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On the subject of secret identities 
14th-Oct-2007 11:41 am
I've been thinking about Japanese superheroes and their secret identities. Now, I don't have much experience with other tokusatsu genre, but I believe that only Ultraman hosts seem to care to keep their identities hidden from the world at large. I wonder why that is the case. Why don't other heroes, such as Kamen Riders (the newer ones anyway), care if anyone knows who they are and simply transform in plain view?

One could say that Ultraman and Kamen Rider (or whichever series where the heroes don't make an effort to conceal their identities) are produced by different companies and leave it at that, but I find I don't like this explanation. It is possible (and I've read something along this line) that the Ultra hosts fear repercussions from all the planes/buildings they have destroyed/crashed, but is that really the reason? Kamen Riders break things too when they fight, but I don't see the townspeople getting upset at them. As for hiding their identities for fear of the enemies capturing people dear to them as hostages, I don't really see the point in that either (in the heroes believing so, not in the villains refusing to fight dirty), and never really feel it is the main reason anyway. Not to mention those aliens in Ultra series always know who the Ultras are, even if other humans don't.

If anything, maybe the Ultra hosts are even a little selfish for keeping their secrets. (At least, that is mostly what other characters seem to accuse them of after learning their secret identities. These people seem to say something along the line of the heroes taking away their (other characters') choices, making decisions for them.) My question remains: if it seems to hinder more than help other characters, why do the Ultra hosts feel the need to be secretive about their identities? That is, apart from inspiring the requisite dramatic, 'oh god, this guy is a hero, why can't you see it, don't you have eyes,' type comments which the viewers feel totally justified in shouting at the clueless characters.

I could probably attempt to guess at Mebius' motivations a little at least. He is not human, so he would want to fit in, wouldn't want to be seen as different or weird. I don't know if there are prejudices among the Ultras, but to be singled out couldn't be a pleasant experience, whether one knows what prejudices are or not. And he didn't yet know these humans. He wouldn't have any idea how the knowledge of his identity would be received. For all he knows, humans don't care much for aliens (see: episode 7).

In the end, however, it is probably nothing more than tradition. Since the first Ultraman doesn't reveal his identity, subsequent Ultras who come after him don't either. Not that I really like this explanation, but it seems the best I can come up with at the moment.

Since I have no good answer for the secret identities question, I want to talk more about Mebius and how the series seems to deal with the secret identity issue. First off, Mirai is Mebius, and the viewers know this since Day 1. My question as I started watching was, would someone else realize it over the course of the series? Given what happened in the past Ultra series, I had no hesitation saying yes, someone would. In fact, I would be very disappointed if no such revelation occurs. So, the real question is not if, but when someone will find out his secret.

This may sound like bragging (oh well, I admit it is bragging), but I was certain by the end of the first episode that Sakomizu knew exactly who Mirai was (I just didn't know how or why at the time). This was confirmed (in my way of thinking anyway) in episode 4, which also revealed one more person (Misaki) who knew Mirai's secret.

Fast forward to the middle of the series, Mirai started to run out of creative excuses (admittedly, maybe they were not all that creative) for the time he needed to disappear to fight as Mebius. I took it as a signal that his time of dodging the truth was nearly over. And it was. The confession/revelation scene arrived soon after.

I'd read that some people thought Mebius might be over at that point, since the hero's identity was revealed. This is probably me bragging again, but I never believed the series would end there or soon after at all. I sort of understand the reasoning for that line of thinking, however, since most previous Ultra series save such revelation of hero's identity toward the end. Thing is, most previous Ultra series also use human hosts, with "human" being the operative word here. For each of these series, even with the secret being out in the open, the dynamics among/within the group would not really be changed, since the host is still a human, mostly making future episodes repetitive and/or the same as the ones before the revelation. Not having much new material to work with later on is most likely the reason such revelation takes place near the end of the series.

The above scenario, of course, does not apply to Mebius. True, the group didn't or tried not to treat Mirai differently from the time before they knew who he was, but subconsciously, they probably did act toward him a little differently in some way. Mirai is an alien, and normal humans probably couldn't help feeling in awe and/or feeling curious about him. Anyway, this is my roundabout way of saying that Mirai and GUYS' post-revelation interactions are just as interesting, if not more so, than their pre-revelation interactions, therefore the series can definitely go on for another twenty episodes without (for the most part) boring the viewers.
14th-Oct-2007 08:31 pm (UTC)
The difference could be in the awareness of the public. In Ultraman (admittedly, I only know the classic old gen + Moebius universe), the common people know exactly what the big monsters and the big guy who fights them are, so holding an identity might be an issue when you are looked up to and expected to carry such a huge responsibility as protecting the world.

In sentai and Kamen Rider, people get randomly attacked by monsters and usually don't know what's attacking them, who are those people transforming into weird things, who is the good or the bad side in that fight, or if there even is one. The victims are more concerned in running away than knowing who won, so there're no expectations from the heroes, and keeping their identity secret isn't as important (although it depends on the universe - in Magiranger and Boukenger they expressed a little concern at some point about keeping identities secret, in Dekaranger and KR Kabuto everyone knew they were people officially designated to fight the threats).

In Mirai's case, the way he protects his identity looks like one of those rookie mistakes, where he's not really sure what he's doing. He goes out on a limb to try to keep his Ultra identity secret, but doesn't realize his human identity is a potential giveaway (and what did give him away right from the start). I'm not sure how much he was aware and wary of alien/human issues and how much protecting his identity was just something he knew he had to do, but I do agree that his relationship with the humans is even more interesting after the reveal. The general dynamic doesn't change, but of course there are more layers of mutual trust that develop after it's all out and he doesn't feel he needs to hide from those humans he's become closest to because they still accept and support him.
14th-Oct-2007 11:10 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I think you are right about the rookie mistake thing. I completely forgot while writing the original post that Moebius, for all that is said and done, is still a rookie, with all of his inexperiences even among his own people, let alone among humans.

I agree with you completely about Ultraman being looked up to. Content of the actual show aside, I believe Ultraman is one of the first, if not the first, tokusatsu heroes. So he is almost iconic in Japan, with most everyone (in the real world and in the show) at least recognizing him by sight, if not actually know who he is. You also make a very good point about having that kind of responsibility, having so many people depend upon them, makes it prudent for the Ultra hosts to keep their identity a secret. It is almost as if they fear they might be judged if they lost, or if they did something wrong. (And that reminds me of episode 18 of Moebius.) Saving the world from monsters is difficult enough without needing other people, who may not have the least understanding of how a fight should be conducted, pressuring them into fighting or doing things in a certain way.

I find it interesting that in Sentai and Kamen Rider, people generally don't have any idea of what is attacking them or who is the good guy. So, why are they heroes? Why do they choose to fight at all, if their good deeds mostly go unmentioned or unacknowledged, or that they might even be seen as threats themselves? Somehow, I don't believe that most of these people are selfless enough to simply fight because it is the "right" thing to do.

At any rate, thank you for your comment. You have given me much food for thoughts.
15th-Oct-2007 04:51 am (UTC)
>>Kamen Riders break things too when they fight

KRs don't fall on top of buildings etc ;D. *is thinking of Taro vs the Tortoise clan specifically, as it was referred to in the X'mas episode*

I think the recurring statement for 80 was if anyone found out, he would have to leave. It would get kinda distracting, lawyers running after you for class suits and people/seijin trying to kill you off in your small fleshy alter-ego.

...Need to write that Ultra-sentai ficlet. That would solve the problem. XD
15th-Oct-2007 06:42 am (UTC)
I was thinking Ultra sentai recently too for some reason.
15th-Oct-2007 06:52 am (UTC)
Lawsuits remind me of Incredibles. :p And fleshy alter ego, well, seems to me that Mirai is weaker as a human than Tsurugi is so it might honestly be a problem. Means it might honestly be a reason to not have their IDs known. Doesn't help that some security person eventually wants Mirai taken away and investigated once his identity is known.

But Ultraman isn't the first, just the first to earth. Ultrans have been doing this for thousands of years. I'm guessing that over time they discovered it was the system that worked best. Probably part of the prime directive in Star Trek terms or just a law/regulation in the Space Garrison. Reminds me of what Jor-el said to Superman: 1) He can't fight 24 hrs/day and 2) His enemies will learn that the only way to hurt him will be through his loved ones. I'd also add to that the problem of an Ultraman being revered as a god. Admired as a hero is one thing. Having everyone know who you are, well, might get to an evil Ultra's head or might cause people to ask you to get involved in earth's petty disputes like please go fix Iraq problems for us. In that respect, Ultraman has it easier than the human superheroes. Their enemies are monsters. Um, though Seven still had plenty of problems and issues since a lot of other races consider him to have helped a violent species that caused the genocide of another race.
15th-Oct-2007 08:33 pm (UTC)
...seems to me that Mirai is weaker as a human than Tsurugi is...

I'm not sure about that. Mirai said in one episode (30, I think) that he's simply assuming human shape, but still has Ultra powers.
16th-Oct-2007 12:28 am (UTC)
>>helped a violent species that caused the genocide of another race.

16th-Oct-2007 02:18 am (UTC)
Yeah, us. We killed the original inhabitants of earth. Then there were a few left and Seven was indecisive about which side to be on, and we ended up killing the last of those original inhabitants. Actually a rather cool storyline I think.
15th-Oct-2007 07:07 am (UTC)
Ha ha. You're right, Kamen Riders don't fall on top of buildings. But they do break windows or blow up cars on occasions, which is admittedly a small concern compared to the Ultras completely destroying the whole buildings.

That's interesting to hear about 80. I wonder who made that warning/statement about him having to leave if anyone found out, since no one was supposed to know. But, yeah, I agree it would be kind of distracting with all the people/seijin chasing after the human alter-ego. (And this is where I confess that I've never really watched the series apart from the 'Delusional Seven' episode. Maybe I should try to find the rest...)

Ultra-sentai ficlet? That sounds...intriguing. Hope you don't mind linking me to it if/when you finish writing it.
16th-Oct-2007 12:30 am (UTC)
Ayyup. And then they'd find out where the alter ego lived and who s/he was going out with if at all, and then there would be RPS, which would bring everything full circle in a truly bizarre way. Luckily so far we don't have Ultras, say, picking parked cars off the road and hurling 'em at monsters.

If and when is right - and of course I'll link you to it ^^
16th-Oct-2007 01:40 am (UTC)
Luckily so far we don't have Ultras, say, picking parked cars off the road and hurling 'em at monsters.

Most likely because doing so wouldn't hurt the monsters enough. (Though you indirectly remind me of monsters who eat cars, parked or otherwise, and sometimes spit them out...)

If and when is right - and of course I'll link you to it ^^

Thank you. ^^
16th-Oct-2007 01:42 am (UTC)
That's true.

It's going to have to be lorries and trailers, or nothing!

*is chased by about 30+ irate Ultrans*
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15th-Oct-2007 08:12 pm (UTC)
Oh, certainly Misaki and Sakomizu knew who Mirai was from the very beginning.

Yeah, come to think of it, I feel a little silly now for saying that I knew all of that when everyone else probably did too. And establishing Mirai's identity and handling all the tedious paperwork were probably in fact what Sakomizu and Misaki did for him. (Implied from episode 22, I think.)

You're right, Sakomizu does have a few secrets of his own. It is weird, but I mostly failed to guess at them. Even though I eventually came to the right conclusion about Sakomizu, the series did much to mislead me. The only excuse I can offer is I'm only used to guessing about the main characters, not so much other characters, no matter how wonderful they are. [ /rambling]

I like your point about the media. Although I still can see Mirai being impulsive enough to the point of being careless about his identity if provoked, media or no. (Take episode 44, for example, but I admit that's more of the case of him having no choice than him being careless.)

Isana is so awesome in every way. I just love, love that note.

(As a general note, I can see others in GUYS making rookie mistakes, since they probably haven't been doing this for long. But Ryuu? I've never seen him having a life outside of GUYS; he probably should know better and be more careful.)
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19th-Oct-2007 02:56 am (UTC)
Ah...wow. ::is a little speechless at the length of this comment::

your comment about other people trying to abuse the heroes' power/knowledge is very interesting and something I've never really considered before. Maybe it's because of the genre I watch, but Ultraman never really deals with this issue, even when the hero's identity is revealed. People's general attitude seems to be in awe at best, or indifference at most. They don't really go around boasting--something along the line of "don't mess with me, I'm friends with Ultraman"--or trying to use the hero's power to their advantage in some other way.

I always figured it was because if they hadn't stopped the monsters, all the buildings would have been blown up anyway?

That makes sense to me. At least someone is willing to fight the monsters. You (the citizens) shouldn't risk alienating them (the heroes).

I've seen the first two episodes of Timeranger (because those were the only ones subbed), but I don't remember them hiding before transforming. Perhaps I need to watch more...

In any case, I don't really have knowledge of sentai so thank you for a detailed response. ^^
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20th-Oct-2007 07:42 pm (UTC)
Ha ha, I've heard about the fansubbed version of Timeranger on Rangerboard, but I've also heard, as you mentioned, that the subs are...interesting. Which doesn't really leave me with much confidence in them. ^^;;

In any case, your comments made me more interested in sentai. I'll probably get to the shows you mentioned eventually after catching up with those I'm supposed to follow weekly...
12th-Nov-2007 02:09 pm (UTC)
I happened to pass by your LJ and seemed intrigue about this discussion.

I think about Ultraman hosts keeping their secret IDs a secret because they're not sure what kind of reactions that they would receive once the secret is out. Sure... some of the earlier series had a lot of the people ended up as being awed at the human hosts for having protected them all this while and them never realizing.

Then again perhaps because it had came as a shock, so the people generally gonna stay awed and grateful. Still, we shouldn't neglect those people who might want to exploit said power. Say like in Ultraman Tiga: The Final Odyssey some of those bigwigs are still looking for a way to acquire the power of Ultraman when Daigo cannot use the power anymore and ended up waking the three Dark Ultras. Or In Dyna Movie, where the enemy aliens had taken over the ship whatever it was called and sought to destroy the world. The human host perhaps wouldn't want to be caught by people who'd want to take the ultra powers.

I think, Nexus is a better explanation for that. After all, when they found out that Himeya (and later, Ren Sanjyuu) was a Deunamist, they started experimenting on him that almost killed him.

Ah well, nice to meet you. XP
12th-Nov-2007 09:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I'm rather flattered that more than a few folks seem interested in this discussion.

As for the Dyna Movie, if I recall correctly, the human host stupidly offered himself up for some sort of experiment at the beginning, and that was how Dyna was defeated, because the enemies knew all of his weaknesses.

How it deals with Ultramen and their hosts is one of the things I love about Nexus. No going "ah, Ultraman. Back him up!" Instead, they go "that giant! shoot him, he's the enemy!" Seriously, how would people know just from looking that the silver (or insert whatever color(s) of the Ultraman in question here) giant is on their side? Many times, I just want to hit some senses into Komon because he keeps blindly insisting that the Deunamists are good guys. Now, we all know the Ultras (except a few) are good, but I think skepticism is more healthy for people in the show.

Ah, nice to meet you too. Out of curiosity, may I ask how you came across my LJ, since we don't seem to have friends or communities in common (except fanficrants and kamenrider)?
13th-Nov-2007 03:10 am (UTC)
I was looking around for Den-O related stuffs, particularly on the recent episode and suddenly your entry popped up. I can't help reading. XD

Because it was rare to find other people also discussing about tokusatsu related stuff here~
13th-Nov-2007 05:07 am (UTC)
I agree with you. It is rare to find discussions on tokusatsu, and I usually search around too, especially on Ultraman stuff. I enjoy writing my own posts, but once in a while I would like to read other people's opinions also. ^^;;

Oh, just in case you're not aware of it, finalauraburst is a good place to find journals discussing tokusatsu related stuff.
13th-Nov-2007 10:35 am (UTC)
Oh thanks! XDDD
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