When Mushrooms Attack

With the news that Amazon is flooded with dangerous, AI generated mushroom foraging books, this seems like the perfect time for this blog to point towards the Japanese kid’s show Ultraman Taro, specifically episode 31, “Danger! The Poisonous Mushroom of Lies”.

The episode opens with a giant, ambulatory mushroom, named Mushra, destroying a Japanese city. Ultraman Taro, a sort of size-shifting superhero, defeats the monster but not without a release of spores. After the battle the main protagonist of the series, Kotaro, meets a lonely latchkey kid, Daisuke, and gives him an experimental device that allows him to communicate with plants, as one does. Daisuke uses the device to communicate with mushrooms (I know, not a plant, but stay with me here). Handed such a device, let me just say that my first impulse would also be to communicate with the mushrooms to just ask them, like, what the hell are you all up to?

Daisuke, unfortunately, gets prodded by a bunch of hoodlum teens to eat one of the mushrooms and a seriously bad trip ensues. Daisuke becomes a mushroom monster and, due to the spores, turns the whole town into mushroom zombies.

Ultraman Taro returns to combat Mushra and this time drys up the giant mushroom’s water supply with some sort of zappy laser thingy. The mushroom zombies turn back into normal townsfolk. Daisuke’s mom apologizes for prioritizing work and, this being a Japanese show, everyone enjoys a bowl of mushrooms over rice.

That paradoxical love/hate/fear relationship we have with fungi, an organism that can nourish or kill or create visions thus provides the perfect plot points for this bit of pop cultural symbiosis and, as a bonus, you get an unexpected side plot dealing with women in the workplace in 1960s Japan.

Here’s the whole episode for your viewing pleasure:

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