Sunday, February 10, 2013

Ultraman Dyna - Final Chapter (parts I and II)

Why review these episodes? They deserve a little more recognition on the English-language web, that's why. Strange for me to just jump into end of the series, perhaps, but these episodes are already very old. I won't actually summarize the events of the episodes, but spoilers will be here and there. This post focuses on parts I and II. Hopefully I'll get to covering part III afterwards.

Disclaimer: I do not speak Japanese, so my understanding of these episodes is a little flawed, even when I refer to the Malay dub (which I pretty much only use for reference), since it's not all that great.

Final Chapter I: A New Shadow

left: not-Dyna right:Evilfied not-Dyna

Anyway, Final Chapter is split into three parts. The first one being A New Shadow. The (sub)title recalls that of the show's first episode, A New Light.

There's a lot going on in this episode. Literally the beginning of the end here. Asuka reminisces about his father who disappeared 15 years ago, and receives an apocalyptic vision of Gransphere, the series' biggest baddie. The main plot of this episode relates to the artificial Ultraman, Terranoid, and the absolute mess its creation leads to, once its body is hijacked by the Spheres to form Zelganoid. We get a lot out of TPC (Terrestrial Peaceable Consortium) officer Gondoh, the man responsible for all this, whose dissatisfaction at mankind's reliance on the "alien" entity that is Ultraman Dyna acts as his main motivation. (The disaster of the Prometheus project he was involved in during the Tiga & Dyna film probably contributes to this.)

At first, he's very confident with his F-Plan to place the power of Ultraman under TPC's control. To the extent of approaching hubris, actually. He ends up sacrificing himself to fix the huge mess after everything goes wrong, and its done pretty well.

The whole Terranoid plot, not only connected to the Evil Tiga incident of Ultraman Tiga (former GUTS captain Iruma appears in the episode to explain that) touches on a somewhat interesting theme, being mankind's desire to place things under its own control. Ultraman Nexus explores this theme with the TLT doing something with basically the same goal, but is (in my opinion, at least) less ridiculous than creating an artificial Ultraman. Anyway, To quote the old Absolute Ultraman! site:

Who would have thought that there would be a deep philosophical message buried somewhere in a tale about an ersatz version of a guy in a rubber suit?

I find the whole "science creation goes out of control" thing sounds a little cliche, though. But I do like Terranoid's design. The dark grey gives it a vaguely sinister feel, without looking outright evil. The Zelganoid design is more freaky and evil-looking, especially with the spikes on the back, and that's cool too.

In a sense, this episode does "mirror" the series premiere, with the action taking place on Mars, and the birth of a new Ultraman. Except for the latter being a bad thing, hence the switch from "Light" to "Shadow". I assume Terranoid being a copy of Dyna, despite how the show already provided an Imitation/Fake Dyna previously, was to reinforce the idea of being a shadow. The fact that the monster Dyna battles in the beginning of this episode is a copy of the first monster he fought drives this point home a little.

There are some dark moments in this episode aside from Gondoh's sacrifice, like Asuka's vision-thingy regarding Gransphere, and Zelganoid shooting down some aircraft, with no indication that the pilots managed to eject. The Ultraman action is pretty good, although Super GUTS were pretty much useless in this episode. You could easily forget that any of the members besides Asuka and Ryoh (who discovers Dyna's true identity in this episode) were even there. Another lame thing about this episode is that Asuka actually decided to fly to Mars by himself, without telling anybody just because he received a mysterious invitation. I know he isn't all too bright, but it's a bit hard to swallow that he just took one of the team's jets to Mars like that.

The episode ends on a somewhat grim cliffhanger, Asuka vanishes in the explosion of Terranoid's demise, and Ryoh picks up the Reflasher.

Final Chapter II: Solar System Annihilation

Part II is titled Solar System Destruction, as you can see from the heading there. Quite a few major highlights. When Asuka collapses after getting lost in the Martian landscape, he's rescued by none other than Daigo Madoka, formerly Ultraman Tiga. We get to see what Daigo and Rena have been up to since retiring from combat. Apparently, besides raising their daughter, they're running a "biopark", growing flowering plants on Mars. A teensy bit ironic, considering that one of Tiga's more dangerous enemies was a flowering plant. There's a nice scene where Daigo talks about motivations and reasons for stuff, and it's pretty clear he's talking about what it means to be Ultraman, even though his wording is vague when taken out of context.

There's another flashback regarding Asuka's father in this episode. He compares his career of space exploration to the earliest humans exploring the world. He tells Asuka the reason people do these things is because they are human. An interesting message to put forth, I guess.

Now for the main deal of this episode: the (sub)title refers to the true extent of the threat of Gransphere. Super GUTS and TPC now know that the entire solar system is at risk. Aside from swallowing space jets and celestial bodies and shooting lightning, Gransphere sends out the kaiju Neo Gaigareid to menace a TPC base. I'm not sure where it is, but it's probably around the outer planets. The original Gaigareid appeared and episode 29, which centered on the legacy/memory of Asuka's father. Ryoh and Asuka rejoin the action with the former piloting the GUTS Shadow and the latter as Dyna, (however, note that Ryoh doesn't tell anybody that Asuka and Dyna are the same being) deflecting the kaiju's attack. It's a pretty cool fight, if you're okay with how much more reliant on special effects it is than usual. There's very little brawling. Neo Gaigareid has quite a few special tricks to match against Dyna, most prominently its force field. The landscape and models depicting... where ever the TPC base in this episode is located looks pretty cool, if a little bare.

After being rather useless in the previous episode, Super GUTS are really stepping up  their game here. Professor Kisaragai (from the Tiga & Dyna movie) helps them install a Neo Maxima cannon on their mobile spaceship base thing. And there's former GUTS member Yazumi too!

A rather emotional scene with the Super GUTS members occurs near the end of the episode, which somewhat recalls events from episode 34, except with Ryoh in Captain Hibiki's place. Which brings us to another highlight of this episode: Asuka (as Dyna) gets a nice part as he rescues her, with a line that references the title of Dyna's first ending theme, "Kimi Dake o Mamoritai". It sorta translates as "Only You Do I Wish to Protect", or something like that. The exchange between Asuka and Ryoh is... sweet, but not all that romantic. The scenes between Daigo and Rena in Tiga's 50th episode were much more romantic, and the reference to a song title was done a little bit better in that episode, at least in my opinion. Speaking of the song, "Kimi Dake o Mamoritai" is used as the ending theme for this episode, even though most of Dyna's second half uses a different theme ("Ultra High"). The episode itself ends with Super GUTS firing the Neo Maxima cannon, but the effect of that is not shown until the next episode.

Special thanks to the old Absolute Ultraman! site for translations of episode titles.

Ultraman Dyna is © Tsuburaya Productions

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