Sunday 9 July 2017

First Impressions: Ultraman Geed

Ultraman Geed
Ultraman Geed is available in streaming form via Crunchyroll

The last few years have seen a big return to form for Tsuburaya Productions and the Ultra Series, and with the help of Crunchyroll's simulcasting across the globe the success of both Ultraman X and Ultraman Orb were more far-reaching than ever. Now Tsuburaya are pushing forwards with another instalment in the long-running franchise - the hotly anticipated Ultraman Geed. As well as introducing a brand new Ultra hero, this series continues the struggle between Ultraman Zero and his nemesis Ultraman Belial previously seen through Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legends The MovieUltraman Zero: The Revenge of Belial and Ultra Zero Fight.

Ultraman BelialThe Ultra Warriors

During the Ultra warriors' battle against Ultraman Belial, the fallen Ultra detonated a super-dimensional eradication bomb - seemingly destroying the Earth as well as the rest of the cosmos. Or so it seemed, as Ultraman King somehow restructured the universe - with the Earth's knowledge of Ultraman and the struggle against Belial remaining as residual memories of an event named the Crisis Impact.

During an attack by the monster Skull Gomora, Riku Asakura and his alien friend Pega stumble across a secret base 500 metres underground. Here the base's operating system (Rem) gives him an item known as the Geed Riser, as well as capsules containing the powers of the various Ultramen. Using these Riku is able to transform into the newest giant of light - Ultraman Geed. However the townspeople immediately recognise Geed's similarity to Belial, while Rem reveals that there is a possibility that Riku may actually be the son of Belial himself!

Riku and PegaUltraman Geed Primitive

First things first, a word about continuity. One of the great things about the recent Ultraman series is that they've all had some level of continuity to them in relation to the previous shows, but Tsuburaya have done an excellent job in making sure this never gets in the way of the enjoyment for newcomers. Given the involvement of Zero and Belial Geed perhaps relies a little bit more on existing lore than X or Orb did, but it's still basic enough for you to get the gist of it without having seen their previous battles. However if you do fancy getting up to speed quickly prior to jumping into Geed, Crunchyroll have also uploaded a preview "episode 0" which gives a brief history on Zero and Belial before showing off Geed and his various forms. That latter part is a little bit on the spoilery side though.

But is there any bigger way to showcase your new show than to blow up the universe right at the very beginning? Not only does this setup immediately show the level of threat Belial is, but sets up plenty of questions that will hopefully be answered over the next 24 weeks. Presumably that was the "main" Ultra universe getting blown up? What other effects have Ultraman King's reshaping had on it? The fact the narration sets the premise up as a case of "or so we thought" suggests there's quite a bit to be explored here. It also gives newcomers an immediate sense of just how powerful Ultraman King is, and to be fair we should expect nothing less from the oldest Ultra in the universe.

Memories of the Crisis ImpactRiku and Pega meet Rem

From there we move onto cast introductions, specifically Riku and his alien flatmate Pega. Riku seems to have a pretty standard superhero template, but it works. So far we know that he was orphaned as a baby and possesses great power even before realising his true origin and destiny. Although obviously the show is lean the father/son parallel closer to that of Zero and Ultra Seven, the latter respect reminded me of Shinjiro in the ongoing Ultraman manga - who thanks to the Ultraman factor has superhero abilities even out of the suit. We also learn that he's an avid tokusatsu fan himself, and that in turn motivates him to want to protect when offered the power to do so. While Pega is immediately skeptical of Rem and the Geed Riser, Riku steps up without any hesitation whatsoever. As tokusatsu fans ourselves that it's much easier to buy into Riku's mindset during this scene, as well as make him a much more relatable character overall.

Pega there's a lot less to say about for now. It's always nice to see a visibly alien character in a main role so that's immediately a plus. He's a bit cowardly, but clearly loyal to Riku so will of course help in any way he can. We also get a brief glimpse of some of the other characters who will be appearing, but nothing particularly substantial other than Kei - the villain for the series who wields to Monster Capsules to produce Belial Fusion Beasts.

KeiRiku transforms

Once Riku has the Geed Riser in hand its time for a good old fashioned kaiju beatdown, and once again Tsuburaya blow away the competition when it comes to miniature craftsmanship and practical effects. Geed's suit stands out nicely from the other Ultra heroes thanks to it's resemblances to Belial, and this also offers plenty in terms of story and theories as well. As previously noted the townspeople immediately see the similarities between Geed and Belial, so in their minds the giant that's about to become their saviour is the same as the one that caused the Crisis Impact. You don't have to look any further than Geed's first "victory", where the only ones cheering him are children - everyone else just looks on as the scene transitions into smouldering ruins. Belial wasn't always evil, so in Geed we get a glimpse of what he could have been had he not been tainted by the darkness. Maybe in his son there'll be hope for redemption? We'll have to watch this space and find out. Anyway Geed's gimmick is another two-Ultra fusion, with his "base" form (Geed Primitive) being that of the original Ultraman and Belial. A solid choice for a standard form, which captures the base Ultra look but again gives it that Belial twist that made Orb's Thunder Breaster slightly unnerving.

Equally eye-catching is our first fusion beast Skull Gomora - a mix of Gamora and Red King. The kaiju perfectly blends the admittedly old designs of these two classic monsters, but brings them together in a way that it feels modern. That's another area that I really respect the Ultra Series for - they'll create plenty of new modern-looking kaiju but will also bring the classics back no matter how dated they look in comparison. There's a real love for the heritage of the franchise and it shows.

Things immediately kick off with a nighttime fight scene, which is usually a guaranteed way to make the action particularly striking. As well as the usual building smashing there's even some in-water fighting, keeping things varied as flashy as possible for the first episode. Between all of this scenery detail and flashy special effects work going on, Geed's first episode is a gorgeous spectacle that sets the bar pretty high for what's to follow. If Geed's standard form looks this good onscreen, then things are going to get really special when they start pulling out some of the more technical forms.

Geed awakensSkull Gomora

Ultraman Geed is to a great start and definitely has the potential to be another winner for Tsuburaya. It's a shame that Geed's gimmick so closely mirrors Orb's, but the two shows feel different enough to their approach to characters and setting for it to stand on its own two feet. This premiere has set up plenty of intrigue for viewers regardless of how well versed they are in Ultra lore, and the action and craftmanship is just as stunning as ever. X and Orb were undoubtedly the tokusatsu highlights of 2015 and 2016 respectively, so be sure to tune in each week to see if the same can be said about Geed at the end of 2017.


Lolingstar said...

Ultraman X was my toku of 2015.

Ultraman Orb was my toku of 2016.

Will lightning strike a third time?

Unknown said...

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Alex said...

I really hope so!

Anonymous said...

Very much enjoyed Geed so far. Also since seeing this main actor first as Nao in the Ultraman Zero movie I'd been thinking the kid had the potential to be a good henshin hero protagonist one day. How appropriate then that he gets to be an Ultraman.

Also is it wrong that I want a Pega plush?

Panharith said...

Ultraman Orb was my toku of 2016.

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