It’s been a minute since our last Ultraman Geed review. Previously, young Ultra hero Riku learned the devastating truth of his parentage and the twisted nature of his existence from the devilish Kei. Still reeling from the news that he’s basically a walking action figure for the bad guys to manipulate, we’re taken on a trip to discover more about this super-kid’s origins, we have a detour through this year’s seemingly mandatory mid-season clip show, and arrive at the beginnings of a sweet two-parter for the most under-appreciated bosses of the show. Let’s do this.
I’m going to title this story arc “My Three Dads”.
It’s basically the tale of three men who all contributed to the birth and raising of Asakura Riku into the young man that he is today, through a strange set of circumstances. The first two dads, of course, being the villainous Belial and his dutiful underling Kei, who donated and then utilized genetic material to create Riku in a lab, later dropping him off at an observatory on Earth. The third being the man that we soon learn is the one who named him.
Asakura Sui, who gave Riku his own family name when he was found abandoned at the observatory, is played by Terada Minori, best known to some as Sonozaki Ryubee, the deliciously evil patriarch of the criminal Sonozaki Family in Kamen Rider Double. Of course, he’s had a plethora of other parts in tokusatsu over the years (including Ultra Q and Ultraman Max) but none left an impression quite as powerful as the slowly devolving madman Ryubee, who ruled over his bickering, homicidal children with an iron fist as the Terror Dopant. Sui is a decidedly kinder, gentler daddy-figure for us to enjoy, proving Terada-san a welcome presence whether he’s trying to lift our spirits with undying heart or crush them with proclamations of doom.
Riku follows the trail left by Sui’s cryptic letter, meeting him for the first time as Sui reveals he’s actually the inheritor of a Little Star, giving him the power of supernatural sight. With it, Sui has been able to witness events from afar, and thus already knows that young Riku is actually an alien who becomes Ultraman Geed to protect the world from the likes of his abusive other daddies. They chat over a game of Tekken with the Playstation 4 Riku had tried to get earlier but was stopped when Laiha threatened him with a sword.
As we sidestep the product placement, we learn that the old man has mere months left to live, but all his hopes rest in Riku, the child he never had, but in the brief moments they have together, he imparts all the fatherly love he can possibly transmit. It’s sweet, albeit a bit random. I’d have liked to have seen more of this backstory referenced earlier. I wouldn’t have had such a problem with the first several episodes being so completely random if we were at least seeding in these revelations before now. Ah well.
So, Kei wakes up from his nap after injecting himself with all the Ultra Capsules stolen from his last fight, and I get the distinct impression that the pain and suffering he’s feeling have all been part of Belial’s plan. The red-eyed bastard knew this was going to royally screw him up but just didn’t care, and because Kei is so far up his jock, he either can’t or won’t accept that he’s probably backing the wrong dude. He just has to stew in his own jealous rage over his master liking Riku more than him. In this sense, he shifts between being a disappointing father to an envious kid with middle-child syndrome. RIKU, RIKU, RIKU!
In an awkward sequence that goes on way too long considering Kei’s monster form is literally right behind them, destroying everything in sight, the two Asakuras exchange pleasant words. Desperate to keep his surrogate son unharmed, Sui’s Little Star becomes a new Ultra Capsule, allowing Riku to achieve the Ultraman Geed Magnificent form.
And the suit designs I don’t particularly love just keep on coming. I mean, they photograph it very well, making it look as cool as they possibly can, given what they’re working with. But all I can think when I look at him is how his head looks like it should be mounted onto the front of a Hummer van or something.
Ugly or not, it beats the crap out of Kei, sending him back to his master, who seems to have expected this the whole time and looks pretty relaxed about it. What are you cooking up, Belial?
After it’s decided that Riku will continue to visit his new third dad for as long as they have together, we jump to a far less enjoyable episode in which the computer forgets everything and needs to be informed about the whole plot of the series so that we can be shown clips of things we’ve already seen.
You know, it’s not the worst thing in the world to have a clip show. Obviously, the show is saving money that will be put to better use in some other episode that needs it more. And I’m sure that Ultraman in particular could use that break, even with their shows being half as long as their Super Sentai and Kamen Rider cousins. But if you’re going to do one, at least don’t make the explanation for it so… ugh.
I’ve alluded to the fact that I’m not the biggest fan of Rem, the talking computer that came with Riku’s secret underground home that just presents itself to him out of nowhere in the first episode. If she had more personality before now, maybe I’d at least be halfway charmed by this episode in which she sasses the other characters and “teaches them a lesson” about respecting her or whatever. As it is, it just shines a lantern on how little I really care about her, or the entire dramatic mechanism of her being there, and that the whole episode is just an excuse to rerun scenes.
Honestly, as much as it might annoy some, I would actually prefer no explanation for the clips than one like this. Just seriously have Riku narrate a summary of what’s been happening in the show so far and run the footage. It actually would feel kind of appropriate, since he’s already narrating the show with voiceovers anyway. The few bits of new development like Moa and Leito talking about accepting Riku as Geed can easily go someplace else. And the truly dreadful plot-point of an advanced supercomputer getting amnesia because her lamp was hit with a plastic ball (except not really, because she was faking it for almost no real reason) can just be thrown out.
After the less-than-amazing recap episode, we’re treated to the second of two major guest appearances when Suzuki Hiroki, GekiRed from Jyuden Sentai Gekiranger, steps onto the screen, as the human disguise for AIB Agent Kuruto, filling in for Moa’s partner Zena while he’s away on assignment. Or so he says. It seems Moa didn’t do any double-checking, and all the awesome alien agents we saw the last time we went to their darkened CGI base are absent, so there’s no one to say “hey, this guy’s clearly evil”. I mean, these are the people that look at Ultraman Geed, who routinely saves the world from dangerous kaiju, and continue to question if he’s on their side.
I still find the love-triangle between Moa, Riku, and Laiha to be weird and unappealing, but I like the (albeit temporary) wrinkle to this with Moa catching feelings for Kuruto, whose disarming smile seems to make him a catch in her eyes. Despite him and Zena both being Shadow Aliens, Zena’s stoic human appearance was always emotionless, the perfect foil for Moa’s somewhat ditzy, young vibrance. Kuruto’s apparent zest for life is a real pick-me-up, but that only lasts about six minutes before it’s revealed that he’s actually here to steal some tech and wreak havoc by summoning a giant monster.
Why he couldn’t just do that way earlier in the story, I don’t know. Were I in his position, I don’t think I’d leave the holographic console thing until I’d correctly entered the code that gave me what I wanted. It’s not like he couldn’t have gotten rid of Moa if he were so inclined. Perhaps the answer is that he’s actually a bit more of a softy than the rest of the episode implies. Or he was just too afraid of the missing agents coming back from lunch and discovering his treachery.
Moa finally gets a clue when the enormous creature Kuruto raised is blasting holes in the fabric of reality, sucking huge chunks of the city into oblivion. Luckily, the hero we’ve all been waiting for has arrived!
No, not Geed. The amazing Zena wasn’t on assignment- he was tied up somewhere with dopey guards who clearly didn’t know who they were messing with. After introducing his captors to the concrete, Zena races to the scene to show us how it’s done. Kuruto was once Zena’s pupil, in another life that Zena doesn’t seem to look back on very fondly. Kuruto vows to continue the fight his former teacher abandoned after joining AIB to stop alien threats instead of creating them. Kuruto merges with the beast (because that’s just what you do in modern Ultraman) and Zena graciously decides to let Ultraman Geed give him some backup.
At long last, because Moa can’t keep a secret to save her life, Zena learns that Geed is Riku, as she calls his name during the fight. And so, when the battle ends with Geed fighting Kuruto, and Ultraman Zero Beyond caught in the middle between their two opposing beam attacks, Moa is swept away by the giant portal ripped open to an unknown realm, creating a new problem before the existing one can be truly solved.
You know, as much as I enjoy Moa’s not-altogether-perfect persona, I do hope that, at some point, she’ll get to do something real. Like, not be damseled by a random monster attack where she’s the precious flower in need of saving. Maybe where she comes to somebody else’s rescue and kicks some ass, the way Zena just did. Of course, I still expect her to trip on her own shoes or something, but even bumbling VTL member Shibukawa from Ultraman Orb eventually got to do the cool explodey pose thing. Where’s Moa’s explodey pose thing?! Maybe next time.
Ultraman Geed has been a mixed bag for me so far. There are times I love it, and times where I just feel like I don’t get it at all. As we drew closer to the show’s midpoint, it suddenly got awesome, but honestly, even that started to make me think. About the cycle of formula the franchise has developed in recent years, in which we predictably ramp up the story big-time around the middle section and things “get serious”. I long for a time when a show will “get serious” in the first few episodes instead of the last again.
Until Ultraman takes another shot, I’ll enjoy every bit of awesome Geed has to offer before its Color Timer stops blinking.