Gatchaman Episode 10: "The Great Underground Monster War"
BOTP Episode: "A Swarm of Robot Ants"
"The Great Underground Monster War" is the title of this episode, though I rarely remember that, always thinking of it as "that episode with the ants."
"The city is sullied by smog during the day, but at night the neon lights glow and it becomes a quiet and beautiful place," says the narrator as we see Utoland at night and serene music plays. However, it isn't quiet everywhere -"a party is being held over at Jun's Joint." Now we cut to the Snack J, where Jun and a crowd of young people are all dancing in an interesting style that incorporates a lot of undulating and gesticulating, as the narrator tells us that Jun and Jinpei are enjoying a rare opportunity to "dance up a storm."
No explanation is forthcoming as to why Ken, Joe and Ryu aren't at this party -but then, I don't think I could cope with seeing Joe dancing the way the others here are dancing. At any rate, it's nice to see Jun and Jinpei laughing and having fun.
But of course at that very moment the lights flicker and then all go out.
Now, it has been my experience that in such situations, people go "ooh" and stand around calmly, waiting to see if the power will come back on soon. However here, a young woman screams for no apparent reason, a drink is dropped and smashes on the floor, and everyone runs, flailing in panic, to get out of the building. Are they all on LSD? That would also explain the dancing...
Poor Jinpei gets knocked down and stomped on by several people, but he and Jun locate each other in the dark and they at least are behaving rationally.
Now we see the dark streets of Utoland, where a total blackout seems to have occured. We are shown an intersection where half a dozen cars have all collided, and more cars careen, tires squealing, and smash into each other.
What is wrong with all these Utoland people? They still have functioning headlights on their cars, and doesn't everyone know that an intersection becomes a four-way stop if the traffic lights aren't functioning? Sheesh.
But, like Jun and Jinpei, Joe is immune to the insanity afflicting everyone else in Utoland, and as he approaches an intersection clogged with wrecked and burning cars he actually comprehends the situation and then stops his car.
Next we are shown the airport, where pilots seem to be reacting similarly to the dancers and the drivers. A plane lands in the dark and immediately smashes into another plane on the ground and they both explode into flames. At least one person in the ATC tower has the sense to tell all planes in the air to "stand by," and not to land.
Now we see Ken flying his plane, surprised that even the airport has lost all power. He wonders if something has happened at the power plant.
Naturally, we next see the power plant in question.
It's being invaded by hordes of ants that can spit some substance that instantly burns holes through any barrier they encounter.
A warning alarm sounds as the ants overwhelm the entire complex, chewing through electric cables, and swarming the main nuclear reactor.
Still in his plane, Ken is contacted by Dr. Nambu, who tells him to "assemble everyone immediately."
Then we see Joe, still in his car, being instructed to "move out" by Dr. Nambu.
Jun and Jinpei, still in the midst of the rout at the Snack J, receive similar orders. Jun zooms down the street on her bike just as Jinpei leaps onto its back. Wait -where's his vehicle?
We see Ken's jet docking with the God Phoenix, and then on the bridge, Dr. Nambu is on screen telling them that the nuclear power plant is under attack by a swarm of ants.
He fears the nuclear reactor will rupture and cause a dangerous radiation leak. He adds there's "mass confusion throughout the city" (no kidding!) and that "it's terrible." He orders the Team to subdue the ants (and he prays for their success.)
Meanwhile, at the power plant, a crazed and desperate worker, covered in ants, wails that they've destroyed the reactor, as the alarms continue to blare.
Kaboom! The reactor explodes just as the God Phoenix arrives. Watching the devastation on a viewscreen, Ken and Jun are puzzled as to why ants would attack a power plant and Ryu notes that a bird missile won't be of any use against an ant swarm. (I guess that means Jinpei's vehicle was already on the God Phoenix -or wait, has the "no BMs unless all five vehicles are together" rule even been created yet? -I'm so confused...) Joe is the "bright idea guy" for this week's episode and he points out that they could "cause a flood and wash them away," as he calls everyone's attention to the fact that a river flows right by the power plant.
Ken decides to have Joe fire a bird missile at a dike holding the river back from the power plant, and in this episode Ken actually asks Dr. Nambu for permission to do so, and receives it (is that a first?).
Joe's plan works, and the ants are all swept away by the water (which is probably now contaminated with, and spreading, radioactivity, but oh well.
Now, it is the following morning and the sun is up again as the Team inspects the devastated power plant, the flood water having receded.
The ants are gone, and Ken speculates that they might have gone underground but he tells everyone to nevertheless be on the lookout for ants, and radiation . I would think that the whole place would be dangerously irradiated by now, but who knows...
Now we get to that classic scene where Jun sees a dead ant.
She shrieks, and instantly hurls herself at Joe -and the sudden expression of shock and confusion on his face is priceless (and needs a gif).
Okay, I just don't want to believe that Jun is that much of a wuss, so I will always maintain that she is using the dead ant as an excuse to embrace Joe (most likely to try to stir some feelings of jealousy in Ken). Ken isn't jealous though -he's only paying attention to the dead ant he's now picked up, even as Jun still has one hand resting on Joe's chest as she leans against him.
Ken wants everyone else to look at the ant, and then it becomes quite apparent that the damaged ant is solely mechanical and the scene fades to a close-up shot of the ant's interior metal body as Dr. Nambu's voice intones that it's a robot ant and Ken's voice adds "that's incredible!" Now we see that the Team is in a lab, watching Dr. Nambu examine the ant under a microscope and project the images.
As ever, they actually wonder who could be responsible for such a thing (come on guys, aren't you seeing the pattern by now?) but Dr. Nambu thinks the ants' sole purpose was to destroy the power plant and he and Ken then concur that it must be Galactor (yes!). Dr. Nambu orders them to locate the source of the ants immediately. Jinpei and Ryu wonder how they'll ever be able to do such a thing, but Joe -this ep's "bright idea guy"- smirks that "In chess, you can use your enemy's own pieces against them," (clearly Joe takes winning at board games rather too seriously if he regards the other player as his "enemy").
Jinpei is confused but Dr. Nambu grasps his meaning.
Next, Ken, Joe, Jun and Jinpei are standing (in their civvies) in some barren and rocky terrain and Ken places the ant, now repaired, on the ground.
Ken explains that Dr. Nambu has learned that the ants are guided by radio waves, and that this ant will most likely return to its base and they can then follow it there. Sure enough, in a moment the ant's antennae stand up straight and quiver (which disturbingly reminds me of Zark hearing Susan's voice) and it goes scuttling off.
As Ken, Joe, Jun and Jinpei follow it, we see the God Phoenix rising up into the air, in the distance (which explains why Ryu wasn't there).
When we next see the Team (sans Ryu), presumably much time has passed. The terrain is still barren and rough, and Ken remarks that following the ant isn't easy as an exhausted Jinpei slumps on the ground.
"Looks like somebody's worn out," remarks Joe, as Ken calls Jinpei "pitiful" and Jun tells him to "pull himself together." But Jinpei insists that he can go no further, just as they realize that the ant they were following is no longer in their sight.
They run (and even Jinpei finds that he can, in fact, still move) in the direction the ant had last been heading in.
On board the God Phoenix, Ryu yawns and says "this is so boring." Poor Ryu.
But at that moment, he looks at a screen and sees what Ken and the others have also just come upon -two extremely tall and pointy-shaped formations.
The ant, though, is nowhere to be seen. Ken wonders what the two towers are. Jun says she "has a really bad feeling about this," as Joe (clearly remembering her throwing herself at him) teases "Yeah, the robot ant might be in there." It's Jinpei-the-bug-expert who identifies the towers as ant hills.
As they conclude that that's where the missing ant must have gone, Joe is eager to go and "break in."
But Ken (for some reason -well, basically because the plot requires it) thinks that would be too dangerous, and that they should come back and investigate at night.
So now it's night and a full moon shines behind the ant hills. Hundreds and hundreds of robot ants come crawling out of the ant nests and head off, no doubt to wreak havoc somewhere new.
Ken, Joe, Jun and Jinpei (in civvies) watch while concealed behind some rocks. I would think that the team might want to follow the ants, or at least contact Dr. Nambu to warn him they're on the move again but they decide to infiltrate the ant nests. (Maybe they're really far out in the middle of nowhere and know it'll take the ants a long time to reach anything worth attacking). As they near the nests, an ant-lion style trap opens beneath their feet and they all fall down inside it.
It looks most unpleasant, as they slide and fall amidst sand and rubble.
But they all transmute to birdstyle just before they drop down into a room in a secret base beneath the ant nests. Ken, Joe and Jun each land in a different cool action pose.
But poor Jinpei lands clumsily on his face (it's not easy being comic relief).
And this is when we first see the Ant Commander, who can give episode nine's "Plungerhead" some serious competition for the most ridiculous costume. He has a complete ant head for a mask and he's wearing a 16th century-style doublet, complete with a ruffed collar and cape. Does he act in Shakespeare plays on the side when he has some free time from commanding the base?
However when he speaks, his voice is Berg Katse's , albeit more nasal, though why on earth Katse wanted to dress like a 16th century aristocratic ant, I have no idea... Maybe Leader X is punishing him for something.
Ant-Katse is accompanied by dozens of armed goons, and after he "welcomes" the Team, he orders a goon to pull a lever and suddenly a glass egg-shaped dome rises from the floor around them all, trapping them inside it.
Ken and Joe try, to no avail, to break the dome as Ant-Katse declares that they'll soon suffocate inside the dome, and with them gone, Galactor will take over the world (and cue the evil laughter!)