Ultraman Geed #2 – Leap of Faith

PREVIOUSLY ON GEED:

Ultraman Geed #1 – Absolute Power

Riku Asakura is just an ordinary teenager who was found abandoned outside of an observatory as a baby and also has physical abilities way beyond any human being, when- okay so Riku isn’t exactly “ordinary”. But little did he know his real history, as the “son” of one of the most powerful evils in the Ultraman universe – Ultraman Belial. Using the power to fuse the strengths of other Ultras using his Geed Riser, Riku must now fight to protect his friends and other civilians from the new threat of rampaging, mysterious kaiju.

Before I start the main recap, there’s a couple follow-up notes from things I mentioned last week that I’d like to touch on.

First, I wrote this near the end of the recap: “The soundtrack also does yeoman’s work in lending a unique atmosphere to Riku’s first fight as Geed…the silence continues after he appears, and the onlooking civilians react with fear at his arrival. This is coupled with the backing music, a brassy, minor-pitched track that is more apt to herald a villain than an Ultraman hero.”

As it turns out, that’s because the music the first episode uses when Riku first transforms into Geed actually is a villain theme. More specifically, it’s Belial’s main recurring leitmotif from the Revenge of Belial movie. Go figure.

Even more surprising, when I was writing the article last week, there was another element from that movie that carried over into Geed that I didn’t recognize – Riku’s actor! He plays kid sidekick Nao in the film, and certainly has grown quite a bit in the years since then.

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Seriously, look how adorable he was in that movie.

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Okay, that’s enough random trivia (…for now), let’s get into this week’s events.

Episode 2

Last episode was a pretty good introduction to the show, it did an effective job of making the main characters likeable while also setting up multiple mysteries that the show will be exploring in upcoming story arcs. As Ultraman series nowadays are run on shorter seasons than Kamen Rider or Sentai shows, we can expect things to move along pretty quickly in terms of introducing and following up on these plot points.

Speaking of moving along quickly, Riku at first glance seems to be dealing pretty well with the bombshell reveal of the last episode. Not just that he’s an alien, but that he’s also somehow inherited the power of the evil figure associated with the Crisis Impact of six years ago in this reconstituted universe. (If you forgot that the universe exploded in the first thirty seconds of the pilot.) He and Pega have comfortably moved into their new digs, and Riku even managed to salvage all of his Don Shine swag to decorate the place. But then we see that his habitually optimistic nature is hiding some very real concerns. After his experience from last week, he doesn’t want to fight as Ultraman Geed again. What’s more interesting though, is the reason he gives for it –

Now I’m just curious what the 2ch message boards look like in this universe.

Remember, all Riku wanted to be was a superhero that used his power to help people, he doesn’t want to represent something that inspires fear in others, even if he is fighting off monsters. I find it remarkable that even after this earth-shattering revelation into his own power, Riku is still fundamentally focused on how his actions impact others rather than on his own thoughts and feelings at the moment. But acknowledging those thoughts and feelings will come later in the episode.

The family that we met last week, the shopkeeper who employed Riku and gave him boarding, along with his sister and niece, Eri, show up again this week. Turns out that Eri has mysterious fire-generating powers, which gets them kicked out of the refugee camp where they were sheltering. These powers grab the attention of other people as well, first a grimly-determined sword-wielding girl named RaihaLaiha, and a Dada alien (yes that’s the actual name for their race for… obvious reasons, just roll with it) who tries to kidnap Eri.

After Riku and Laiha rescue Eri, we find out that-

-Heeeeeeyyy wait a second that actress played the female henchman from the Heisei Generations movie last year!

Which also was directed by Sakamoto, so I guess she got brought back on for this project too. Having a good actor who can also pull off those martial arts without a stunt double must be a great asset.

Anyways, Laiha tells us that Eri’s powers come from something called a “little star”, a light of unknown origin that also supposedly attracts monsters, like this Dada alien who wanted to harvest that power for his own use. Unfortunately for him, the main villain who summoned the power of kaiju last week, Kei, is also after her for an unknown reason.

Kei may have awful taste in fashion, but he doesn’t mess around when it comes to eliminating obstacles to his own schemes, holy crap.

When Kei then uses his own Riser to fuse the power of the kaiju together, we get an extended cut of his transformation. This sequence does a good job of making him seem even creepier, what with him literally turning into the dark, corrupted version of Belial during it. Kei at this point is a bit of a generically “pssh nothing personnel, kid” edgelord of a villain, but the actor, writing and effects so far have all done effective work at selling him as a very intimidating figure regardless.

Making a beeline straight for Eri’s light, the newly-summoned Skull Gomora starts rampaging across the town again. Now Riku is faced with a choice. Last episode he dropped everything to become Geed with the belief that he was the only one who could stop the monster and save the city. But now, he’s resolved not to do it again because he doesn’t want to be that object of fear that people associate with him.

This is also compounded by him meeting Rai- sorry, Laiha. Her name was spelled with an “R” in the translations for the promotional material, it’s going to drive me nuts trying to keep it straight now. Anyways, she claims that she’s on the hunt for a very specific monster, one she feels was responsible for the disaster six years ago.

Of course, the initial fear is that she’s hunting for Riku, as others still see Geed as Belial, not to mention Riku’s own concerns about using his power. The tension mounts later when she actually sees Riku transform to fight.

However, stronger than Riku’s own fear is his original desire to help others. He just can’t bring himself to run away from the fight to safety with everyone else, and instead charges back in.

This is a strikingly powerful moment, and is followed up by an equally powerful fight, a rematch from last week. This time, Riku seems to have a bit more of an instinctive feel for his abilities as Geed, even busting out a shield to protect from one of Skull Gomora’s attacks.

It makes sense, he felt out how to use his Wrecking Burst beam last episode with no instruction, he’ll probably remember how to use more applications of his abilities as the show goes on.

But as he’s fighting, the evident struggle he puts himself through to protect others starts winning over those who witness it. Including Eri and her family. Finishing off Skull Gomora with another Wrecking Burst that – quite frankly – is one of the most spectacular finishers I’ve seen in an Ultraman series, he finally cements himself as a hero not just in his own mind, but in the eyes of those he protects.

Kei hinted earlier in the episode that individuals with this “little star” would only relinquish its power when they willed it, using wording that’s a play on “wishing on a star”. Here it symbolizes the faith she has in Geed to protect them from the monster. That power is then realized as it awakens a new Ultra capsule for Riku to use – Ultraman Leo.

So, Skull Gomora gets exploded, the day is saved and Laiha is also moved by Riku’s determination to fight to destroy the monster. She then decides to work with them at their makeshift base to further investigate the monsters, as well as the truth behind the Crisis Impact disaster. A truth that now seems to be tied to this “little star” power, and the Ultra capsules left over from the war with Belial that destroyed the universe before the events of the series. What will Riku be able to do with their power, and what is Kei planning in his own schemes to attack those with it?

Leap of Faith

This episode is fairly straightforward, but there’s a unique running theme through all the encounters in it, as well as the highlight of the climactic rematch against Skull Gomora, and that deals with the matter of “faith”. As in “having faith” in something. We start the episode out with Riku lacking faith in himself, reflected by the lack of faith the rest of the world also demonstrates. They assume the worst of his appearance, not helped by the wreckage that he left behind after the fight last episode. (And this episode. Poor kid needs to understand the words “collateral damage” because at this rate there’s not going to be a city left to protect by the end of the series.)

Whenever we take something “on faith”, it doesn’t mean “blindly believing against proof”, it means taking something as true based on another authority. For example, we can have knowledge that the sun will rise in the morning the next day because of the demonstrated evidence of its rising every day for as long as we’ve recorded the movement of astronomical objects. But we take that authority based on the idea that the universe behaves in orderly and predictable ways. That is, that what we see happen once will happen again under the same circumstances. We can see that the sun has risen every morning, but humans can also come up with a lot of crazy conspiracy theories as to why it would explode, or the world would stop turning, or other events that would prevent it from rising the next day.

In other words, seeing evidence of something isn’t the same thing as having faith, even though both rest on authority. We can also have faith in something even without physical proof of it.

So what’s the demonstrated evidence in the previous episode?

  • Riku is the “son” of Belial (taken on the authority of REM’s exposition)
  • Geed looks suspiciously a lot like Belial, which people recognize as causing the Crisis Impact six years ago

Because of this, people came to believe that he was a destructive or evil figure, and reacted with fear. A fear that Riku internalized himself. Understandable. But what do we see this episode instead?

  • Riku puts himself in danger to rescue others again
  • While fighting as Geed, he visibly works primarily to protect Eri and her family on the ground rather than just trying to cause destruction or win a fight

Riku’s willingness to fight as Geed had to first rest on the faith he had in his own intentions and ability to overcome his seemingly pre-determined destiny. There’s a lot he didn’t know about his own powers, or the circumstances around receiving the Geed Riser, but he instead chooses to act on faith and continue to fight as Geed.

Similarly, even after seeing him fight this episode, people could write off his actions with conspiracies or correlating explanations that still cast him in a negative light, but instead they chose to have faith in him. Laiha has faith that he’s not the monster she’s chasing after, Eri has faith that he’s a real Ultraman hero and the light she carries goes to him to use.

One of the most common recurring elements of being Ultraman is the ability to retain that faith to keep fighting, even when events seem the darkest. It’s having faith not just in the righteousness of one’s intentions and cause, but also in the ability to succeed against even impossible-seeming odds to save the day. Riku will have to keep a hold of that faith, but it’ll help now that he has friends who also believe in him.

(And I also wanted this to be the title of the article because I think it’s funny how Riku literally leaps around so much in every fight he’s been in. Sue me.)

Ultra-Lore Corner

Oh, but this article isn’t over yet! In Ultraman series, ever since Ginga (I think?), they’ve made a habit of highlighting different Ultras or monsters that are related to the episode at the end of each one, to introduce new viewers to history they might be unfamiliar with. Geed is no different, but in this episode, they do a brief recap of Belial’s history. I wanted to wrap up this article talking a bit about a different character with a surprising number of connections to these first couple of episodes – Ultraman Leo!

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Now, I haven’t actually seen Leo’s series myself (it’s up on Crunchyroll though, so really I have no excuse right now), but Ultra-fan and artist @dotemcee pointed out that there’s a lot of deliberate parallels between that show and this one. Director Koichi Sakamoto has stated in a couple interviews that he vividly remembers watching the first two episodes of Leo as a kid, and wanted to incorporate some elements from them into Geed. Those show up in numerous different ways.

Firstly, both shows begin with catastrophic destruction. Leo first comes to Earth after his home planet of L77 was blown up by an alien attack. After he arrives and starts a new life though, the same aliens show up again and attack the city where he’s settled down. Transforming into Ultraman Leo, he fights back against them, but in the process, he becomes so overtaken by vengeance against the aliens that he ignores collateral damage in the city around them, which winds up being completely destroyed at the end of the fight.

Now, Riku obviously has gotten off far easier than Leo did, while his home was destroyed, he instead was able to protect his somewhat-adoptive family. Who knows what further destruction might be wrought on the civilians as this struggle between Kei and Riku continues though, hopefully the kid has learned his lesson about how to approach fights in the meantime.

The second connection we can see between the first few episodes of Leo and Geed is an explicit one, as Sakamoto said that one thing that stuck with him the most from Leo’s pilot was the fight itself, and he stages Geed’s first fight in this series the same way – at night, and in the water. With modern effects and video quality, it makes it look even more visually impressive.

There’s also a few apparent connections made with the characters who become involved in the plot between Geed and Leo. The most important one is Ultraman King. We see him in the OP of Geed putting the universe back together after Belial wrecked it in the pilot’s cold open, but his first appearance was in Leo’s series. King shows up multiple times to give Leo help, and Leo – along with his younger brother, Astra – are the Ultras most strongly associated with him even now in the franchise. Who knows how he’ll factor into Geed’s journey in the future, but given certain leaked magazine scans, he’ll probably be showing up again around the mid-season.

But in this episode we also get our preview for (let’s face it) the real star of this show, Ultraman Zero. Now, Zero himself was trained by Leo, but Leo was trained by Zero’s father, Ultraseven, first. Seven shows up in Leo’s own series to put him on the right path after he basically served as the direct cause of destruction for his adopted home in the opening fight. In Leo though, Seven was badly injured and limited in his own ability to fight, instead focusing on helping Leo become a better hero to protect the Earth in his stead. Similarly, Zero’s own power is massively nerfed in this series, forcing him to take up residence with a host – Salaryman dad Reito. The reasons for Zero’s own loss of power, as well as his effectiveness at being a mentor …(had to stop typing here because of a fit of laughter at that mental image)… has yet to be seen.

It’ll be a tough wait for next week’s episode though.

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