Author’s Note: This is the final entry into my four-part series commenting on Ultraman Nexus after watching through it for the first time. My points from the previous articles will wind up being EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to the points I develop here, so if you haven’t read them already, catch up with my other posts first:
This article has been a long time coming. Part of that is because, like how my Makai no Hana series was delayed, I was distracted by other shows that grabbed my attention in the meantime. But a more important reason for the delay is the fact that I wasn’t too happy with my usual structure for articles dealing with show finales. Looking back over my previous work, I felt there was just too much recap involved and not enough direction that developed a coherent main theme. Too often, it seemed like my purpose going into them was “let’s get this wrapped up” and I lost track of what made me so excited while watching those finales in the first place.
That was a lot of pressure to put on myself, to work at specifically improving a style I’ve grown comfortable with over the last six months of writing for this site.
But I wanted to do so because Nexus deserves it.
One thing I do want to apply from my previous work on show finales, is the idea that successful ones draw in all the major themes that the show has incorporated and developed over the course of its airing. This can be done by gradually spiraling out in scope to apply those themes in increasingly broad scenarios (like I noted with Mebius), or by resolving character development arcs in a definitive and permanent way (as we saw with Makai no Hana). Nexus does a bit of both but, interestingly, I found that its finale connects together conclusions I reached in my previous articles in a very distinct way.
Because of that, this post will have a bit of a different structure. Instead of running down each of the episodes’ events from the finale, I’m going to primarily focus on the last episode itself, and show how its resolution echoes previous touchstones of thematic and character development. I want to show how my impressions of those events have gained new meaning in context with the finale itself.
Before we get into that though, there’s a bit of plot that happens in between where I left off the last article, and where I want to begin the main points of this one. So let’s start the first course, shall we?
Previously on Nexus:
After Mizorogi sacrifices himself to stop another scheme from the “Unknown Hand”, the evil force that has been sabotaging the TLT’s efforts, Ren continues to keep fighting as Nexus. However, even with this small victory, monster attacks continue to escalate, to the point where Space Beasts start attacking a city in broad daylight.
For a franchise that is so well known for spectacular giant kaiju fights, it’s surprising to remember that Nexus had no major battles take place in a city before this point. Considering most other Ultraman series have their first fights set against the backdrop of an urban area to showcases the detailed model and effects work, to show this as an escalation of the fight against the Space Beasts so late in the series is an interesting decision. It’s one that pays off though, to illustrate how the situation continues to slip out of the TLT’s control.
To find the strength to fight back against a power dedicated to destroying him, Ren has a change of perspective on the fact he’s dying from a genetic defect as a result of the Prometheus project. Instead of a death sentence to run away from, it becomes encouragement to take his own life seriously and to fight his hardest for others. This is similar to Jun’s own development before him, where he had to accept his role as Nexus to protect other people, rather than viewing it as a punishment put upon him for past mistakes.
This realization for Ren happens after the Night Raiders rebel against orders to rescue him from the TLT’s tests, the same ones that Jun was subjected to. Rather than watch him slowly die as a necessary sacrifice to provide the TLT with the possibility of weaponizing the light that creates Nexus, they break him out to continue the fight against the Space Beasts directly.
There’s a multitude of incredibly well-done character scenes amidst all of this, and I don’t have the space to go through all of them here. But between Ren’s acceptance of his role as carrying on Nexus for those who come after him, the resolution of his romantic relationship with Mizuo, and a final battle against the “Ultimate” Space Beast , it’s a really fantastic cap to his time as Ultraman in the series.
After this final fight with Izmael, the Ultimate Space Beast, Ren (unlike Jun) survives, with a cure for his genetic deterioration having been delivered at the last second. But having successfully protected the city and coming to find a new appreciation of his own life alongside the ones he fought for, the light of Nexus passes on to the next host.
There’s one specific detail I’ve neglected to mention throughout this article series, that connects back to the fact that Nexus does play on some distinctly deterministic points typically associated with Apocalypse narratives. The previous example I used was the fact that circumstances have been prearranged by those controlled by the “Unknown Hand” in order to try and drive the main characters into despair. (Specifically Mizorogi’s manipulation of events while being controlled himself.) But there’s an element of predestination on the side of the light as well, the light of Nexus chooses specific hosts that are known by certain people ahead of time. These hosts are called “Deunamists” in the series, and there’s a quick list of them we see in an earlier episode. This list not only includes the two we’ve seen in the show itself, Jun and Ren, but also two characters we’ve been following for the entire story – Nagi, and Komon.
So it comes as no surprise to the audience who receives the light next.
Now we come to the beginning of the end.
The Final Episode
Nexus was intended to be a full, year-long series, but wound up being cut short at 36 episodes. The low ratings and darker tone (while still airing in a morning time-slot aimed for younger audiences) led to its early cancellation. Because of this, many elements that were planned for a final arc got scrubbed, and some of what was intended to stretch further into the show was folded into the final episode here. But despite getting the knees cut out from under it, the finale of Nexus still manages to handle its necessary resolution and themes in an incredibly effective and emotional way. In fact, the only reason why Nexus didn’t manage to knock Mebius off the top as my favorite Ultraman series, is the fact that it didn’t have quite as much time to stretch out and continue to develop. But what we do get is just as much of an emotional high of an experience.
Let’s take this from the top:
The main point I found developed with the first story arc in Nexus was the fact that the Night Raiders and the TLT presented a certain view of the world that seemed to be crushingly absolute, but wasn’t the true reality in context. Monsters exist, they killed people and destroyed lives, and the only way that humanity could combat that threat effectively seemed to be through brutally totalitarian methods. Operating in secret with almost no outside accountability or oversight, erasing all evidence of monsters’ existence and their own fights, the organization believed this was the best way to protect the general populace, even if it meant sacrificing some innocent lives in the process. In addition to preventing chaos in the general public if these monsters were made public knowledge, it’s also revealed that the Space Beasts literally feed on the terror of human beings, and so erasing people’s memories also extinguished its power source.
In the finale episode, we find out that this secrecy had unintended consequences though. The “Tears of Lethe” which their memory-erasing technology was created from, was one of the TLT’s greatest assets but also the real prize of the Unknown Hand’s manipulations.
On top of this, the Unknown Hand itself, the dark force that corrupted Mizorogi and others for its own machinations, was working within the TLT, enabled by that same secrecy and unaccountable conspiracy. Using the same alien technology that allowed the TLT to erase the memories of the battle from the Ultraman Next movie from everyone on Earth, the Unknown Hand took Ishiboshi as a host many years earlier, and then erased his existence from their computers in order to work within the organization. It used the TLT’s own methods to continue to hide and operate from the shadows, gradually enacting its own plans.
In other words, the TLT saw its secrecy as a necessary evil. But these decisions made out of despair themselves lead to more despair because they empower those who abuse that conspiracy.
Quite literally. The source of the “Lethe” (Greek mythology reference – Lethe was one of the rivers of the Underworld, and erased people’s memories if they entered its waters) turns out to be a great alien body, in which the greivous memories of humanity were sealed away. The spirit that once animated it had been separated – becoming the Unknown Hand. Now with the culmination of its plans, it reclaims its body to become complete and revive into its true form.
However, like I mentioned in my first article, Nexus also shows that despair and fear are not the strongest forces in this universe. The bond of Komon and Riko’s love allowed Riko to break Faust’s control and sacrifice herself to save him. We’ve seen multiple times over the course of the series how Komon’s ideals have allowed him to keep fighting against crushingly opposed odds. With the Unknown Hand – now revealed as a being called “Dark Zagi” – about to come into its full power, things may look bleak, but Nexus never lacks the assurance that the heroes will find a way to defeat this final challenge as long as they hold to their even stronger ideals.
It’s just too bad Nagi missed that point.
As Above So Below
The main point of my second article was that events engineered to create despair by the evil forces in this story end up giving the heroes even more strength to hold to their ideals. This is specifically true for Komon, being the perspective character, but all the characters by this point have been through suffering and come out better for it.
Repeatedly, Nagi has had pep talks from other characters as well, trying to encourage her to let go of her obsession for revenge and work towards more positive motivations. But now that the memories previously erased by Lethe are restored, with Zagi’s revival, she remembers that it was the Unknown Hand possessing Ishiboshi that personally killed both her parents as a child. With this realization, she’s unable to resist falling into the trap of despair and hatred that it’s built up over these years.
In fact, just like how it used Mizorogi earlier in the series, all of the Unknown Hand’s actions before this point have been engineered specifically to create despair in those marked as Deunamists. By killing Nagi’s parents, corrupting Mizorogi, preying on Jun’s survivor’s guilt, killing and using Riko against Komon, and many other instances over time, it tried to break those connected to the light. Now Nagi is unable to resist it, and when she tries to transform to fight as Nexus, it also steals that light itself to finish reviving.
Again though, the power of the light is stronger than that despair or hatred.
And the light is the bond.
See where we’re going with this?
Komon has been the perspective character throughout all the show’s events, but even though he hasn’t been Ultraman himself, we’ve seen him grow to understand the ideals he started with more clearly. The truth – the reality of Nexus- isn’t about evil’s victory, but instead shows how those ideals of love and hope can triumph against evil at its most powerful ascension.
This theme is echoed a couple episodes earlier, by a character from the Next movie who has lived firsthand already through similarly dark events. She saw her fiancee mutated into a monstrous Space Beast, and was forced to allow Ultraman Next, the previous version of the power now seen as Nexus, to kill him.
It’s the same concern for others, the bonds that Komon has made with all the other characters throughout the series, that now allows the light to be passed to him in turn.
Consider the Ravens
Those bonds form the core of the third article I wrote about Nexus. The aspect of Ren’s story that I was most struck by was how small, personal relationships create the light that drives all the characters to continue fighting. They’ve all been through darkness and despair by this point, but have overcome everything that the Unknown Hand and the Space Beasts have thrown at them. In other words, that light can conquer the darkness because they can see how it affects others around them for the better. The accountability of fighting for another person allowed Mizorogi to find redemption, and helped Ren to stop treating his role as Nexus as one of martyrdom.
But this expression of the light in others now also spreads to humanity globally. With Lethe destroyed, everyone’s memories are restored. By erasing people’s memories of this continued struggle and its costs, the TLT was also sealing away their hope and faith in Ultraman. Now watching the fight between Zagi and Komon as Nexus, they begin to remember, not just how awful the monsters were, but how Ultraman has previously fought to save them, five years ago during the events of the Next movie
In the midst of this fight, we also see Komon’s connections to the other hosts of Nexus, encouraging him on to fight harder to overcome this ultimate evil. Having him change colors to match both of their iterations of Nexus and adopt their signature moves during the battle is a cool touch too.
Because of the connections that have been forged over the course of the entire series, the force that gains the most power in this final showdown is not the one driven by fear, but by hope. That hope from humanity, watching and coming to understand the true reality of events, is what allows Nexus to achieve its true form, as Noa.
Now, I’ve mentioned Noa a couple times elsewhere, because Noa is serious shit in other background lore and side stories related to Ultraman. Along with Ultraman King, it’s the closest thing this franchise has to an outright “god”. Significantly, it also shows up in Ultraman Zero’s story, and provides him the Ultimate Aegis power-up, which allowed him to kill Belial and also travel freely through the multiverse. We see a similar thematic connection in that movie, where it’s the combined faith of the forces Zero managed to gather to fight against Belial that unlocks Noa’s power.
Here in Nexus, Komon now wielding that same power allows him to throw Zagi into orbit and destroy him in a spectacular bit of fireworks.
So, let’s recap:
- Darkness and evil exists.
- The light can overcome that darkness, and is in fact expressed more strongly after being tested by it.
- That light is nurtured and grown by the examples of it we see in those around us, and the connections we make with them, which is what allows it to become powerful enough to triumph over darkness.
Mebius was shockingly optimistic in its portrayal of humanity’s ultimate destiny to fulfill the ideals represented by Ultraman. Nexus is just as optimistic in its belief that the power embodied by Ultraman can overcome even the snares and pitfalls of our own failures and weaknesses. We can’t do it on our own though, we all need those connections, the bonds we form with others, to help us stand up again after we fall.
… I could leave the article off on that point.
The finale ends just as abruptly because of the early cancellation, as I mentioned. There are still Space Beasts around, they still threaten the Earth, but humanity has found a greater source of strength to fight back against them. It would’ve been really great to see the original ideas the writers and directors had for the final arc capitalized on past this point, but I think it ends perfectly as it is regardless.
Also, surprisingly, Nexus crosses over with the Ultra multiverse in one other important way that I wanted to note here. It makes for the single best episode of Ultraman X, and one that I didn’t appreciate when I saw it for the first time, since X was my first entry into the franchise.
In this episode, the light of Nexus comes to Lieutenant Tachibana of the defense team, Xio, to help her save her family when they were threatened by monsters on the other side of the world. It works so well as a crossover episode because it’s not just a surface-level homage to the series (Why are Space Beasts attacking this universe’s Earth in the first place? The show sure ain’t explaining that), but because it also echoes the same themes I’ve spent several months examining.
Lieutenant Tachibana first sees her bonds with her family as a weakness, one that compromises her judgement as an officer and leader for the team, but it’s those same bonds that encourage her to continue to fight. It also reflects the major themes of X itself, which deals heavily with bonds between others, familial love, and concern for the well-being of all things on the earth, even those that might be misunderstood or feared as monsters by others.
Plus, we get a really cool reference to the distinctive aesthetic style of Nexus’ fights and effects.
And Tachibana’s husband is played by the same actor who portrayed Komon. Small world, huh.
So to wrap this up before I break my own intentions and ramble too long again. Nexus is an incredible experience with multiple layers of symbolism, narrative development and character growth that makes it unique among the Ultraman series I’ve seen so far. In spite of it being unfortunately cut short, it remains one of the best illustrations of the themes of Ultraman that have resonated so strongly with me as I’ve gotten deeper into the franchise. Even if you’ve read to this point and have had the twists spoiled, you, the reader, deserve to experience this show for yourself. The density of thoughtfully-connected details and the more subdued style of the show provide a completely different, rewarding encounter when seen personally, and even on re-watching.
So go to Crunchyroll right now and go stick Ultraman Nexus onto your queue.
And always remember –