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-Man 1966-67
Ultra-Seven 1967-68
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!

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SETSUBUN SCARY STORY! SPARKLING BEANS: Setsubun, celebrated on February 3, is the observation of the beginning of Spring in Japan. it is celebrated by the ritual throwing of beans to drive away evil spirits and the year before and bring good luck for the coming year. the episode opens with some TAC members visiting a preschool. No child is supposed to throw more beans (jelly beans, in this case), than years they are old. they throw to beans at the TAC members, than the teacher instructs them to pick the jelly beans up off the floor and eat them. I don't know; sounds kind of unhygenic to me. Here is the Setsubun Wiki if you want to read more.

the next episode feature the return of a spacecraft called... the Jupiter 2!

RIDE OVER THE TIME MACHINE!: TAC members Toshimura and Mikawa disappear while fighting a Terrible-Monster. The Terrible-Monster has the ability to travel in time, and they were caught in its backwash, arriving some 700 years earlier. Oddly, they are still able to communicate with Captain Ryu via their radios. The monster continues to attack in the present and vanish into the past. TAC visits a laboratory where the scientist is experimenting with sending a rabbit five years into the past. (Wouldn't he already know whether or not he has succeeded?) The time machine he is using looks like a washing machine and spins the rabbit around. It doesn't work (but it's about to!), so TAC has him build a larger scale model to send some of them back.

the scientist is reluctant at first, until he learns that two TAC members are already wandering around in the past. He says it's a good thing they are only "wandering around"; if they had gone to purposefully change the past, they might change the present (as if they couldn't do that accidentally). They travel to the past and Hokuto becomes Ultraman Ace (to no one's surprise whatsoever), he defeats the monster, then flies TAC back to the present under his own power.

Tracy reminds me that TAC didn't "Ride Over the Time Machine," they followed the monster's "wake" into the past.

ULTRAMAN X:

Let's see if I can make sense of this...

15 years ago, an Ultra Warrior pursued a monster to Earth's solar system. He banished it to the Sun which triggered an Ultra Flare which no only cost him his body, but also caused all monsters on Earth to be reduced to miniature "Spark Dolls." In the present, Daichi Oozora is a memeber of Xio, the Xeno invasion outcutters. Daichi uses an "X Devizer" (a sort of bulky cell phone device) to manifest different weapons and armor by swiping cards across it's surface. It can also manifest powers form the Spark Dolls. Finally, it can access the digitized state the Ultra Warrior used for interstellar travel which he has been reduced to for the past 15 years.

When combined with the X Devizer, the Ultra Warrior can manifest in physical form. Daichi calls him "Ultraman X" because he is an unknown quantity never seen before. (Apparently, the show at least begins in a universe of its own.) Other forms of Ultraman X include Ultraman Victory, Ultraman Ginga, Ultraman Exceed X, Ultraman Zero, Ultraman Max and Ultraman Nexus Anphans. The different types of armor at his use are Gomora Armor, Eleking Armor, Bemstar Armor, Zetton Armor, Ultimate Zero Armor and Hybrid Armor. 

Xio is loosely based on the Three Musketeers. Their vehicles are named after the Dumas' Musketeers and can combine to become other vehicles called "Musketties.". For example, Daichi's car can not only fly, but it can also combine with a sort of flying sled to become the "Sky Musketty"; a Xio truck can combine with another vehicle to becaome the "Space Musketty." Daichi was separated from his parents during the Ultra Flare 15 years ago. The only thing he has to remember his parents by is a Spark Doll called Gomora.

The toy potential is virtually endless, what with the X Deviser with various cards, Spark Dolls and other figures and the various "Musketty" vehicles, not to mention the weapons and whatnot.

The Xio team is an eclectic mix of personalities. I expect each one will be spotlighted in episodes to come. So far, the one (other than Daichi) we know best is Asuna. There is probably some attraction between Daichi and Asuna, but so far they are partners along the lines of Hokuto and Minami from Ultraman Ace (except Asuna does not transform into Ultraman X). Asuna is an accomplished martial artist and handily beats the snot out of Daichi in practice. 

Captain Kamiki is in command; his second in command is a woman; there are two nerdy IT characters, one male and one female; Wataru and Hayoto are rivals. 

Ultramanx - a giant tailless cat that fights space monsters!

Jeff left out this weird @$$ member of the team. They have a young Fanton alien at headquarters. 

I also forgot to post the lyrics to the theme song:

If the world is going to be destroyed now,
Then do you have the courage to protect someone?

But there are times where you need to move forth.
That's believing in you & tomorrow,
we'll fight together.

Release it beyond your dreams,
Crossing the trustable heart & power,
Linking the ring of your heart.
Let's holds hands.
Everyone grasp the future.

Your & my bond,
Ultraman X.

If this earth's future is gonna disappear,
then do you have the strength to save it?

But there are times where you can't move alone,
so believing in me & yourself, let's grasp it.
Let's go, my friend.

Fly beyond the stars,
Kicking the land towards the sky, connecting voices,
Scratch down the sound of that hot beat.
Connecting our eyes, let's scream,
towards the changing future.

Yours & my name
Ultraman X.

Release it beyond your dreams,
Crossing the trustable heart & power,
Linking the ring of your heart.
Let's holds hands.
Everyone grasp the future.

Fly beyond the stars,
Kicking the land towards the sky, connecting voices,
Scratch down the sound of that hot beat.Connecting our eyes, let's scream,
towards the changing future.

Yours & my name
Ultraman X! X!

The girl inventor's name is Rui (sometimes she's called Rui-Rui by her friends). Her invention this episode is a cotton candy gun... it actually fires cotton candy, but it does come in handy later in the episode. She has pigtails, wears glasses and says things such as "Bingo!" and "Roger Dodger!" The alien this episode is Banello and is obviously patterned after Clint Eastwood's "Man With No Name." Ultraman Zero makes a surprise guest appearance (and everyone knows who he is), so I don't know what was up with all that "unknown quantity" jazz when they named him "X". Perhaps they meant they'd just never seen this particular Ultraman before. 

Only eight episodes in they did a recap of the series so far. Although it spelled out the status quo more clearly than the first episode did, I didn't enjoy it as much as I expected to. Both of us (especially Tracy) like to mindlessly watch giant monsters destroying cities then having the snot kicked out of them (I don't think Tracy even reads the dialogue half the time), this episode, although high on action, was really short on story.

Tracy tells me she had been looking forward to watching a "new" Ultraman after 50-some episodes of Ultraman Ace, but Ultraman X isn't clicking for her. I reminded her that other new series (Ultraman Orb, in particular) grew on her in time. I admit this one isn't as good (at least not yet) as Orb or Geed. the episode we watched last night introduced a new Ultra-brother (Ultraman Max, who dresses in red like Ultra-Seven), and the one up for tonight features some old (i.e., first series) aliens. 

Episodes 14 & 15 are a two-parter in which a young man and a young woman from a different monster fighting organization appear on the scene. You know how every series has a different such organization with no mention that others exist? Well, this couple is from another dimension (and he is Ultraman Victory of that dimension). It is braodly implied that all of the previous series have been set in alternate dimensions, although the Ultra-bothers can travel between them.

Episode 16 is another series recap.

The episode we watched last night was unique in that it was shot in the style of a TV documentary.

Tonight's episode: PIGMON!

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