Maria I; TAC base artillery; 5-0 Laser Rifle; TAC Guns

To be continued in Episode 8: LIFE OF THE SUN, LIFE OF ACE!!!


Dr. Theda said...

Another great post, good Sir...
(we did a bit on one of our Favorites (since early childhood), Hedora...!!
A great week to you and yours...
Hello from Marshville...

Klaus Gebhard said...

I must have missed it in the article but how does one get to watch this show?
I am feeling very deprived!

venoms5 said...

@ Dr. Theda: Have a great weekend, sir!

@ Klaus: I should probably specify in these TV reviews the sources since I do so with the movies. These images came from the Japanese DVDs. Sadly, there are no subs on them. However, you can buy three disc sets of most of the Ultra shows on ebay for around $30 and those have English subs on them. They're from Malaysia. The quality isn't as beautiful as the Japanese releases (they cram some 17 episodes on a disc), but still decent enough. The write ups for RETURN OF ULTRAMAN are from the Malay versions because I don't have the Japanese DVDs for that series, so you can see the difference there in the screencaps. Not much, but a difference. The ULTRASEVEN write ups come from the US subbed release. ULTRAMAN, ACE, and LEO are from the Japanese DVDs.

Also, there are English dubbed versions on youtube if you can stomach them. The English dubbing for ACE is horrific although for some that might add to the appeal.

Klaus Gebhard said...

Excellent! Thank you so much! I have followed this fantastic blog for a long time.
I will seek these out. Ioffer and are also great placed to look, I imagine.
Love this genre w/ Ultraman, Giant Robot, Iron King, Red Baron, etc.
Thanks again and continue the terrific work!

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