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!
The scariest part of the episode we watched last night was not the kaiju, but rather the portrayal of Japanese public education circa 1970. A young boy forgets to do his homework. As punishment, the teacher forces him to stand still and hold two buckets full of water during recess while the other children tease him mercilessly. First one bully then another lightens his load by dumping the buckets of water over his head. Then they make him get on his hands and knees, force him to thank them, and call him Jammico. (Apparently “Jammico” is a caterpillar who parents never taught it how to spin a cocoon. Who knew? I’m not sure there’s an English translation.) Just then the teacher walks up and the boys run away. The teacher scolds the boy for being all wet again (apparently this isn’t the first time this has happened), then calls him “Jammico” himself.
Scene shift to Go and the MAT weapons expert in pursuit of the kaiju du jour. The other guy (sorry, these characters are not as well-defined as those from either of the previous series) confides in Go that, as a boy, he was a coward and his classmates called him “Jammico” (apparently, that’s a thing). When the monster attacks the school, the teacher and all of the other students evacuate. Jammico is the only one who does not run. The gunner identifies with him, gives him his own weapon and lets Jammico shoot at the monster. After the monster has been defeated, Go and the other guy let Jammico fire the gun… at nothing… for at least 30 seconds. The MAT gunner looks on in concern, but does nothing to stop him. When he’s finally done shooting, the gunner smiles and tousles Jammico’s hair.
The "stand in the hall holding buckets of water" bit is something I've seen in any number of anime and manga. I've no idea how much it actually happened IRL, any more than I know whether anyone was ever actually made to wear a dunce cap.
In a clear case of synchronicity (with the "murder hornets" currently in the news), one of the episodes we watched over the weekend featured a "homicide beetle" (which later became the kaiju Nokogilin).
Two episodes recently featured mock-ups of a tv show and a movie. The tv show was a Japanese soap opera which was just as entertaining as the main show. I wish they'd do a whole show like that. Another episode featred a few scenes from a Hammer-style Japanese horror film titled "Forest of the Vampire Baron."
One episode centered around kick-boxing and had a monster with buzz saws for hands (don't ask me how those evolved in nature).
My favorite episode from the weekend centered around Jiro, who, without permisson, "borrowed" a puzzle-box from a little friend of his, made by her father. Go found the box and, again without permission, took it on a mission to a satellite. So involved with open the box was he that he neglected to secure the station properly. In addition, he left the puzzle box on the satellite.
the new commander was justifiabled pissed. To redeem himself, Go volunteers to go back into space to properly secure the satellite, but when he gets there it's gone. Eventually it is discovered that the satellite has come crashing to Earth, but in the meantime, Jiro finds it first and is trapped inside. Then a giant space box-crab hatches with the satellite (with Jiro still inside) as its "shell."
All along I'm thinking the the puzzle box has something to do with the monster, but appatrently not. Jiro's friend gets acess to a secure channel just as Jiro figures out how to open the box and learns what's inside. "What is it?" He askes. "It's ugly!" His friend tells him its her umilical cord from when she was born, and that those who save them live long lives. I must admit, I've never heard that. A caul, yes (only in David Copperfield), but not an umbilical cord.
This is another monster I'm sympathetic with.It's perfectly harmless and ended up on Earth through no fault of its own, yet Ultraman beats it mercilessly. I still don't know what caused the monster and satellite to come crashing to Earth, whether it was Go's negligence or sometnhing to do with the box or what. I would think it's all Go's fault, but as soon as the crab-moster appears beneath the satellite. Go uses this as "proof" that he is not to blame.
All in all, this was a weird episode.
Today's kaiju somehow sprung from some sort of water buffalo graveyard. This episode features a unique (so far) underwater battle. The disc we're watching now is somewhat defective. It takes forever to load, then, two minutes shy of the ending of episode five, it froze completely. I hope we'll be able to watch the four remaining episodes on this disc.
Exactly what it looks like.
This kaiju shot rapid-fire fireballs out of its arse.
It's funny how everything I watch these days is filtered through the lens of the pandemic. Last week, there was an episode in which the monster was attracted by TV and radio waves. The people of Tokyo were asked not to watch TV or listen to the radio in order to save the city, but not everyone wanted to comply. A couple of days ago, a monster was attacking lighthouses on the way to Japan and people were asked to douse their lights, but again, it was difficult getting everyone to comply. Of course, nothing like that would ever happen in real life.
KAIJU DU JOUR: Draculas (an alien vampire monster, not plural)
The creature's floppy ears weren't torn off *and* he sucked the energy from Ultraman's neck. Draculas was actually frightening.
Speaking of seeing things through the lense of the pandemic, I can't find a good image online (nor the monsters name) or even in the DVD booklet, but the monster on the left looks as of it's wearing a coronavirus suit.
This is a two-part episode, and apparently not only Ultraman but two of his supporting cast members are killed (his girlfrind and her older brother, the mechanic). While looking for an image online, I learned that this is supposed to be a "Christmas" episode, but part one didn't really give that impression.
KAIJU DU JOUR: ???
All right, a brief review…
Hideki Go is Ultraman Jack.
He is a race car driver, and Ken Sakata is his mechanic.
Go’s girlfriend is Aki Sakata, Ken’s sister.
Jiro is Ken and Aki’s little brother, the juvenile interest of the show.
In part one of a two-part “Christmas” episode, Ultraman Jack is killed, and so are Ken and Aki. Ultraman’s enemies target them because they are friends of Go’s. Aki is snatched by a passing car. Ken witnesses the kidnapping and is run down by the fleeing vehicle. The car turns around and Aki is dragged behind the car back to when her brother’s body is, then let go. Jiro accompanies them to the emergency room where he watches them both die.
In part two, the original Ultraman and UltraSeven fly to Earth and use the Ultraforce to resurrect Ultraman Jack. (The actors who played Hayata and Dan Moroboshi in the two previous series also appear.) Ultraman Jack is revived, but Ken and Aki are dead. Go then moves in with Jiro (rather than the other way around; I guess the Sakatas had a nicer place), and their across-the-hall neighbor becomes Go’s new love interest.
Go tries to become Jiro’s older brother. He wants Jiro to call him “bro” (or the Japanese equivalent), and he begins to refer to Jiro as “Jiro-kun.” Jiro doesn’t like it because he real brother Ken never called him Jiro-kun. At the end of the second part, Go calls him Jiro, and Jiro cries tears of happiness because he called him “Jiro” instead of “Jiro-kun.” After that, Jiro is pretty much over the deaths of his two older siblings.
The “Christmas” part of the two-parter (lip service) comes in the last two minutes of part two. These episodes are followed by the “winter horror series,” two episodes with winter-themed aliens.
We finished watching the Return of Ultraman series last night. I a surprising number of them, Go’s jet goes down in a ball of flame, certain death. Then, after Ultraman defeats the kaiju, Go comes running down the mountain or out of the woods waving his arms and grinning like an idiot. In the penultimate episode, just before the end, one of the other MAT members (I still can’t really tell them apart) says to the captain, “Go certainly died an honorable death this time,” to which the captain shakes his head no, grins, and flashes a thumb to Go running down the street towards them. It was not only a sort of meta-textual scene, but it also set up the final episode.
The episode begins, quite unexpectedly, with Go and Jiro’s neighbor getting married on a beach. The entire MAT team is there in traditional dress. Suddenly, a bat-like alien (from Planet Bat) disrupts the ceremony. The MAT officers stand and shed their robes to reveal their uniforms beneath. (Their helmets appear out of nowhere.) They give chase. Then…
The girl (Rumiko, I think) wakes up. Apparently, it had all been a dream. She’s with Jiro but doesn’t know where they are or remember how they got there. The fake dream sequence is a trick we’ve seen a thousand different times in a hundred different shows, but this one is different. Rumiko says something to the effect of, “Our wedding ceremony was disrupted by a bat alien. That’s why I was dreaming about it just now!”
The rest of the episode progresses as usual, except this time, when Go crashes, for some reason he doesn’t come running up at the end. The MAT team, Rumiko and Jiro hold a funeral service for him on the same beach they were to have been married on earlier. After the MAT team leaves, Rumiko and Jiro linger. It is then that Go comes running up the beach. He explains that he must return to Nebula 78 and asks Jiro to recite the Five Ultra Oaths. (Don’t ask me; they’ve never been mentioned before.) Jiro refuses, but as Ultraman Jack flies away, Jiro has a change of heart and runs down the beach reciting them.
THE FIVE ULTRA OATHS
1. Never go to school on an empty stomach.
2. Air out your futon when the weather’s nice.
3. Watch out for cars when walking the street.
4. Do not rely on others for strength.
5. Run around and play barefoot in the dirt.
NEXT WEEK: ULTRAMAN ACE