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 has steadily expanded outward in scope as we draw closer to the finale. Since we’ve moved the focus away from the characters of the GUYS crew, the direction of this last arc instead builds upon a new scaffolding. In the last episode I covered, we saw Sakomizu’s wish to live up to the expectations and examples of the Ultras who have protected Earth throughout history. With this transition into a new emphasis of familiar themes, we begin to look at the final level of the series’ narrative structure, not just in regard to the current nature of humanity, but its ultimate fate, chosen by its own hands, and safeguarded by heroes like Mebius.

The previous cameos from older Ultraman characters were self-contained, but the four-episode arc that begins here, and builds smoothly into the finale trilogy itself, uses its cameos more explicitly and continuously. As it turns out, Yapool 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 defeat Mebius in battle, but also to destroy the bonds of trust we’ve seen exhibited in the series up to this point.

Luckily, just as Mebius/Mirai fights with the help of the GUYS crew, he also has the support of the four Ultra Brothers, classic Ultraman heroes who have been living on Earth. (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!) It’s with their advice and assistance that he’s able to find the strength to succeed and overcome each of the trials that the Kings pose.

________________________________________________________________

In previous episodes, encounters with each of the alien races served to highlight a flaw, and subsequent strength of humanity. Similarly, these trials illustrate flaws of humanity in relation to its protectors, the Ultras, and subsequent strengths that Mebius must possess in order to protect the world he cares so much for.

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 love 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 episode’s plot. The tabloid writer from a previous episode gets trapped with Mirai and another supporting character, and in his desperation and panicked fear driven by Yapool’s taunting, attempts to kill the others to allow himself to escape.

Mirai fights to protect him anyways.

 

Next, Deathrem attempts to destroy humanity’s trust in Mebius by holding the GUYS team hostage. The hesitation Mebius shows in his fight against Deathrem, not knowing whether he should fight back if it endangers his friends, 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 just as much damage as his first botched fight in the pilot episode, Mirai feels completely helpless for really the first time.

It’s heart-wrenchingly tragic to see, considering how hard he’s resolved to fight for humanity in every case before this point. Even with the Marvel-civilian-level of stupid that some of the populace falls to, in blaming the GUYS crew themselves for allowing themselves to be held hostage, Mirai still wants to save everyone and struggles with how to reconcile this dilemma. Eventually to prove how far they’re willing to go to protect the public, the GUYS team offers their own sacrifice for Mebius to defeat Deathrem, but such a heroic sacrifice isn’t necessary after all. Ultraman Jack shows up to help make their rescue possible, saving the stranded GUYS crew while Mebius beats the tar out of Deathrem himself.

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

 

The next one 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).

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

But Konomi needs a reminder of that, since much of the team’s usual front-line members are out of commission, recovering from Deathrem’s attack from the last episode. At the moment, the only GUYS members who are left to carry out the plan 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 feels like she can’t live up to people’s expectations, but where she froze up in that early episode, she performs with flying colors this time around to save her friend.

Now, I’ve actually seen Ultraseven, and this is very similar to a challenge that Seven himself faced, where a group of aliens attempted to use his weakness to cold to destroy him, and it’s the garrison crew that he befriends that saves his butt during the episode. Similarly, the GUYS crew comes up with a plan to allow Mebius to be thawed out and defeat Glozam.

 

And of course, finally, we have the OG ’66 Ultraman. When Mephilas brainwashes the city into believing that Mebius is the invader and that he is their savior, Mirai has to convince Teppai otherwise to be able to save the day. The charms he gave everyone back in the mid-season to symbolize their “wings”, or connection as a team, wind up reminding the team of their true purpose and relationship to their beloved team member, and they shake off the mind-control.

Mephilas is pretty clearly intended to be a riff on the name “Mephistopheles”, a classic reference to the demon that offers 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 him as equals as they do with Mebius, he sets himself up as the ultimate lord and ruler of the Earth in that same position. 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 to their relationship to Mirai as part of the team, the game falls apart.

With my last article, we saw the nature of humanity tested by challenges, by aliens and threats that brought reflections of our worst flaws, and humanity succeeded by answering each with kindness, love and hope. This time around, we see Mebius tested by the most grueling challenges that come with being a hero. Having to find the strength to fight when separated from his friends, when his actions might lead to the deaths of innocents, having to face seemingly-insurmountable enemies, and then finally being abandoned and distrusted by everyone around him. Just as humanity overcame their challenges, Mebius answers each with courageous resolve, and can afford to hold to those ideals because of the bonds he’s forged throughout the whole series, as well as connection to the other Ultras who also serve to protect Earth.

________________________________________________________

We’ve seen all the characters grow closer through their trials, and grow stronger with their connections with each other. Now the ultimate darkness is about to arrive, and while the Ultra Brothers have faith that Mebius and his friends can stop it, will they actually be able to succeed?

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 off with thirteen Imperiser robots that land across the globe. If you’ve forgotten, that’s thirteen copies of the 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 them himself, but is overcome by their numbers and falls. Hard.

Meanwhile, the tabloid reporter that Mebius saved back during the episode where he finally defeated Yapool, has repaid that sacrifice by outing his identity to the entire world. In order to pay the ransom, government spooks come knocking at GUYS’ headquarters to detain Mirai, who is currently fighting for his life after being getting his face kicked in by three robotic Super Beasts.

Background note here, after finishing Ultraseven recently, I realized the “Humanity must protect Earth with its own hands.” line didn’t actually 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 Ultraseven when Seven himself is forced to leave Earth following his final battle.

Of course GUYS can’t give up their friend, not during their most challenging trial 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 global GUYS organization.

Just like when it was revealed that he was 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 where the characters speculate on who the mysteriously-absent “Chief Inspector” really is, suspiciously juxtaposed with story-arcs that focus on showing off his own character.

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

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 knight 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.

Look, no one ever said saving the world would be easy. But time and time again, Mebius the series has emphasized the importance of the virtue of hope.

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:

  • Individuals are strengthened by bonds of trust and friendship, and accomplish more together as a team than they can alone.
  • The powers of Ultraman are quite literally based in the strength and purity of metaphysical ideals – courage, heroism, hope, mercy, etc.
  • The Ultras fight for humanity in order to protect those ideals and allow them to flourish, and humanity similarly looks to them as role models for the best example of those ideals, in hopes that they can one day live up to it.

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, it’s very simple.

Everyone can become Ultraman.


LITERALLY

While the other Ultras that we’ve seen throughout the series fight in space to 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.

Mirai is basically unable to keep his human form at this point, having depleted his usual strength almost to the point of death multiple times. 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 version of Mebius.

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 stand with the Ultraman who saved him back during his time in outer space – Zoffy).

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.

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. I suspected that I was missing some context from an older series or bit of background lore. Sure enough, in the comments section of the previous Mebius article, one of my awesome followers, @TheIvanhobe, pointed out that this provides a pretty neat cap to previously-established continuity within the franchise’s history:

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 of episodes 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 unashamedly ambitious optimism. It’s the natural endpoint of 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. Where all the GUYS crew – before they were even members of GUYS – risked their own selves to protect smaller lives without hesitation.

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 idea that 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 as 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 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 as I explore further in, continuing with Nexus relatively soon-ish.

Until then though, remember to take courage with your friends, and fight for your future with your own hands.

img_7451

Advertisements

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

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