Ultraman Mebius – To Infinity and Beyond

Author’s Note: This is the fourth and final article in a series detailing my thoughts and commentary on Ultraman Mebius after watching the show for the first time. If you haven’t read them yet, catch up with the previous three articles first:

Part 1 – Together Everyone Achieves More

Part 2 – Trust Falls

Part 3 – Trials and Tribulations

(No, I don’t know why they all ended up starting with “T” either. )

As I left off explaining in the last article, Mebius steadily expands outward in scope as one draws closer to the finale. Since we’ve moved the focus away from the characters of the GUYS Japan crew, the direction of the second half instead builds upon a new scaffolding, showing how humanity in general relates to other alien life in the rest of the galaxy – including the Ultras themselves. The last episode I covered makes this transition from humanity’s place in the wider universe, to humanity’s destiny alongside its sworn protectors, illustrated by Sakomizu’s faith in the GUYS Japan team he leads.

In the same way we begin to look at the final expression of the series’ narrative structure. These final episodes don’t just focus on the current nature of humanity as we saw in the previous article. The finale arc also provides a powerful demonstration of its ultimate fate, protected by heroes like Mebius, but also by the hands of humanity itself.

The previous episodes that featured appearances from older Ultraman characters mostly self-contained. But the four-episode arc that begins here, and builds smoothly into the finale trilogy itself, uses its cameos in a way that’s more explicitly integrated into the main plot. To start off, we learn Yapool, who previously plotted to defeat Mebius, was just one of four “heavenly kings” who seek to prepare earth for invasion by a yet-unseen alien “Emperor”. The schemes of these four powerful aliens bring the most dangerous and heart-wrenching tests yet, in an attempt to not just destroy Mebius in battle, but also to destroy the bonds of trust between him, his teammates, and humanity at large.

Luckily, just as Mebius fights with the help of the GUYS crew, he also has the support of four Ultra Brothers, classic Ultraman heroes who have been living on Earth for years following their time as active heroes in their respective series. (This is explained by circumstances in a tie-in movie that fits in around the midway point of the show. It’s only tangentially relevant to the show’s plot, so I didn’t deal with it in my write-ups. It’s pretty good though!) With their advice and assistance, Mebius is able to find the strength to overcome each of the trials the Kings pose.

Nobody ever said it would be easy though.


In previous episodes, encounters with other alien races served often to highlight a flaw, and subsequent strength of humanity. Those same themes of trust in the face of cynicism or the threat of betrayal show up again here with the main villain from earlier in the show – Yapool.

Yapool attempts one last time to destroy Mebius by separating him from his source of strength – his friends on the GUYS team. To do this, he lures the crew into a trap on the moon, while simultaneously facing off against Mebius himself in a ruined pocket dimension version of Earth. When Mebius is on the ropes and doubting in his ability to overcome this challenge alone, Ultraman Ace shows him that, just as he was able to keep fighting with the memory of his lost partner accompanying him, Mebius can fight with the knowledge of his friends’ faith in him, even if they are separated.

We also see, again, the human heart weighed against its worst sins in this plot. The tabloid writer from a previous episode also becomes trapped with Mirai and another supporting character (also introduced in the Mebius + Ultra Brothers movie) in Yapool’s pocket dimension. In his desperation and panicked fear driven by Yapool’s taunting, he attempts to kill the others to allow himself to escape.

Mebius fights to protect him anyways.

Next, Deathrem attempts to destroy humanity’s trust in Mebius by holding the GUYS team hostage. Uncharacteristically, Mebius shows hesitation in his initial fight against Deathrem, not knowing whether he should fight back if it endangers his friends. This angers the general public because they see it as him valuing the lives of those who are close to him personally over civilians. Paralyzed by the idea that people might die regardless of what he does, where choosing to fight might cause more damage than his first botched fight in the pilot episode, Mirai feels completely helpless for really the first time.

It’s heart-rendingly tragic to watch, considering how staunch his resolve has been to fight for humanity in every trial before this point. It doesn’t help that the populace falls into some Marvel-civilian-level of stupid that some of the populace falls to, even blaming the GUYS crew for allowing themselves to be captured and held hostage. Mirai still wants to save everyone though, and struggles with how to reconcile this dilemma.

Eventually to prove how much they’re willing to sacrifice to protect the public, the GUYS team offers their own lives to allow Mebius to fight all-out against Deathrem. But such a heroic sacrifice isn’t necessary after all, when Ultraman Jack shows up to rescue the stranded GUYS crew while Mebius beats the tar out of Deathrem himself.

The bonds of trust between the GUYS crew and the general public is restored when the public comes to realize those sworn to protect them really do care about everyone. By accepting the chance of their death to allow Mebius to fight without reservation, they showed that their ultimate mission is to protect the whole Earth, the good and the bad of it, not just those immediately around them that they’re fond of.

This episode, in other words, echoes the same choice Mebius had to make in the previous one, where he sacrifices himself to save the opportunistic scumbag tabloid reporter, even without recognition or praise received in return.

The next episode’s trial is relatively straightforward – Glozam just thinks he’s strong enough to kill Mebius in a straight-up fight by freezing him solid.

Which he does (temporarily, of course).

However, as Seven points out, the humans the Ultras fight alongside give them the strength to overcome even the most fearsome enemies. We’ve seen this demonstrated over and over again in this series.

But Konomi needs a reminder of that, since many of the team’s usual front-line members are out of commission here, still recovering from Deathrem’s attack in the last episode. At the moment, the only GUYS members who are left to save Mebius from his frozen fate are Konomi and Marina, with the Deputy Chief Misaki running mission control. Echoing her initial focus episode, Konomi at first feels that she can’t live up to people’s expectations, but where she froze up in her first episode, she performs with flying colors this time around to save her friend.

Now, I’ve actually seen Ultra Seven, and this is something of a combination of two challenges Seven himself faced. One, where a group of aliens from the planet Paul (I know, I know, try not to laugh) attempted to use his weakness to cold to destroy him. The other was the first appearance of the Guts aliens, where they trapped and drained Seven’s energy, imprisoning him in his helplessness. In both cases, the Ultra Guard crew he befriended is almost solely responsible for saving him from certain death. Similarly in this plot, the GUYS crew comes up with a plan to allow Mebius to be thawed out and defeat Glozam handily with his newfound energy.

And of course, finally, we have the OG ’66 Ultraman.

When Mephilas brainwashes the city into believing Mebius is the evil alien invader, and he is their savior instead, Mirai has to convince Teppei otherwise to be able to defeat the last Heavenly King and save the Earth. The charms Mirai gave everyone back in the mid-season to symbolize their “wings”, or connection as a team, now remind the team of their true relationship to their beloved team member. They use the strength of those bonds to shake off the mind-control.

“Mephilas” is a recurring alien race in the Ultraman franchise, but in general is a pretty intentional riff on the name “Mephistopheles”, a classic reference to the demon who offered the original “Faustian” deal for power. The “competition for humanity’s heart” here is more specifically a Satanic role, in the traditional understanding of “Satan” in the Old Testament as “The Accuser”, or the one allowed by God to test humans through temptation.

Here, he corrupts the relationship between humanity and the Ultras – instead of humanity fighting alongside a hero as equals, as they do with Mebius, he sets himself up as the ultimate lord and ruler of the Earth. His brainwashing only allows the team to follow him out of fear, not respect or friendship.

Mirai’s teammates recognize that this state of things is not right, the bonds they share as a team are more true than Mephilas’ attempts to drive them against each other. When confronted with the contradiction of the illusion against their friendship with Mirai – represented by those charms – the game falls apart.

In my last article, we saw the nature of humanity tested by different challenges, by aliens and other threats that brought reflections of our worst flaws. Humanity succeeded by answering each trial with kindness, love and hope. This time around, we see Mebius himself and his friends tested by the most grueling challenges that come with being a hero. Having to find the strength to fight alone, separated from each other, when their actions might lead to the deaths of innocents, having to face seemingly-invincible enemies, and then finally being abandoned and distrusted by everyone around.

Just as humanity overcame their challenges before, Mebius, with the help of the GUYS Japan crew, answers each with courageous resolve, and can afford to hold to those ideals because of the bonds forged throughout the whole series. Now, he has also earned respect of other Ultras who also serve to protect Earth, and they put their trust and faith in him to do the same against the greatest threat of the series – the alien Emperor.


The Ultra Brothers have faith Mebius and the GUYS crew will be able to stop the great darkness which has been foreshadowed and dreaded to this point, but will our heroes actually be able to succeed against it?

These last three episodes are billed together as a “trilogy”, and appropriately enough, follow one continuous story to cap off everything we’ve seen to this point.

To herald the alien Emperor’s arrival, we start with thirteen Imperiser robots landing across the globe. If you’ve forgotten, that’s thirteen copies of the single robot that took Mebius AND Taro working together to take down in the mid-season climax. The Emperor threatens to unleash them to rampage across the Earth in its most densely-populated cities unless humanity abandons Mebius and offers him up in ransom.

Mebius answers by trying to fight the robots himself, but is overcome by their numbers and falls. Hard.

Meanwhile, the tabloid reporter Mebius saved – back in the episode where Yapool was defeated for good – has repaid that sacrifice by outing Mirai’s identity as Ultraman Mebius to the entire world. In order to pay the ransom to the alien Emperor, government spooks come knocking at GUYS’ headquarters to detain him. To make matters worse, Mirai is also in critical condition and literally fighting for his life at this point, as a result of getting his face kicked in by three robotic Super Beasts.

Background note here, after finishing Ultra Seven recently, I realized the “Humanity must protect Earth with its own hands.” line didn’t originate from this show! The Defense Captain he’s referring to is actually Captain Kiriyama of the Earth Defense Force, speaking at the end of Ultra Seven when Seven himself is forced to leave Earth following his final battle. [Editor’s note – That’s not correct either! The line actually first shows up in the finale of Ultraman (1966) It’s a call-back to the earliest days of the franchise.]

Of course GUYS can’t give up their friend, not during their most important ordeal yet. But luckily the crew has a bit more clout behind them to refuse these orders when Sakomizu steps in and reveals himself as the Chief Inspector for the entire GUYS organization.

Just like when he was revealed to be one of the first individuals on Earth to learn of Mirai’s real identity, if you didn’t see this coming, then you weren’t paying attention. It was not-so-subtly hinted at in other episodes prior to this point. Frequently, other characters had speculated on who the mysteriously-absent “Chief Inspector” really is, and each time that question was suspiciously juxtaposed with story lines focusing on showing off Sakomizu himself.

In order to try and sway the public to have faith in Mebius, Sakomizu dons his official capacity as Chief Inspector and revisits his monologue which was privately explained in the last article, now televised to the whole world. That deeply heartfelt wish to be able to fight alongside the Ultras – immediately, in the present with Mebius – is enough to convince the public to instead trust they’ll be able to overcome this threat without sacrificing him to the alien Emperor.

This deliberately echoes the first major theme of the series – the ideals represented by Ultraman allow others to unite together, making everyone stronger than they could be on their own. This, in turn, allows humanity the opportunity to preserve those ideals rather than having to make awful sacrifices.

Even with that turnabout, with all of humanity cheering him on, Mirai is still too weakened from the last fight to barely stand, let alone fight all these robots as they focus onto his location in Japan. With seemingly impossible odds for the final confrontation, it appears that neither he, nor the GUYS crew’s defensive capabilities, can defeat all of them.

Good thing, as we’ve seen illustrated multiple times in this series, our heroes never fight alone.

Remember, humanity proved itself by showing its best aspects when faced with reflections of its worst, that example is now repaid by the aliens they’ve helped during the course of the show making a return appearance to fight alongside them.

But the robots are still just an advance guard, when the Emperor descends to Earth, the sun goes out, and the world is literally plunged into its darkest hour. Mirai’s brace – which allows him to transform – shatters when he tries to fight as Mebius. Hikari and Zamushar’s swords are no match for the Emperor’s power, and Zamushar sacrifices himself to protect the trapped GUYS crew from a lethal blow.

Finally, trying to use Zamushar’s dropped sword to land a blow on the Emperor, Hikari and Ryu both throw themselves into an equally-suicidal rush, that seems to not lay a scratch on him.

This brings us to the final lesson instructed by the example of Ultraman in this series. One that is only tested and proven in the darkest moments, when all other hope seems lost.

The last time Mebius was faced with his seemingly-inevitable death, during the mid-season finale, we discovered the characters literally become stronger the tighter they hold on to hope – in themselves, in their friends, in the goodness that they fight to protect. There’s a line in the tie-in movie with the Ultra Brothers I briefly mentioned, about how reaching your limits then finding the strength to keep fighting past them, making the “impossible, possible”, is what it truly means to be an Ultraman. They have always been the last line of defense, the protectors against threats that are seemingly too big, too dangerous, too powerful for anyone else to stand up to.

Basically, what I’m saying is that if you doubt that Mebius and his friends cannot still find a way to defeat the alien Emperor at this point, when everyone seemingly lies beaten and all possible plans are exhausted….

Then YOU HAVEN’T BEEN PAYING ATTENTION.

So, let’s tie all this together, before we talk about the finale episode itself. To recap –

1. Individuals are strengthened by bonds of trust and friendship, and accomplish more together as a team than they can alone.

2. The powers of Ultraman are quite literally based in the strength and purity of metaphysical ideals – courage, heroism, hope, mercy, etc.

3. The Ultras fight for humanity in order to protect those ideals and allow them to flourish.

4. Humanity itself similarly looks to the Ultras as role models for the best example of those ideals, in hopes that they can one day fulfill that expectation.

If humanity alone isn’t enough to defeat this final threat, and no single Ultraman can save the day either, then how can the Emperor be defeated?

Well, you see, it’s very simple.

Anyone can become Ultraman.


LITERALLY.

While the other Ultras fight in space in an attempt to restart the Sun, it’s up to Mebius and his steadfast friends to finally protect humanity and the Earth with their own hands, now that they’ve been given the power to do so.

Mebius is basically unable to keep his human form at this point, having depleted his usual strength almost to the point of death multiple times, and now without the healing rays of the sun which usually provide power to Ultras on Earth.

 Everyone is fighting past their limit, beyond what they previously thought was possible. But with the support of the GUYS crew, especially with Ryu now using Hikari’s own Knight Brace to transform, all of them join together to create a super-charged fusion version of Mebius – a form appropriately called “Phoenix Brave”.

Not one to be left out of this amazing, climactic finish though, Sakomizu approves one final use of the experimental METEOR technology they have been utilizing all series – activating a satellite engineered to work with an Ultraman to magnify their beam attack against an enemy. (In addition to getting a chance to also unite with the Ultraman who saved him back during his time in outer space – Zoffy).

It’s not just a really cool-looking scene, here we see the literal demonstration of Sakomizu’s hopes, and the bonds the GUYS team have developed over the entire season. The final METEOR use along with the fusion dances going on allow humanity to truly stand shoulder-to-shoulder alongside the Ultra heroes who have protected them for this entire time.

Joined together for one final battle, the GUYS crew launches themselves as a massive fireball attack through this ring system at the Emperor, a team attack which proves to finally be enough to defeat him for good.

In addition to the pretty heady imagery drawn from the show’s own context, there’s some extra levels of significance which draw from some older history of the franchise.

When I first watched this finale, I noticed they refer to a battle between the alien Emperor and Father of Ultra 30,000 years ago, and I suspected that I was missing a bit of background lore. Sure enough, in the comments section of the previous Mebius article, one of my awesome followers, @TheIvanhobe, pointed out this provides a pretty neat cap to a longstanding point of continuity in the setting:

On the mid-season climax, Mebius gained a new upgrade, Burning Brave mode. One of most remarkable attacks of this form is the Mebium Dynamite, an attack where he engulfs himself on fire and then runs towards his opponent and explodes.

You might already be aware of this, but the Mebium Dynamite is an attack he “inherited” from his mentor, Ultraman Taro. Back in the day, the Ultra Dynamite was one Taro’s trademark techniques, like the Storiom Ray.

For the context of the show, the fact that he gained that attack is basically proof that he has reached the level of his mentor, which creates a neat parallel during the final arc of the show.

See, the final villain of the show, Emperor Alien, had never appeared before onscreen but he has been part of the Ultra Lore since 1973… when he was mentioned as part of the backstory in Ultraman Taro, since the only one who had ever faced him was Ultraman Ken AKA Ultra Father AKA Taro’s Father.

This actually creates a cool line of succession that basically culminates in Mebius; first, Emperor Alien was defeated by Ken, then many years later when he became Ultra father, he trained his son, Taro, as seen in the Ultraman Story Movie (1984), to defeat Juda Specter (another Ultra recurring villain, you will see him in Ultra Fight Orb). Finally, in Mebius, it was Taro’s student that was the one who could finally finish off the Emperor.

You probably knew some of this, but it creates a real neat continuity mythos, kind of like how Seven trained Leo and years later Leo trained Zero, Seven’s son.


So… how to conclude all of this?

It struck me as odd when one of my readers described my writing style as “detached”. “Analytical”, I can understand. Most of my writing experience comes from my time in university where I focused on scientific writing, which involves evidence-based arguments and summations of facts. But hearing it described as “detached” bugged me because I get very attached emotionally to almost everything I write about on this site. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t put the energy into putting out two or three articles a week on these topics.

I care a lot for my heroes and what they represent, and enjoy talking at length about all of the elements that make these stories special to me, and where they might fall short. In other words, I don’t see myself detached from this material at all. Even if it might sound fairly academic in tone, a lot of what I write comes from a very personal place.

I bring this up because I want you, the readers, to understand what I mean when I say that there are very few fictional stories that have profoundly affected me the way that seeing Mebius for the first time has.

Not even just compared to other tokusatsu shows either. The finale trilogy for Mebius managed to become one of my favorite story arcs of anything ever. It was such an incredible thrill seeing themes developed so tightly and positively throughout the show’s course come to a culmination that is only unpredictable in its unabashedly ambitious optimism. It’s the natural endpoint for all the ideals we’ve seen expounded on throughout the whole series, and yet I never expected it to go so far above the impossible, to incorporate so many of the characters and their arcs, and pull off such a huge, high-stakes final battle in a way that remains so effectively intimate in regard to its original focus.

As the scope of the show has spiraled outwards, from the immediate camaraderie of the GUYS crew, to the Earth as a whole, to the very soul and destiny of humanity itself, really we never left the focus of the pilot episode. That’s where all the GUYS crew – before they were even members of GUYS – risked their own selves to protect smaller lives without hesitation. In that small action, they proved themselves worthy of their final endpoint, lining shoulders with Ultraman as equals, expressing the same heroic heart against all odds.

In effect, this entire series is a moebius strip, where at the end, we come back to the start of everything. But within that twisting shape, we also find a different symbol, one that’s displayed every time Mirai transforms into Mebius.

An infinity sign.

What makes this series so strikingly optimistic is the fundamental idea it presents, about how humanity can reach for the stars, expand outwards and develop into the future without losing what makes us fundamentally human in the first place. In fact, it’s only by holding onto those personal elements of humanity that we really achieve anything worthwhile in the first place. As long as the characters keep those ideals before them, there is truly no limit to what humanity can achieve.

It’s an effective way to connect together all the points within the series, not just plot developments, but also character arcs and stand-alone episodic stories too. But even more than that, it’s a powerfully emotional message to the audience that I wish more people could experience for themselves.

In short, if you’ve read to this point and have not seen Mebius for yourself, then what are you waiting for?  

And why did you wait until I spoiled everything in the show for you!?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I seem to have accidentally stumbled into a franchise with a lore, history, and a cast of characters more interesting than I, sadly, originally considered. I’m going to gear up for an expedition even deeper into it, so if you’ve enjoyed this first series of posts, expect more commentary continuing with Nexus relatively soon-ish.

Until then though, remember to find courage in the bonds shared with your friends, and fight for your future with your own hands.

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2 comments

  1. Just a little observation, because clearly I cannot help myself.

    As I may have mentioned before, I kinda dig Return of Ultraman.

    One of the reasons why I love that show (besides the always amazing Shin Kishida), is precisely the protagonist, Hideki Go, as he has probably one of the most nuanced and better developed character arcs in the franchise.

    Basically, in fifty episodes Goh goes from being a brash youth who thinks himself invincible to a man who understand the bigger picture and the sacrifices that entail being a hero. This is best illustrated by his control, or lack of there of, of his ability to transform into Ultraman.

    In the first episode he transforms unconsciously.

    In the second episode, he becomes too confident and tries to transform to defeat a monster, but he is completely unable to do so. It’s only when he risks his life to save someone and is about to die that he is able to transform once again.

    From then on, he is only able to transform when he or someone else is on the brink of death, but as his character develops he also gains the ability to transform at will, not because he gets better at controlling his power but because learns to use it responsibly.

    I bring this up because there is a couple of very famous episodes of the show (37 & 38) that are basically the benchmark of his entire growth.

    Up until that point Goh had steadily grown as a character, but that was mostly through a trial and error process where he always had mentor figures to help him steer himself back on the right path. In episodes 37 & 38 he suffers a very personal loss as a direct result of his dual identity as Hideki Goh and Ultraman Jack, and while eventually he does defeats the alien threat (thanks to the intervention of Ultraman and Ultraseven), in the end he is left pondering the fact that his role as Ultraman Jack endangered the bonds he shared with others, and he had no option but to move on and own up the fact that, while those bonds are important to him, protecting the earth takes priority.

    That was a very important episode for Goh and it actually sets the stage for a decision he makes in the final episode, but the reason why I needed to explain this was precisely the reason why he did what he did in his Mebius cameo episode and how that reflects with Mirai himself.

    As you well mentioned, Mebius is in an impossible position where he has to choose between the people of earth and his comrades while the GUYS crew ultimately decided that their own lives are not as important as everyone’s lives.

    That conflict is why, I think, Hideki Goh/Jack choose to interfere and why his decision to do so is so poignant; he understood better than anyone the importance to protect the earth above anything.

    In all fairness, he himself was in an opposite position to Mebius; he had no way of stopping what happened to him, but he still learned that such sacrifices were inevitable for someone in his position.

    Still, in the end he chose to save Mebius from the same pain he once suffered, not because he wanted to protect him but because he saw in the GUYS crew the same resolve to protect the earth that he had paid a steep price to learn.

    ————————————————————————————————————————————-

    One last note about your final thoughts on the show.

    Ultraman is a franchise that I love dearly for a variety of reason, but one of them is the way in which deals with the theme of Hope.

    Basically everyone learns what Hope is since they are children, but knowing the concept of ‘Hope’ and understanding it is not the same thing, and personally speaking, Ultraman is the place where I first understood what it really meant to have Hope.

    Hero stories have a role in our culture of teaching young people the best values about their society, and Ultraman has been consistently good for decades at showing everyone, young and old, what having Hope really is about.

    Not a lot of franchises can do that, the closes I can thing of is Superman himself, but that depends entirely on who’s writing it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I described Mebius to a friend as “The All-Star Superman of toku” for pretty much the same reason you name there. I kind of regret getting into toku solely with Kamen Rider because there’s a LOT of aspects of the franchise I’m discovering that hit my personal tastes more consistently than even Rider does at times.

      Like

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