It’s the first episode of Neo Ultra Q – a bizarre and very experimental show from Tsuburaya, the people behind the Ultraman franchise.
[クォ・ヴァディス] Kyo Vadisu
Writer: Kiyotaka Inagaki
In this strange world, monsters have appeared and become somewhat ordinary. Or at least to the extent that people aren’t afraid to come up to one and try to attack it or protest its presence. This sets the scene for the first episode of Neo Ultra Q.
There is very little action to be found in this episode, no fighting at all, at least not the sort you might have become accustomed to with stuff like Kamen Rider and Super Sentai throughout the years. Neo Ultra Q plays itself in a very down-to-earth manner, despite being about monsters. Everything plays as if the reactions are something that could totally happen given the situation. It’s a very bizarre approach, to say the least.
On top of the realistic approach as far as reactions go, this episode has another interesting directorial angle. There’s a very dream-like state going on throughout the episode. When people say something is “dark”…well, I would agree that Neo Ultra Q is one of those few things that is actually dark. Probably not for the reasons one might expect, but it’s very valid. All throughout the episode you’re left wondering whether or not what’s happening is some sort of odd hallucination or not.
The story at its most basic level sees us introduced to Jin Haibara, Eshohei Shiroyama, and Emiko Watarase, played by Shinkenger’s Rin Takanashi. Emiko is a travel reporter and doing an article on the forests of Japan which she realizes there’s something special about the forest she’s currently doing a piece on. A monster needs to make its way to that forest.
The monster called Niruwanie, a massive, hulking create, is migrating to that forest due to recent sun spot activity. One of our main characters, Jin Haibara, discovers that the monster has some sort of connection to the sun spots and needs to make it to a certain location in the forest, a tree. Well, he would be able to get it done a lot faster if people just got out of his way. All along his path there are protestors – on both sides of the issue. One side wants it all over with and just wants the monster dead, the other side believes him to be a creature that needs to be treated fairly. This is one of those bizarre moments I was talking about earlier. Coupled with the strange directorial style of newcomer Gakuryuu Ishii, we’re shown these protest scene in what you might imagine a nightmare would be like for a monster.
The military is escorting the monster to the forest, sort of. Rather, they’re following it to make sure it causes no major injury, which it isn’t. The monster is just trying to make its way to the forest, it isn’t attacking anyone along the way at all. Granted, there is some major destruction being caused because…well, it’s a huge creature and each step it takes places a strain on the ground below it.
Someone does die along the way, though it’s entirely the fault of a human. A protestor decides to whack Niruwanie and causes one of its scales to fall from its back, crushing a bystander to death. I wasn’t expecting that at all. You figure a monster would cause the death of someone in a much more cognizant manner, but here it’s all treated as this creature being another part of nature.
When the monster finally makes its way to the forest, a colleague of Jin Haibara attacks the creature, having lost his family because of a monster many years ago. This prompts the soldiers following the monster to open fire and kill the monster, just feet from its true destination – a sacred tree that it bonds with in the afterlife.
Gotta admit, I felt terrible for the thing by the end of the episode. Physically, it doesn’t espouse much remorse, but there’s something about the creatures eyes that just make you feel so bad when you see it laying on the floor, dying. Tsuburaya does a great job with monsters and this is one of those shows that lets the audience get a decent idea of why they’re as popular for their monsters as they are for their Ultraman characters.
This show is markedly different from most any other tokusatsu you’re ever going to see. It reminds me a lot of other late night tokusatsu in tone, but the meat of the story is completely different. I think this is about as close to hard sci-fi as tokusatsu is going to get these days. If that’s the sort of thing you’re into, I’d definitely suggest checking this show out. Production values are through the roof on this show, from the quality of the filming to the fact that Niruwanie is an actual physical prop and not CGI, this is definitely a well-made show.