Kaijū Menagerie

NAME: Gamakujira
Gamakujira (ガマクジラ Gamakujila)

Ultraman, Episode 14: Pearl Oyster Defense Order

– a thick-lipped maw filled with tiny, useless teeth and a long tongue-straw
– baggy skin smothered with balled spikes
– eyes as soulless as the writers of “Pearl Oyster Defense Order”

– eating pearls… seriously, that’s fucking it


I love Ultraman, but there are some shitty, shitty episodes, and episode 14, “Pearl Oyster Defense Order”, is perhaps the shittiest. It’s so shitty, that it in fact becomes an incredible experience – a shitty experience but an experience nonetheless. Most of its shitty shittiness comes from its shitty, shitty monster: Gamakujira.

Generally, the stakes are high in an episode of Ultraman. The world is on the brink of destruction. There’s a threat of alien invasion. Countless people are in deathly danger. Stuff like that. Ultraman, for the most part, has his work carved out for him. In “Pearl Oyster Defense Order”, the episode’s monster, Gamakujira, eats a bunch of pearls. That’s it. That’s the disaster at hand. Fucking pearls!

This pearl-eating plot is used as an excuse for the Ultraman writers to make a series of obnoxiously sexist gags – it was, after all, half a century ago – involving Fuji (Hiroko Sakurai), the only female member of the Science Patrol. Fuji is extremely upset about the Gamakujira’s pearl guzzling – because, you know, she’s a woman and, like all women, she loves pearls. You can almost see the life drain out of Hiroko Sakurai’s eyes as she delivers her brainless pearl-worshiping lines.

Gamakujira, in design, could be worse, I suppose, although he pretty much looks like an empty bag with googly crossed-eyes sewn on and a straw-sucking tongue hanging out of a gaping maw. But it’s not how he looks that’s the problem, it’s what he does or, rather, doesn’t do. He does jack shit throughout the episode outside of blubbering about on a beach, shooting water out of his blowhole and, yes, eating fucking pearls. It’s pretty satisfying to watch Ultraman smash him to bits in what is probably the most (appropriately) short-lived fights in Ultraman history (if you can even call it a fight – they just collide mid-air and Gamakujira explodes).

While I believe those behind this episode should be court-martialed under Kaijū Law, I must confess the downright spectacular shittiness of “Pearl Oyster Defense Order” is enough to make it a very memorable episode. It is one I reference constantly, along with Gamakujira, as an example of how awful this great show could be. Unsurprisingly, Gamakujira did not make any reappearances in future seasons.