There is something that reminds me of Classic ULTRAMAN when it comes to the latest Ultraman series, Ultraman Z, which you can watch every Friday night on Tsuburaya Productions Official ULTRAMAN YouTube channel (with English subtitles).
First of all, the effects are incredible, placing new emphasis on highly detailed miniatures and imaginative Kaiju battles. The series pays homage to the great original Ultra Brothers, including the appearance of Ultraman, Ultraman Leo, and Ultraman Taro on some of Haruki’s coins. And, of course, many of the monsters themselves are O.G. Kaiju from those early series, including one of my all-time faves, Gomess, who actually debuted in Ultraman’s predecessor series Ultra Q.
But the most recent arc of episodes feature concepts and themes that truly make Ultraman Z stand apart as one of the best of the franchise’s past ten years.
In episode 11, “What Must Be Defended”, STORAGE must contend with the return of Red King, another of Ultraman’s classic Kaiju foes. After Ultraman Z slays the monster, Haruki (still hosting Zett) realizes that Red King was really just trying to defend his mate, hidden underground, and their unhatched child. Horrified, Haruki freezes, which means that Zett takes no further action.
We learn that years ago Haruki’s father, a fireman, was killed while trying to protect Haruki and his mom against the rampaging Kaiju, Giestron. For the first time, Haruki is forced to consider the ramifications of teaming with Zett to kill loads of giant creatures, some of whom may not be intentionally trying to cause chaos. In that moment, Haruki realizes that he is committing an injustice, and protects the Red King mother, allowing her to return to a peaceful existence with her egg beneath the Earth.
What’s interesting to me from their dialog here is that Zett is intent on getting the job done, but Haruki has stepped on the brakes. Zett does not argue with Haruki. Nor does he when Haruki hesitates again against Grigio Raiden in episode 12, “The Cry of Life.” In this case, Haruki realizes that the Kaiju’s rampage was a response to the human experimentation that caused its incredible suffering.
In Ultraman canon, we know that Ultras will almost never force their hosts to do anything against their will. The Giant that fights on Earth is not just the Ultra—it’s the Ultra’s power and will in tandem with that of the host.
The Ultra cannot do battle unless he is in sync with the human. In this case, Haruki does not want to fight, and Zett abides. At the end of the day, every Ultra respects their host’s choices, even if they don’t necessarily understand or agree with them.
Different perspectives are given by other characters. Captain Hebikura (who is really Jugglus Juggler) notes Haruki’s decision with disappointment. That attitude is going to come back to bite you! he thinks. STORAGE ace pilot Yoko is confused in the field. There is no place for monsters on their world.
We even get to hear from Haruki’s heroic father in a touching scene between them made possible by a time warp generated by the Kaiju Bullton in episode 14, “Four-Dimensional Capriccio”. He tells Haruki that he can’t allow himself to be paralyzed by doubt. He must do what he can for the people around him, and if that harms some, he cannot forget them.
In other words, don’t get bogged down in things you can’t control. Focus on what you can do rather than despairing over what you can’t. Take responsibility over the choices you make. But this can’t stop you from moving forward.
A brilliant piece of advice. When it comes to ethical concerns, sometimes there isn’t a clear answer, but decisions and actions still need to be taken. Even though the path is obscured, Zett allows Haruki to try and forge his own destiny anyway.
All of us loyal fans know, this is what will lead to Zett and Haruki’s earning of the Delta Rise Claw, Ultraman Z’s ultimate form!
With this, Ultraman Z proves a thesis point of the entire Ultraman story world: It’s not enough to beat up our problems. We must take the time to more deeply understand them, and reconcile ourselves to solve them. How cool is Zett!
Ultraman Transmedia Producer