The Freak Flag Flies

In following up Ultra Q, this rebooted, surreal sci-fi series finds itself battling social issues. These barely connected dozen episodes approach capitalist, ecological, wartime and equality concerns, disguised by the general weirdness of creatures, aliens, or other phenomena.

One thread does follow these individual stories – in Neo Ultra Q’s world, ogres exist. They take eccentric forms, at times hideous, other times playfully bizarre. It’s not a series without a creative spark, and the various ogres represent thematic concerns. Neo Ultra Q’s first episode follows an ogre, marching through a city, chased by military wanting to destroy what they see as a nuisance. Protesters call for non-violence, standing up for this oddity as it strolls toward its destination. Therein, Japan wrestles with conservationism, understanding differences, and a generational divide; it’s primarily kids defending the creature.

Neo Ultra Q isn’t afraid of morbid, dour endings

Consider Neo Ultra Q’s idiosyncratic slide – a story involves man-made people seeking only to experience love, a philosophical exploration of what it means to live. In the next tale, there’s a big-nosed stink monster stranded on an island, exploited for profit (if with acceptance by the corporate manager using smelly excretions to sell perfume). The dramatic whiplash episode-to-episode is unparalleled.

Two things hamper the execution, one of them drawing debate. The first is how incomplete these stories feel, too often left without a satisfying conclusion, as if a third act was cut before airtime. And second, as a result, Neo Ultra Q isn’t afraid of morbid, dour endings. While the series doesn’t employ rubber suits in great quantity against Ultra Q’s standards, it’s often kooky. That makes these crass, critical finishes feel out of step, even if they make a capable, potent point. A fable against Japan’s brash militarism calls back to WWII via overgrown sea creatures, and ends by suggesting conflict is never resolved no matter how aggressive one side attacks.

Still, Neo Ultra Q does speak to broad concerns, Japanese-focused as they may be in their tenor. Watch the episode “Laundry Day,” about an alien-esque being, gifted with the power to clean everything. After winning over the town, the government comes knocking, asking if this critter can solve the Earth’s pollution problems. He agrees, then proceeds to white out the entire planet, because nothing on Earth is left without grime. People like the easy way out, and politicians want votes. No one thought about the consequences though, and it’s a message transcending the home nation. And also, brutally truthful, for better or worse.

Video

Spread over two discs, the 25-ish minute shows have enough space, but Mill Creek’s encoding still chokes. Artifacting becomes a common issue, struggling to resolve a digital grain structure. While not always running at a loss, visible artifacts become too common.

When clear, the resolution shows. Detail shows promise, especially in wide shots delivering extensive definition. Close-ups will nail texture where possible, notable on monster suits/props. The pale, near black-and-white color grading doesn’t induce any issues.

In “Pandora’s Hole,” a man is dropped underground, staring down a demon coated in mud. If there’s a personal need to test a display’s black levels, this is it. Not only does texture in the muck/makeup appear, but the incredible shadows best any theatrical production. Plus, given the overall wetness in this story, light glistens to stretch range. It’s dazzling stuff.

Audio

Japanese only, DTS-HD stereo on each episode. There’s nothing remarkable to speak of. Modern recording keeps clarity exceptional, but expect few discrete instances. Neo Ultra Q hangs in the center, relying on width only for the score.

To note, that score relies on awesome vintage themes. They too sound great.

Extras

Nothin’.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Neo Ultra Q
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Using its weird, surreal sci-fi platform to dissect social ills, Neo Ultra Q isn’t afraid of getting goofy to make its point.

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