I was a big fan of Ultraman when I was a kid. In the early ‘90s I discovered there was a new “Ultraman” show, but unfortunately I was more interested in acquiring episodes of the old show on VHS than I was episodes of the new one. Somewhat later I discovered that there have been many, many “Ultraman” series over the years, rivaling Doctor Who in its longevity. A brief search of the internet yields the following results (but I’ve probably missed a few).
Ultra Fight 1970-71
Return of… 1971-72
Ultraman Ace 1972-73
Ultraman Taro 1973-74
Ultraman Leo 1974-75
Ultraman 80 1980-81
Ultimate Hero 1995
Ultraman Tiga 1996-97
Ultraman Dyna 1997-98
Ultraman Gaia 1998-99
Ultraman Cosmos 2001-02
Ultraman Nexus 2004-05
Ultraman Max 2005-06
Ultraman Mebius 2006-07
Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster 2007-08
Ultraman Retsuden 2011+
We’ve been discussing other tokusatsu series in this forum lately, and because those series were produced later than Ultraman, I expected them to be technically better, but I ended up being somewhat disappointed in Super Robot Red Baron and Iron King. I enjoyed them, but I didn’t like them as much as I hoped to. Now I’ve started watching Ultraseven, and it’s everything I hoped it would be.
As the liner noteson the DVD set point out, “the difference in the overall quality in production between Ultraman and Ultraseven was marked, and made the show memorable 45 years later. According to Wikipedia, “Such is his popularity that Ultra Seven (or simply 'Seven') has appeared or at least made cameos in nearly every Ultra Series following his own and has had far more exposure than even the original Ultraman (though the original Ultraman is without a doubt the face of the Ultras).”
My wife and I disagree about the relative merits of Ultraseven in comparison to SRRB/IK. I would like to start the discussion with a look at the opening title sequence and music, then open the floor for rebutal.
The title sequence of Ultraman, as you will recall, looks as if it had been spelled out in a can of paint, slowly stirred, then run backwards. Ultraseven looks more like it had been spelled out in brightly colored confetti, placed atop one of those old electric football games, shaken apart, then run backwards. Whereas the soundtrack of Ultraman is jazzy, that of Ultraseven shows more of a classical influence.
Here is the English translation of the lyrics…
Seven… Seven… Seven… Seven…
Seven! Seven! Seven!
Seven! Seven! Seven!
A distant star was once his home
Ultra Seven! Fighter Seven!
Ultra Seven! Seven! Seven!
Onward to the edge of the galaxy
Use your Ultra-Eye and… STRIKE!
Seven! Seven! Seven!
Seven! Seven! Seven!
Dan Moroboshi is his borrowed name
Ultra Seven! Hero Seven!
Ultra Seven! Seven! Seven!
Defeat the great fire-breathing monster
Use yout Ultra-Beam and STRIKE!
13. RESTORE MEMORIES
“After accidentally damaging REM’s memory during a game of indoor baseball, Riku and the others try to help her recover the lost data by reviewing their adventures.”
Now that I’m caught up with my preliminary posts, the very next episode I watched was a clip show. “REM” stands for REporting and Memory System, by the way.
I’m a bit behind with my summaries. Tracy is referring to episode #17, which we watched last night. I’d better get caught up.
14. SHADOWS OF THE SHADOWS
“Moa has a new partner, and alien shadow named Kuruto, who might not be all he appears.”
So far I haven’t mentioned Moa’s partner in the AIB, Zena. Zena is a telepathic alien whose mouth never moves and who is physically unable to smile when in human form. When he goes on a secret mission, he is replaced by another alien of the same race, Kuruto, who is able to smile. Kuroto is a traitor and Zena arrives just in time to reveal that Kuruto was his former pupil and received special training so that he could appear to smile. Kuruto creates a vortex, but he himself (and Moa) ends up being sucked into it.
15. CHILD OF BATTLE
“Moa Learns about Kuruto’s past, and why he is trying to conquer Earth, while Zena, Zero and riku look for a way to deal with Zegan.”
While trapped in another dimension, Moa and Kuruto reveal their pasts to each other and we learn, via flashback, how Moa came to join the AIB.
16. THE FIRST DAY OF THE END OF THE WORLD
“After six years, Laiha’s Little Star suddenly resurfaces in the form of a strange voice bearing bad news: the moment everyone has feared is imminent. Belial is returning.”
Laiha’s Little Star first manifested six years ago when her parents were killed, but it has been dormant ever since. Now something has caused it to reactivate and she is taken to a shielded safe house where other Little Stars are being kept. But there is a traitor in the midst. Ultraman Belial (Darth Vader), in his ultimate form, arrives and fights both Ultraman Geed (Luke Skywalker), his son, and Ultraman Zero (his former teacher), in his ultimate form. Belial defeats them both, absorbs Geed, and flies to the Moon to complete his assimilation.
17. THE KING’S MIRACLE! TIME TO CHANGE FATE!
“Geed has been absorbed into the monstrous Chimeraberos, giving the fusion beast enough power to stand up to even Ultraman Zero Beyond. The only hope for Earth may be the mysterious voice that Laiha has been hearing since her Little Star reappeared.”
The voice Laiha has been hearing is that of Ultraman King, the most powerful Ultraman of all. He protects her from Belial while sending her to contact Riku within Chimeraberos and give him the strength to escape. (The people lost faith in Geed when they learned of his relationship to Belial.) Back in the real world, Laiha transfers her Little Star to Ultrman Geed in the form of the Ultraman King capsule. Using it in conjunction with the Ultraman Belial capsule, Riku creates the King Sword and becomes Ultraman Geed Royal Mega-Master. He defeats his pop and gains the Ultraman Jack, Ultraman Ace and Ultraman Taro capsules. With Geed now fully accepted by everyone, Riku and his friends celebrate.
This seems like it should be the series end, but there are eight episode (plus a movie) left. I’m curious to see where they take the story from here.
Be funny if there were eight episodes and a movie of them sitting around being happy about stuff.
18. INHERITOR OF THE DREAM
“Belial is defeated and the universe is at peace… or is it? When power hungry aliens start rushing to collect the deadly Monster Capsules left behind by the evil Ultraman, the former lieutenant, Fukuide Kei, comes under fire.”
It has been a week since the defeat of Belial. His monster capsules have been scattered far and wide, and alien races have begun to seek them out. First up is one of my favorite aliens from the original show, the zebra-striped Dada. This time, rather than transforming into a giant himself, the Dada pilots a (zebra-striped) robot called a Legionoid.
I haven’t said too much about Belial’s flunky, Fukide Kei, but when he first appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, he assumed the identity of a science fiction writer. When his editor turns up dead, he becomes the prime suspect. The ordeal of Belial’s defeat, however, has left him amnesiac. He is found by a journalist, Arie Ishikari, who wants his exclusive story. Throughout the course of the course of the episode, he regains his memories and she learns, not only that he can call on the power of dai kaiju, but also the identities of Ultraman Geed and Ultraman Zero.
The entire thrust of the series has changed at this point, even the opening credits sequence and theme song lyrics.
19. NEBULA HOUSE INVASION
“Fukide Kei invades Riku and his friends’ home in pursuit of revenge. REM helps the others escape to safety, but what will happen to the AI when she’s forced to confront Kei by herself?”
Fukide Kei infiltrates Nebula House. REM sends everyone to safety, then transfers its consciousness into an artificial female human body. Fukide heals himself, takes control of REM and forces her to summon a giant robot mecha, which “she” then pilots. Riku eventually gets through to REM’s core programming but, while all this was going on, Arie kept Leito (and Zero) from coming to Riku’s aid by pretending to interview him.
20. 10:00AM MONSTROUS BIRD
“For the last few days, every morning at 10AM, a monster named Gyeron appeared to challenge Geed. And while the young Ultraman wins every time, the repeated battles are starting to wear him out. Can Riku and his friends find a permanent solution before it’s too late?”
At first, Ruku believes he has been sighting a series of Gyeron monsters, but he eventually discovers it is the same monster which is able to reform after it has been blasted to bits. The fragments look like pretty blue rocks, several of which Mayu picks up. When they appear to “melt,” she places them in the freezer. This inspires them to enlist the help of the city’s residents. While Geed royal Mega-Master destroys Gyeron yet again, Ultraman Zero forms a shield which keeps the fragments within a one kilometer area. The people gather and freeze the fragments and turn them over to the AIB, and Geed scatters them in space.
21. PEGA RUNS AWAY FROM HOME
“After a tense argument where Riku questions the young alien’s ability to survive without help, Pega runs away from Nebula House. Is this really the end for these two best friends? And why has the deep sea monster Gubila appeared on land?”“
After 21 episodes, we finally learn how Pega came to stay with Riku. We also learn that Nebula House is actually a spaceship.
“Fukuide Kei has contacted AIB headquarters demanding they return his monster capsules. He also demands that Riku make the exchange. Can they really risk letting the villainous alien get his hands on such powerful weapons?”
Fukide Kei holds Arie Ishikari, his own devoted ally, hostage. In the end, he kills her (in much the same way Kylo Ren killed Han solo). Tracy still hasn’t warmed to this show as much as Orb, but one thing we both agree on: Fukide Kei is no Jugglus Juggler.
23. THE STRUM’S LIGHT
“ Fukuide Kei is in Okinawa, and is calling Riku out. Desperate to inherit the villainous ambitions of Ultraman Belial, the villainous alien Strum challenges Ultraman Geed to final battle.”
At the climactic scene, Arie Ishikari appears and reveals herself to have been (wait for it)… Ultraman Belial all along! With the said of additional capsules, he then transforms into his ultimate form, Ultraman Belial Atrocious!
24. THE FRAGMENTS OF HOPE
“Belial has returned, and with the power of the dark Lugiel and Alien Empera Monster capsules, he has obtained incredible new power as Ultraman Belial Atrocious. With Earth’s fate looking grim, Riku and his friends launch a last-ditch plan to defeat the newly empowered menace before he begins another campaign of cosmic terror.”
Our heroes prepare for final battle. Laiha has a plan to defeat Belial, but it will take ten hours to prepare. In the meantime, they decide Ultraman Zero will attack first. First, though, Leito spends time with his wife and child in celebration of Mayu’s birthday. Rumina reveals she knows Leito is Ultraman Zero.
Nebula House rises from underground and assumes its spaceship form. (Oddly, the spaceship’s name is Neo Brittania…!?) Belial arrives and the fight with Zero begins. Zero is hampered because Kei threatens Leito’s wife and child unless Zero surrenders. Laiha saves Leito’s family, but Zero has already been defeated, causing Geed to have to join the battle prematurely. As the episode ends, father and son prepare for their final battle.
25. THE SYMBOL OF GOOD
“Ultraman Belial Atrocious reigns supreme. Ultraman Zero Beyond has fallen. There is now only one person who can save the universe from Belial’s evil: his son, Ultraman Geed.”
This last show of the series is basically an episode-long fight scene, eventually involving virtually all of the Ultraman. The only cut-aways from the big battle are the ones showing the little battle between Laiha and Kei. She beats him down so bad that he ultimately halucinates she is Belial. As “Belial” she forgives him, and he dies. Zero leaves L>eito’s body and Geed is hailed as a true hero.
The Laiha-Riku-Moa love triangle is left basically unresolved. There were some hints that Moa might have transferred her affection to her partner, and there were definitely some hints that Riku and Laiha were growing closer, but, when Laiha and Moa were alone in Nebula House, Moa kept dropping hints that Laiha should leave now that Belial has been defeated. When Laiha indicates she intends to stay, Moa declares that she will become a roommate as well, slapping her hand on the self-destruct switch for emphasis. It don’t think the ship actually did explode (at least it wasn’t shown), but the essential status quo (except Zero) has been restored for the movie.
Movie theme song sung by pop sensation May J.
ULTRAMAN GEED: THE MOVIE: CONNECT THE WISHES!
“Continuing the story from the series, the Gigantic Mechanical Brain Gillvalis and the Galactron army are closing in on Earth with intent to wipe out all intelligent lifeforms. Riku Asakura, Ultraman Geed, rushes to Okinawa to locate the ‘Red Steel’ they also seek and join Ultraman Orb and Zero, but Geed;s hasty actions might put the team in even more danger. Together they must fight to defend Earth!”
Like the Ultraman Orb movie, this one is just like the series except more of it. In a surprise move, Gai Kurenai, Jegglus Juggler and Ultraman Orb all appear. To paraphrase Dorothy Gale, “All I kept saying was that Kei Fukuide is no Jugglus Juggler, and they sent me Jugglus Juggler!” Rather than provide a recap of the enitre movie, I thought I’d comment on some aspects of the Japanese culture and language that struck me.
First, throughout the series, everyone called the main character Riku, except Moa who called him Rikkun. (One time, while mocking her, Laiha referred to him as “Rikkun” and it was subtitled in quotation marks.) For the movie, they changed the spelling slightly so that sometimes they called him Riku-kun and Moa called him Rik-kun. When Gai Kurenai meets Riku Asakura for the first time, he at first refers to him as “Geed-san,” then adds, “Wait, I am your superior. ‘Geed?’ ‘Geed-san?’ Which should it be?”
What I like about watching these shows in the Japanese language with subtitles rather than dubbed versions are the differences in language. Quite often, words or phrases, which may sound odd at first to an English-speaking ear (make that “ear of an English speaker”), are actually universal concepts uniquely expressed. It’s odd, too, which phrases in English (such as “Shall we dance?”) are assimilated whole.
NEXT WEEK: The Return of Ultraman (Ultraman Jack)