Ultraman Geed #5 – Friend to All Living Things

PREVIOUSLY ON GEED:

Ultraman Geed #4 – Electric Boogaloo

Last week, Riku and his friends faced their greatest challenge yet – buying a new bike to use to run groceries. But when the bike gets stolen, they find themselves embroiled in a shadowy government conspiracy that also involves Riku’s best friend from childhood, Moa Aizaki. A rookie agent with the “Alien Investigation Bureau”, she and her Shadow alien partner, Zena, are tasked with protecting Earth from other alien threats, and hiding the existence of those aliens from the general public.

However, the alien they were on the hunt for, a Pitt scientist named Tri-Tip, also turns out to have the same Little Star power everyone else seems to be interested in. Originally her duty was to use a hibernating Eleking to help other Pitt aliens attack Earth, but she defected and instead tried to protect the city and its inhabitants. With her help, Moa’s convenient absent-mindedness quick thinking, and Riku’s own power as Geed, Eleking was defeated.

Everything seems to be going smoothly for Riku, but with Zero still too injured to fight, and Kei plotting something even bigger in the background, how long will our heroes’ good luck last?

Episode #5

One thing I’ll give this show in its favor, it manages to have a formula without being repetitive or stale. We’re only five episodes in, but the general status quo that has been established – find person with a Little Star, fight monsters, unlock a new capsule – has been established with reasonable and consistent standards. By that, I mean it makes sense why the individual episode plots take on this shape, and the information the characters learn each week contributes to how they tackle this current objective. There’s a clear sense of continuity and direction, even if we’re not exactly reinventing the wheel each week.

This is somewhat of a consequence of the typical length of recent Ultraman series, being 25 episodes long (give or take a couple). The franchise though has its historical roots in more of an anthology format which featured a wide variety of self-contained plots, themes and styles covering a much longer run of episodes – twice as long as what we get nowadays. A shorter run does have a few benefits over that format; for one, it allows plots to focus more on developing a single overarching story. (In comparison, I just finished up Ultraman Tiga, which took 40 episodes out of its 52-episode run to finally get to the main storyline.) It also lets the production crew use its budget more effectively and consistently in making monster suits, animating CGI effects, and putting more effort into other details that contribute to the show’s distinctive and impressive style. But I’d have to say, I do miss the more Twilight Zone-feel of older series, which could experiment with more unusual genres and stories with the extra space.

So five episodes into this run of Geed, we start with the familiar introduction of our main crew of Riku, Laiha and Pega trying to find another person with a Little Star power. Good thing for them, our Victim(?)-Of-The-Week, Takashi Arai, stands out.

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 A lot.

Too bad he also attracts the attention of the AIB again, since the remarkable healing powers he’s advertising aren’t his, but come from the Little Star of a Lunah alien he’s befriended, Moko.

 

Scary, sharp teeth aside, Moko is the cutest gosh darned thing I’ve ever seen and TsuPro had better make plushies of this thing if they like having money. I’d buy one in a heartbeat.

After Riku and his crew (plus Reito on his lunch break) track Takashi down to learn more, they find out someone else has beaten them to the punch and confiscated Moko.

 

Riku and the others don’t yet know Moa is an AIB agent, or the fact she’s involved with the “Health Department” cover to take Moko away, but they do know Takashi is kind of a scumbag for exploiting the fuzzball for money. Zero takes it particularly personally – I wasn’t joking about him having a soft spot for cute, squeaky aliens to protect.

 

I’m still laughing at Riku calling him “Nii-san”. “Older brother” for those of you not familiar with Japanese honorifics.

Everyone starts to run off to find said cute, squeaky little alien when our Kaiju, Astron, shows up to the party, hot on the heels of Moko’s Little Star. Hot on his heels though, is Riku to drop-kick him in the face with his entrance.

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GIF credit – @ApolloGeese as always!

I love this show’s fight choreography. Between interesting perspective shots like this, and all-around great suit acting, it’s something I look forward to every week.

Interesting side note, just like last week, this monster wasn’t summoned by Kei. Astron is basically just a giant ancient beast who woke up grumpy and now is attracted to this unknown Little Star power. We can see that distinction as a specific visual clue; it has golden eyes, not the red we saw earlier with Kei’s monsters.

Before this attack, everyone assumed Takashi was just a heartless jerk who only cared about the money Moko’s power brings him. However, during the fracas he risks his life to try and free his little buddy after it ran away from Moa’s captivity.

 

Rescuing the adorable little dust bunny, and proving he actually does have a heart, causes Moko to give his Little Star to Geed to help protect both of them from the monster attack. Which leads us to our new form for this episode, combining the power of Hikari’s Ultra Capsule from last week, and now Cosmos’. Say hello to Acro Smasher.

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Now, personally, I like Solid Burning better, but Acro Smasher has a couple things going for it:

#1 – The cool sword-slash effects used with Hikari’s appearances in Mebius, plus his notable sword work itself.

 

#2 – An interesting fighting style which emulates Cosmos’ style with an emphasis on palm strikes and deflection. Cosmos’ default blue form, which is referenced here, is focused on speed and defense rather than attacking. Acro Smasher, in comparison, makes up for the offense with Hikari’s slick sword skills.

 

And a little taunting thrown in there because this is still Riku after all.

#3 – And something I can’t illustrate with screencaps alone, but the single coolest piece of the show’s soundtrack backing it up.

Kenji Kawai has a long history of scoring entries into the Ultraman franchise, including the Revenge of Belial movie, one reason why Zero and Belial’s themes are so heavily featured in the soundtrack for Geed. Acro Smasher’s theme shows just how strong his new material is alongside it though. The soundtrack as a whole is a real treat and helps contribute to making the show so engaging to watch.

One other aspect that makes Acro Smasher an interesting form is something else it borrows from Cosmos – the ability to “heal” monsters and stop them from rampaging. In this episode, it allows Riku to calm down Astron, who then digs back under the Earth to trouble no one again.

 

Zero recognizes this technique because he actually met Cosmos in the Ultraman Saga movie, where they both fought alongside Dyna against the ultimate monster, Hyper Zetton and fused together to make- naaah that’s a story for another day. I’d love to see Zero try and explain THAT to Leito though.

 

Surely this rapid switching with Zero can’t be healthy for Leito, give the poor guy a break!

Cosmos is a pretty unique Ultra in general, in ways that tie in very closely to this episode’s theme too. If last week dealt with the question of other “civilized” aliens living with humanity and fighting for a common cause, this episode touches on another common trope of Ultraman – humans and “monsters” living together. Pretty much every series has at least a few episodes take a decidedly environmentalist bent in examining how humans sometimes unnecessarily exploit natural resources and other living beings on the Earth. But some of those series deal with the question of humanity coexisting with things that might otherwise be destroyed for being “inconvenient” as a season-long centerpiece. Most recently, X did so strongly, but the series probably most well-known for it is Cosmos.

I haven’t seen Cosmos yet, unfortunately. It doesn’t have official subs at the moment, and 62 episodes (!!!) is pretty daunting  when there’s already several other Ultra series I’d like to work through first. But like I mentioned above, Musashi/Cosmos himself has shown up in the Saga movie, and in a few other crossovers (most recently, he was in the Orb Origin miniseries). One specific aspect of his characterization I’ve gathered from those appearances is a relentless sort of optimism that allows him to try for the best ending for everyone. Again, a common theme in Ultraman in general, but Cosmos epitomizes it with his signature non-lethal fighting style. It may make for harder challenges, but he always thinks it’s worth it, and is willing to take a beating himself to see that all lives are protected in the end.

Aside from the overarching themes, Ultra-lore contributor Dotemcee (@mukubird) pointed out that Moko itself is walking reference to the show. His unique Little Star power was healing, and the name of his species – Lunah – is taken from Cosmos’ base “Luna” form.

 

After this week’s fight ends, Takashi keeps Moko… well, it’s more like Moko keeps Takashi, as it escapes from the AIB’s capture again to join him as a partner. Even though everyone thought Takashi was a scumbag fraud at first, he’s shown he really does value his little alien buddy, even if he’s an awful comedian. And… well, Moko is already the cutest thing in the entire universe. It’s not hard to see the worth in protecting it.

Moa herself wants to believe others can see that goodness and work to protect it as well, but Zena is much more cynical. Possibly from personal experience?

 

At the very least, more people are coming to believe in Geed as a hero by the close of the series, so maybe Moa’s hope isn’t so unrealistic after all.

But just when we think everything is going swimmingly, Kei makes his move, and summons another monstrous fusion, with the power of Eleking, captured last week, and a kaiju we haven’t seen yet – Ace Killer. The resulting form, Thunder Killer, is incredibly gnarly looking, and I love it.

 

Unexpectedly, this episode also leaves off on a cliffhanger. Usually the kaiju fights in Ultraman series are the climax of the episode, so this one must be especially important if they’re going to immediately lead with it next week. I would assume now that Riku has unlocked all the advertised forms (excluding ones we’ve only had spoiled by magazine scans), the plot is probably going to ramp up significantly.

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At least, I hope so. For as much as I’m enjoying this show, the one major complaint I’d make is that it doesn’t really feel like Riku’s had a real challenge yet. He’s gained all the Ultra Capsules and forms fairly easily so far, and we can see clear improvement in his fighting as a result, but his character has yet to be tested in a significant way. Apart from maybe that bit in episode 2 where he chose to become Geed again despite people fearing his appearance at first. Hopefully now we have the required set-up out of the way, and our main villain appears to be making his move, we’ll start seeing more of that character development.

Ultra Lore Corner

 

Oh right, last week I promised to talk about Ultraman Hikari, didn’t I?

Hikari is a relatively recent addition to the Ultraman franchise, unlike the other heroes I’ve highlighted here. Introduced as a secondary hero in Ultraman Mebius, he had a pretty significant development arc where he moved from seeking self-destructive vengeance, to fighting to protect Earth and humanity with just as much passion as Mebius himself. While his arc is interesting in the main series alone, Hikari also was featured in a three-part side story to flesh out his background and character a bit more. This saga, along with his overall arc through Mebius, has helped him to become a memorable and well-liked character in the franchise, and one that’s provided a significant first for the setting.

Hikari has a few aspects for which he’s most recognized, the most prominent for this series is his role as a scientist. It’s what involves him in the main plot of Geed to begin with, as he’s the one who created the Ultra Capsules Riku uses, intending them to be a weapon to help win the war against Belial. It’s also this role that led him to explore the planet Arb, before the events of Mebius.

 

Not all the Ultras in the “main” continuity serve as protectors for the galaxy, they have a whole society kept largely off-screen. Understandably so, this is still a series focused on superheroes punching giant monsters in the face, so of course the different shows will focus on individuals who do that for a living, rather than the Ultra equivalent of “civilians”. Hikari isn’t a member of the Space Garrison, like the other red-colored Ultraman heroes, but he chances into adventure when he finds Arb, and learns of their predicted destruction at the hands of Bogal (the same monster he and Mebius fight in the first quarter of the show). Seeking power to defeat Bogal, he finds Ultraman King.

Yes, the same King who saved the universe from destruction in the events preceding Geed. He’s a pretty mythical figure, even to other Ultras. Here, King also grants him another aspect for which Hikari has become well-known for – his skills as a swordsman.

 

He first is tested to see if his spirit is pure enough to receive this power. While King is satisfied at first, Hikari falls when he challenges Bogal, is defeated, and gives into his anger. His redemption following this is detailed in the Mebius series itself, if you haven’t already seen it. (Seriously why haven’t you seen it yet, stop reading this and go load it up instead.)

After he is brought back to life and has his change of heart in that series though, Hikari still finds himself in an unusual place. He’s not a member of the Space Garrison, but his experiences still drive him to try fight and protect others. It’s this heroic passion that wins over Zoffy, who accepts him as an honorary member of the Garrison force.

 

This is the most prominent reason why Hikari is memorable, he’s the first blue Ultra to join the Space Garrison. There have been other blue heroes in Ultraman (Cosmos is the other notable one, but there’s also Agul, the secondary protagonist in Gaia), but those are in their own universes. Hikari’s story puts some interesting dimension on the lore of the main continuity itself. If Mebius provided the connection and resolution of a lot of different aspects of that main continuity from the classic series, Hikari, in turn, provided a foundation to build new stories onto it.

I may be biased, but tell me it wouldn’t be cool to have a story focus on science heroes in the Ultraman setting as some original characters. That’d be cool, right?

Anyways, self-indulgent fan fiction aside, Hikari eventually might also play a more direct role in the events of Geed. Since he created the Ultra capsules and also has a direct tie to Ultraman King, I’d be surprised if he didn’t factor into the plot somehow as it’s further developed. He’s one of my favorite heroes in the franchise though, so at the very least I think it’s great he’s getting some representation with the Acro Smasher form. Here’s hoping TsuPro brings him back in the future too.

 

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