It’s one of those oddball little coincidences in fantasy TV: Doctor Who introduced the Daleks in the show’s second serial, the Sleestak first showed up in the second episode of Land of the Lost, and Ultraman‘s most memorable recurring enemy, the Baltans, showed up in the second episode, too. The Baltans – there are more than sixty billion of them, according to this episode, the size of bacteria – continued to plague the various Ultra-heroes over the years, making more than a dozen return engagements as far as I can tell.
I thought these guys would unnerve Daniel just a little bit, and I was right, thanks to the really good direction of the scene where Arashi investigates a science research institute and keeps finding frozen, green-lit security guards. It’s a great example of the way the show really isn’t filmed like a kiddie show, even though it’s frequently written for the youngest members of the audience.
Case in point: we didn’t really meet the characters in episode one, so this installment focuses on Arashi (played by Sandayū Dokumamushi), the “muscle man” of the Science Patrol, and Ide (called “Ito” in the English language dub, and played by Masanari Nihei), who’s the wacky and sometimes cowardly member of the team. Ide sports a black eye in the opening and closing bookends of the story, during which he talks to the camera, to the kids in the audience, with goofy grins and face-pulling, as the tale behind his accident is revealed.
Ultraman has endured for lots of reasons, but an important one is that the scary moments are tamed by silliness like this, and indeed when Arashi stomps on Ide’s foot, and later when we see how Ide got that black eye, our son howled with laughter. But when the program is trying for something unusual, it’s shot like something made for grown-ups, with really interesting camera tricks and cinematography. So we get thunderously odd images like Hayata’s body floating away in episode one, and the green, frozen guards in this one. I appreciate the way the producers kept everybody in the audience in mind.