The Strange Case of Ultraseven Episode 12 | ウルトラセブンの第12話の奇妙なケース

Ultraseven is undoubtedly one of the most popular entries in the Ultra Series. With very well crafted episode plots that can be enjoyed by adults too. However, one episode has caused much controversy for some time, and ultimately became banned.

Episode 12, From Another Planet With Love tells of the Alien Spell,  who had been caught in nuclear war on their planet and got radiation sickness. Therefore, they needed white blood cells of humans to replenish themselves and headed to Earth for that purpose. They used devices disguised as watches to suck blood out of victims. This episode is the first to mention that Ultraseven is actually from Nebula M78.

Alien Spell's true form is strange, a totally white humanoid figure with scars all over, which seemed to be based on nuclear bomb survivors. Originally, the design was described by kaiju designer Tohl Narita as being "beetle-like". However, after the suggestion of the director, Narita reluctantly changed the design. In fact, it seems to be against Narita's principles of kaiju design to make a kaiju that is associated with a  "damaged body".

In fact, episode 12 got the 4th highest rating of all 49 episodes with a viewership of 32.8% in the main broadcast. There were no complaints about the depiction of atomic bomb survivors at the time of the main broadcast on 17th December 1967 as well as during the many rebroadcasts. Related products were also released, and Alien Spell itself also appeared at various events.

The Banning of the Episode
The Kaiju card with the description "Hibaku Seijin (被爆星人)"
The controversy arose when Shogakkan released a "Kaiju Keiken Card" for Secondary Graders in November of 1970. A card included a description of "Hibaku Seijin"(Atomic Bomb Alien) as an explanation of Alien Spell. This name was thought up by freelance editor Shōji Ōtomo (大伴昌司) after the broadcast and had never been used in the actual episode. The term "Hibaku Seijin" was first used in a colour edition Ultra Kaiju Book, published in 1968, but it seemed to go unnoticed. This time, however, a junior high school student who saw this card consulted with her father Ryuhei Nakajima who was a freelance journalist and a special member of Tokyo Metropolitan A-bomb Victim Association Council. He sent protests to the editorial department. This was extended to Hiroshima & Nagasaki cooperative associations in a short period of time.

Asahi Newspaper on 10 October 1970
To make matters worse, Asahi Shimbun reported "A-bomb survivor is treated as a monster" without waiting for formal response from Tsuburaya Productions. Similarly, other newspaper companies also stated articles that only touched upon claims of the protest group, so the protest action spread to a nationwide scale. Hajime Tsuburaya, then Preseident of Tsuburaya Productions, apologised and on 21st October 1970, announced that it will no longer publish anything related to Alien Spell:

"Regarding the use of Alien Spell in publications, and in our own company, I adequately reflect on the inefficient supervision and management impreciseness, the alien being called an atomic bomb survivor, the proportion which was close to the human shape, etc. In the future, I will refrain from offering materials on Alien Spell."

Publishers like Shogakkan also agreed to this. Alien Spell and its episode became voluntarily sealed away.

Pirated editions of the episode were sold by various people soon after the ban. With the advent of online video-sharing sites these days, several videos of the episode have been uploaded and many fans now know of the existence of this episode.

At that time the tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union was rising. Screenwriter Mamoru Sasaki said he thought the 12th episode was "to oppose nuclear testing". Director Akio Jissōji said in an interview that "The theme was a country without an atomic bomb". Yuriko Hishimi, who played Anne in Ultraseven, did not know of the circumstances of the episode at all. She commented "What's wrong with everyone fussing about [the episode]?" " The message of the work is that atomic and hydrogen bombs are not good" "It's a satirical work, but did it have to be sealed for almost 50 years?" While I think that the whole incident is quite unfortunate, I like how Tsuburaya dealt with this, apologising for what they did and even voluntarily banning their own work to avoid offending others.


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