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!
You missed the first one... ULTRA Q. It was about The Science Patrol (or its nearest equivalent), but before any giant super-hero from space arrived. (It's the only season in B&W.)
I must say, it annoys me intensely that the one season of ULTRA MAN was run endlessly to death in the 70's in my area, until they stopped, and it has never been seen again... while virtually none of the sequels ever made it here.
ULTRA 7 did make it here... finally... in the mid-80's. Some cable channel was running it at 6 AM. Idiots... I have read this season is considered by many to be possibly the best they ever did. But, you CAN'T tell that by the DUBBED U.S. version. See... ULTRA MAN, though it was a very serous, often melodramatic show with deep emotions... and a great SENSE OF HUMOR... (in other words, typical Japanese adventure show) was MIS-remembered by some as being "stupid, goofy, idiotic". (Maybe they were thinking of JOHNNY SOKKO? Or maybe the faulty memory types were just idiots?) Apparently... the guy in charge of the American dubbing was one of those who "remembered" the earlier show being "stupid". So... they rewrote the show and turned it into a BAD COMEDY, with really stupid dialogue. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Oh... the guy in charge of the U.S. version, as it happens, was Tim Reid.
I left Ultra Q off my list, Henry, but I didn’t forget about it. On August 13 it will be available on DVD in the U.S. for the first time ever. I’m watching Ultraseven (out of order) in the meantime.
Speaking of Ultraseven, the DVD set does not have English overdubs, only subtitles.
Which leads me to the disagreement Tracy and are having regarding Ultraseven. I like my tokusatsu to be deadly serious (as “deadly serious” as two grown men fighting in rubber suits can be, anyway), but she apparently prefers hers on the silly side. As an adult, I appreciate tokusatsu on a whole other level than I did as a child. There’s a nostalgia factor, certainly, but I also appreciate the attention to detail of the model making and the special effects. I didn’t get that with SRRB/IK, but the effects of Ultraseven are really quite impressive for its time.
Regarding the theme song, I liked it from the moment I heard it, but I liked it especially after hearing it performed by the U.S. Navy 7th Fleet Band:
I’ll try to be back later today with a closer comparison between Ultraman and Ultraseven.
I first became aware of the multitude of sequels & spin-off via Jeff Nicholson, creator of (what else?) ULTRA KLUTZ. For what appeared to be a "parody", his series could get really serious, morose, and extremely complex at times.
When I got the 2 "phone book" reprint volumes (each more than an inch thick) of the entire series, my mind was really blown. Particularly by the last section, where it turned into a spot-on critique of the whole "deconstructionism" phase too many comics went thru in the 90's. He tackled the question, "Where did all the FUN go?" head-on. His story was so complex, but, so well-written, so COHERENT, and came to such a overwhelmingly satisfying conclusion, it struck me as what Keith Giffen's abysmal "Five Years Later" atrocity SHOULD have been and never even came close.
And this, from a guy who regularly had to drop out of comics to get "regular jobs" so he could then get back to his comics periodically. I highly reccomend people seek those 2 books out. The series works infinitely better when read as one complete work. (Ever notice some of the VERY BEST visual storytellers are the ones who draw in "cartoony" styles?)
Anyway, at some point, Jeff sent me a link to a website where you could buy ALL the spin-offs... presumably, on VHS. It's a shame I couldn't afford any of them at the time. But then, DVDs tend to be a LOT cheaper (and take less storage space).
I imagine ULTRA 7 probably works better with subtitles. Unless someone one of these days ever wants to do a "proper" dubbing job. (I like and have a lot of respect for Tim Reid as both an actor and a TV producer... but what he did to that show was unforgivable.)
I had to Google “Ultra Klutz” to find out what you’re referring to. Today is Wednesday, so I’ll check if my LCS has it in stock this afternoon.
Are you referring to the same Tim Reid who played Venus Flytrap on WKRP in Cincinnati?
My LCS had both volumes of Ultra Klutz but I didn’t buy them today.
Just as the Science Patrol of Ultraman was (more or less) the military arm of the United Nations Scientific Investigation Agency, so too is the Ultra Guard (or Ultra Garrison) the elite fighting division of the Terrestrial Defense Force on Ultraseven. Whereas the Science Patrol wore orange uniforms that I thought were grey because we had a black & white TV, those of the Ultra Guard actually are grey. The Ultra Garrison is composed of six members who have the support of over three hundred personnel, all housed in the massive TDF Far East Base located underground near Mt. Fuji.
From the DVD liner notes: “The multilevel self-sufficient complex, a virtual city, equipped with a sprawling command center block, personnel quarters, mess halls, factories, research facilities, a medical center, subway system, stealth airport, secret highway system, aircraft conveyers and launch bays, and interplanetary rocket silos. Each of the global Terrestrial Defense Force bases are supported by a system of manned orbital space stations and an operational base on the Moon. This infrastructure was significantly larger than Ultraman’s Science Investigation Agency, adding to the much larger scope of the stories.”
The first episode introduced each member of the Ultra Guard with onscreen stats by name, age, years of experience in the TDF and hometown.
Name: Commander Kiriyama
Experience: 16 years
Specialty: Garrison leader
Name: Agent Soga
Experience: 3 years
Name: Agent Furuhashi
Experience: 7 years
Specialty: Balance, strength; strongest TDF agent.
Additional: Played by Iyoshi Ishii (Arashi in Ultraman)
Name: Agent Amagi
Experience: 2 years
Additional: Played by Satoshi “Bin” Furuya (Ultraman suit actor)
Name: Anne Yuri
Age: “er… let’s not be rude”
Experience: 2 years
Specialty: Medical technician; only female member of Ultra Garrison
The sixth member is Dan Moroboshi, who joins in the first episode.
More on him next time.
Ultraseven was culled from perhaps a dozen different premises. Originally, the plan was to cheap out and reuse various monster costumes from Ultra Q and Ultraman, but ultimately the decision was made to design and create all new monsters.
Something else Ultraseven has in common with Doctor Who, in addition to its longevity and an ever-changing main character, is that (like the UNIT era) it is set in the near future. Like Doctor Who, too, there are several contradictions as to just how many years in the future it does occur. But my plan was to talk more about Dan Moroboshi today.
Cribbing from the DVD liner notes again: “Charting our sector of the Milky Way, an intergalactic explorer from Nebula M78, Agent 340, stumbles upon our planet. Fascinated by mankind, he assumes human form to walk among us as a drifter, taking the identity of Dan Moroboshi, and eventually joins the Ultra Garrison. In times of crisis, when lives are threatened, Dan has the ability to transform, via ‘Ultra Eye” glasses, into his true form — ‘Ultra Seven,’ known on Earth as the honorary seventh member of the Ultra Garrison. He also has another unique weapon, the ‘Eye Slugger,’ a sort of boomerang that detaches from his helmet. Controlled by telekinesis, it can easily cut through objects and opponents. On top of all this, even in his human form, Dan can manifest clairvoyant and telepathic abilities to investigate strange incidents or phenomena.”
Unlike Ultraman, who merged with Hyata, a human member of the Science Patrol, Ultraseven assumes the form of a human being, but he doesn’t merge with a human being. Also unlike Ultraman, Ultraseven has the option of operating as a normal-sized human in addition to his giant form. Rather than using a beta capsule, Dan transforms by slapping on a pair of cheap sunglasses called the “Ultra Eye.” He also has the ability to fire a variety of animated energy beams. Perhaps the most striking difference from his predecessor is that he carries a small box of capsules (five by my count, but he may switch them out), each of which contains a miniaturized monster to fight on his behalf.
For example, the first one contained Windam, sort of a giant robot chicken, but some of them are organic, too. I’ve seen only two or three so far, and usually they get their asses handed to them in a hat, buying time and wearing the opponent down before Ultraseven himself enters the fray.
Next time, I’ll discuss some of the specialized equipment and vehicles used by the Ultra Guard.
Jeff of Earth-J said:
Perhaps the most striking difference from his predecessor is that he carries a small box of capsules (five by my count, but he may switch them out), each of which contains a miniaturized monster to fight on his behalf.
Interesting. Sort of like a prototype Pokemon trainer.
Tracy of Moon-T said:
Jeff and I differ on what we expect from these shows.
Tracy of Moon-T said:Jeff and I differ on what we expect from these shows.Oh, you just miss those two heart-throbs, Gentaro Shizuka and Goro Kirishima!