Ultraman Ginga Series Recap – Part 1

So I’ve decided to ditch the whole scene-by-scene thing, at least as far as TV shows are concerned. Hopefully it works out more this way.

gingatitle

Ultraman Ginga is, by all means, a fairly terrible show. The characters are bland, the plots are dumb, and the very premise of the show is weak to begin with. And the budget was supposedly non-existent, due to Tsubaraya Productions’ never-ending financial woes. That last part shows. Despite all this, however, Ginga can be a surprisingly fun show at times, mostly when it stops trying to be anything more than what it is, which more often than not is pretty goddamn stupid.

So enough stalling, let’s get down to recapping the show! This part covers the first 6 episodes.

One thing that I can say for sure is that in spite of everything else, the theme song to this show kicks major ass. It’s fast, it’s furious, it’s epic, and makes sure to pack as much substance as possible knowing that the actual show itself could never compensate.

So, as with many shows, the first episode introduces us to our main characters. They are as follows:ginga-hikaru
This is Hikaru Raido, our main hero, who wishes to be an adventurer, and is the living embodiment of the troll face (seriously, just look at that screenshot!). Besides these two facts, there isn’t very much that we will learn about him. The show instead makes the (un)wise decision to focus on his far more (un)interesting friends. Speaking of friends…ginga-misuzu
This is Misuzu Isurugi, Hikaru’s obligatory childhood friend who is there to provide mostly annoying ship tease with our main hero. Yes, this is actually how she is introduced. She is more or less the most developed character in the series, but upon finishing the series, you’ll wish she didn’t have any. Her dream is to become a confectioner. ginga-chigusakenta
These two are Hikaru’s other friends, Chigusa Kuno and Kenta Watarai. One of the two is a dumb shit, and the other is a slightly less dumb shit. You’ll find out which is which later. Chigusa’s dream is to become an idol (of course), and Kenta’s is to become a photographer. Notice that I’m talking a lot about people’s dreams. That’s because this is one of those shows, like Sailor Moon Super S, never shutting up for 5 minutes about how awesome dreams are.ginga-taro
Well, it’s our old friend Ultraman Taro! And he somehow manages to be introduced in a less dignified manner than Misuzu! And the worst part is, he stays in this form pretty much throughout the entire series, with the universe making sure to strip him of as much of his former glory as possible. His dream is to actually be able to move without the use of chuck-o-mation, manifested in his catch-phrase, “I just want to be big again!” Yeah, no kidding; I wish the Ultra Series was big again!

All forces of evil provided courtesy of Linkara!

All forces of evil provided courtesy of Linkara!

So the first episode begins with Hikaru returning to his hometown, where the first thing he does is to rescue Misuzu a baby stroller rolling down a hill. Apparently, this action is enough to warrant him as worthy of becoming an Ultraman. Boy, we’ve sure come a ways from the day when Hideki Goh sacrificed his life to save the life of a boy and his dog, haven’t we?

The Ginga Spark is this season’s transformation device, which is apparently an idol that the people of this small town worship. Of course, Hikaru shows off his heroic side by sneaking into the shrine in the middle of the night to look at it without permission. And this impresses the Spark enough for it to brand Hikaru as the “chosen savior” a term which goes so well when associated with a religious artifact.

Speaking of images that go well with obscure religions...

Speaking of images that go well with obscure religions…

Anyway, the next scene introduces us to our villains, one unseen, and the other being a modern version of the Alien Valkie from Ultraman Taro. Aside from the big bad, all the villains in this season are monsters from previous Ultra series, mostly the Showa Era. Anyway, Valkie is, for the most part, played up to be annoyingly flamboyant, but compared to what will come later, he’s not bad. As for the main villain, Dark Lugiel himself… well, look at the screenshot, and you’ll see what his motive is. He has to power to turn Ultramen and kaiju into action figures, effectively making toy-collecting his primary motive. The practice of action figure-collecting being portrayed as evil baffles me; shouldn’t viewers be encouraged to hoard piles of plastic shaped like their favorite characters? Unless this is a subtle way of implying that Bandai is evil, to which I absolutely agree.

With the main plot, Ultraman Taro forces Hikaru to hike up a mountain before providing him with the mandatory exposition dump, because… it’s too loud at night? Here, Hikaru also meets the episode’s villains of the week, two guys who dump trash into the river, which is supposed to be their “jobs”. I wonder how much one could expect to get paid for something like that. Dark Lugiel’s other schtick is that he manipulates the dark sides of humanity and turns them into monsters from past Ultra series, which is why he has so many action figures of them. Although “manipulates the dark sides of humanity” may be giving this show too much credit.

Another reason to collect toys: the fabulous selfies.

Another reason to collect toys: the fabulous selfies.

Hikaru finds an action figure of Black King, one of the most famous monsters from The Return of Ultraman, because the plot requires that Hikaru be able to show off the gimmick of him being able to “UltraLive” into kaiju. Basically, Hikaru becomes a kaiju for a bit, which is completely pointless because he’s never able to do anything in monster form. Hikaru finally turns into Ultraman Ginga when Ginga is really needed, which, in keeping with Ultraman tradition, is every episode. The monsters the villains of this episode are occupying is Thunder Darambia, a variation on the first monster that Ultraman Dyna fought. The monster is actually the two polluting assholes from earlier.

Basically, long story short (too late, I know), Hikaru gets into an awkward fight scene as some other legacy monster (Black King in this case), gets his ass kicked, something happens (usually to Misuzu) which triggers his deus ex senses, he turns into Ultraman Ginga, and destroys. Lather, rinse, repeat. The best thing that can be said about this formula is that the entire time you know in the back of your mind that it’s only 11 episodes. Oh, and Ginga has glowy Simon Sez lights all over his body. Zero stars!

Ultramen now 30% more eco-friendly!

Ultramen now 30% more eco-friendly!

But, when all is said and done, the pilot episode for Ultraman Ginga really isn’t all that bad. It’s not very good, mind you, but the action is decent and… the action is decent. And what more could you really ask for in an Ultraman season? Well, besides better characters and more interesting stories, but I’ll take what I can get.

Episode 2 is the fist of several episodes focused on Misuzu. For some reason, like half of the episodes are about her, and amazingly, none of them manage to make her likable or compelling. Another main character is also introduced…

As opposed to the other unsociable transfer student who had braces.

As opposed to the other unsociable transfer student who had braces.

This is Tomoya Ichijouji, who in this episode only has a cameo, but he’s a transfer student who is really smart, is great at sports, and is all stoic and emotionless most of the time. In other words, the most original character on the show! Of all the main characters, he doesn’t have a dream, because he dares to think the sacrilegious thought that dreams aren’t all that great. Guess how he develops throughout the series! That’s right, he becomes a voodoo violinist preacher marine biologist! Aren’t spoilers the best?

Anyway, back to “plot”. The main villain of this episode is this biker maniac who isn’t all one-dimensionally stereotypical, and has extremely compelling and complex reasons to engage in his habit of trying to run over girls on his motorcycle. An incident with the so-called “road fiend” gets Misuzu to remember those times when she alone in the woods when she was younger, and how scary that was. Because of this, she declares that she would only be a hindrance to Hikaru’s Ultraman Ginga duties, and tries to distance herself from her. Yeah, see, these kinds of plots only work when the character doubting him or herself proves to have worth as an assistant to the hero. Misuzu… doesn’t deliver on this, so the viewercan’t help but feel that she has a point beating herself up like this.

Needless to say, this guy is the most compelling character so far.

Needless to say, this guy is the most compelling character so far.

Of course, the biker guy has also been possessed by dark forces, and is able to DarkLive into Kemur Man, again from Ultraman, and infact further back than that, making his debut in Ultra Q. This occurs at night when Misuzu is all alone, leaving her open to attack. Fortunately, however, Hikaru is there to save her, just as he was back when she was a child lost in the forest. So basically, the point of this episode is to demonstrate that Misuzu’s only real purpose within the narrative is to get her ass saved by Hikaru. Not much changes in 9 episodes, unfortunately.

Well, now we know what Danny Antonuuci's art style was influenced by.

Well, now we know what Danny Antonuuci’s art style was influenced by.

Misuzu finally manages to return the favor to Hikaru for a change by kicking Kemur Man in the nuts. See, ladies, that’s how you advance in this world. Anyway, this allows Hikaru to UltraLive, kicking off the only reason to watch this season (or some may argue, any season of Ultraman at all). During the Gina fight, there’s one point where Hikaru asks the biker dude why he likes tormenting people with his bike, to which he responds, “Because it’s fun!” and then describing how much he loves people’s screams of anguish and pain. Seriously, why isn’t this guy the focus of the series? He makes for a far better villain that Valkie! He finally gets defeated by being thrown out into space, and fried by Ginga Fireballs.

It’s like they’re asking me to abuse the “destroyer of worlds” gag.

When I first saw this episode, I hated it. Looking back… I honestly don’t really see what I found wrong with it before. Again, it’s not a great episode at all, but I don’t find it to be egregiously terrible at any point. Despite my joking, Misuzu really isn’t half bad in this episode, even if she does come across as a little whiny. Really though, the highlight is the biker guy. It’s going to be hard to top him.

Kenta knows it, so he's not even gonna try.

Kenta knows it, so he’s not even gonna try.

The next episode begins with a (largely speculative) exposition dump about how Taro believes that the strange events that have been occurring are being caused by a being with the ability to manipulate hearts. ‘Course, the audience really should have figured that out by now, so a lot of it feels like padding. And anyway, immediately afterward, Hikaru and his friends decide to go an play with fireworks, assigning just the right amount of urgency to the situation. While loafing around, Kenta seems to hit it off with a woman named Yuuka who gets him to take a photograph of her in the school, reigniting his love of photography. Misuzu immediately doesn’t trust her because of bad lighting.

Yes, seriously.

Yes, seriously.

The next day, Kenta kicks Hikaru out of his room and basically reveals that his newfound motivation for taking photos is due entirely to the power of boners. Smooth. While outside, Hikaru meets up with Misuzu, who brings up her concerns about a “look” in Yuuko’s eye. If by her “eye”, you mean a one of the light directors accidentally moving the spotlight before cut was called, then yes, absolutely. Anyway, Kenta walks in on Misuzu telling Hikaru that she believes Kenta’s new friend is evil, which Kenta doesn’t take kindly to, due to his weakness for women who have face-glowy powers. While Kenta is gone, Yuuka finally reveals herself. Yes, I DO mean it that way this time, because in Japan the amount of clothing you wear is directly correlated to your morality. Also Valkie shows up for no reason other than to taunt and fight Ultraman Taro.

Well, “fight” may be too loose a term.

Finally, Yuuka burns down the school, which she definitely needed to undress to do. Hikaru Ultralives to Kemur Man, and uses a VERY conveniently placed fire extinguisher to mitigate the flames. After Valkie high-tails it out of there, the monsters finally turn into giants and fight. Yuuka’s monster is a very re-modeled Pandon, the final monster from Ultra Seven. The fight initially consists largely of Kemur Man getting curb-stomped while Yuuka talks about how impossible dreams are and such. Gosh, with my currently stagnant Sailor Moon Super S series, Go! Princess Precure, and this, it seems like every show I’ve ever seen is about how dreams are awesome.

Now open your mouth VERY wide.

Now open your mouth VERY wide.

Obviously, the turning point is when Hikaru turns into Ultraman Ginga. Hikaru talks about how it is up to Kenta whether or not he follows his dreams. Fair point, but Kenta’s kind of a douchebag, so no points there. Anyway, once again a new attack is pulled out of Ginga’s ass (or rather, his hands, Wolverine style) in the form of the Ginga Sabre, resulting in the most tedious, slow, and awkward finishing move to ever not be performed by William Shatner. As Yuuka is about to be defeated, she mentions something about being “lonely”. Don’t even try to make her sympathetic at this point, show, it was never gonna work out.

Oh, and Taro’s been captured by Tomoya in his giant flying robot, Jeankiller. Because all rich snobby guys have giant robots that can fly out into space which apparently contain an unlimited supply of oxygen. It finally just occurred to me that this show just tried to pass a guy stealing an action figure from someone as an “epic plot point”. It’s really about as “epic” as it sounds.

Needless to say, I didn’t really like this episode very much. The villain is boring, the fight is lame, and I really don’t care much for Kenta at all. His girl, though, is another story. A story which we will get to… right now.

Uh, Mr. Kusakawa? You're still in the shot, you know!

Uh, Mr. Kusakawa? You’re still in the shot, you know!

In episode 4, the plot is about Chigusa and her dream of becoming an idol. It’s funny how Chigusa and Kenta’s first focus episodes are about their dreams and aspirations, and Misuzu’s is about… batshit insane bikers, and how scary they are and stuff. Anyway, Chigusa has been practicing dancing and singing to the song “Summer Winds, Autumn Winds”, as the song has apparently taken the youth of Japan by storm. Big deal, a new song takes the youth of the nation by storm like every week.

There happens to be a photoshoot happening at the elementary school (because being featured on a magazine cover will definitely be taken into consideration by any parents looking to give their children the best possible education), but the model scheduled to appear has gotten a better-paying gig, and so canceled at the last minute. This looks like a golden opportunity for Chigusa to shine, but the cameraman instead decides to scout… Misuzu!

Few girls can make lollipops this sexy.

Few girls can make lollipops this sexy.

Misuzu tries to refuse, in the process reminding us that acting talent and being an idol have absolutely no correlation whatsoever. Chigusa is understandably pissed about this, and unlike Misuzu, her actress can actually pull this off convincingly (her actress’ stage name is Kirara, by the way, which I find highly amusing as I am following Go! Princess Precure). There is a brief scene in which Tomoya tries to use this as bait to get Chigusa to hate Misuzu. This scene turns out to be pointless, because future episodes will not follow up on this.

Next, while the shoot is occurring at a swimming pool (in an elementary school in what is implied to be a fairly small rural district. Uh huh.), Chigusa’s quest to fetch Misuzu some juice goes awry when some mysterious hand (Valkie’s) grabs her and trips her, humiliating her in a dastardly plot even more devious than anything Rita Repulsa has every come up with! The next scene shows Misuzu trying to comfort Chigusa, with the latter insisting she’s fine, requesting to be left alone, and then crying her eyes out. That’s… a REALLY effective scene, the likes of which will never be seen in the show’s future. Even Valkie can’t ruin it!

Whoa, really? I thought it was joy and happiness! Silly me!

Whoa, really? I thought it was joy and happiness! Silly me!

That night, another monster attack occurrs, this time by Ragon, a monster that actually dates back to Ultra Q, although it also appeared in Ultraman the next year. Ragon scares off the cameraman, so Kenta and Hikaru become new last-minute replacements the next day. However, Ragon attacks again during shooting, resulting in an awkward chase scene, something which seems to happen to Misuzu a LOT. Upon noticing that the monster paralyzes when hearing “Summer Winds, Autumn Winds” (which plays OUT OF NOWHERE), Misuzu realises that Ragon is Chigusa. Because no one else in Japan has expressed fondness for that song. Ragon grows big, and Hikaru UltraLives.

The rest of the episode is easy to figure out. Misuzu blasts the song to distract Chigusa, Ultraman Ginga makes his grand entrance, big speech about how dreams are awesome, and a new final attack, Ginga Comfort, which is basically a non-violent magical girl style “purification” move, giant robot comes out of nowhere and kicks Ginga’s ass. Okay, the last part a few people may not have predicted. Said robot is Jeankiller, being piloted by Tomoya. There was really purpose for that, so I’m going to assume that Tsuburaya really to sell some toys. Despite that, though, this is a really good episode featuring my favorite of the main characters, Chigusa, whose cheery demeanor and bubbly personality make for a far more sympathetic character than Misuzu will ever be. Even though the episode does fall victim to a lot of what is wrong with the other episodes, the more emotional scenes really work well. This is easily the best episode of the bunch.

The satellites orbiting Earth just didn't feel up to the task of existing today.

The satellites orbiting Earth just didn’t feel up to the task of existing today.

Episode 5 begins with a recap of what has happened so far. Basically, not much. Back in the present, Taro tries to talk to Tomoya in the robot Jeankiller, causing Tokoya to have… even more flashbacks. Sigh. One of which involved his father telling him that not having a dream is “not bad”. It turns out that Tomoya is under the influence of the Dark Spark, so he wants to defeat Ultraman Ginga. Which he had the perfect chance to do at the end of last episode, making that end fight ENTIRELY POINTLEESS.

Now presenting, Tomoya Ichijouji masterfully conveying his hopes, fears, insecurities, dreams, and determination, all in one face.

Now presenting, Tomoya Ichijouji masterfully conveying his hopes, fears, insecurities, dreams, and determination, all in one face.

That same day, Chigusa is brought in on the secret of the kaiju attacks and Ultraman Ginga. Exactly how long they were planning to keep giant fucking monsters attacking the town every week without problems is beyond me. The “it was a just a dream” excuse can only last so long. Our favorite junior photographer, Kenta, walks in on this, and believes that he is being excluded. Cue more whining and Kenta continuing to act like a true friend by guilt-tripping Hikaru and the rest! It should come as no surprise that Kenta is the monster this time, because the show is just that predictable. Hikaru meets up with Jeankiller again. This time, he Ultralives into Kemur Man and teleports inside the robot, to meet its pilot… Kenta! And the next scene takes place back outside on the ground anyway, so again, the robot’s appearance is ENTIRELY POINTLESS! Hooray for unnecessary set shooting!

And so Kenta ditched his dream and became a hip hop artist instead.

And so Kenta ditched his dream and became a hip hop artist instead.

After the commercial break, Hikaru, Misuzu, and Chigusa try to confront Kenta, but his massive douchebaggery instead gets him to smack Hikaru right across the face, continuing to whine about how his friends are morons for not telling him stuff. Because it was like death for me when I realized I didn’t know what types of underwear my friends wore. Lighten up, guy! Hikaru punches him right back… and that’s literally all there is to removing the influence of the Dark Spark on Kenta. Clearly, the evil force contained within the Dark Spark is unspeakably powerfully evil! Kenta was given the Spark Doll for Doragory, a mosnter from Ultraman Ace this time. Jeankiller shows up again, and so a fight ensues between Doragory and Jeankiller. Of course, Doragory is hopelessly outclassed, and so Ultraman Ginga must be called upon again.

Unedited footage of Takuya Kusakawa's initial gut reaction to the script.

Unedited footage of Takuya Kusakawa’s initial gut reaction to the script.

The battle goes into space, with a bunch of boring special moves being traded for a few minutes, before Ginga’s Plot Point Light starts blinking, forcing Hikaru to hastily go back down to Earth. For those unaware, Ultramen can only stay on Earth for about three minutes (which in TV Show Time is whatever the writers need) because of its atmosphere or something, and the Warning Light blinks when time is running out. After Hikaru gets saved by Jeankiller, the robot gets attacked by an unseen force. Said unseen force turns out to be Ultraman Tiga himself, who exists to raise this episode’s quality by a few points. Out of a few thousand. Anyway, this version of Tiga is evil, and the episode ends with it attacking both Hikaru and the now fully revealed Tomoya.
This episode SUCKED!!! Kenta is unbearable, anyT potential drama in the episode is merely used as a vehicle for lame action scenes with Jeankiller, all which go nowhere and don’t contribute to anything. Tiga was the only good thing about it, and that’s only by virtue of Ultraman Tiga being one of my favorite shows. Fortunately, there’s only one more to go before I rap up this recap.

Hey, baby! Did I mention that my crotch is made of light?

Hey, baby! Did I mention that my crotch is made of light?

Episode 6 picks up right where episode 5 left off, with Tiga attacking Tomoya and Hikaru. However, they are saved by Ultraman Taro’s awfully convenient teleportation powers. Back at the school, the core group of friends tries to talk to Tomoya about his less than glamorous opinion of dreams. It turns out that he finds them worthless because all his life everything he ever wanted has been handed to him. Well, great, but that doesn’t excuse the potential death and destruction you could cause with a giant robot. In another flashback with his father, it’s revealed that Tomoya’s father seems to value dreams after all. Not that it matters, because we will never see Tomoya’s father again.

...There are no words...

…There are no words…

Ultraman Taro talks to Tomoya, and relates a story of how he was scolded by his father for wanting to be just like him, because his father wanted to be his own man. Hey, something profound actually did come from this show. Didn’t it had it in it. As Taro’s mother is teaching this moral, she says, “Nobody else can replace you.” Except, you know, when the production team decides to hire a new suit actor. Of course, Tomoya dines this by citing the incidents in previous episodes, in which people tried to attain their desires using despicable means.

Though to be fair, there's not a whole lot of ways to pursue

Though to be fair, there’s not a whole lot of ways to pursue “running over people on a motorcycle” without using some despicable means.

Hikaru and the rest show up to spew out more stuff about how dreams should be fun, and even worrying about whether or not they’ll come true is what makes them so damn fun. Not that this makes any difference in Tomoya’s opinion, because he can do anything he wants without any real effort. Hearing this, Hikaru tells Tomoya to defeat Ultraman Ginga to prove this statement. And so they fight, an event that quickly devolves into a glorified game of mercy. Finally, Ultraman Ginga reaches inside of Jeankiller and crushes Tomoya’s Dark Spark.

Right afterward, Ginga is attacked by Dark Tiga, who has a serious knack for showing up just after something important has gone on with Tomoya. Meanwhile, a cringe-inducing scene takes place with Valkie, who is honestly only there to taunt our heroes. Taro attempts to use Valkie as bait to get Dark Tiga to withdraw, but instead he just turns Valkie into a giant too. After some more fighting, Tomoya is wondering whether defeating Ultraman Ginga is truly beyond him. And… the show seriously does the “magic tear revival” cliche. It works even less with a character as stoic as Tomoya! Anyway, Jeankiller is revitalized as Jean-Nine, and Tomoya joins Hikaru in a double team battle against Dark Tiga and Valkie. And by “double team battle”, I mean he knocks Valkie back and then they spam their finishing moves, resulting in fun times and explosions all around.

Tomoya running out of places to fit Jean-Nine's weapons, or a symbolic statement of Tokoya's closeted sexual orientation? You make the call!

Tomoya running out of places to fit Jean-Nine’s weapons, or a symbolic statement of Tokoya’s closeted sexual orientation? You make the call!

After the fight, Ultraman Ginga speaks for the first time, congratulating Hikaru on his victory. Of course, when asked questions by Taro actually relevant to the plot, such as why he is the only Ultra to remain sentient after being turned into a doll, Ginga is still silent, because dramatic irony! Also, Ginga’s Plot Point Light has been blinking for a while now. way longer than it did last episode. Maybe it’s Ultra Adaptation at work?
Finally, Tomoya says that he will fight alongside Ultraman Ginga, because he does not want Ginga to be defeated by anyone other than him. This could lead to some interesting plot developments in a longer series, but Tomoya’s arc is basically ditched for the second half of the show. Ah well, what we did get wasn’t half bad. There’s some genuine depth to Tomoya’s character and some legitimate reasons for him to be the way he is, and it really feels like he has grown as a person by the end. The action in this episode is a lot of fun, and finally Valkie’s gone! He’ll be replaced by someone even more annoying, but for the time being, the satisfaction is still there.

This is why you REALLY don't to attempt a fist bump with a being of light.

This is why you REALLY don’t to attempt a fist bump with a being of light.

So that’s the first half of Ultraman Ginga. How was it? Well, despite a couple of clunkers, it’s really not all that bad. But it’s not particularly good, either. Again, the show is at its best when it decides NOT to focus on its story and characters in favor of rubber suit action, which is usually not a good sign. Although said story and characters are not particularly interesting or even likable (with the exception of Chigusa), there is still fun to be had, even if these episodes lack the more emotional moments of Ultra Series past.
But we’re not done yet. For this is only the first half of the series. There are still 5 more episodes left, and this is when things start to get BAD. Until then, have a wonderful day, and be prepared for some Nickelodeon teen drama levels of angsty bullshit!

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