Ultraman Geed #4 – Electric Boogaloo

Previously on Geed:

Ultraman Geed #3 – A More Perfect Union

Riku, and his motley group of friends are dedicated to learning the truth of the Crisis Impact from six years ago. While investigating that mysterious event that once nearly destroyed the world, they also find themselves tracking down the lights of “Little Stars”, equally-mysterious powers that are carried by ordinary people on Earth. In addition to helping unlock the Ultra Capsules Riku uses to transform into Ultraman Geed, they also attract unwanted attention from giant monsters, and an enigmatic man named Kei who seeks their power for his own unknown purposes.

Last episode, they were joined in this quest by Ultraman Zero. However, still greatly depowered from his fight against Belial before the events of the series, Zero is forced to take up residence with an awkwardly earnest, unassuming salaryman father named Reito Leito. From him, we learned that this universe’s destruction was prevented by Ultraman King sacrificing himself to bond with the entire firmament of the cosmos. A pretty impressive feat, but now Zero is tracking down the loose ends left behind in the fallout of the Crisis Impact – the disappearance of the same Ultra Capsules that Riku has been using in his fights. How are the lights of the “Little Stars” connected to the fate of the universe, and what will happen when all of the Capsules are back in play in this new conflict?

We’ll find out eventually! (I hope!) For now though, let’s get into this week’s recap:

Ultraman Geed #4

We open with a cute little scene at Riku’s new base, provided by REM’s mysterious benefactor. Okay, fine, it’s all but explicitly stated to have been left behind by Belial, but what in Noa’s name he’d need with a human-sized underground base is beyond me, so I’m leaving that as another mystery for now.

Small scenes like this go a long way towards making the characters seem realistic and likeable in the midst of all the wackiness of the setting and various plot events that take place within it. Here we get to see the characters hint at backstory through ordinary dialogue, alongside discussing how to split funds as roommates and handle grocery shopping. It’s a nice introduction into the main plot of the episode before things get crazy again.

Just like last week, the new bit of craziness thrown on top of Riku’s already crazy circumstances comes from the introduction of new characters. But whereas last week’s introduction came from an unknown bit of Riku’s past with Zero’s arrival, this week brings something more familiar to him. In the process of the mundane plot of buying a new bicycle, which promptly gets stolen, he runs across an old childhood friend – sort of sibling, as they each describe the other.

Riku thinks his old friend Moa works in “insurance sales”. In reality, she’s a rookie agent in the Alien Investigation Bureau, or AIB. Think like the classic Men in Black, or the TLT, but much, MUCH nicer. They have the same mission in hiding the knowledge of aliens existing on the Earth alongside humanity, but also don’t wipe the memory of whole swathes of the city to cover up the kaiju attacks themselves. Makes their jobs far easier than in Nexus, thankfully.

Moa herself is an interesting case. On one hand, she’s really bad at her job, being a scatter-brained, over-excitable newbie who relies mostly on the expertise of her alien Shadow partner, Zena. But as we’ll see later in the episode, being overly emotional has its benefits in helping work towards the best good in her mission. In the meantime, though, I’d imagine it causes a lot of headaches for whoever handles the paperwork for these missions.

She also has a lot of concern for Riku, and we see that her example has rubbed off on him. Obviously in terms of their mutual love of Don Shine, but Riku also credits her with helping him be a good person in general.

It’s easy to forget with his cheerful demeanor and heroic drive, but Riku’s powers still derive from Belial, and that knowledge probably weighs on his own mind more than he lets on.

Aside from Moa’s introduction, there’s another interesting thing we learn from scenes with the AIB in this episode. The rest of the universe seems to be well aware of the existence of the Space Garrison (the main force of Ultraman heroes that we see repeatedly across the franchise), as well as the true nature of the Crisis Impact and its aftermath.

This further confuses the question of exactly which universe Geed takes place in. The M78 Space Garrison typically doesn’t do multiverse hopping, but the “original” main continuity that they exist in had an Earth that was already very familiar with alien attacks and Ultraman heroes. Not to mention, at the point in the timeline where this would take place in relation to Zero’s own story, Earth was way more technologically advanced, having moved to colonizing planets with extensive space exploration. Maybe King’s restoration of the universe didn’t put everything back exactly?

Or maybe I’m just overthinking this and the writers intended this to be its own self-contained universe all along.

Another slightly confusing bit in this episode… is Kei seriously just spending all his free time chilling out at this coffee shop?

This identity must be the perfect cover for Belial, it lets him hang out all day, look important, and talk cryptically without anyone being suspicious of him since he’s supposed to be a science-fiction author. Smart choice.

Okay, joking aside, there is actually a serious plot in the midst of the character shenanigans. The alien who stole Riku’s bike turns out to be a Pitt scientist, the AIB chases after her assuming that she’s up to no good. That assumption isn’t helped when Eleking shows up, a kaiju that has been used by her race in previous invasion attempts. (Including an attempt made in Ultraseven, actually! I’ll discuss that one shortly here in the article.) However, despite the alien’s connection to her Eleking – essentially a beloved pet – she couldn’t bring herself to use it to try and take over the Earth after she grew to appreciate her life here.

Moa may be overly-dramatic and a bit of a flake at times, but she’s genuinely moved by the Pitt scientist’s dilemma, and finds a way to help Geed defeat the monster. By making use of one of her screw-ups earlier in the episode, even. (Chekov’s Space Plant?)

Just like Riku, even if Moa doesn’t know everything yet and makes mistakes, her heart is in the right place to help others, and that’s what really counts.

Zena’s just thinking “Well where’s MY hug?”

Speaking of Riku, one cool thing about this fight is seeing how he’s learned from his own mistakes and previous experiences in battle. He now apparently fights much more effectively as Geed. It makes sense why he has a more instinctive grasp of his abilities when transformed; based on what we’ve seen so far, it’s most likely that Riku is Geed, rather than being a human host carrying the power of an Ultraman. Through these fights, the various powers he has access to come more naturally to him as a result.

So, to show that off we get some new, cool moves rather than the wild grapples we saw in his first fights.

Rolling Sabat.gif
GIF credit – @ApolloGeese

And we get to see THE BEST FORM again, Solid Burning. Built like a tank, practical-effect steam vents, cool engine whine sound effects when charging attacks, what’s not to love?

Solid Burning Entrance lossy

And, of course, since we’ve got a plot that’s a big call-back to an episode of Ultraseven, and a form that’s partially based on Ultraseven, we have to steal some of Seven’s signature moves as the cherry on top. That would be the Eye Slugger, and Wide Shot, respectively there.

During this fight, the alien Pitt trusts Geed to do the tough job of putting down her beloved Eleking, rather than allowing more damage to come to the city, and gives her Little Star light to Riku. This unlocks the next Ultra Capsule – Ultraman Hikari. You should remember him from Mebius, but there’s some extra backstory associated with his character that I didn’t go into detail with in those articles. So if I get around to discussing him in my Ultra Lore Corner in a future article, remind me to bring it up.

The end of the episode has another little everyday scene with all the characters hanging out, but it also brings one element of the show I, frankly, dread a little bit. Because now we’ve got a mysterious New Girl, and an overly possessive Childhood Friend, and everything here just screams romantic clichés.

Moa’s a fun character in most of this episode, but if the writers try to play up this angle of fighting for Riku’s attention, it’s probably going to turn annoying fast. At least Laiha seems to not care one bit for any of it. And poor Riku is just oblivious to everything.

So, we end with Zero showing up with Leito to deliver his thanks and some encouragement, the Pitt alien joining the AIB, and everything seeming hunky-dory for our heroes as-IMG_5244 (800x450)

Oh

That seems like cheating to me. But at least Kei has learned how to get a proper manicure this time.

Overall this was a fun, self-contained episode. It didn’t do a lot to significantly advance pressing, pre-existing plot points, but it was a nice spin on the most classic type of story in the Ultraman franchise – alien invasions. It also did a great job of continuing to flesh out both the characters, and the setting itself in subtle ways, which is really where episodic plots shine the best. Not every episode has to deliver hard plot twists, like what Ex-Aid is so fond of. If the writing can keep characterization consistent and show how those characters interact with each other, or with new circumstances, then it can be just as entertaining.

Ultra Lore Corner

Funnily enough, this week the Ultraman hero I wanted to talk about actually lines up with the real Ultra Capsule Navi segment in the show itself. Take it away, REM!

Ultraseven – despite the name – is the second main series in the Ultraman franchise. Well, third if you want to be an insufferable pedant and include Ultra Q in that count. It features the same blend of giant monster fights and episodic sci-fi plots focused around a team of operatives dedicated to protecting Earth from threats. What distinguishes it from the first Ultraman series, however, is the fact that many of those episodic plots take a very sober look at the nature of humanity and its flaws, usually drawing significant allusions to contemporary social and political concerns.

Not all episodes of Ultraseven are so serious. Sometimes you have a grave dialogue on the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction and the feasibility of using WMDs as deterrence. Sometimes you get DINOSAUR TANK. But the wide range of topics, themes, and tones that Ultraseven succeeds at covering throughout the series is one of the reasons why it’s still immensely entertaining to watch, even today.

This week’s episode of Geed draws a lot of reference from the show, and its overall message – how aliens and humans both can fight together in a hope for peace – extends directly from recurring themes from its predecessor. In this episode, we’re introduced to two different types of aliens from the series’ canon, both of which were introduced in Ultraseven, so I went back through my DVDs of the show to talk a bit about their debuts and how Geed plays off of it.

The plot of this week’s episode is actually a bit of a reversal from an early one, episode 3 of Ultraseven, called “The Secret of the Lake”. It’s a pretty cut-and-dry alien invasion plot, and the series has a lot of those. These  plots are usually found out when mysteriously spooky happenings are afoot, the Ultra Guard is sent out to investigate, then they wind up kicking over a metaphorical rock to reveal a global conspiracy to destroy the world or take it over. This episode is no different, as Dan Moroboshi – Ultraseven’s human identity – and his partner on the team, Furahashi, are sent to look into a UFO sighting in the mountains.

When cornered, the Pitt aliens summon the secret weapon they hid in a mountain lake, and we get the first appearance of Eleking in the franchise! He’s shown up a lot since then, and is one of the more recognizable kaijus of various Ultraman series. If there’s one thing I like about this franchise, it’s how certain kaiju have taken on characters of their own, owing to TsuPro’s budget-cutting with recycling monster suits repeatedly.

This episode is also the first time Miclas shows up, you might remember him as one of the maquette monsters used in Mebius. The concept of using monster buddies to help fight alongside an Ultraman hero is lifted directly from Ultraseven, along with the monsters the GUYS Japan crew uses.

Anyways, in Ultraseven, we see the expected course of the alien invasion scenario, before it’s foiled by Seven with the help of the Defense Force of the series. It’s undertaken again by the other Pitts in this week’s episode of Geed, but now one of the aliens who was supposed to direct Eleking to destroy humanity and its defending Ultraman instead defects to try and protect them. Similarly, the race of aliens that Zena belongs to, called “Shadow”, were also introduced in an Invasion-Of-The-Week plot in Ultraseven (episode 23). We don’t see his backstory – at least, not yet – but I’d infer it’s similar to the Pitt alien’s this week. Either way, both aliens have found something worthwhile to protect on the Earth, and now work with the AIB to secure that.

This idea of “aliens finding humanity worthwhile to protect” is echoed itself multiple times through these Invasion plots during Ultraseven, seeing as Dan – Ultraseven – himself isn’t even working with a human host. He’s assumed the appearance of a human, but he’s still 100% an alien. Because of that, many of the aliens sent to try and carry out these schemes make a pitch to sway him against humanity. (Of course, he’s still an Ultraman, so none of them are effective.) If you want to hear all my thoughts on the significance of that theme in particular, go back and read my article on Mebius regarding it. Needless to say, it’s a REALLY common theme in the franchise in general.

Fitting, because the series also is paid reference to just as often, in more specific ways. I’ve already pointed out times in other series where Seven himself has played supporting roles, but we’ve also had AU versions with Seven 21 in Neos, a darker cyberpunk spin on the series with Ultraseven X, and a more general aesthetic love-letter to the series with Max.

Basically, if the original Ultraman provided the first appearances of many of the elements that define the franchise, Ultraseven codified their applications in fans’ memories, and arguably became just as influential in shaping its development in the 50 years since then. So far, Geed has done an interesting job of providing new references to previous lore and history in the series, and I’m eager to see what else the production will fold in with upcoming episodes.

Given that next week’s episode gives us Cosmos’ capsule, I would expect some cute monster buddies to look forward to, into addition to Acro Smasher’s debut. We’ll just have to wait and find out though!

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