Towards The Future really tries to go out with a bang: much as in the older Ultraman series, it has a definite conclusion, with an epic final story to go along with it, so big it must be told in two parts. The finale probably has some of the best-shot monster scenes I’ve seen in the series—maybe after thirteen episodes they finally had enough confidence to give the suit actors some space—but more importantly, they just go all out on the crazy plot, even if some of it hangs together so loosely you wonder if they just had an excess of ideas and no time to edit in some coherence. Ah, who needs it, anyway?
E5, “Blast From the Past” Creatures Featured: Barrangas
E6, “The Showdown” Creatures Featured: Gudis II
E8, “Bitter Harvest” Creatures Featured: Majaba
Episode five of Towards the Future starts off with the monster—in extremely tight shots that prevent you from seeing it do much of anything—but really, this is a case of the ol’ switcheroo. See, UMA battles this new threat (which is apparently a gathering of Gudis cells trying to reconvene, translating it into a big floppy pretzel-dragon) for a few minutes, but then it disappears due to the efforts of…gasp!…Jack Shindo’s astronaut buddy, apparently alive and well! He wastes no time ingratiating himself with the rest of UMA, and while Jack seems initially happy to see his friend again, it doesn’t take long for him to figure out that something is amiss with his old buddy. Maybe he noticed that he was wearing an all-black get-up the entire time (Shindo, meanwhile, wears a white shirt the whole episode…symbolism!) Soon enough, astronaut buddy is shooting staff members, and when Jack confronts him, the rest of UMA decide to lock them both up as potential threats.
EP1 – “Signs of Life”
Creatures Featured: Gudis, Bogun
EP2 – “The Hibernator”
Creatures Featured: Gigasaurus EP 4 – “The Storm Hunter” Creatures Featured: Deganja
This show wastes no time introducing itself—barely a minute into the first episode we are on Mars, watching two astronauts as they in turn watch Ultraman fight a gigantic brain slug. We have no idea who these humans are, or why they are on Mars, but one of them has a camera and is pretty keen to bring the footage of this alien encounter back home—but then the brain slug destroys his spacecraft and he dies in the explosion. His companion is…nonplussed? Then Ultraman uses his finishing move to eliminate the monster, and has a glare-off with the surviving astronaut…meanwhile, the dead slug apparently had a back-up plan, and his disintegrated molecules take a detour…to Earth!
There was a fifteen-year period of low activity for the Ultraman series and its creators at Tsuburaya Productions, which seems quite strange for something that had an established place in Japanese pop culture for so long. I’ve tried to get a better picture of just what going on with them during that interim period, but very few sources get into those details, and usually just glide past what Tsuburaya was doing during the eighties and early parts of the nineties. The last traditional Ultraman series ended in 1981, and for several years there was essentially nothing of note from them—and when Ultraman did return to screens in that time, it was not made in Japan.
It’s post number 150, so there’s no better time to take stock of what’s been happening on the site during the first half of this year called two-thousand and eighteen. I’d say that so far this year has been one of experimentation, but I called this site “Scrapbook” specifically because I wanted to be able to write about anything I felt like so…every year since I started this endeavour has been a year of experimentation. Regardless, I’ve had a few new pursuits for the last little while, giving me the opportunity to write about a myriad of subjects I’ve never tackled before (like music) or haven’t done in some time (like in-depth book analyses.) Rather than putting all my attention into a single writing project, I’ve found time to veer off periodically, which has actually been a whole lot of fun, so I hope to continue doing that into the future.
Here’s another new type of writing I’d like to try: writing about my own writing. I guess you could call this an addendum to the first six months worth of posts, some additional thoughts on things I’ve already spilled too many words about:
Boards of Canada probably couldn’t make another album like Geogaddi even if they wanted to—it had come from an infectiously dark mindset, and if it could be captured again, would only be wading ever deeper into the abyss. It should come as no surprise that they would change things up when the next release dropped, and it turned out to be almost a complete 180—The Campfire Headphase really is something different from their previous albums, even if it still thoroughly feels like one of theirs. Excised are the cacophonous walls of sound, pared down to a more efficient selection of electronic and analog sources including, for the first time, acoustic guitar (distorted in the traditional Boards way or not); the shadowy meditations and prankishness found on the whole Music Has The Right To Childrenthrough Geogaddi sequence has been replaced with something more serene and meditative; more importantly, I think, is the choice of making the album far more holistic, an extended and sustained pursuit of a single atmosphere and theme. This is not to say that the previous albums were not thematically coherent—I don’t know how I would have written two blog posts about them if they weren’t—but each song still tended to be its own little world; Headphase prefers to have its individual tracks flow more naturally from one to another, which seamlessly drives the listener to each place, even if that sometimes makes some tracks feel like they blur together and lack the individuality of many of the songs on something like Music. There are valid reasons why someone may see all this as a comedown from the eclectic experimentation of their previous music—and, you know, hearing some acoustic guitar sometimes brings up images of the lone douchebag strumming along at a party—which is probably why this never received the critical praise the other albums did. Even so, there’s something affecting about the quiet sparseness of it, and the way it gently guides you to different places within its theme—as the name implies, it is a bit of a trip.
Before we turn the power off on the whole Cheaptoons project, let’s go a little deeper into the well to make this feel as complete as possible. You wouldn’t think so judging by the general quality of the shows, but there were some video game adaptations that didn’t even make it past the pilot episode—they got their one chance, but even in the bottom-of-the-barrel world of game-based cartoons in the nineties, they weren’t considered good enough to get even a single season. Now, there’s many reasons why a television show doesn’t get picked up, and in the case of a licensed property-based show like these, there are even more potential roadblocks before getting a full season order—even so, you have to wonder if there was something about the shows themselves, the final product, that forced all the networks to turn away after giving them one shot. We are here to determine if these certified failures among the failures somehow managed to do anything worse than what ended up being aired.