Ultraman Mebius – Trust Falls

Author’s Note: Check out my initial thoughts on Mebius over here, if you haven’t already.

 Ultraman Mebius – Together Everyone Achieves More

Many of the episodes in this section represent self-contained focus plots that further develop the characters as extensions of their initial introductions in the first arc of the show. I’m not going to recap all of them here, because this article is covering 18 episodes, as opposed to the 11 from last time, but also because they echo similar themes to what we have seen before, and I don’t want to repeat myself too much. This article in turn will cover episodes 12-30, concluding with the major mid-season finale arc.

Most of the single episodic plots deal with the characters revisiting their motivations in joining the team, by comparing where their characters are now, with their selves before the events of the show, in the context of their old lives.

 

Marina reunites with her manager as a racer on her day off and finds that she can push herself to take risks she never took as a racer, now that she fights to protect others from monster aliens.

 

George has to deal with his pride and the isolation he feels due to his talents again in testing a new, dangerous weapon prototype.

 

Teppai tries to convince his mom that working with GUYS is worth the risk rather than settling into medical school as expected.

 

Ryu butts heads with a master engineer who teaches him the importance of respecting the tradition of work that he stands atop.

 

Konomi’s kind-hearted faith in the potential of others is put to the test when she reunites with a childhood friend. Although she has fond memories of how he helped her as a kid, he turns out to have been trying to manipulate her to get famous for a tabloid scoop against the GUYS organization. But her unwavering belief in the goodness in others eventually breaks his adult cynicism, and turns him around.

In addition to that, we have focus episodes for some people who I only briefly discussed last article.

 

Toriyama gets a comedic relief episode where his bumbling lack of leadership accidentally unleashes a monster from experimental GUYS technology. Captain Sakomizu also gets an episode to show off, in contrast, his impressive competence, not just as a leader, but as a pilot himself.

 

Even though both of them stand at opposite ends of the competency spectrum, these two episodes illustrate effectively that both of them care a lot about the team, and that being able to fight with the other characters – and alongside Ultraman – is very important to them as well.

We’re also introduced to a new character within the GUYS team, Misaki Yuki, the Deputy Chief Inspector.

 

We saw her a few times in the first part of the series, but this section of the show has her appear in a more prominent capacity. She gets a focus episode as well, where her unflappable smile and ever-present representation helps to guide the team to victory when Captain Sakomizu is taken out by a monster attack.

The newly-dubbed Ultraman Hikari also gets a few episodes himself. Also, again echoing the structure of the first 11 episodes, the episodes that focus on re-introducing his characterization also usher in the major overarching themes that this section of the series features.

 

Now freed from his original vendetta against Bogal, Hikari is left a bit lost as to how he fits in with Mebius’ own calling to help protect the Earth alongside GUYS. This conflict between his previous character, and his new lease on his life is compounded by the appearance of Zamushar, an alien swordsman who seeks to challenge his reputation to prove himself as the best, regardless of damage to the Earth and human civilization around him.

 

(The previous sword duel he was engaged in before hitting Earth was on top of an asteroid on re-entry that splits it into smithereens. Alien ronin warriors the size of buildings who smash up planetoids with their conflicts – that’s the kind of craziness humanity has to worry about in this setting!) But while Zamushar seeks out Tsurugi’s reputation to test himself against, what actually defeats him is a strike from Mebius’ sword while defending the main headquarters of GUYS from his attack, causing a crack in his blade, which then shatters when he attempts to fight Hikari.

 

The strength that Mebius can show in defense of others is greater than the supposed “greatest” swordsman in the galaxy, and stronger than Hikari’s own accomplished skill. It’s this realization of the source of our heroes’ true strength that causes Zamushar to relent, but it’s also what causes Hikari himself to decide to leave Earth – and his past with Ryu at GUYS – behind and go back to the legendary “Land of Light”, the home world of the Ultra race in general. Hikari feels like he owes a debt based on the damage he caused as Tsurugi, not to mention the connection he feels to the GUYS team, since he’s now sharing memories with the ex-Captain Serizawa, but he recognizes that because of that strength, he can trust Earth’s fate with them, and Mebius.

 


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This two-episode arc, plus the one following where Mirai deals with the pressure he feels now being the sole Ultra responsible for Earth’s protection, introduce and establish the driving theme of the show at this point – trusting in one another. The first arc dealt with showing how the characters’ strengths and weaknesses complement each other and allow them to achieve more as a team than apart. Now, we see how the characters continue to work with each other even when they make mistakes, or when familiarity with those flaws might create conflicts between them. As the challenges Mebius and the GUYS team face deepen, so do these tests of trust between them.

The first major test happens when Mebius, in his over-eagerness to make up for being responsible for protecting Earth without Hikari, upsets Ryu and the rest of the GUYS team when he curbstomps a monster before they can utilize their own plan to take it down on their own.

 

It seems like a silly concern at first, to the audience’s perspective and to Mirai himself. After all, Earth is protected either way, isn’t it? But framed against a smaller, more familiar backdrop of a childhood experience at a school, we see the relationship between the Ultras and humanity clarified a bit better, both for the audience and for Mirai himself.

 

A recurring phrase for the GUYS squad is “We’ll protect the Earth with our own hands.” (We’ll be hearing it a LOT going into the finale of the show too) Humanity can’t grow and improve itself if they’re never allowed to take risks. The purpose for the Ultras protecting the Earth is to create a space where that development can happen, not to solve every conflict on their own, especially since as we see, Mebius himself can’t defeat every enemy alone! To more effectively fight with humanity as allies, he needs to sometimes take a step back.

 


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The next major episode arc that develops after this one further illustrates Mirai’s relationship to humanity on a much more personal level. The GUYS team picks up a signal from a cargo-bearing spaceship, the Arandas, once thought to have been lost in an accident six months earlier. In hope of rescuing possible survivors, or recovering information about the wreck, they launch into space to investigate the pocket dimension that has trapped it.

 

Sakomizu’s warning here isn’t just for Mirai’s benefit, these two episodes destroyed me emotionally.

You see, all the crew of the cargo freighter managed to escape from the wrecked ship except for one. The flashback in this episode shows the fate of this individual, Hiroto Ban, who sacrificed himself to save his father and the rest of the crew. It’s presented in a way that doesn’t just move the GUYS crew who watch the sole remaining testament to his heroism, but it makes Mirai break down as well.

 

Such a courageous human life lost is an awful tragedy he’s feeling, right?

More than that though, it turns out this selfless courage is actually the basis on which Mirai chose to pattern his human appearance and mission on Earth in the first place.

 

 

 

Before he even arrived at Earth in the first episode, Mebius was unable to save Hiroto from his lonely death in space, but decided to use his appearance to honor his memory during his time on Earth. In this way, Hiroto’s life and sacrifice represent what Mirai sees as the most admirable qualities of humanity, and what he seeks to emulate himself. His chosen name even speaks to that hope, as “Mirai Hibino” literally means “future days” in Japanese.

 

These two episodes also explain a couple other points of the series, such as how Mirai came to become a member of GUYS so quickly after his initial appearance, and that Captain Sakomizu has been aware of his true identity the entire time.

Although if you hadn’t picked up the latter point by now, you just haven’t been paying attention to the show.

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This two-episode arc not only provides some much-needed (and incredibly well-crafted) background for Mirai/ Mebius, but it also opens up a new dimension to the show as we rapidly approach the mid-season climax, and that is how humanity and the Earth is viewed by other aliens at large. The episode immediately following is another one that destroyed me when I was watching (tissues in hand this time), but it also introduces the first time we see another alien other than an Ultraman trying to protect humanity.

 

When a monster who eats memories to grow stronger starts affecting large sections of the city, Marina finds herself unwittingly drawn into trying to fight back against it, within her own past. She’s helped along (although she doesn’t know it at first) by an alien “angel” named Tobi who has been trying to stop it from destroying his adopted home of Earth, as it was also responsible for destroying his own home world first.

The theme of how humanity fits in with the wider connections of alien life within the galaxy is one that gets developed more prominently following the mid-season finale. But even considering its placement within the development of the series, this episode is actually one of my favorites in the whole series. It has a pensive, almost dream-like style of its progression, as well as delivers on some pretty severe emotional punches, even after coming off of the more plot-specific tearjerkers from the last two-episode arc.

 


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After this, the brakes on the plot get disabled and we move full speed ahead into the main challenge that will test the bonds of trust between the entire GUYS team.

Well, okay, fine there is one speed bump in the middle where we get a clip show (albeit, a pretty fun one) framed as the GUYS team revisiting data on the monsters they and Mebius have fought so far, in order to determine which would make good additions to their roster of Maquette Monsters.

 

I’m told by people who are much more familiar with the series, that this episode, and the fight against a digital Zetton is a call-back to the finale of the original Ultraman series, but I’ll take their word for it.

But aside from that, the main threat that is developed this point, is an alien race that…

Actually, that’s a bad description. The main threat to Earth now is called “Yapool” and it’s essentially the animated, disembodied hatred of a dead extra-dimensional race that seeks to conquer the Earth. In order to do exactly that, they’re summoning “Super Beasts” or weaponized monsters to attack GUYS and Mebius. In addition to just creating super-strong stompy kaiju aliens though, they also can possess other human beings. This leads to a really tense episode where they possess Ryu and attempt to use him to turn the rest of the team against Mirai while Sakomizu is away from the base on official business.

 

As the rest of the crew apart from the leadership of Sakomizu and Misaki is still unaware of his identity as Mebius, the Yapool think they can turn the suspicion of the team onto him to drive him out and weaken him without the support of his teammates. Luckily, the trust we’ve seen built up to this point is great enough that they don’t fall to these plans, and Mirai and the others are able to flush the Yapool out and get everyone back to normal.

Meanwhile we see the other Ultras worriedly predict that this threat, as well as another unspecified “final battle”, may be too much for the still-inexperienced Mebius to overcome, and order him to return back from his mission on Earth.

 

Even though it nearly takes his life, Mirai refuses to back down from the fight against the robot Imperiser. In addition, he also reveals himself as Mebius in the battle against the robot Super Beast.

 

These two episodes are a culmination of the challenges we’ve seen the team overcome throughout the whole series up to this point. We’ve seen them struggle, fail, grow stronger, and come to understand and trust each other within the context of the team, but really through all these challenges they’ve become something more akin to family. 

 

Instead of being fearful, or suspicious of finding out that your weird, naïve teammate is actually a super-powerful alien warrior from a nebula several million light years away, they know Mirai through his actions and his connection to the team. Just like with Tobi in the episode I described above, he may not be human, but he shares the best aspects of humanity, and that apparent nature that they relate to allows the GUYS crew to trust him and fight along his side.

As we find out from Mirai, it’s actually why the Ultras in general care so much about Earth in the first place too.

 

I think that’s a pretty neat setting detail, and it ties back heavily to the earlier episodes of this section of the show, in describing the role of the Ultras’ protection, not as a savior to stop all bad things from happening, but to allow humanity the chance to preserve those shared ideals against a cruel universe that often seeks to destroy them. In return, the interaction with humanity serves as a reminder and guidance to help maintain and properly orient that heroic spirit towards the best use of the Ultras’ awesome powers to help others.

In this mid-season finale, even the other Ultras eventually acknowledge how strong Mebius has become because of this connection he has developed with the GUYS team. Stronger, quite literally, when it gives him a massive power-up that lets him explode the enemy robot into cinders in an impressive display of pyrotechnics. But fittingly, to properly represent the strength that these bonds of trust give him, this power-up visually is shown by using the same flame symbol that the team painted on their strike ship in the second episode of the series, a personal reminder of their collective stakes in working with GUYS to protect the Earth.

 

With this mid-season finale, instead of breaking under the challenges that they faced against the Yapool, Mebius and the GUYS crew prove that they are strong enough to protect Earth. They earn the trust that humanity – and the Ultras! – have given them all to stand up against future threats as well.

 


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A digression, if you would indulge me.

One of the reasons why I am so fond of the DC universe in comics is because it acknowledges that it is a fictional setting, and thus based on narrative laws. That sounds odd, but what I mean is that elements like heroic spirit, teamwork, love, hope, etc, are all the most powerful, and most fundamental forces of the universe rather than empirical, physical laws. Some people prefer hard science fiction or more dry, rational explanations for elements of those settings, but I’m eternally a sucker for good heroic narratives, so a universe that is literally powered from those ideals will always grab my attention more than a science lecture on quantum physics. Science is cool, but stories that speak to the heart are more memorable to anyone, rather than ones that only reach the rational head.

In watching Mebius, I became pretty fascinated with the setting it embeds itself into mostly because I see a lot of those same elements in its world-building. The power of Ultraman is ultimately one that derives itself from the purity and strength of their ideals and shared with those who believe in them. In my first article, I explain how the teamwork of the GUYS crew allows them to be stronger in a figurative sense, as it lets them construct a plan that can accomplish more good than they could do if they were acting alone. Here, we see the characters become stronger in a completely literal sense, as it’s simply the GUYS crew’s faith in Mebius that allows him to gain his new power-up form to keep fighting.

I mentioned in a previous Ex-Aid recap that I love the concept of fractals, and compared the idea of those repeating shapes to the philosophical concept of Platonic Forms, in that by zooming in, or out, in scope, we can see the same shape of these metaphysical principles play out on different levels. We see it here too, how the original theme of teamwork becomes magnified and intensified as we move to a greater scope of threat, and a greater scope of focus of humanity’s place within the wider universe. However, rather than strictly representing a fractal pattern, we can more accurately compare the structure of Mebius’ thematic development to his namesake – a moebius strip.

Regardless of how far we travel away from the start, we come back to the same themes, the same heroic ideals that drove all these characters to put aside their safety and personal concerns to help others back in the very first episode. Even though the monsters they face get stronger, and the threats against the Earth become more dire, they still haven’t lost that original spirit, and that’s what allows them all to never give up their fight against those odds.

I was only half-joking about how I was going to love the rest of the 49 episodes of Mebius in the conclusion of my first article, but the sheer emotional weight of many of the best episodes, combined with the continued excellence in cinematography, soundtrack work, not to mention props and special effects, has really fit together to make my experience watching through this show more and more exciting. What helps is just how snugly all the major themes nest within each other, where each new challenge and plot arc builds on what has come before in order to further emphasize and develop these elements of the characters and story. As it spirals outwards in scale – and more intimately inwards in focus – I’m wholly invested along for the ride.

Don’t be fooled by the massive word count for this article, it actually was remarkably difficult to sit down and write this post, to summarize the emotional highs and lows I was carried through on with the combination of all the factors that make this show special. Echoing what I said in my first write-up, I cannot recommend this series enough for anyone interested.

Go watch Mebius yourself before I spoil the finale for you.

 

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4 comments

  1. Just as a side note, Space Dinosaur Zetton was the final Boss in Ultraman, so he’s basically a Top tier Kaiju in terms of power. Funnily enough, beating him has become rite of passage in modern Ultra where every new guy has to face him at some point.

    One thing I think is worth taking note about the main cast, its how unusual they are for an Ultra team; in most series, the current monster attack team do form a family like bond, but in most cases they are all somehow affiliated to the military. Basically, most of the time the members of the team have similar backgrounds and usually the main protagonist (AKA the Ultraman) is the one with from an external background (Kaitou/Max was a rescuer, Musashi/Cosmos wanted to be an astronaut before being recruited).

    GUYS, on the other hand, is a team where, in one way or another, every single member is “fish out of the water”, someone who was on an odd place on their lives until they were randomly brought together thanks to Mirai.

    I wanted to point that out because this little change really makes the character interactions of the GUYS team special in their own way. Again, in previous series the dynamic was usually a team of pros who already knew each other or at least had a history together, and it was through the main character that we learned about them.

    In Mebius, it feels more like everyone on the team is learning from one another all the time, and I think that is part of what makes their dynamic so special.

    Like

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