A couple of months ago, I watched, recapped, and summed up my thoughts about the series Ultraman Ginga. A relatively short story even shorter, I didn’t like it very much. It was almost enough to make me wonder if the Ultra Series was ever even all that great to begin with, to make me wonder if my childhood was a lie, to make me wonder if Tsuburaya would ever drag themselves out of the hole that they’d dug. Well, fortunately the answers to these questions are yes, no, and yes. Ginga‘s sequel series, Ultraman Ginga S, is rather superior to its predecessor. Like Ginga, Ginga S is rather silly and over-the-top, but not in a way that insults your intelligence, and with characters who the writers even bothered to make likeable. I can happily say that Ultraman Ginga was only a terrible but brief misstep in the Ultra Series otherwise stellar run. Let’s take a look at exactly how this series managed to outdo its father show by recapping the first eight episodes!
Episode 1 begins with our hero Hikaru Raido arriving in Yucatan, Mexico, or rather, an incredibly realistic and not at all digitally-rendered Yucatan. He’s exploring the world now, in accordance with his dream. However, these plans have to wait because it turns out that Ultraman Ginga needs him again!
So then we get to the theme song. It’s amazing. I like it even more than Ginga‘s theme, and that’s saying something. Like last year’s song, this one is fast, intense, and was basically designed to get your adrenaline up.
The episode proper begins with a light-blond haired cyborg wearing dark clothing (basically an anime cosplayer) using her powers to steal crystal material known as Victorium from the underground world, where people don’t have any exposure to sunlight but still have relatively normal complexions. Apparently Victorium is the source of the underground people’s life, so that could very well be the reason no one underground is pale. Under the promise not to harm “Surface Dwellers”, the warrior Shou is sent up to deal with the threat, along with the Victory Lancer.
The who’s back of his head I have so generously provided is Shou. He’s a decent enough character in his own right, but it takes a while for that to really show.
At the surface, in Japan, a monster comes up along with the stolen Victorium and starts wreaking havoc as usual. Hikaru is back in Japan now for some reason, saying that he saw similar events in Mexico. Because of course he is. Here he meets two members of this season’s defense team (yes, this show actually has one), UPG.
These two are Arisa Sugita and Gouki Masumoto, the “tough girl” and “goofy guy” archetypes, respectively. Both try to attack the monster through the typically effective method of shooting it, which amazingly doesn’t work. Hikaru hijacks their car, and entices the monster into chasing him, and through some clever tricks and turns, makes the monster trip over its own feet, a method that is sadly more effective than anything else that UPG has in store.
The Victorium is successfully stolen, as Shou arrives. He calls back his monster, Shepardon, and runs after the cyborg lady after seeing her on the mountaintop. The captain tells the two team members of UPG to look for Shou, which “takes priority” over dealing with Shepardon apparently. Um, no. No it doesn’t. I know that this mystery is interesting, but saving lives is your ultimate purpose.
Hikaru finds Shou, and they have their first conversation. Naturally, being an Ultraman protagonist, Hikaru starts talking about how everyone is friends under the same sky, which Shou scoffs at. As this goes on, cyborg lady starts another crystal-stealing process. A pointless diatribe about friendship that interrupts the flow of an episode? Just like old times! Shou confronts Cyborg Lady, who after some dallying around Ultralives into EX Red King (so… a dead Red King?) and beats the crap out of a resurfaced Shaepardon.
Witnessing this, Shou transforms back into Ultraman Victory, and starts to fight Red King with (*gasp) ACTUAL CHOREOGRAPHY! As in, with punching and kicking, not just two guys in suits running against each other. Along the way, Arissa and Gouki get trapped under some rubble. Hikaru begs to the Ginga Spark to be reunited with Ultraman Ginga, and of course it works, the only difference being that he can transform without Ultraliving into another monster first, a huge asset to this show’s watchability.
I gotta say, it’s pretty surreal to see Ginga actually fight a monster. Anyway, when Red King is defeated, and Ginga is about to take his Spark Doll, Victory intercepts it, using its power on himself, before proceeding to attack his way into a cliffhanger.
This is a decent introduction to the series, with just enough material to establish the situation without revealing too much exposition. The only real scene that doesn’t gel is the first exchange between Hikaru and Shou, but that is a problem that will easily be remedied in future episodes.
Episode 2 begins with a fight scene between Ultraman Ginga and Ultraman Victory, which is interrupted by a blinding white light of forced exposition. It’s actually a scene with Hikaru talking to Ultraman Ginga about Victory. Ginga says that he senses no darkness in Victory’s heart, which means that Shou definitely doesn’t routinely use his motorcycle to run over people. Hikaru is taken by Gouki and Arisa to UPG headquarters.
Meanwhile, Shou’s family express concern that he may not be mature enough to handle using Victory’s powers. Shou’s siblings, Repi and Sakuya are on the surface to meet Shou as well.
These two are pretty standard sibling archetypes, and are not bad ones, either, if nothing too spectacular.
Hikaru is taken to UPG headquarters, where he is commended for his bravery. Apparently, UPG stands for “Ultra Party Guardians”. Why add the Party in there? It seriously sucks out the badass in the name. Tomoya from last season is revealed to be the scientist for UPG. He’s studying the crystals that have appeared throughout Earth (it’s Victorium), and apparently Shepardon is made out of it. Hikaru joins because this “sounds like a bit of an adventure”. Well, saving lives, being reunited with old friends, and getting to have insane amounts of power once again would be pretty neat reasons, too.
The crew deduce from a series of power outages that an electrical monster is terrorizing the Shimogaoka area in search of Victorium. After some brief fish-out-of-water shenanigans with Repi and Sakuya, cyborg lady summons the monster of the week, just as UPG and Shou arrive on the scene. Shou tangles with cyborg lady for a bit before being interrupted by UPG. Eventually, when cornered by Arisa, cyborg lady UltraLives again into Eleking.
As the walking behemoth of office worker layoffs does its thing, Hikaru saves Shou from falling rubble, which is once again a massive step up from saving Misuzu from a stray stroller. Shou prcoeeds to transform and kick ass. And he’s not out of anything. However, Victory is overwhelmed, and Ginga has to swoop in to assist him. After a team effort, Victory defeats Eleking literally by shooting the letter V at it.
The episode ends with another meeting between Shou and Hikaru, with Hikaru continuing to give speeches about how their goals are the same. This was another fun episode, with plenty of action and just enough exposition to not feel too bogged down. Next up is episode 3.
In this episode, because of cyborg lady’s failures, the alien Bolst comes in to call the shots this time. The subplot of the episode is about the siblings Repi and Sakuya as they engage in the usual fish-out-of-water antics, before monsters attack and cyborg lady is out stealing Victorium.
Bolst’s plan is infinitely better than cyborg lady’s by virtue of the fact that he is using multiple monsters to attack at once, and the plot has decided that Ultraman Ginga can’t have a beam that shoots in all directions (yet). Fortunately, Ginga can rest up a bit as the Victorium transfer process is interrupted by Shou, who unfortunately finds out the hard way that asking the villains why they are stealing Victorium doesn’t exactly trigger fruitful responses, only a sackful of nameless stuntmen in alien suits to defeat.
After the ordeal, Shou tells Repi and Sakuya not to follow him to the surface anymore, and Hikaru once again tries without success to be buddies with him. As Hikaru recovers from his wounds, Tomoya discovers some more exposition from analysis of cyborg lady’s metal; she is not from Earth, and the Victorium could potentially be used to destroy the world if used as a weapon. Put two and two together, and the plan is clear: the US military wants to use the Victorium to destory the world!
Shou goes back to fight the Imperializers (essentially giant foot soldiers) again, but Bolst UltraLiving into King Joe quickly does him in. As UPG joins the fight, Hikaru is distraught that he cannot currently do anything to help. However, a familiar entity named Ultraman Taro comes back to assist him. Apparently it’s time for Hikaru to inherit the power of the Ultra Brothers, because only Hikaru can remain grinning even when he’s supposed to be angry. Or that could just be shitty acting.
At first it seems as though Ginga is having trouble again, but Arisa and Gouki have new effective weapons to assist him with. The rest of the episode shows off the Ginga Strium, a device that allows Hikaru to activate old moves used by past Showa-era Ultramen by spinning a dial to the desired attack. Impressively, Hikaru never has to turn the thing back. Is he just selecting the powers at random?
The episode ends with yet ANOTHER friendship speech from Hikaru. Okay, this is getting old now. And that pretty much describes this episode. At this point, it feels like the same episode has been made 3 times. It’s not a bad episode being rehashed repeatedly, but it feels like time is being wasted in a relatively short 16 episode series. The only real noteworthy feature of this episode is a stunning final fight with the Ginga Strium, but otherwise this one is fairly hollow outside of some more revealing exposition and the introduction of a stock new villain.
In episode 4, the main villain is cyborg lady once again, this time her priority being to defeat Ultraman Ginga and Victory. So she doesn’t waste any more time and Lives into Sadora pretty much immediately. Shou, as Ultraman Victory, tries to fight the monster, but he can no longer use the kaiju powers for some reason. Ginga joins in, and makes quick use of the Ginga Strium to defeat Sadora. And so the plot of the first three episodes are crammed into 9 minutes. Excellent.
It goes without saying that immediately afterward is another scene in which Hikaru tries to be friends with Shou by giving him something, only to be coldly rebuffed. Shou angrily declares to his mother that he is going to protect the Victorium without the help of the
action figures Spark Dolls, to which she responds with telling him to listen to Hikaru. That’s not exactly a fluid conversation there, but it’s something we haven’t much of in the first three episodes, so kudos there.
Shou wanders around the underworld, seeing Repi tryin to be stronger to accompany him to the surface world, and Shepardon apparently looking concerned (hard to tell with rubber suits). Shou reassures Shepardon by saying that he is just fine on his own. 3 guesses as to what lesson Shou learns by the end. In case you’re stumped, the next scene is Shou asking Hikaru directly what he’s missing, and Hikaru going on another schpiel about friendship, this time with clips from Ginga (the last thing I wanted to see).
This is followed by another monster attack (Gudon). So it’s two interchangeable episodes for the price of one! Shou transforms again, but Hikaru doesn’t because this is “Shou’s fight”. Too bad being in metaphorical possession of a fight doesn’t exactly help with not getting your ass kicked. Just as Gudon is about to land the finishing blow, Shepardon stops the attack and fights. Arisa and Gouki join in, and even Repi shows up with the Spark Dolls. When Gudon is about to kill Repi, it is stopped by Hikaru Lived into Sadora for some reason.
As Repi finally tosses the Spark Doll for King Joe up to Shou, he realizes the importance of friendship and whatnot, and is able to use King Joe’s power. Gudon is quickly gotten rid of. And so Shou finally permanently buddies up with Hikaru and we can finally get to the filler episodes that make up the bread and butter of this franchise.
This is another episode that has trouble getting out of the formulaic trappings of its predecessors. But as a conclusion to the opening arc, it’s satisfactory.
Episode 5 concerns Gouki and his questioning the necessity of UPG when Ultraman Ginga and Victory seem to be doing all the work. As he is pondering this, he gets possessed by Yapool, the Big Bad from Ultraman Ace. This gives him the chance to attack UPG from the inside, and for Kato Takahiro to overact his balls off.
Gouki’s incredibly subtle rampage through UPG Headquarters (so subtle that Tomoya and Arisa manage to figure out who he is pretty much instantly, making me wonder what the point of possessing Gouki was to begin with) culminates with him warping Hikaru into some other dimension that looks like the opening to the original Ultraman. He also manages to figure out that Shou is Ultraman Victory through glancing at Tomoya’s research.
While Gouki/Yapool is going after Shou, the Victorian instructs a nearby pregnant lady to run, but she doesn’t get very far before tripping, and causing some things to happen with her baby. Yeah, I’m not familiar with childbirth jargon, so bear with me. As Yapool is about to kill her, Gouki intervenes from within himself, and holds off Yapool long enough to assist her.
While driving to the hospital, Gouki continues to struggle for control over his body. saying that protecting people is why he joined UPG in the first place. As Ultraman Victory fights Yapool’s monster, Vakishim. Hikaru manages to break out of the barrier he’s trapped in because creating a barrier from the inside of another barrier destroys hyperspace… or something. That kind of logic would have saved a buttload of time in Tokumei Sentai Gobusters.
As Victory continues to fight Vakishim, Ginga goes after Gouki, who successfully brings the pregnant woman to the hospital, only to finally succumb to Yapool and become a fully-fledged monster. But it doesn’t get to do much before Gouki manages to psychologically separate himself from Yapool. The rest of the episode is basically fighting, with a spectacular double battle between the Ultramen and the monsters. Everything turns out okay for the pregnant lady, and Gouki is back to the closest to normalcy as this guy can muster.
This episode is freaking hilarious. What should have been a standard possession episode is made into something truly one of a kind with Gouki’s meme-worthy facial expressions. He dominates the episode so much that Hikaru and Shou are practically non-entities in comparison. But back to non-Gouki related stuff next episode, which is very very unfortunate.
Episode 6 is about a girl named Hiyori who is following Shou around as he wanders around being a brooding loner doing brooding loner things. She claims to be half-Victorian, as well as that Shou’s people are trying to exterminate hers. She quickly takes the Victory Lancer and Lives into Gomora. However, upon viewing Shepardon, she transforms back, returning to the villain base. When asked to explain her motivations, she continues with the incredibly vague “they made our people suffer!” schpiel. And she just takes Gomora again to go for a second round. Well, that accomplished nothing.
Shou and Hikaru meet up with the Victorian Queen Kisara. She brings up that only Chosen Victorians can use the Victory Lancer, and so Hiyori might be one as well. Shepardon reveals the truth in a flashback, in which the Victorians fought over the Victory Lancer, with some saying that it must be used to protect the Earth, and others maintaining that anyone with its power will only misuse it. You know, something that would make for a far more interesting episode.
Kisara asks Hikaru to retrieve the VIctory Lancer without fighting Hiyori, so when Hiyori attacks again as Gomora, Hikaru immediately transforms into Ultraman Ginga and fights Hiyori. This is why Shou is the one entrusted with the Lancer, I guess. After failing to reason with her, Hikaru uses the Ginga Strium and tries to use the Strium Ray, but it blocked by Shepardon. Ginga is attacked by cyborg lady as Golza
Soon it’s everyone against Golza, who retaliates by beating the shit out of Ginga and Shepardon and… ripping Gomora’s tail off and using it as a whip. Okay, the rest of the episode, no, the rest of the series doesn’t even matter anymore, because that is incredibly awesome. This is the sort of graphic violence that I’ve been missing since the good ol’ days! Gomora’s defeat allows Shou to reclaim the Lancer, and his transformation into Victory seals Golza’s defeat. When Hiyori comes to, Kisara reveals the truth to Hiyori, and she is accepted back as one of the Victorian people.
This episode isn’t very good. Hiyori is just another angsty little brat without any defining character traits other than yelling about how much she suffers. The potentially poignant conflict between her and Shou’s people is completely squandered under Hiyori’s frankly boring story, and her eventual acceptance back into the Victorians is clumsily handled. The big redeeming factor is, of course, Golza’s tail whip, but that is not enough to save an otherwise boring waste of time.
Might as well introduce the main villain now, which I haven’t done before because, well, big fishes. This is Exceller, an alien Chibu first seen in Ultra Seven. He’s quite literally the brains behind everything, and talks like Mother Brain from Captain N the Game Master. And that’s all you need to know, at least according to the writers of this show.
In this episode, Exceller has finally figured out that Shepardon’s back is made of Victorium, so he is the next target. Because of Hiyori’s knowledge, the Victorians now know who Exceller is as well. In order to track Shepardon’s movement, Tomoya concocts a plan to track the magnetic waves contained in the crystal, but needs to reprogram the antenna to do so.
The plan is disrupted by cyborg lady, who plans to blow up UPG headquarters. Though you’d think that the headquarters would be targeted more often considering how easy it is to tear through the secutiry here. As chaos erupts in the headquarters, Shou tries to help Shepardon outside. As the Magnewave is completed, Commander Yoshiaki uses it to damage Shepardon’s attackers a bit, but not before he and Hikaru are attacked themselves, throwing the Commader off the building. To save him, Hikaru transforms.
Meanwhile, Arisa takes the cube-shaped bomb that cyborg lady is holding from her, but the bomb is about to go off. Ultraman Victory is also getting tossed around by the monster Gan-Q, and Ginga’s not doing so hot with Golza either. Amidst all this chaos, time is saved for yet another friendship speech… from Tomoya this time, while he’s disarming Arisa’s differential space bomb. Not sure where that came from, but it’s good that they’re friends and everything.
Immediately after Tomoya’s moment in the spotlight, Victory achieves, well, victory with the help of Captain Yoshiaki shooting the metaray, and Ginga beats Golza with the help of the Ginga Strium. So the moral here is that reminding yourselves about how friends are awesome will make everything go right for you, I guess? Not everything has to be an aesop about friendship, you know! Tomoya sucessfully disarms the bomb, and everything is okay.
As Exceller’s pointless hourglass runs out, Exceller commends the recent mission, because its real purpose was to gather energy for him, which has now gotten high enough for him to MonsLive into a combination of Golza, Gan-Q, Melba, Reigubas, and Super COV. He immediately comes down on our heroes, and subsequently wipes the floor with their asses, setting up the mid-season finale.
This episode was a nice step up from the previous ones, in that it actually feels like the stakes have been raised. More effort has been put into the villains’ plans, more ingenuity and quick-thinking needs to be done by the heroes, every character has a specific role to play, and so on so forth. There is scarcely a dull moment, and the cliffhanger is set up right when it seems like everyone is finally safe. The only real issue I have is Tomoya’s horrendously out of place talk about the bonds of friendship, which just sticks out like a sore thumb. Otherwise, though, this is a stellar episode and one of the better ones of the first half.
Episode 8 begins with the reveal that Ultraman Ginga and Victory cancelled their UltraLives so that their human partners could survive the attack. Exceller formally introduces himself to everyone and demands all the world’s Victorium by the next day. Shou also finally formally introduces himself to the UPG members and explains about Victorium nd how it is the “particle that forms the universe”. Sure, keep telling yourselves that, and maybe it’ll be true.
Since Victorium has similar properties as the magnewaves from earlier, Tomoya plans to reprogram Shepardon’s Victorium energy to the Ultras’ color timers in hopes of reviving them. As cyborg lady comes to, she is given one last mission in light of her most recent failure: namely, a suicide bombing mission. Hikaru and Shou go to stop her. Exceller also decides to MonsLive again and wreak havoc as Five King (the term for his monster combination).
Shou fights cyborg lady as Hikaru UltraLives into various kaiju to try and deal with Five King, without much success. Hikaru continues to talk about friendship or whatever, and Shou encourages cyborg lady to go against her fate. When she refuses, Shou quickly uses his designated chosen warrior light thing to defeat her.
Tomoya in the meantime has finished with his reprogramming, and Arisa and Gouki complete the energy transfer, reviving the two Ultras. The rest of the episode is, of course, a slugfest between Ginga, VIctory and Five King. It’s a very dynamic battle, with some effective use of teamwork and a deluge of old Showa-era beam moves courtesy of the Ginga Strium, all of which leave Five King biting the dust. As the two Ultras fly off victorious into the sunset, Exceller lurks behind in the dark, claiming that this was all “according to plan”. Well, if your plan banked on the Ultras being able to defeat Five King, then that’s a fairly slim chance you took.
This is a worthy follow up to the previous episode that manages to satisfyingly feel conclusive while also setting up plot threads for future episodes fairly smoothly. The whole “friendship” thing doesn’t feel as odd as before, too. A feeling of accomplishment and a feeling of foreboding of what is to come is achieved, which is what a mid-season finale is supposed to do.
And that was the first half of Ultraman Ginga S. A very solid string of eight episodes, if rather unremarkable and samey in some spots. But no characters are annoying, except occasionally for Hikaru with all of his talk about friendship, the action is miles above its predecessor, and the villains are genuinely threatening. The second half with bring some more variety to the table, and the return of a still relatively recent foe. Until then, have a happy New Year!
PS. Yes, I know cyborg lady is actually Android One-Zero. I still called her cyborg lady because… um, flow and structure and stuff. Yeah, that’s it!