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

Our introduction into the second main arc of Mebius repeats the initial structure of the show, presenting many self-contained, episodic plots that further develop the characters we’ve already been introduced to. Since these are generally extensions of their original introductions, 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. And 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 storyline.


As I mentioned, most of the single episodic plots at this point deal with the characters revisiting their original motivations when they first joined the team. By comparing where their characters are now after their first major test in defeating Bogal and redeeming Tsurugi, they take stock of their place on the GUYS Japan crew in a new context.

First, Marina reunites with her former manager on her day off.  She finds she can push herself to take risks she never could as a motorcycle racer, now that she fights to protect others from monstrous alien threats instead.

 

George has to deal with his stubborn pride and the isolation he feels due to his talents again, when the team tests a new, dangerous weapon prototype.

 

Teppai tries to convince his mom that working with GUYS is worth the danger, rather than settling into medical school as was expected of him.

 

Ryu butts heads with a master engineer who emphasizes the importance of respecting the tradition and history of work others have laid down before him.

 

Konomi’s kind-hearted faith in the goodness 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 tried to manipulate her in the present to gain fame for a tabloid scoop slandering the GUYS organization. But her unwavering willingness to see the best in others eventually breaks his adult cynicism, and turns him around.

 

In addition to these individual plots, we also have focus episodes for some people who I only briefly discussed last time.

Toriyama has a comedic relief episode where his bumbling lack of leadership accidentally unleashes a monster from experimental GUYS technology.

 

In contrast, Captain Sakomizu also has his own focus episode to show off 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 how they both care a lot for the team under their authority. Being able to fight with that team – 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 features her character in a more prominent capacity. She gets a focus episode as well, where her unflappable smile and reliable representation helps to guide the team to victory when Captain Sakomizu is taken out by a monster attack.

The newly-dubbed Ultraman Hikari also has a few episodes to continue his development. 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 featured in this larger arc.

Now freed from his original vendetta against Bogal, Hikari is left a bit lost as to how he fits in with Mebius’ own mission to help protect the Earth alongside GUYS. This conflict between his previous drive for revenge 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.

Sound familiar? Here, Hikari is confronted with an expression of the same bloody-minded obsession that motivated him as Tsurugi.

Oh and before Zamushar landed on Earth, he was engaged with a sword duel on top of an asteroid hurtling into atmospheric re-entry that splits it into smithereens. Alien ronin warriors the size of buildings who smash up planetoids with their fights – 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 he was defending the main headquarters of GUYS. This creates a minute crack in Zamushar’s blade, which later 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. This realization of the source of our heroes’ true strength causes Zamushar to relent his attack. But it also convinces Hikari himself to leave Earth – and his past with Ryu at GUYS – behind to go back to the legendary “Land of Light”, the home world of the Ultra race. Hikari feels like he owes a debt based on the damage he caused as Tsurugi that he can’t repay. But the connection he feels to the GUYS team, now that he’s sharing memories with the ex-Captain Serizawa, along with his experience fighting alongside them as Hikari, allows him to trust Earth’s fate with them, and Mebius.


This two-episode arc, plus the one immediately following afterwards where Mirai deals with the pressure he feels being left the sole Ultra responsible for Earth’s protection, introduces and establishes the driving theme for this segment of the series – trust.

The first arc showed how the characters’ strengths and weaknesses complement each other and allowed them to achieve more as a team than apart and on their own. 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 test of this theme is set off by Hikari’s own decision to trust Earth’s fate in the hands of Mebius and the GUYS team. Mebius, in his over-eagerness to make up for being responsible for protecting Earth without him, upsets Ryu and the rest of the GUYS crew when he curbstomps a monster before they can utilize their own plan to take it down with their own efforts.

It seems like an unjustified concern at first to Mirai, and maybe to the audience as well. After all, Earth is protected either way, isn’t it? But when framed against a smaller, more familiar backdrop of a childhood conflict at school, we see that concern in context with the relationship between the Ultras and humanity in general.

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, and face challenges with their own strength. The purpose in 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 we can see Mebius himself can’t defeat every enemy alone! To more effectively fight with humanity as allies, he needs to take a step back sometimes.

 


The next major episode arc also further illustrates Mirai’s relationship to humanity, but on a much more personal level this time.

The GUYS team picks up a signal from a cargo-bearing spaceship, the Arandas, thought to have been lost in an accident six months earlier. In hope of rescuing possible survivors, or recovering information about the circumstances of the wreck, they launch into space to investigate the pocket dimension where it was stranded.

 

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

You see, the entire crew of the cargo freighter managed to miraculously escape from the wrecked ship, all except one member. 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 as they 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 for him to feel, right?

More specifically than that though,  this selfless courage was 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 own 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.


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. 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 in this series.

When a memory-eating monster starts affecting large sections of a city, Marina finds herself unwittingly drawn into fighting back against it, within her own memories of childhood. She’s helped along (although she doesn’t know it at first) by an alien “Angel” named Tobi. He’s determined to stop it from destroying his adopted home of Earth, as it was also responsible for destroying his own home world first.

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


____________________________________________________

After this, the brakes on the plot get disabled entirely and we move full speed ahead into the main challenge, one that will test the bonds of trust between the entire GUYS team and the Ultras who have sworn to protect the Earth.

Well, okay, fine there is one speed bump in the middle where we get a clip show (albeit, a pretty fun one). It’s framed by 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 it features 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 beings to be 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 (he? It?? ) summon “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 frighteningly 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.

With the rest of the crew apart from the leadership of Sakomizu and Misaki apparently still unaware of Mirai’s identity as Mebius, Yapool thinks it can turn the suspicions 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 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 so far. We’ve seen them struggle, fail, grow stronger as a result of that experience, 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. That apparent shared nature 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 this is a really interesting detail of the setting, and it ties back heavily to themes presented in earlier episodes of this section of the show. We’ve seen other examples in those episodes describing how Ultras safeguard the peace of Earth and humanity, 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 guidance to help maintain and properly orient the Ultras’ actions.

They learn just as much from us, and their roles as heroes, as Earth benefits from their example and assistance.

In this mid-season finale, even Mebius’ own mentor, Ultraman Taro, comes to acknowledge how strong he’s become as a result of this connection developed with the GUYS team. Stronger, quite literally, when it also gives him a massive power-up allowing him explode the enemy robot into cinders with an impressive display of pyrotechnics. But, fittingly, to visually represent the strength given to him by these bonds, this power-up form uses the same flame design 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 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.


A digression, if you would indulge me.

One reason why I am so fond of the DC comics universe is that it acknowledges it is a fictional setting, and thus based on narrative laws. That might sound odd, but in other words I mean 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 some settings, but I’m eternally a sucker for good heroic narratives, so a universe literally powered by 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 than ones that only reach the rational head.

In watching Mebius, I became 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 explained how the teamwork of the GUYS crew allowed them to become 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 – it’s simply the GUYS crew’s faith in Mebius that allows him to gain his new upgrade 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 similar ways, 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, with how the original theme of teamwork becomes magnified and intensified as we move to a greater scope of threat, and the greater scope of focus regarding of humanity’s place within the wider universe. However, rather than representing any sort of fractal pattern, we can more accurately compare the structure of Mebius’ thematic development to his own 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 in the conclusion of my first article about how I was going to love the rest of the 39 episodes of Mebius. But the sheer emotional weight of many of the best episodes, combined with the continued excellence in cinematography, soundtrack work, not to mention the 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 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.

Advertisements

6 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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s