Gatchaman Episode 90: “Matangar, the Armored Iron Beast”
BOTP Episode: “The Awesome Armadillo”
This episode opens with a sinister-looking Berg Katse.
Katse is still and silent, but suddenly a barrage of bullets from a Gatling gun score gashes across his face –and he still doesn’t move. Immediately we see that the gun in use here is the one mounted inside Joe’s G-2.
Bullets continue to bombard this “Katse.”
And, at last, this “Katse” loses his head –quite literally. But now we see Joe, and he sighs in frustration and closes his eyes. He’s in his car, but now he pops open the top. Jinpei is standing there, looking a lot more cheerful.
“You the man, Joe!” enthuses Jinpei, “Ol’ Katse’s got nothing on us!”
“What are you talking about?” replies Joe glumly, “This isn’t good enough.”
Jinpei is surprised at Joe’s attitude. Joe jumps out of his car now and elaborates, as we see that Ryu is there too, along with Jinpei’s buggy (I’m guessing they’re in some sort of maintenance bay at the Crescent Coral base.)
“If you want to kill Katse,” he says, “Then you have to do it in one shot.”
Ken is here too, over by his G-1 jet, and this remark draws his attention.
And Jun, over by her motorcycle, looks up too.
Ryu ponders what Joe’s saying, and concurs that “he’s surprisingly quick, so we’ll have to hit him to kill.”
“And when it comes down to it,” adds Jinpei pensively, “That monster Leader X’ll show.”
“Exactly,” says Joe, a weary look on his face, “That’s why we have to hit him within a hundredth –no, probably a two-hundredth of a second.”
Ken doesn’t seem to like this discussion.
“That’s enough, Joe,” he says sternly, “We’re here to do maintenance on our G-Machines, not for shooting practice.”
This elicits a “huh?” from Ryu and Jinpei, and Joe growls “I am doing maintenance on my machine.”
Demonstrating, he jumps over his car to inspect the cylinder of his car’s Gatling gun more closely.
“Huh, looks like the cylinder could probably rotate faster if I buffed it,” he remarks.
“You don’t get it at all, man!” says Ken, a little heatedly, “I’m not telling you to R&R the weapons, all right?”
“For me, this is more important,” says Joe, in a steady but vehement voice, keeping his back to Ken.
Jun, clearly seeking to mediate the rising tension, now approaches Ken, who’s saying “I’m starting to think that we should have never equipped our machines with weapons.”
Well, Jun turns quickly to see Joe’s reaction to this.
“Give me a break!” he says, glaring at Ken now, “You’re the one who wanted them in the first place!”
“Yeah!” pipes up a wide-eyed Jinpei (who probably enjoys dropping those little round, black bombs out of his buggy onto mechas), pointing out that Ken had said they needed to do more than just outrun Galactor.
“You’re right,” says Ken more quietly, now closing his eyes as his shoulders droop, “But lately the idea of weapons kind of bothers me, Jinpei.”
Jinpei and Ryu exchange confused looks.
“Well then, you might as well give up your revenge for your father,” says Joe, standing up again and gesturing with one hand for emphasis, “And let me handle Katse for you.”
And it’s Ken’s turn to glare. But he doesn’t say anything –he throws his wrench on the floor and walks away in a huff, ignoring Jun’s call of “Ken…” in his wake.
“I wonder what’s wrong with Ken lately,” says Ryu, looking worriedly in the direction of Ken’s departure.
“He must be tired,” replies Joe, sounding a bit more conciliatory now, “He’ll be fine if he gets some rest, but I’ll still do it –a single shot right to that rat fink’s temple, and blammo!”
Aaand we cut suddenly to Berg Katse, who’s emitting a cry of pain and… clutching his temple. Hee!
But no, Joe has not miraculously managed to telepathically shoot Katse in the head. Nevertheless, a nearby goon asks him if he’s all right.
“My temples are killing me,” groans Katse.
“You haven’t slept for days, you must be exhausted,” replies the goon, who must be Katse’s personal aide-de-camp or something.
“Exactly,” despairs Katse, “My troops these days are dumber than dirt! Leader X is angry –everything sucks!”
“Isn’t it about time for you to retire?” says a new voice, with a hint of mockery.
Katse looks up from his head-clutching gloom to see that this new speaker is a bald, bearded man in a red and black uniform who is lounging against a wall, with a backdrop that looks like it could be a seaside Mediterranean villa. Katse at least has a pleasant setting in which to be depressed.
And, I cannot help it –every time I see Dr. Finger’s uniform, I think “Star Trek TNG.”
“Dr. Finger!” snaps Katse, “This is a private pity party!”
But Dr. Finger nonchalantly walks closer and explains that he was sent by Leader X himself. Katse declares suspiciously that he didn’t hear anything about this.
“I suppose not,” replies Dr. Finger, stroking his beard smugly, “It seems he’s finally ready to abandon you after your continued failures.”
Katse is about to break into an angry retort but Dr. Finger now plants himself casually on the corner of Katse’s desk and tells him to calm down, “I developed a powerful new mecha to beat that meddlesome Science Ninja Team and I told Leader X that I’d volunteer to play the lead role in defeating Gatchaman and the others, and I’ll be damned if I’ll let a person like you destroy the mecha I developed.”
Katse’s anger now gives way to anxiety, and he asks “What did Leader X say about that?”
Standing again, Dr. Finger smiles and says that Leader X trusts his scientific abilities (as Katse’s fists clench in frustration) and that he promised to let him take over Katse’s position (here he points dramatically) if he’s successful with his mecha.
Needless to say, Katse isn’t liking what he’s hearing. “No way he’d do that to me!” he protests. So, still stroking his beard, Dr. Finger points out that Katse could ask Leader X himself to confirm this, using the video phone in the very room they’re in.
Katse realizes he’s been outmaneuvered here, and with gloomy resignation, he tells Dr. Finger “I’m at your disposal.”
“Good,” replies Dr. Finger, who doesn’t waste a minute throwing his newly-acquired weight around, “Now, clean up this room first. It will be my office in a day or two…”
With that, he strolls out of the room, arms folded behind his back and chuckling to himself.
The instant he’s out of sight, Katse groans and once again, clutches his head.
“What are we to do, my Lord?” asks the goon aide-de-camp.
“He’s a fool,” mutters Katse bitterly, “who underestimates the Science Ninja Team. He thinks he can defeat them with just science and weaponry.”
Well, from what we see next, we also must assume he feels that motivational speaking is either a science or a weapon.
“Comrades,” announces Dr. Finger, “All of you are lacking the confidence that you can defeat the Science Ninja Team and that’s because somewhere in your hearts, you believe it can’t be accomplished. Be confident! Believe in me and the mecha I have developed for this purpose. Huzzah!”
As he’s saying this we see that he’s on a high balcony, addressing a large audience of goons as a mecha sits nearby –clearly these goons are Dr. Finger’s crew.
Now they all eagerly begin running up the gangway into Dr. Finger’s new mecha. I can’t help but wonder why the mecha needs a crew this numerous, but maybe Dr. Finger is trying to make a point to Katse.
“I’m not a man who will run away at the last moment like Lord Katse,” says Dr. Finger, now entering the mecha last, as the door closes up behind him. Heh, he does seem to know the right things to say to his crew. “Trust me and follow me!” he concludes.
Now sea water floods into the vast chamber that’s housing this mecha, and it extends its neck and head out from the main body. It, to me, rather resembles an aquatic turtle of some kind.
Its engines fire up now and it glides out of the base and on its way, as Katse watches from a window.
“Yeah, just do whatever the hell you want to,” mutters Katse sourly, “I’ve got paid vacation coming.”
But now we cut to a setting of green hills bordering a sea coast where there is a cemetery with many flowers and a small town visible in the distance. Sad music is playing.
As we focus in on a tombstone with an image of a jet plane on it, Ken’s leg and foot come into view. He’s come to visit his father’s memorial. He gazes at it for moment, and then walks closer.
“It’s me, Dad,” he says, tracing a finger over the image of the jet plane, adding “I might not be able to avenge your death now.”
He huddles up for a moment, overcome by emotion.
Composing himself, he looks up again, saying “I don’t understand it anymore. What is peace anyway? Will peace come if we defeat Galactor?” He closes his eyes.
“Men as terrible as Katse are everywhere in the world these days; even if Galactor is eradicated, I know some other evil organization will be born. Is peace really just some foolish dream?” He’s holding his hands together tightly as he says this.
“Will it all be worth it in the end?” he asks now, unfolding his hands to gaze at his palms. “My hands are stained with blood, Dad!” Sounding anguished, he grips the memorial with both hands now, “Blood!”
This is a really moving scene for me, that conveys so much about Ken. I think when Joe said Ken was tired, he was right, but Ken is tired in a greater sense than just needing a good night’s sleep. He’s getting tired of a seemingly-endless war and of all the killing that he has had to do –killing that he now doubts can be redeemed by achieving any lasting or meaningful peace. He’s been frustrated like this before, complaining back in episode 58 that all they did was react to Galactor attacks instead of actively hunting down and destroying Galactor, and then in following episodes he complained about their missiles’ and tactics’ increasing ineffectualness. I wouldn’t be surprised if, back in episode 67 when they got their new weapons for their vehicles and the super bird missiles, that he had believed that would help bring about a defeat of Galactor and peace –soon- but it still hasn’t happened. It’s not so surprising that Joe’s fixation with shooting Katse with his Gatling gun would set him off. Seemingly no closer to victory in episode 90 than he had been in episode 1, it has to be weighing heavily on him just how much he’s sacrificed and lost and just how high a body count he’s racked up. And Ken is the sort who, as leader, would take all the responsibility -for the killing and the failure to defeat Galactor yet- on to himself.
But now Jun is here, calling to Ken.
“I got no response, no matter how many times I tried to contact you on your bracelet,” she says.
(Yes, it’s telling that she’s the one who’s been trying to find him and I can’t help but wonder if part of Ken’s current gloom stems from the fact that he feels he can’t have the relationship he’d like to have with Jun until the war with Galactor is over –and it’s looking like it’ll never be over.)
“I thought you’d be here…” she adds.
“Is there an emergency or something?” asks Ken, standing up now and all-business.
And Jun tells him that there’s a new Galactor mecha, that’s just appeared at a port on Micron Island.
“Great,” says Ken grimly.
So now we cut to Micron Island, where massive waves are kicking up near the port, tossing a boat around. Then the mecha, Matangar, emerges from the water and bashes the boat with its head, smashing it apart. Then it climbs partly onto the port, smashing buildings with its head and by stepping on them with its front feet. As terrified townspeople are seen fleeing, Matangar moves past the town and heads up the side of a steep volcanic mountain that looms beyond the town.
Having reached the top, the mecha proceeds to retract its four legs and its head inside its body.
And we cut to the Crescent Coral base and the happy, swimming fish.
Dr. Nambu is showing an aerial view of Micron Island, explaining that the mountain, which is in the center of the island, is a dormant volcano. Around it is a city, divided into seven districts. Dr. Nambu now shows some images from the various districts, pointing out that the volcano is visible from anywhere on the island, and that Matangar is now sitting atop the volcano.
“So then, what are they after, Doc?” asks Joe who, in his characteristic manner, is leaning against a wall with his arms crossed.
“A challenge for the Science Ninja Team,” is the reply he gets, as Dr. Nambu shuts down the screen –the slide show apparently over.
Joe concludes that Katse, once again, must be trying to lure them into a trap.
“No, it’s not Katse this time,” says Dr. Nambu, causing Ken to look up in surprise.
“This is a tape, delivered to the ISO,” explains Dr. Nambu, pressing “play.”
“Greetings, Dr. Nambu,” says Dr. Finger’s voice, “And members of the Science Ninja Team. I am Dr. Finger of Galactor.” Everyone is listening attentively.
Our view changes to that of the mecha itself, as Dr. Finger’s voice continues to explain that by the time they listen to the tape, Matangar will have taken over Micron Island.
“Every twelve hours,” continues his voice, as we see Dr. Finger himself now, “we’ll destroy one of the seven districts on the island.”
“If you are truly dedicated to justice, and want to save the people of Micron Island,” continues the message, as we now see busy goons at work aboard the mecha, “You will surrender your own lives in exchange for theirs.”
One goon in particular is fiddling with a small panel of switches and outlets into which he’s plugging a spiraling wire.
“This is not negotiable,” concludes Dr. Finger’s message, “I expect a response immediately.”
And we’re back at the Crescent Coral base, where none of the Ninjas seem to know quite what to say. Finally, Ryu remarks “He seems pretty confident.”
“A lot more than Katse,” adds Jinpei, looking nervous.
Jun asks when Dr. Nambu received the tape. “This morning,” is his reply, which leads Joe to comment that that means “They’ll be launching their first attack soon.”
And indeed they are. It’s night on Micron Island, but Matangar now extends its long neck and head out of its body again
“Ready to attack, Sire,” reports a goon in Matangar’s control room.
“Very good, fire on my mark,” says Dr. Finger, looking at his wrist watch. He counts down from ten, and as he’s doing so, we see the tense faces of the Ninjas and Dr. Nambu at the Crescent Coral base.
Countdown over, Dr. Finger yells “Fire!” and a laser beam from the mecha’s head blasts one of the island’s seven districts, creating explosions that shatter windows and send flames pouring through the streets and even ignite and destroy ships docked at port.
We don’t actually see any people dying (though that doesn’t mean there aren’t any) but I’d think that anyone who could would have fled the island as soon as the mecha arrived and perched on top of the volcano. I’m rather surprised there are ships at the dock –you’d think they’d have left ASAP. Sadly, it was probably assumed that the Science Ninja Team would show up and save the day, so no need to evacuate…
Now we see Ken’s tense face, as he says “This just proves that Galactor is full of evil men just like Katse. Damn!” He stands up, looking angry. Everyone else gets to their feet too.
“So Doctor?” asks Ken, looking grim.
“Go and launch the God Phoenix!” says Dr. Nambu (and about time, too.)
So, we get the usual stock footage of the God Phoenix departing the Crescent Coral base to fly through the skies above (except it’s night time).
Meanwhile, Matangar is still perched on top of the volcano. Inside, a goon announces “Here it comes –it’s the God Phoenix,” as he sees it approaching.
“Good, don’t do anything yet,” says Dr. Finger, looking pleased and stroking his beard, “Let’s see what they do first.”
On the bridge of the God Phoenix, Ken is instructing Ryu to get some aerial photographs of Matangar –which isn’t something I’ve ever seen Ken request before. So, the God Phoenix flies a circle around the mecha, and then flies away.
Joe is appalled at this passivity, and has taken up position directly behind Ken’s shoulder. “What do you think you’re doing, Ken? Why aren’t we attacking? One super bird missile would take care of everything!”
“Are you blind?” retorts Ken, “Do you think we can do anything to something so solid?”
“Well,” snaps Joe, “We won’t know unless we give it a shot!”
Ryu reminds Ken that they can control the amount of explosive effect that a super bird missile has, and that Joe’s idea has merit.
“He’s right!” adds Jinpei, “The enemy’s sitting there doing nothing –it’s our chance, Big Bro!”
(Note that Jun is the only one not criticizing Ken here.)
Ken closes his eyes, as if seeking inner endurance. When he opens them again, he looks to Ryu and instructs him to return them to the Crescent Coral base.
Now Joe is outraged. “No way!”
“You heard me,” replies Ken coldly, “I gave you a direct order and I’m not saying it again!”
With an angry sweep of his arm, Joe tosses his cape back, but then folds his arms stubbornly, still glaring at Ken (who is pointedly not looking at him).
“Listen –I’m not convinced. Tell me what’s going on. Why do we have to withdraw?”
It’s interesting that Joe is prepared to accept Ken’s orders here –as long as Ken has a good explanation for them!
Ken turns his head and looks at Joe now. “Because I’m worried. Because the man named Finger inside this iron beast is different.”
“Do what you’re told, Ryu!” barks Ken now, “Head back to the reef now!”
If Joe continues to dispute this, we don’t get to see it. Apparently Ryu does not though, as next we are back at Crescent Coral base, where the fish are still swimming happily.
Joe, however, is not happy at all.
“This is just ridiculous, Dr. Nambu!” Joe is complaining.
Ooh, Joe has gone over Ken’s head to complain directly to Dr. Nambu. That’s not something we see very often, but then, it must be very rare for Joe to not be on the same page as Ken and to think that Dr. Nambu might back him instead of Ken.
“I have no idea what in the hell Ken is thinking here!” continues Joe.
Dr. Nambu seems very subdued –perhaps confused to be on the receiving end of a rant by Joe about Ken. And Joe is leaning over his desk in a very “Do something about this!” manner –perhaps Nambu is trying to exude a calming influence as he pauses to contemplate the situation.
“Where is Ken now?” is all Dr. Nambu says.
It’s Jun, who is across the room looking out one of the undersea windows, that replies.
“He’s in the dark room, developing the pictures that we took.”
And we see that she is indeed correct. Ken is in a room dimly lit with red light, looking at numerous prints of Matangar that he’s put up on the wall, while strips of film negatives dangle nearby (and I pause for a brief nostalgic moment, recalling the days when people actually used film for photos.)
“Dr. Finger, you are far more cunning and dangerous than Berg Katse ever was!” he growls. Then he punches his fist against one of the photos. “Damn it!”