DAY TWENTY SEVEN:
FANTASY GOD-BEAST MADEUS
Written by Jonathan Wojcik
The Ultraman Max episode "Butterfly Dream" is referred to by some fans as the all-time strangest episode of any Ultra series. The title is a reference to the ancient Chinese poem Dream of a Butterfly, in which philosopher Zhuang Zhou dreams about himself and a butterfly, but does not know which of the two is actually dreaming the existence of the other.
In "Butterfly Dream," an old man falls asleep typing at a computer, and dreams that he is Kaito Touma, the current human host of Ultraman Max. As Kaito, he enters a mysterious, dimly lit art studio where he finds a woman sculpting monster designs from clay.
The man wakes up, and we learn that he's not a character within the show's canon, but Ikuo Hasunuma, a television writer supposedly working on the very episode we're watching.
And then...Kaito wakes up, wondering why he just dreamed that he was a writer and that his life was nothing but fiction.
The episode continues to shift perspective between character and writer, the same dream picking up where it left off every time they sleep. Ikuo continues to write "Butterfly Dream" and discuss it with the series director, drawing inspiration for the story from the recurring dreams, while the dream-woman requests that Kaito assist her in conceiving of her next creation, as she feels his expertise in destroying her creations could be used to build the most unstoppable monster of all - one that she hopes will finally destroy the world of Ultraman Max.
We never do receive a clear answer as to which is the true reality, or if both of them are real and only intersecting through some other, unknown force. Compelled by the dream, Kaito helplessly answers the woman's questions, and helps her settle on a monster named Madeus, after "Deus" ex Machina." She expresses that a truly terrifying monster should be shapeless and faceless, something humans cannot empathize with, and Kaito eerily, unwillingly answers "A cold light. Growing larger as it feeds on the dreams of humanity."
In the final dream, the two men switch places entirely; Kaito finds himself at the writer's desk, and Ikuo finds himself as Ultraman, facing against the shining, blue blob of unfinished clay that is Madeus. Thinking quickly, Kaito begins writing his own narration into the script in front of him, allowing him to speak directly to Ikuo and guide him through a battle unsettlingly played to serene, heavenly choir music.
Kaito is not a particularly creative storyteller, but he doesn't need to be; the fact that he figured out what was happening and what he could do is impressive enough.
Rolling itself into a sphere, Madeus splits open into a set of chomping jaws that may bring to mind a huge, cracked egg about to un-birth a universe. Now that Kaito is literally writing the show, however, he pretty much only has to type "Ultraman Wins," and Ultraman Wins; countering an "evil" Deus ex Machina with another.
But the question remains...WHAT just happened? For us, it's just a surreal, experimental meta-episode, but given the paradimensional antics we've already seen in these reviews, it's not impossible in-canon that either one of the two realities are a construct of a reality-warping entity, or that both exist and intersected by the entity's power over dreams. In either scenario, it's impossible to determine the being's motivations, whether "Madeus" or the monster sculptor are more representative of its true self, or whether there's any truth to it having created all other monsters. The way the sculptor discusses wanting to end the world sounds eerily like a God who has grown tired of creation, and I feel like if Kaito isn't haunted for the rest of his life by newfound existential terror, he certainly should be.