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-?
Ultraman Dyna 1997-98 - p.26
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!
Monster Onion is chased from the planet Apple and feels to Earth where he causes chaos. Momotaro's grandparents' fruit stand is destroyed by Onion. Taking inspiration from the fairy-tale which shares his name, Momotaro tries to recruit a dog, a monkey and a pheasant to challenge Onion again.
RETURN OF THE CAPTAIN MUSTACHE!: An alien spacecraft sinks beneath the waves. the next day, superstitious fisherman attempt to club an amphibious humanoid to death for bringing them "bad luck." We've seen that before, but this alien looks exactly like a human (save for wearing a green leotard and having long green hair) and is also just a boy. A retired fishing boat captain intervenes. He has been fired for refusing to illegally fish in territorial waters. Paradai is the name of the boy as well as his race. The Paradai take the Captain aboard for a tour in thanks for saving the boy. Meanwhile, two Paradai attack the fishermen for clubbing the young Paradai.
When the villagers turn on the aliens, they combine into a giant form, necessitating the appearance of Ultraman Leo. Meanwhile, when the Captain discovers that he has lost his pipe, the Paradai give him a golden one, warning him that he can never smoke it. After Leo drives off the kaiju and the Paradai have returned their guest and left Earth, the Captain absent-mindedly fills the golden pipe and smokes it, which has the effect of immediately turning him into an old man! Gen and Toru later find him entertaining a group of children with his story. When they recognize him, he puts a finger to his mouth as if asking them to keep his secret, although that's exactly what he just told the children. He contentedly shuffles off into the city.
FATED REUNION! DAN AND ANNE: We are still in the midst of the "folklore series." "Captain Mustache" was based on "Urashima Taro" and this one is based on "Gon, the Little Fox" (but with a happier ending).
An obnoxious alien kid has been adopted by a woman Dan thinks is Anne from the UltraSeven series.
MONSTER'S RETURN OF FAVOR: This one is based on "Crane's Return of a Favor."
Alien Magma (the creature which destroyed Ultraman Leo's home planet) has taken a fancy to Rolan, "the most beautiful monster in the galaxy" (a grey dinosaur type with white feathers). she is saved by a man named Okuma and his son. Revetting to human form, she volunteers to help around the Okuma's bicycle shop to repay his kindness. At night, she makes pinwheels of her own feathers which increase a bicycle's acceleration. The man's son distributes them to all his friends. Unfortunately, the pinwheels attract the attention of Alien Magma and Leo has to intervene.
This series started out a little darker than the previous ones, but for a while now it has devolved into a "kid gang" show, much to Tracy's annoyance. I'm not particularly fond of these "folklore" episodes, but I enjoy reading the folk tales they are based on. There are two more in this mini-series-within-a-series.
THE WHITE FLOWER THAT PROTECTS THE EARTH: We watched this one a couple of days ago and I neglected to write it up when it was fresh in my mind. Anyway, it's based on The Old Man Who Made the Dead Trees Blossom."
FAREWELL, PRINCESS KAGUYA: This episode is the last of the folklore series and is based on "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter." One of Gen's students ,Yayoi, proves to be the Princess of the Moon, sent to Earth when she was a baby. I thought Tracy (of Moon-T) would like it because it's Moon-themed, but she was noncommittal.
THE LEO BROTHERS VS. THE SPACE DEMON ALIEN: Okay, the folklore series is over and we're back to basics for the most graphic of the Ultra-series so far. This episode I could have watched without the subtitles and gotten about as much from it as I did with the subtitles. There is a single father with a little girl. There is a single mother with a little boy. the man is sweet on the woman, and the woman is Toru's aunt. The man gives the woman a bouquet of flowers, and there is a hand inside. It is a wearing what looks like a green glove, and can appears from anywhere: through walls, the floor, the ceiling, etc. (It's like "Thing" of The Addams Family except it it can elongate itself.) There is also a giant flying eyeball.
Eventually Gen transforms into Ultraman Leo and punches the eye, which turns red. Alien Akumania , previously mostly invisible, I guess, appears around the eye. It has two horns. Leo breaks one off and stabs Akumania in the eye. then he rips its arms off, but to Leo's surprise, the arms fly on their own and choke Leo. Just as Leo is about to be strangled, a red ball of energy appears in the sky and transforms into Leo's brother Astra. Together they defeat Akuminia and Astra flies it off into space.
I have no idea what connection Alien Akumenia had to the green hand. Either it wasn't explained (or it wasn't explained very well), ot I wasn't paying close enough attention.
THE ULTRA BROTHERS' ETERNAL VOW: The episode begins with Ultraman Jack on his way to Earth to give Dan a "monster ball" to offset the fact that he can no longer transform into UltraSeven. On the way, he is attacked by Alien Ashuran, who causes some sort of "energy clamp" to appear around Jack's jaw. When Jack lands on Earth, he transforms into Hideki Go and the energy clamp takes physical form as leather and metal with spikes. He falls unconscious and drops the monster ball, then is found by Gen and another MAC agent.
Unable to communicate (I don't know why no one thought to provide him with pen and paper), he escapes MAC care to find a group of children playing with the monster ball. (It's the size and shape of one of those hand-held toy footballs made of plastic, but this one is red and silver metal with rivets.) He takes the ball away from them via an acrobatic leap, and the children begin pelting him with rocks. Dan appears on the scene and recognizes Go. Dan uses his rarely utilized telekinetic ability to remove the gag-clamp from Go's face.
Go explains that the monster ball can be thrown like a hand grenade but, when it explodes, it transforms into a giant robot named Sevenger. (I think Sevenger looks cool, but Tracy thinks he's dorky.) This can be done only once every 50 hours. Ashuran defeats Sevenger, but Ultramen Jack and Leo together drive him away.
I'M THE MONSTER BOSS!: A clay pot falls from the sky and is found by a little boy named Kurohiko. Inside the urn-like pot a a little monster named Taisho who hates school as much as Kurohiko does. Basically, this is a juvenile "genii in a bottle" story.
After getting Taisho to promise the boy he'll do his math problems, the boy sets the monster free. Now the kaiju can come and go from the urn. The little monster gets nervous when the boy gets all his homework answers wrong. Taisho pees himself and it leaks from the bottle. The teacher tells Kurohiko to clean it up. The boy mops up the urine and wrings out the cloth over the bottle, soaking the little monster. Later, the boy uses the buttons on the urn to torment the monster.
I absolutely hate these kid-driven, bully stories.
Bullying - especially in school - is a huge issue in Japan.