“Hero Disqualification” and “The World Is Waiting for Me”
Blu, emotionally wounded after almost killing a friend as Ultraman, cannot transform. He later overcomes the problem because he’s the hero Japan needs. Aizen, sick of the duo’s poor showing as Ultramen, transforms into an Ultraman himself and beats the stuffing out of them.
Episode 7 is another poor showing, though it does try to address some of our issues with the characterisation of the Ultramen, particularly Blu in this case. Yes, his ‘I can’t transform’ story is as cliche as it gets when it comes to tokusatsu plotlines, but at least Blu actually did something for a change. I don’t mean to wail on the poor guy, especially when Rosso’s defining character trait is ‘likes baseball’, but the opportunities to develop his character as someone interested in science have been poorly used.
They don’t do a good job this time either, and I’m kind of surprised they made this a ‘facing your fears’ message. A part of me wishes they’d actually make some use out of these two being brothers, and instead have Blu learn he can be as good/better than his brother. As for the rest of the episode, highlights include a genuinely cool sequence when a part of the city sinks into the ground as our antlion-adjacent monster of the week, Aribunta, wreaks a little havoc, and confirmation that Aizen has been transforming into the monster of the week and not just summoning them.
Episode 8 ends our short streak of sub-par episodes, with a focus on my new favourite Ultraman, Ultraman Orb Dark Noir Black Schwarz, who we’ve been endearingly referring to as Ultraman Black Black Black Black. It was only a few episodes ago that I was “futilely wishing that Aizen becomes a third Ultraman“, so I’m very pleased that we get to see it happen. On top of this, Aizen is also a magic space cloud. I just like him even more now.
Aizen’s motives continue to be completely puzzling, but not in a frustrating way. His character is sold well enough that I’m sure there is a reason he’s doing all of this, even if it’s just a case of him being a giant Ultraman nerd, so it feels like he’s earned a few more episodes of ambiguity. I don’t think he’s trying to seriously harm Blu and Rosso, rather he’s trying to enact some tough love in order to get them to act ‘like Ultramen’. Given he’s an alien, he’s almost certainly seen other Ultramen before, and he seems to have an idea of what they should and shouldn’t do. I’m led to believe that his transformation sequence is heavily inspired by previous shows too, transforming into Orb aside.
At the same time, even though there are reasons to suspect Aizen isn’t trying to be a bad guy, he’s definitely doing some bad guy things. We get to meet the stranger with the hat from episode 3, along with a few other people, connected to a device back at Aizen HQ that looks more like one of those electric shock party games. Not content with just kidnapping, he saps more juice out of them than his drone wife says is safe, just so he can clear the muck off of his Ultraman Orb Dark disc. There’s also everything that happened with Koma, and all of the destruction he’s caused as a monster while fighting with Rosso and Blu.
But you know what? Even with all the mystery surrounding his motivations, it was still darn fun watching him beat the crap out of our protagonists. He calls them to the middle of nowhere, hands them a report that shows how bad they are at being Ultramen, transforms into one himself and then gives them a good pummeling. He even calls Rosso “plain as heck” before punching him in the neck. Aizen and his comically large sword are very good, and for the first time in maybe ever, I’m looking forward to the next episode of Ultraman.
- After the opening credits of episode 7, my copy of the episode cut to some toy commercials while colons’ v2 did not. I think it says a lot that even though I was commenting on the ads I was seeing, it took maybe a minute for colons to realise I wasn’t commenting on the actual episode that they were seeing.
- Koma referring to a flashback scene in a way that made her sound like she was reading Blu’s mind was unintentionally very funny.
- At the end of Aizen’s transformation sequence, when Ultraman Orb Dark is zooming towards the screen, you can briefly see Aizen’s signature heart-hands pose.
- It took five individual transformations in episode 8 until it happened, but we finally saw a ‘short’ transformation when Rosso and Blu switch up versus Orb Dark.
- Still no Dinosaur Tank.
I had two big complaints about episode 7. One, as Euri pointed out, is that Blu’s arc is rote bullshit. The other was much weirder; the monsters had been seemingly reduced to mere comic relief, and would, for example, respect it when our protagonists held up a hand to make them wait for a second, in both human and Ultraman form. At the time, the show had declined in my estimation so much that I had no confidence that these were going to be addressed. I wrote down that Aizen might be being set up as some kind of mentor figure for the protagonists, but it didn’t really seem like that was where it was going. Heck, it didn’t really seem like it was going anywhere. After episode 8, though, this show has earned my earnest curiosity in questions that I am now confident will actually be addressed, mostly about Aizen.
How much of what he told us was true? We can absolutely believe that he is something possessing the body we currently know as Aizen, and we can probably believe him about his true name, but I don’t know how much of the rest of it to trust. I feel at least like there must at least be some key detail missing; the story as he tells it doesn’t explain much of the stuff we’ve seen him do.
In that case, then, what are his motives? If he wanted to ‘win’, he has already had plenty of opportunities to do so. He does appear to have a genuine interest in making the protagonists stronger. Perhaps it’s just for his ego and he wants to win against an enemy he sees as worthy. Perhaps, though, he is aware of some coming threat and knows that the world will be in jeopardy if they’re not strong enough. His actions imply he has little respect for the people of this world, but perhaps in his mind he is happy to sacrifice the good of the few for the continued existence of the many. …Or perhaps his motivation is something more alien, or something we couldn’t reasonably suspect at this point.
Is Aizen canonically aware, on some level, that this is a television show? There are a few hints about this; he certainly looks at the camera a lot, and does a lot of flourishing that only make sense if he knows he’s being watched, but he also specifically calls out to the protagonists that using the same attack two episodes in a row is boring to watch. Perhaps this can be written off as comic relief, but at this point I do expect the show to address it. We know he has flagrant disregard for the lives of minor characters, and we know he’s interested in having our protagonists live up to the legacy of Ultraman. We also know he’s an ancient sentient gas cloud of unknown origin, so he may well be aware of some framing for this world that maps somewhat to its being a television show. For now, though, I can be happy that he is explicitly interested in fixing the things that, until now, have made this show seem bad. Here’s hoping he succeeds.
- The city destruction prop work as the antlion is revealed at the beginning of episode 8 is very, very good.
- I am unsure about t-shirts with printed-on sweat stains as a marketable look.
- This show goes out of its way to have the protagonists in colour-coded uniforms in and out of battle, and then throw it all away every time they do additional transformations, which is a bummer.
- Aizen is very good at maniacal laughter.