In Bizarre Baseball Culture, I take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball has reared it’s head in pop culture and fiction.
(Note: The following is different from what I previewed last time, because, well, I couldn’t just ignore such great material as this.)
Baseball is a hard game. A game of failure. A game where even the slightest mistake can have horrible consequences for your team.
It is also a game of much superstition. What a player eats or what rituals they perform may affect their performance. And they may even believe their equipment- their bats and gloves- may be what decides victory and defeat. It is not that uncommon to see somebody slam a glove or a bat if they fail or have just been ejected from a game.
But, perhaps you should consider that maybe those seemingly inanimate-objects have feelings too, and that all of that negative energy (mixed with pollution) will cause them to become GIANT EVIL BASEBALL GLOVE MONSTERS, as happened in the 47th episode (“The Evil Glove. Be Careful What You Throw Out!”) of the Japanese
documentary science fiction show, Ultraman 80!
Yes, buckle up, everyone, because I may have finally found something weirder than Mr. Go!
(Go below the jump for more)
First, a primer: Ultraman 80 was the ninth show in the “Ultra Series”, a franchise of productions that began in 1966 with a show called Ultra Q but which became popular later that year with the premier of the first Ultraman series, entitled… Ultraman. The Ultra Series is to Japan what Star Trek is to America or Doctor Who is to the UK: the longest and most well-known science-fiction adventure franchise on television (and sometimes film). Most of the shows (including 80) involve giant beings from a distant star coming to Earth (almost always Japan, for the obvious reason that nearly all of them are filmed in Japan with Japanese actors) and taking on the identity of somebody working for a anti-monster task force. When the going gets tough, they transform back into their giant “Ultra” form and kick kaiju (the Japanese word for strange creatures or monsters, particularly giant ones) butt. Simple enough, really.
This show is a Tokusatsu production. Tokusatsu is Japanese for “special filming”, or a show/movie with lots of special effects. While technically this means any sort of special-effects heavy production, in the west this has come to mean a specific type of feature that involves suits, stunts and sometimes puppetry. The classic Godzilla films, for example, are a classic example of Tokusatsu, as are the Super Sentai shows that have been adapted to the west as the Power Rangers TV shows.
Anyway… to our actual piece of Bizarre Baseball Culture: Ultraman 80 Episode 47. While I can’t claim to have watched every episode before this (as in, I haven’t watched any), I have done my research, and can get you caught up.
Here goes: it was discovered that all of the negative energy being produced by the sins of the human race (think Ghostbusters 2) has caused various monsters to show up or be created, so a Ultraman named 80 went to Earth and now masquerades as teacher/anti-monster task force member Takeshi Yamato. He has since been joined by another Ultra, a princess named Yullian, who is undercover as a woman named Ryoko Hiroshi. Here’s what they look like in their human forms:
That’s them looking at an aurora in a largely-irrelevant pre-title sequence, but after the theme song, we cut to a sandlot somewhere near Tokyo (Tama in Western Tokyo, we are later told):
Of course, everything goes horribly wrong, and the ball pops out of Tadashi’s glove and starts rolling farther and farther back in the outfield, since there is no fence to stop it and apparently Tadashi isn’t the fastest of kids:
Tadashi leaves his glove at the field, and when he gets home, his mother is not happy, saying that the glove had been “his friend” for over three years and one of his most treasured mementos of youth. Tadashi, however, is having none of it, saying that “because of him” the team lost on that inside-the-park home run, and, as a result, Tadashi “won” the prize for worst defense:
His mother, however, is having none of it and tells Tadashi that it wasn’t the glove’s fault, it was Tadashi’s poor defense that lost the game. Oh, and he’s not allowed back in the house until he goes and gets the glove.
Now, a few things in this scene:
First off, while it’s probably meant to be a joke, but the idea that a kid’s baseball league would give out an award for worst defense is both hilarious and also fitting, given the mean-spiritedness of children who are pissed off that they just lost.
Secondly, you can really see a big difference in Western and Japanese culture in this episode. In America, the glove would almost certainly be referred to as something impersonal like “it”, not “him” or “he” or “friend” or anything like that. This has to do with how western culture and Japanese culture sees inanimate objects. You see, in Shinto (Japan’s predominant religious tradition), everything is said to have or have the capacity to have a soul or spirit, even inanimate objects like rocks and trees. As a result of this religious background, Japanese folklore is full of tales about inanimate objects that come alive in some way. For example, there are tales of ghost sandals, walls that screw with you, and lanterns with faces. So even to this day some Japanese are more likely to use anthropomorphism (giving human qualities to non-human things) and also use mascots to personify nearly everything, even “serious” things like the police and government agencies. A Belgian living in Japan did a bit of a rundown on all of this in this blog entry that you can read if you are interested.
Finally, Tadashi’s uniform calls to mind the Nippon Ham Fighters of the time, at least as far as color is concerned. Thanks to “YakyuNightOwl” on Twitter for his thoughts on the matter, by the way.
Anyway, Tadashi goes back to the park and gets his glove, but he lets the glove know damn well it wasn’t his idea!
TREMBLE BEFORE GLOVUSK!
As Tadashi hides behind a tree (seriously), Takeshi (Ultraman 80) and Ryoko (Yallian) are driving around monitoring UV rays and see that there’s an anomaly in that area of Tokyo. After Ryoko does a brief lesson for the kids at home about what ultraviolet rays are, we cut back to Tadashi, who is chasing after his possessed mitt:
Immediately after saying this, Tadashi tries to put the glove back on, but gets zapped for his trouble, leading him to run behind the tree again, and then try to beat it to death with a stick, and then… I dunno, insult it?
Ryoko scans it and finds it’s full of UV rays, but then it flies away up into a tree as Tadashi tells them about how he blamed the glove for losing the game. Glovusk then starts absorbing more UV rays… so Takeshi shoots it, but, as they say in Pokemon, the attack is not very effective.
And then Glovusk flies away, eventually disappearing without a trace:
However, the next scene has Tadashi at home, so obviously he somehow convinced his mother to let him back in, although is father is, well, skeptical of it all. Meanwhile, at the headquarters of UGM (the monster-fighting task force), the heroes theorize that Glovusk gets it’s power from excess UV rays that are getting to Earth because of damage to the Ozone layer, so presumably the creature won’t be as powerful during the night when the UV rays aren’t as high, or something like that.
So then there’s a montage of the UGM team jumping into action. They fly planes, drive cars, and make calls over radios. That sort of stuff. Takeshi tells Ryoko not to give away the fact they aren’t from Earth (she’d briefly slipped up a bit during the briefing about the UV rays), and then there’s a commercial.
When we get back from the commercial, we see Tadashi and his family out on a morning jog, going past Takeshi and Ryoko’s car where they are napping after a long night patrolling. They keep running along until they find Tadashi’s glove, which is once again… a glove. Not Glovusk. Tadashi’s dad goes and grabs the glove as Tadashi rants about how it’s now evil, and, what do you know, once the sun hits it just right, it turns back into the monster WHILE STILL ON DAD’S HAND:
Back at UGM headquarters, they see that there’s been a UV spike and alert Takeshi and Ryoko, who drive off to help. Also, that glove is getting BIG:
Once Takeshi and Ryoko arrive, Ryoko zaps Glovusk off of Dad’s hand using some sort of finger laser, and it then runs away, with the two Ultras in high pursuit. Ryoko explains that she used a infrared beam since that’s the opposite of ultraviolet, but then when she uses it again…. Glovusk goes full-Kaiju:
Glovusk then goes on a brief rampage, as is required by Kaiju Guild of the Universe regulations. During this rampage, he displays laser beam eyes and survives an attack from this squadron of Japanese Self Defense Force fighter jets, as well as from a UGM attack plane. Ultraman, however, doesn’t show up, because this show still has more than seven minutes left. Ultimately, Glovusk just disappears when the sun goes down.
Next, in UGM headquarters, the chief tells the team that they need to stop the beast during the night because it’s too powerful during the day. Wow, great strategy, chief.
Thankfully, Ryoko apparently can see and sense various cosmic rays and sees that there’s a bunch of UV stuff west of Tokyo, so she has Takeshi and her go there, and, what do you know? Glovusk was just hanging out around there being invisible.
So Takeshi turns into Ultraman 80 and they fight:
Y’know, I’m not really sure if it’s logical to turn yourself into a ball when you are attacking a giant mutant baseball glove, but, hey, I’m not a transforming hero from the M78 Nebula, so what do I know? Although, seriously though, look at this:
Now, it should be noticed that Glovusk DOES get Ultraman into a death-grip late in the fight, but then Ryoko shoots Glovusk with some infrared blasts, at which point the demon-glove starts flying away, but Ultraman can fly too, so he catches up with it, slams it to the ground, and then destroys it with some wrestling moves and a infrared beam of his own, just in time before the sun comes out!
Oh, and Glovusk ends up a regular glove again:
And so, we end the story with Takeshi helping out at Tadashi’s baseball league, while a narrator tells us that even if you fail, you shouldn’t get bitter or angry, since there are monsters waiting to take advantage of you.
To emphasize this point, the episode ends with Tadashi falling on his butt trying (and failing) to catch a ball:
So, that’s Ultraman 80‘s baseball episode. Truly a great piece of art that teaches children to respect their sporting equipment. And, what’s more, you can watch it yourself on Crunchyroll free of charge!
So, until next time… this has been Bizarre Baseball Culture!
NEXT TIME ON BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE: A special 50th piece to run during the 2016 Blogathon For Charity!
Previously on BIzarre Baseball Culture:
Prologue: “Rockets on the Mound” (short story)
20. Shortstop Squad
21. Cosmic Slam
23. Mariners Mojo
32. Mr. Go
36. Dick Cole
48. Fallout 4
49. Ultraman 80 vs. Glovusk, the giant evil baseball glove (you are here)
You can purchase some previous stories featured in Bizarre Baseball Culture here!