Episode 10: "The Mysterious Dinosaur Base" (catch up on past episodes)
Original Air Date: September 18, 1966
Featured Monster: Jirass
A monster-obsessed scientist with a connection to Loch Ness unleashes a dangerous dinosaur beast from beneath Lake Kitayama.
When one starts watching Japanese science fiction fantasy shows, one has to be prepared for a certain level of culture shock and weirdness. Ultraman is no exception, but this week's episode takes the cake as one of the most bizarre and nonsensical episodes yet. I had to watch "The Mysterious Dinosaur Base" twice -- once in Japanese with subtitles and once with the English dub -- just to understand what was going on, and I'm still not sure what to make of it. To make the episode even more surreal, this week's episode features a monster with an unmistakable and unavoidable resemblance to Japan's most famous giant monster.
|Wardrobe Provided by Mad Scientist's Secret|
|Science Patrol Assemble!|
|Any kaiju fan worth his salt will recognize this tell-tale tail|
|Will the luxury never end?|
|First, this crudely painted cave. Tomorrow, the world!|
|I shot the Sheriff, but I did not shoot the Ide|
Another confusing cut takes us away from the base to a group of fishermen who are using poison in the lake to bring up a large catch of the giant fish (which, by the way, have not yet been explained). The poison aggravates the submerged beast, and we get to see our very first glimpse of the mysterious Jirass.
That is so clearly Godzilla that it's not even funny. The sudden appearance of what is undeniably a spray-painted Godzilla wearing a collar took me by surprise. Eji Tsuburaya left special effects at Toho to create Tsuburaya Productions, the production company behind Ultraman. He made extensive use of Toho's monster costumes (which he helped create) for Ultra Q and Ultraman by reusing them for new monsters. Reportedly, Baragon couldn't appear in the Godzilla feature Destroy All Monsters as planned in the script because the suit was on loan to Tsuburaya or too badly damaged from its use in Ultraman. However, the costumes repurposed for Ultraman were usually well-disguised. Jirass is so obviously Godzilla, an iconic children's hero by 1966, that I have to wonder if the lack of disguising features and the fate Jirass/Godzilla meets isn't some kind of statement from Eji Tsuburaya about Godzilla, his former creation, and Toho, his former employer.
|Atomic breath is by no means only a Godzilla trait, but come on...|
The monster begins to go on a badly edited rampage (how did those fishermen end up in the water?), and his reign of terror is encouraged by Nakamura, who runs towards his monster, rambling on about how he has created Jirass with his own two hands so the world could marvel at its perfect features and perfect ferocity. Is Jirass a custom monster? Was he created atomically, thus the fish in the lake grew large due to radiation? Stop looking for answers. Nothing is much explained. In fact, when Cap questions Nakamura and demands to know why he would harbor such a dangerous monster, the answer is so out of left field it's' not even in the ball park anymore.
|In 1966, hula hoops were much more complicated|
|"GODZILLA" vs. Ultraman|
|My Ray is Bigger than Your Ray|
|Uh, no. I'm his long lost half brother. Gourdjilla|
|Hey kids, Godzilla's a pussy! Buy more Ultraman toys!|
|Wait, I'm not dead yet. It was just a flesh wound!|
|After appearing as a guest star, Godzilla went back |
to his own movies where he was treated with more respect
In short, "The Mysterious Dinosaur Base" is not a good episode. It's choppy, confusing, and poorly written. However, as a metaphor for the supplanting of Japanese monster movies (like Godzilla) with Japanese monster TV shows (like Ultraman), "The Mysterious Dinosaur Base" is a uniquely self-aware and somewhat honest look into the Japanese kaiju power play that was being acted out in the late 1960s.