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Friday, July 1, 2016

From Beyond Television: Ultraman Ace Episode #5


Directed by Tadashi Mabune

Random victims are being sucked down into the Earth with no trace left behind. TAC investigates but find no evidence the stories are true. The case is turned over to the police since the initial victims were women and all with blood type O. After a subway train is wrecked and its passengers killed, the culprit is revealed to be an enormous, carnivorous ant monster, the Aribunta. TAC's Duckbill underground burrowing tank is dispatched and, after a fierce battle with the Aribunta, is trapped 80 meters below the surface of the Earth and only a limited supply of air remaining. Ultraman Ace doesn't possess a burrowing ability, so Hokuto devises a plan to use Yuko as bait for the Aribunta. The plan works and as they are teleported into the bowels of the Earth, they change into Ace. Immediately after destroying the Aribunta, another enemy appears, Gironman. The alien being encases Ace within a spiked trap and states his plan to destroy Tokyo and build an underground kingdom. He sends another Aribunta topside to begin the destruction. Meanwhile, Ace sends out a distress signal. Zoffy answers and it becomes a 4-way wrestling match to save both TAC and Tokyo.

The first of six episodes directed by Tadashi Mabune returns to the action-centric arena of the first three episodes while tossing in some shocking moments of violence. Eco-horror was a worldwide industry epidemic in the 1970s. Toho's Godzilla series was awash in pollutants with GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER (1971); and some of that grue found its way onto the giant monster small screen counterparts. Whereas Hedorah used its radioactive sludge to disintegrate humans, the Aribunta's primary weapon of death is just as horrifying.

A play on the African word for the devastating Army Ant, the Marabunta, the inter-dimensional Super-Beast Aribunta kills in an almost identical fashion to Hedorah, and a more exaggerated method to its Earthbound, Formicidae equivalent. Army Ants overwhelm their prey with numbers (oftentimes dismembering their food as they eat them), spraying them with a dissolving acid. Aribunta uses the same deadly spray. During one scene, the helpless humans aboard a train are massacred after Aribunta coats them in its acidic agent, dissolving their flesh, and leaving nothing but skeletons! Additionally, the monster has twin flamethrowers that spew from his wrists.

Shozo Uehara's script (second of seven in this series) is a basic SciFi Monster story but with some nice additions such as new weapons and powers for the title Ultra Brother and TAC mecha. We learn Ace cannot dive underground (he's also weak underwater); and Zoffy, the Captain of the Space Guard, makes his second appearance--this time in a fighting capacity after Ace finds himself in dire trouble. To call for help, Ace uses the Ultra Sign for the first time. Near death from the alien Gironman's spike trap, Zoffy arrives and gives Ace the Ultra Converter, a wrist bracelet that recharges an Ultra Brothers depleted energy, and keeps it charged so long as it is being worn.

The four-monster melee is more of a brawl with a lot of pounding, tossing, drop-kicking, but no acrobatics. If you're a fan of wrestling, you'll enjoy this scuffle--particularly the double team maneuver at the end of the battle. There's no gory finishing move, but with so much variety crammed into this program so early in the run you won't mind much. As with the previous episodes, the monsters are uniformly bizarre in the Ultra-tradition.

Aside from being mentioned, the Yapool are absent from this episode; yet Gironman enters our dimension (by "breaking" the sky) in the same fashion as the Yapool. Presumably Gironman has some relation to them. This underground humanoid monster intends to build a new city once his creatures, the Aribunta, have completed their urban renewal plan topside. His powers are teleportation, a spiked weapon that can electrify whatever it touches, and laser clusters emitted from his clawed appendages.

SPX director Takashi Ohira designs a nifty lair for Aribunta and Gironman. Keizo Murase (Murase Tsugizo), designer of many famous monsters of the big and small screens, fashioned the Gironman suit (using bath mats!) while Akihiko Iguchi built the insectoid suit for Aribunta. 

The TAC Duckbill makes its debut; an underground attack tank with a massive drill at the tip (a version of the Magmarizer of ULTRASEVEN). Coming complete with a variety of weapons, it provides this episode with one of two cliffhanger moments. It's amazing how much action can be crammed into 25 minutes.

Focusing far more on entertainment than building characters, episode 5 reverts back to that trend, bypassing the brief flirtation with exposition found in episode 4. This episode has a lot of variety in its sets and monster suit designs. In the next episode we get a look inside the Yapool's monster-maker laboratory. Just one of many episodes to feature additional Ultra Brothers, this is a fun, fast-moving program that fans of Tokusatsu will enjoy.

MONSTERS: Aribunta; Gironman; Ultraman Zoffy
WEAPONS: TAC Duckbill Tank; 5-0 Laser Rifle; TAC guns


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