Wednesday, June 5, 2019

From Beyond Television: Ultraseven Episode #32


Dubbed title: ISLAND IN THE SKY

Directed by Samaji Nonagase (Nagase)

Space Station V2 sends an urgent message that a UFO is headed towards Earth. Dan, Amagi and Furuhashi are sent out on the Ultra Hawk 1 to investigate. Finding what appears to be a flying island in the sky, the three TDF members are caught in a tractor beam and pulled onto the enormous, asteroid-shaped vessel. Captain Kiriyama and the others lose track of Ultra Hawk 1 and find no trace of the "flying island". Later, Dan and his companions awaken to find what looks like the source of the ship's power--an unmanned alien base.

Meanwhile, Captain Kiriyama and the others finally locate the island and learn that it has incapacitated their weapons capabilities and is headed towards their base. Unable to use any aircraft, the TDF decide to use a new secret weapon. Meanwhile, Dan learns the island is actually a mobile time bomb just before a giant monster appears. Unfortunately, Dan is unable to transform into Ultraseven due to the island's magnetic powers. Instead, he uses one of his capsule monsters till he can disable the ship's electromagnetic waves; thereby allowing him to transform and the TDF to mount an air attack.

Nonagase, a former AD to Akira Kurosawa, is at the helm of this exciting episode. Kids will especially enjoy this one for the higher monster quotient. Nonagase was a frequent writer, and used the pseudonym Ryu Minamikawa on the episodes he wrote and directed like U7 episode 19, 'Project Blue'. He worked on several Tsuburaya programs including the first three ULTRA series' as both a writer and director. He reportedly enjoyed doing the kid-centric programs and it shows in 'The Wandering Planet'.

Written by Masahiro Yamada and Uehara Shozo, the story is straightforward, but still muddles some details. It doesn't matter much because this is the sort of episode kids were giddy for on those early Saturday mornings back in the day. There's no mention of where the asteroid comes from although reportedly, the original script referred to the airborne time bomb as Planet Din, a flying weapon created by what was referred to as the Mandalan aliens. They also manipulated the dino denizen of Din, but all these references were curiously removed.

The U7 monster this time is the alien beast Rigger (Riggah), a monster that apparently operates the enormous asteroid spacecraft. A modified version of the dinosaur tank from episode #28, Rigger moves really fast, wildly flailing its tail and neck. There's not a lot of detail on this suit nor much allowance for movement for Yoshihiro Kato inside of it (one of two suit men who donned the Giladoras costume in episode 20). It goes unexplained, but Rigger is electronically connected to the ship; so when U7 decapitates him with his Eye Slugger, he takes to the sky with Rigger's head, luring the ship into the Earth's atmosphere where it explodes without harm to the TDF.

After passing on other, previously seen capsule monsters, the writers opted for a new one. 'The Wandering Planet' is the first of two appearances of Dan's capsule creature Agilla (or Agira). The design of Senkatsu Ikeda, the monster resembles an upright Triceratops. Suzuki Kunio is inside the Agilla suit.

The battle between Rigger and Agilla is a generous one. Since Kato doesn't have much leeway for movement, the fight is mostly a lot of thrashing about. Suzuki's Agilla fares better in the motion department even if he is throttled the duration of the fight. Same goes for the melee with U7. Kids won't care, though.

The adult slant that dominates this series is relaxed for a typically busy monster-fest. Armed with a brisk and entertaining storyline, it's business as usual for those who can still enjoy Japan's old school brand of small screen SciFi.

MONSTERS: Rigger; Agilla
WEAPONS: Ultra Hawk 1,3; Pointer; Electro-H Gun

To be continued in Episode 33: THE DEAD INVADERS!!!

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