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).
UltraSeven 1967-68 - pp.1-5
Return of…(Jack) 1971-72 - pp.10-13
Ultraman Ace 1972-73 - pp.14-15
Ultraman Taro 1973-74 - pp.16-25
Ultraman Leo 1974-75 - pp.26-33
Ultraman 80 1980-81 - p.25, 38-46
Ultraman USA (The Adventure Begins) 1987
Ultraman Great (Towards the Future) 1990-91 - p.25
Ultraman Powered (The Ultimate Hero) 1993 - p.25
Ultraman Hero 1995
Ultraman Zearth (parody) 1996-97 - p.26
Ultraman Tiga 1996-97 - p.25, 46-50
Ultraman Dyna 1997-98 - p.26, 50
Ultraman Gaia 1998-99
Ultraman Nice 1999-00
Ultraman Neos 2000-2001
Ultraman Cosmos 2001-02 - p.34
Ultra Q: Dark Fantasy 2004
Ultraman Nexus 2004-05
Ultraman Max 2005-06
Ultraman Mebius 2006-07
Ultraman UltraSeven X 2007
Ultraman Retsuden 2011-13
Neo Ultra Q 2013
Ultraman Ginga 2013 - pp.34-36
Ultraman Ginga S 2014 - pp.36-38
Ultraman X 2015-16 - pp.15-16
Ultraman Orb 2016 - pp.6-8
Ultraman Geed 2017 - pp.8-9
Ultraman R/B 2018
Ultraman Taiga 2019
Ultraman Z 2020
Ultraman Trigger 2021
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!
TO THE FARTHEST SOUTH: "A plane carrying Inspector General Sawai disappears. GUTS are obstructed by a force field over a peculiar island."
This episode is interesting in that it has flashbacks to three and nine years earlier, showing the origin of GUTS. Desimonia looks like a work of modern art.
SLEEPING BEAUTY: "A living weapon that attacked the Inspector General is connected to a mysterious alien who came to Earth 24 years ago."
Kaiju: Alien Deshimo, Gwarm
"Sleeping Beauty" is the nickname for the hideous creature that crashed on Earth nearly a quarter century ago. Presumed dead, it was actually in some form of suspended animation. It takes over the body of Rena, which gives the actress the opportunity to sweat a lot and to do her scenes in her pajamas.
THE SMILE ACROSS SPACE AND TIME: "Missing ships and aircrafts are suddenly reappearing. Yazumi investigates a little girl who reappeared from the same phenomenon."
The episode begins with a flashback set some 10-15 years earlier when GUTS agent Yazumi was a little boy. He is approached by a old woman in a park. She gives him a locket with a picture of a little girl inside and says, "Look at me, Yazumi. I'm smiling!" Then she disappears as mysteriously as she arrived.
In the present day, a ship suddenly appears in a field, far from the ocean. A trace of its registry reveals it to be an America ship lost in the Bermuda Triangle some 70 years ago. Then, one after another, other ships and aircraft begin to appear in the field, plus a little girl. The commander assigns Yazumi, the youngest agent, to look after her. (Why not Rena, I don't know.) They bond, he has her picture taken and buys a little locket for it. (I think you see where this is going.) One of the other agents reads science fiction and warns that the little girl will probably age to an old woman at any time, or perhaps turn into a skeleton. Yazumi spends the rest of the episode worrying about this.
When a kaiju appears, GUTS assumes it is the cause of the time warp rather than another victim. (In this case they happen to be right.) Tiga defeats the monster, all of the time-displaced vehicles turn to dust and the little girl disappears. Later, Yazumi realizes that the locket the old woman gave to him years ago was the one he gave to the little girl earlier that day. This episode was a bit predictable, but no less enjoyable for that.
FLOWER: "With no cases to work on, the GUTS members head out to enjoy a day underneath the cherry blossoms."
Kaiju: Alien Manon
This one is weird, even for an episode of Ultraman, which is saying something. I'm not even certain what, exactly, this episode is about. Near as I can figure, a alien ship was detected about a month prior to the episode, but everything has been quite since. The aliens themselves are enjoying art and poetry and music and sake in the park, the same park where the GUTS team goes to relax.
THE MIRAGE MONSTER: "Rumors spread in town of a monster appearing, however, it is false information being circulated by TPC to observe the citizens' reactions."
Kaiju: Dethmon, Faldon
About a month prior to this episode's story, a monster appears and GUTS handled it without the aid of Tiga. It should have been a fairly routine operation, but the people panicked and could not be controlled. This situation prompted TPC to "fake" monster reports in order to record crowd reactions. Unfortunately, a real monster appears at the time the fake reports are circulating. The monster appears and disappears as a mirage would. When GUTS investigates, the Captain is informed of TPC's plan and is ordered not to reveal what is happening to her crew. She ultimately resigns due to her role in the cover-up and her failure to obey orders. Her boss does not accept her resignation, however, and the guy whose idea it was is fired.
DEAR MR. ULTRAMAN: "Daigo receives a text saying that someone knows his true identity. The young man who sent the text has psychic powers, and proposes a game."
When this episode's protagonist was a little boy, he was picked on by the other children and called "monster." Now he seeks revenge... on everyone, basically. When he learns Tiga's secret identity, he promises not to divulge it only if, the next time Galra attacks, Daigo will fight it without becoming Ultraman. Daigo and Rena have become increasing close these last several episode. When they become separated and her life is threatened by the monster, Daigo is forced to become Tiga in order to save her life. So touched is the villain by Daigo's willingness to sacrifice his own identity, he changes his mind about revealing Daigo's secret. Daigo did have to disobey orders at one point, and the leader places him on three days administrative leave. She then points out that Rena has some unused vacation time, and suggests that she take three days off as well. It quite obvious the leader is trying to set them up. Rena blushes furiously, but Daigo is clueless.
DREAM: "A monster has been appearing every night since an unknown space beam assaulted earth. GUTS deploys, but it doesn't exist in this dimension."
A highly experimental episode. Weird camera angles, soft opera music playing in the background. A young man is dumped by his girlfriend. That night, while he sleeps, his is bathed in "cosmic rays" or something, which brings his dreams to life. (The monster, with heads on the ends of its arms, looks to me as if it might have been fan-designed.) Tracy and I were both confused as to which scenes were dreams and which occurred in reality. Tracy didn't like this one, but I at least applauded its uniqueness.
A FRIEND FROM SPACE: "A spaceship carrying Shinjo's best friend is attacked. Shinjo runs to the rescue but the body was infected by the mysterious parasite Irudo."
The Irudo are actually a hive mind race who have come to Earth seeking friendship with other species. Their "friendship" entails assimilating other species into Irudo. The returning spaceship is actually carrying Shinjo's two best friends. One is infected, but the other was completely transformed. When Shinjo arrived at the scene of the crash, he was telepathically urged by one of the astronauts to kill the alien with one shot, which he did. The alien he killed was his friend who was transformed, his last act before being completely assimilated. Shinjo has to go through the rest of the episode with the guilt of having killed his one friend and a decision to make regarding what to do about the other.
THE CITY WHERE THE GIRL DISAPPEARED: "Yazumi is invited to the gaming city of Town. This is the beginning of Town's self-aware computer's terrifying plan to take over the world!"
Kaiju: Satan Faibas
Town is like an amusement park built around particular video game. Yazumi was invited because he attained a certain level. Rena accompanies him but is quick to point out that this is not a date. Yazumi doesn't seem to be too interested in Rena anyway, and when they arrive Rena introduces herself as Yazumi's sister. Karen, the inventor of the gaming system, has somehow programmed herself into the computer's mainframe in an attempt to hack into GUTS computer and reshape the world. I missed the last couple of minutes but I'm sure everything worked out fine.
THE LAND SHARK: "Daigo notices the GUTS Wing 1's spark lens reacting strangely. A mysterious man speaks inside Daigo's mind, saying he has been waiting."
Geozrk is a subterranean monster which looks more like a gar than a shark, except for a "fin" that sticks up as it "swims" just below the surface of the ground. You may think it hails from Chevy Chase, Maryland, but it actually traces its roots back to a similar set of statues as Tiga came from. The shark statue is evil, however, and so is the man who found it.
TO BE CONTINUED...
INHERITANCE OF SHADOW: "The mysterious man inherited the genes of an ancient race of people like Daigo [did]. the man steals the spark lens and transforms into Evil Tiga."
Kaiju: Evil Tiga, Guardie
Going back to episode one, Daigo first became Tiga when he discovered three ancient statues. Two of the statues were destroyed but, using the spark lens, Daigo's consciousness was transferred into the third. The mysterious man's theory is that is was just luck on Daigo's part that he found the spark lance, so he steals it in order to become Tiga himself. the process works, but he did so with bad intentions and becomes "Evil Tiga" (like Tiga but with black eyeshadow and lipstick, and black highlights on his costume).
In the previous episode, the man had a cute little dog (similar to a Corgi). Tracy shouted, "Get out of there, pup!" (These shows are never kind to animals, especially cute little doggies.) The dog managed to survive the first episode, but was killed less than a minute into the second when he walked into a force field surrounding the Tiga and Guardie statues. the man transforms and flies off to wreak havoc. Daigo tries to breach the force field but is similarly repelled. He is not killed, however, just badly stunned. Then he puts his hand on the dead dog's body and it begins to glow. The Guardie statue is then animated by the dead dog's lifeforce. (I wouldn't have though a dead dog would have a "life force," but that's what it looked like to me.) Guardie flies off after Evil Tiga while Diago rallies.
Guardie is put in the position of defending the city from his former master. The real Tiga arrives just in time to witness Guardie being killed. Tiga defeats Evil Tiga and flies Guardie's corpse into space.
At the end of the episode, the crew members of GUTS reunite. The camera angle is low on the ground looking at Diago and the others. A familiar looking pup runs in front of the camera.