“I Am Happy” and “Sunrise Hits Home”
We made it.
We’re finally here. After nine months of watching Ultraman R/B on and off, we’ve reached the finale. The world is being threatened by both Goth Alien and Leugocyte, and our heroes are down for the count. A pretty typical start to the penultimate episode for a shounen show, but you can’t really complain about that. Asahi and Papa Minato pick them up and drive them out of harm’s way, while confiscating their gyros on Mama Minato’s orders.
Speaking of which, Mama Minato is truly in the driving seat for these two episodes, and it feels off. She seems like a fun character, and there are things only she can do thanks to what she saw in the Imaginary Dimension, but her sudden appearance in the last handful of episodes and the large amount of screen time she gets versus Rosso, Blu and Asahi just feels weird. As I said last time, she really should have been reintroduced earlier. Give us some time to get to know her before ramping her up to 4000%, and give us a clue about what her plan is. We’re meant to believe that she’s got everything under control, but we have no idea what she’s trying to achieve.
For example, we see her attempting to open a file on Aizen’s computer labelled ‘Project AZ’. We, as viewers, have no idea about the significance of this until she’s actually opened it, and her entire plan appears to be relying on it. All we needed to see was a bit of context around why she’s so interested in it, a comment about how she saw Aizen planning for this eventuality so he must have had a plan. Instead, we get a bit of comic relief as she recites many of Aizen’s sayings to D.R.L.N. in an attempt to force it open, which jars with Rosso and Blu attempting to convince Papa Minato to give them their gyros back. You know, because the planet is in danger.
With the Ultramen absent, Goth Alien transforms back into Grigio Regina to fight with Leugocyte. Unsurprisingly she doesn’t keep her cool, and you can’t blame her for that. She sticks to her ‘blow up the Earth’ plan, luring it towards Aizen Tower and trapping it inside a force field so that it can’t run away from the blast. However, even with a few tricks up her sleeves, she’s pretty handily stomped by the big bad.
After a lot of time wasting, Rosso and Blu finally manage to convince Papa Minato to give them their gyros back. This isn’t without numerous speeches from him and Asahi, which seems like pretty poor timing what with them being on the brink of the world ending, but whatever. Asahi also wants to go off and help Goth Alien somehow, because she’s her best friend, which seems like a stretch. It’s absolutely what the show has been going for with their interactions across the season, but their relationship has never seemed like it was at that level, even if Asahi wanted it to be.
Papa Minato eventually decides that he will drive everyone to Aizen Tower. I know this show has some problems conveying speed and distance (bear this in mind, we have another fun instance of this coming up) but they can get to Aizen Tower much quicker by flying there. Taking the car is slower, and as we see when they almost get crushed by a boulder and end up crashing in the most hilarious, low-budget visual novel way, much more dangerous too. Again, it’s meant to be the end of the world.
Meanwhile, Mama Minato finally cracks the password by muttering ‘what a pain’ in frustration. It turns out the secret plan that Aizen came up with was to use the power of a large hadron collider (?) to open up a portal to the Imaginary Dimension (??), which would be a one way trip for Leugocyte and everyone in Aizen Tower. Look, I know that the large hadron collider can be used for time travel, but opening dimensional holes? How unrealistic!
After arriving at Aizen Tower, just barely making it there before Goth Alien switched on the barrier, Papa Minato again insists on a few more dad speeches to further delay Rosso and Blu jumping into the action. But eventually they do, assisting Goth Alien for a short time but also finding themselves overwhelmed by Leugocyte. It’s here where we say our goodbye to Goth Alien, who is killed in a very samurai movie-like fashion after taking a laser for Rosso and Blu, with a distraught Asahi comforting her as she passes on. This scene was handled pretty well, and kudos for the show actually committing to a character death, but dropping one of Asahi’s sweets out of the air as symbolism was just incredibly lame. If you wanted to keep that theme, have Goth Alien hand it back to Asahi as proof that she actually valued their friendship. It’d still be clumsy, but it wouldn’t be so unintentionally funny.
Onto the final episode, Rosso and Blu get heated and immediately transform into Reube, which they should probably have done earlier given their shuriken weapon thing can at least soften these lasers a bit. A grieving Asahi is almost crushed by some electricity pylons, which triggers more of her flashbacks. Reube is very quickly overpowered again, with their battery indicator going off to show this. Mama Minato hits the ‘no sex’ button and forces Rosso and Blu out of their Ultraman forms by making chastity belts appear on their gyros, bringing us right back to where we were at the beginning of episode 24. This reset is a big step backwards and I really dislike it. Most of the progress made in episode 24 is now gone, only now with Goth Alien dead.
Mama Minato needs them out of the way so that she can use the large hadron collider on Leugocyte, which will also send her with it. That said, I’m not sure why it would send her with it. Yes, Aizen Tower is doomed to go into the Imaginary Dimension, but she freaks out when Rosso and Blu somehow end up with her at the top of the tower, seemingly running so fast they might as well have teleported. If they were safe out there, and are now in danger by being in the tower, she had ample time to get out of there too. I don’t buy the need to push a button when you have D.R.L.N. around, either. Given Leugocyte is always going to be outside the tower, I don’t understand how there could be a situation where the entire Minato family isn’t caught up in it.
Rosso and Blu tell their mother, who has been trapped in another dimension for 15 years, that they’ve grown up and that she should trust them. You’ve got Mama Minato acting on glimpses of the future she’s actually seen, and Rosso and Blu claiming they can rewrite the future, without evidence that they can actually do that. Yes I know, it’s a shounen kids show, but there are better ways to handle this. Some minor evidence that they can change the future as Reube wouldn’t have been a bad shout – a slight change in the Reube vs Leugocyte fight that Mama Minato had already seen.
Mama Minato also claims that this situation is her fault, as she found the gyros. Perhaps I’m wrong here, but from what I can tell with what Goth Alien has said, Leugocyte was always going to come to Earth. Finding the gyros gave them a chance to win, and even if Rosso and Blu died as Ultramen, the planet would be destroyed too. It’s just another strange talking point in this already very long conversation, happening while Leugocyte is conveniently trapped by a beefed-up tractor beam.
We do eventually get back to the fight when Rosso and Blu break their chastity belts by declaring they’re Ultramen, and we get that good ol’ shounen trope of having the opening music play during the final fight. Something I did like about this sequence is that the music is playing while they’re getting stomped. For the entire duration of the song, Rosso and Blu are trying, and failing, to damage Leugocyte. It makes a change from playing over a certain victory, like it’s usually used for.
The scene Mama Minato was so scared of plays out, with Leugocyte firing a big ol’ laser at the Ultramen, though Rosso and Blu appear to change the future by surviving it and transforming into Reube. This is enough for her to power down the hadron collider and put her trust in them, which is a nice little touch because honestly at this point I’d kind of forgotten about the hadron collider plot, even with D.R.L.N. counting down. Asahi finally remembers everything, meaning we get the long-awaited conclusion of her mysterious appearance and relation to the Minato family, and… it sucks.
Asahi was born at the time that Rosso and Blu got their powers, as some kind of manifestation of the original Rosso and Blu’s feelings. Fair enough – we knew it’d be something bizarre like this so that’s fine. However, she literally turns into a tool with which Reube can defeat the big bad and save the day. Sure enough, one blast with the Asahi laser and the world is saved. Asahi dies by becoming a new toy.
Even setting aside the obvious problems with this, what a complete let down. Heck, Asahi literally has the third gyro in her hands when she becomes a toy for the other two to use, so why would you not let her become an Ultraman here? It’s not like it’s not on the cards either, according to what little I know of the R/B movie, so why? Asahi’s mysterious origin has been the plot point I’ve been most interested in since the big reveal. Deus ex laser beam is a terrific way to throw out all that setup for nothing.
With the dust settling, the Minato family minus Asahi convene in a nearby field to come to terms with their loss. And by come to terms with their loss, I mean debate the existence of Asahi.
“I wonder who she was” says Papa Minato.
“She might have been a part of me” says Mama Minato.
“Asahi was the embodiment of a happy heart”, she continues, “…even if she didn’t exist”. Mama Minato, what the actual fuck. Both parents here do a fantastic job of completely writing her out of the family in spectacular fashion, regardless of them acknowledging her as their daughter before this. Rosso, apparently the only person here that isn’t a complete jerk, counterpoints by saying that she did exist.
We then get to see Asahi float down from the sky because she’s actually alive, and everyone forgets that they were debating her existence five seconds ago. We then get the credits rolling and a short glimpse into life after Leugocyte, including a little rebranding of the family clothes shop. We end the series with Mama Minato and Asahi leaving the shop to go somewhere.
“This time, make sure you come home!” shouts Papa Minato to his wife, in reference to her not coming home last time because she was trapped in a different dimension for 15 years, alone. Good joke, asshole!
- Every time I write ‘The Imaginary Dimension’ I feel like I’m making a goof but no, that’s really what it’s called.
- A grand return for Aizen, for him to announce the password and finally help the Ultramen, would have been so good. Damn it.
- There’s quite a few instances in these episodes where Rosso and Blu’s battery indicators go off. I do like this Ultraman staple, but I kind of wish it meant something more. Most of the time they fire off a laser to beat the monster and it doesn’t matter.
- I kinda wish Leugocyte did more than just stand around and launch lasers. It’s a pretty good suit design and yet it didn’t feel as dangerous as some of the previous monsters.
- We never did get double blue.
- This series has no Dinosaur Tank.
Euri’s Final Thoughts
I think it’s been pretty obvious that I don’t think Ultraman R/B is a good show, but I’m mostly just disappointed with it. There have been many times when it showed promise, from episode 5 when we got that fantastic camera work with the introduction of the wind crystal, and episode 17 when a throwaway episode featuring Pigmon and Dada further confirms, to me at least, that the monsters are the stars of this show. Even though we did a spectacular job missing the hints about Asahi’s mysterious origins, her storyline was genuinely an interesting one, but it never delivered.
While I don’t have a lot of experience with Ultraman in general, I think it’s easy to say that this was a better show than Ultraman X, the other series I’ve watched. X had a big focus on eradicating monsters for the good of the planet (and not doing a good job justifying their actions), while R/B is much less about killing monsters and more about the rocky relationship between Rosso/Blu and Aizen/Goth Alien. Plus, with monsters coming from crystals and often having a human host, we never quite get to the same levels of ‘oh my god they’re just murdering this monster’ like we did with Ultraman X episode 2.
That being said, for a series that so heavily relied on its characters, the main trio of the show were very poorly written. Rosso loves baseball, Blu loves science and Asahi likes sweets, saying ‘happy’ a lot and screaming her brothers’ names, and that’s about the extent of it. It’s easy to argue the kids show angle here, but it’s not like this is a recurring problem in Super Sentai shows. The best character truly was Aizen, as not only was he incredibly fun, but we learn a lot about his misguided motivations behind becoming an Ultraman and testing Rosso and Blue. We also learned about his history, and why he would do these things. Goth Alien was fine, and her actor did a pretty good job with what she was given, but she did pale in comparison. Other characters, such as the parents and the childhood friend cop lady, were pretty much write-offs.
It’s a shame. I don’t enjoy giving R/B a hard time and would much prefer to have enjoyed it, but it’s starting to seem more and more like this just isn’t the franchise for me. Perhaps one of these days we’ll take a look at the original Ultraman, as the few episodes I’ve seen of that were pretty fun, but for now I think it’s time for a break. That is, of course, until the Netflix show comes out. Or that rumoured Hideaki Anno series.
Ah whatever, I’m off to watch Kaiketsu Zubat.
colons’ Final Thoughts
Nothing about my opinion on this show has changed since last time I wrote about it. I, too, am extremely excited about Zubat.