Monday, November 7, 2011

ULTRAMAN MONDAYS: Coast Guard Orders

Every Monday I review an episode from the classic Ultraman television series.

Episode 06: "Coast Guard Orders" (catch up on past episodes)
 aka. "The Coast Guard Commands"

Original Air Date: August 21, 1966
Featured Monster: Gesura


A giant sea monster with a love for cacao beans comes ashore and wreaks havoc while Hoshino and his friends attempt to apprehend the notorious smuggler Diamond Kick.


I was not expecting to like this week's episode of Ultraman for two reasons. First, this week's installment is another episode where the Hoshino and his annoying friends take center stage, just as in the abysmal "Five Seconds Before the Explosion". Also like that episode, this week's monster is yet another sea monster, and the last sea monster we had didn't turn out so great. So imagine my surprise when I found this episode to be actually sort of exciting.

Another episode of Ultraman about unsupervised minors
The episode begins with Hoshino -- the Science Patrol's sidekick -- hanging out with his friends down at the pier. When one of his friends claims to spot a monster in the water, Hoshino takes the binoculars to see for himself. Instead of a monster, however, he trains his sight on a pair of suspicious men up to no good.

No one who dresses in a fedora can be on the up-and-up
Ignoring his friend's pleas about a monster, Hoshinio -- ever the meddler -- follows the men to a warehouse where they're cutting open bags of cacao beans recently brought in by ship. Turns our Hoshino was right to be suspicious: one of the men is none other than the infamous smuggler Diamond Kick

Pleaise, oh pleaise
Hoshino puts in a call to the Science Patrol for help, but he's basically laughed off. The Science Patrol has bigger fish to fry; specifically, they're trying to figure out why a shark has washed up completely mutilated. What could do such a thing?

All your cacao are belong to us
Meet Gesura. An amphibious sea creature from South America, Gesura loves to eat cacao beans. Gesura is adorned with fins and toxic spikes, but is generally a harmless creature. This Gesura, though, has been mutated by the contents of Tokyo harbor and grown to gigantic proportions. It's on the rampage, looking for cacao and smashing any warehouses in its way.

The results of Stranger Danger
Around the same time Gesura surfaces at the pier, Hoshino and his friends are kidnapped by Diamond Kick for meddling in his smuggling ways. Diamond Kick takes them to a warehouse that is conveniently in the path of the rampaging Gesura. Diamond Kick and his associate fire at the beast from the window, but it only enrages the monster.

How far into the distance are we supposed to believe bullets can fly?
Gesura, unlike Ragon, is a much more accomplished monster suit. With a well-defined head, bulging eyes, and plenty of fins and spikes, Gesura looks more like a sea monster than Ragon, who was more akin to a guy wrapped in wet trash bags. Gesura does considerably much more destruction than Ragon, and the model-work in these scenes is impressive given the budget for this 1966 weekly TV series. Plenty of warehouses are reduced to rubble by the frantic monster.

For God's sake, someone get that monster a box of Coco Puffs!
The Science Patrol arrives, but their weapons prove useless. Meanwhile, Hayata -- the secret identity of Ultraman -- rushes into a collapsing warehouse to save the kids but ends up being pinned under the rubble and unable to reach the Beta capsule, which triggers his transformation into Ultraman. The kids do manage to escape, and the Science Patrol (assuming Hayata dead), pile with the kids into a police car to make their escape. Not so fast! The irate Gesura looms over them and raises a webbed foot, about to stomp our heroes into a fine paste.

Gesura is more than a match for optical effects
Thankfully, Hayata manages to reach the Beta capsule and transforms into Ultraman. Ultraman swoops in to save his friends from Gesura. Ultraman places them out of harm's way, and this week's monster battle can begin. Ultraman and Gesura tumble and grapple around the ruined pier, but Ultraman is suddenly weakened after coming into contact with Gesura's toxic spikes.

Ultraman: He'll Pick You Up
With time running out as Ultraman's energy quickly depletes, Ultraman and Gesura roll off the pier and into the water. There, Ultraman has the opportunity to exploit Gesura's one weakness: a vulnerable fin on its head. Ultraman tears the fin from Gesura's head, and Gesura reacts by splashing away. Fatally wounded, Gesura dies and sinks back into the depths from which it came. Ultraman flies away from the scene, transforms back into Hayata, and retrieves Diamond Kick and his associate to bring the smugglers to justice.

The age-old battle of Man vs. Fish
 With both a monster and smuggler plots that dovetail into an exciting conclusion full of property damage and monster-on-monster wrestling, I can't fault this week's episode despite its focus on Hoshino and his friends. They manage to avoid being too annoying for once. It probably helped that they spend at least some of the time stuffed into burlap sacks as kidnapping victims. I probably enjoyed that more than I should have.

All in all, "Coast Guard Orders" turned out to be a fine episode. More Ultraman to come next week! See you then.

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