Ultraman 1.11 – The Ruffian from Outer Space

Ultraman always had a silly side, with Arashi and Ito pulling faces and mugging at the camera with goofball slapstick, but this is the first episode that’s made as a pure comedy for kindergartners. I think if you don’t have little ones in the house when you watch this, it may be tough going. But good grief, my five year-old just howled through it. It’s his favorite episode of the show so far.

The story’s about a telepathic stone that falls to Earth – naturally, Hoshino spots it – and ends up in the hands of a criminal. The stone can become anything that anyone wishes of it, and the criminal wants a monster. After some hijinks where the stone turns into a piano, a blushing bride, and a birthday cake (what would happen if somebody ate a slice?), the criminal wishes the stone into a monster which the Ultraman Wiki tells me is called Gango. He doesn’t rob banks with the monster, and he doesn’t overthrow the government. He plays practical jokes on hotel porters and scares girls in bathing suits and, like any five year-olds in the audience, laughs himself so hard that the frame freezes.

I’m not joking. This kid’s sides hurt from laughing.

Eventually, the criminal decides that he could have even more fun with Gango if the monster was a really big monster. He forgot to make that wish outside, and Gango, growing to “fight our hero” size, levels the hotel and puts the dude in a coma. The fight with Ultraman is strictly played for yuks – Gango is ticklish, it turns out – and somebody at the network was left wondering why they needed to spend so much money on miniature cities and explosions when all you need to do to entertain the audience is have a guy in a monster suit jump out at a waiter who’s carrying a pie. To hear some people tell it, Japanese television these days is nothing but that kind of program.


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