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 Q  
Ultraman 1966-67
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!

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DARKNESS AND LIGHT: Alien Nackle (the "fuzzy alien" of previous episodes) takes advantage of Misuzu's anger toward her father to transfer her consciousness into Super Grand King, a giant robot made up of all the Spark Dolls, hundreds of them, that makes MechaGodzilla look like a tinker toy. Hikaru and Tomoya transform into Ultraman Ginga and Jean Nine, but they are pretty evenly matched. Hikaru tries to engage Misuzu on the mental plane in an argument, fraught with sexual tension, that runs most of the rest of the episode.

Hikaru's grandfather, Hotsuma (who is a priest, BTW, not a monk as I have been referring to him), Ms. Shirai, Chigusa, Kenta and Misuzu's father discover a mural of the school song has been vandalized by person or persons unknown. Ms. Shirai is particularly upset because she wrote the song, based on her aspiration for the school's students. 

Misuzu's father, Kenta and Chigusa offer a prayer to the shrine and are all three provided with a Spark device. they transform into Ultraman, UltraSeven and Ultraman Tiga and join the battle against Grand King. Meanwhile, back at the school, Hotsuma tells Ms. Shirai that he knows the identity of Ruler of the Dark, who is responsible for moving the school and its surrounding to the Dark Dimension. 

He leads her to a classroom with is filled with scrapbooks and articles and mementos of the school's former students who has gone awry. Ms. Shirai slowly comes to realize that she herself, unknowingly,  has channeled these students' negative energy to become Ruler of the Dark. 

Back on the mental plane, Hikaru and Mikusa have finally reconciled their differences and combine to share control of Ultraman Ginga. Working together, they defeat Grand King. All the Spark Dolls are expelled and the school and mountain are returned to their proper dimension.

YOUR FUTURE: This episode picks up immediately after the end of "Darkness and Light." As soon as the school and surrounding are returned to their proper dimension, a large group of all the former students who have gone astray comes filing in, including everyone transformed to kaiju throughout the course of this series. Just when everything seems hunky dory, they drop unconscious and Ms. Shirai transforms into the Magus of Darkness, Dark Lugiel, and begins to attack the school. Hikaru transforms into Ultraman Ginga but is overmatched. 

One at a time, first Tomoya, then Kenta, then Chigusa, then Misuzu pass out. Taro telepathically communicates with Father of Ultra and mother of Ultra. Taro takes inspiration from the school song Ms. Shirai wrote, and mentally projects it into the minds of the unconscious former students. One by one they begin to wake up singing the song. As soon as they are all awake, each of them receives a Spark Device. Together, they restore Ultraman Taro to his giant form. All this time, Ginga has been fighting Dark Lugiel, and now Taro joins him.

Taro now realizes that Ginga is an Ultraman from the future, which is why he hadn't recognized him all along. Ginga and Lugiel fly into space to have their final battle on the Moon. Once Ginga achieves his final victory and returns to Earth, all of the Sparks ascend into space. After some final goodbyes, Ginga joins them. Then, finally, Hikaru and Misuzu hold hands. then Chigusa and Kenta hold hands. Then the two girls hold hands. Just when the episode seems to be heading to a giant boink fest, Hikaru reaches out for Tomoya's hand. 

"What!? I don't need this!" shouts Tomoya in protest as he tries to pull away. Then Kenta comes over from the other side and grabs Tomoya's other hand, forming a circle. Then they all skip around. And that's how the series ends. Or at least that's how the season ends. Next up is Ultraman Ginga S (the "S" stands for "strium"), which has been described as a "presequel" (which I interpret to mean a prequel which was make before the original). Honestly, I wish this series had been released first in the United States. 

ULTRAMAN GINGA S

"Two years after the final battle in Furuhoshi which took place in the presequel Ultraman Ginga, the time arrives for Hikaru Raido to have a fateful encounter with the mysterious warrior, Ultraman Victory, and a new invading force from space. with the help of the special task force UPG, Hikaru unites with Ultraman Ginga again to forge a path to the future, and a titanic tale of battles begins to unfold!"

THE POWER TO OPEN THE WAY: As the episode begins, Hikaru is traveling in Mexico. He's thinking about Misuzu, but I don't think she's in this series. A short-haired, blonde female alien identified only as "One Zero" provokes a kaiju attack, but Hikaru can't do anything about it because Ultraman Ginga has left Earth. The queen/ruler of an underground civilization gives her son (if his name was given, I didn't catch it) an an ancient Spark device called the Victory Lancer which transforms him into Ultraman Victory. There's also something about "crystals" and the surface men stealing "Victorium" from the kingdom.

Back in Japan, in the city of Shizukogaoka, One Zero unleashes the kaiju Shepardon. The UPG (Ultra Party Guardians) sends two field agents to deal with it. One is a young woman named Arisa, who I assume will replace Misuzu as Hikaru's love interest in this series. the Captain's name is Jinno, and there is another non-field agent I'm pretty sure is Tomoya. 

Ultraman Victory appears to fight the monster Red King. Hikaru is also back in Japan by this time, and kind of gets in the way of the two UPG agents. Then Hikaru "taps into the power of the future," apparently by wishing real hard, and transforms into Ultraman Ginga. Working together, the two Ultramen defeat Red King and turn him into a Spark Doll. Victory uses the power of the "Ultlance" to call on the power of "EX Red King Knuckle," which gives him the right arm of Red King. 

The two Ultraman prepare to square off. 

GINGA VS. VICTORY: This episode could have been titled "First They Fight, Then They Team Up." Victory attacks while Ginga tries to talk. Suddenly, the ruler of the Underground kingdom (I still haven't caught her name) does something that causes them to disappear. Actually, both have been transformed back to human, and Victory has been transported underground as well. We learn that his name is Sho. The queen or whoever she is (Sho's mother...?) has an advisor named Kamushin who looks like a Japanese Keith Richards. She admonishes Sho that none of the surface people are to be hurt. when he returns to the surface world, his is followed by a teenage girl named Sakuya and a little boy named Lepim (Sho's siblings...). I don't know if they came with or without the queen's knowledge and permission.

The short-haired blonde woman is an artificial being called Android One Zero. She works for a "Big Blue Thing" whose name I did not catch, although apparently he/it is not in his/its original form. 

The two UPG field agents, Arisa and her male counterpart Gouki, take Hikaru back to their headquarters , Captain Jinno asks him to join, and Hikaru agrees. Tomoya works there as well. there is some kind of link between the Spark Dolls and the crystals, and I think the crystals and "Victorium" are the same thing. 

Ultraman Victory has a brief skirmish with one of Android One Zero's kaiji, and the two children find Sho unconscious afterwards. They determine he needs food, but have no concept of money and end up stealing some apples. Sakuya and Lepim (also called "Lepi" for sort), Sho and Hikaru all come together and the matter of the apples is resolved. Then follows the episode's obligatory fight scene as Ginga and Victory team-up to fight the monster. 

Here is the Ultraman Ginga S opening credits sequence (and English lyrics) which will give you a good look at all the characters I have been describing.

ULTRAMAN GINGA S

I am surrounded by walls that cannot be seen

It's hard to live when I have lost my way like this

Only your kind smile can become the light that guides me to the future

You reach out your hand to the starry sky

Cassiopeia is also within your reach

If you close your eyes, you find yourself flying in the sky

They were our true heroes

That moment when you're hurt by your own dream, the regret that you felt then

Do you still remember the tears that you shed?

Even if you can't think on your own, just be true to yourself

So that you could live without hesitating

Become someone Strong!

Become even Stronger!

Become a hero!

When you are losing it's also your chance

While enduring a terrible night

Grasp it! Victory, even if you if it's lost in the darkness

The morning silent glow will lead the path

Break through those gray clouds and

Fly through the high blue sky

Spread your wings of hope

And let your courage blossom

In order to protect love

So that you could live without giving up

Become Strong!

Become Stronger!

Become a hero!

Sing the song of a hero

It's the prelude of fate

In every coincidences there's a miracle

I only wait for you

I only believe in you

I always continue to love you

Even if you can't think on your own, just be true to yourself

So that you could live for tomorrow

You reach out your hand to the starry sky

Cassiopeia is also within your reach

If you close your eyes, you find yourself flying in the sky

In those days, that boy was our hero

Become strong!

Become stronger!

Become a hero!

THE LONE WARRIOR: I think the "Big Blue Thing" is Alien Chibull Exceller, but I'm not 100% certain. In this episode, he calls upon a human-size alien called Guts Bolst (who resembles a duck to me). Guts bolst controls an army of giant robots, and eventually transforms into a robot called King Joe himself. Taro appears in Hikaru's mind and grants him the power to appeal to his "Ultra allies" by way of a wrist device (which I'm sure is available at your local toy store). The device has a lighted dial in which Hikaru can "dial up" the power of any Ultraman he chooses. 

Masanori Nihei died August 21st. 

He played Mitsuhiro Ide in the 1966 live-action Ultraman series after actor Susumu Ishikawa, who was originally cast for the role, left the production. Prior to this role, he played three minor roles in the Ultra Q series.

https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2021-08-25/ultraman-actor-voi...

THE MEANING OF STRENGTH: A couple of things before I start... when I identified Sakuya and Lepim a couple of posts back, I inadvertently left off a question mark when I thought they might be Sho's siblings; they are not. Also, Lepim has consistently been called "Lepi" since that first time, so that's what I'll be calling him as well. The "queen" has not yet been named in the dialogue, but her subjects do address her a "majesty." Ultraman Victory's power seems to be concentrated in his right arm. In addition to "EX Red King Knuckle," he can also manifest "Eleking Tail" on his arm, which sometimes appears organic, other times energized. When Hikaru transforms, he shouts "Ultlive!"; Sho "Ultlance!"; Android One-Zero something like "Monstlive" (I think). Okay, that's takes care of the odds and ends.

In this episode, Sho is experiencing disfunction in his ability to manifest his powers. The Queen suggests that he seek Hikaru's advice. Sho finds Hikaru just about to play soccer with a group of children. Sho refuses to play because he takes his responsibilities so seriously. Sho asks Hikaru why he fights, and Hiakru tells him about his friends from the previous series and his friends from this new series, but Sho doesn't get the message. He even rejects the attention of Lepi, who adores him. 

Then a monster appears and beats the crap out of Ultraman Victory because Sho can't manifest his Ultlance powers. Hikaru doesn't transform because this is a battle Sho/Victory must win on his own. Then Lepi shows up with a Spark Doll of the King Jow robot and essentially wishes its power into Victory, who manifests the "King Joe Rancher" which is essentially a powerful robotic arm, and wins the day.

If you haven't been paying attention, children, today's theme has been "the importance of friendship in overcoming adversity." (When I said that to Tracy she replied, "Oh, I got it.") 

The friendship theme has been present since the beginning. When Hikaru meets Sho in the first episode, Hikaru gives him a chocolate bar. A  chocolate bar has been in every episode since. So, the lesson is friendship and chocolate! 

FRIEND AND DEVILAlien Chibull Exceller ("The Big Blue Thing") engages Different Dimensional Alien Yapool, who has the ability to summon and control "super monsters", for the next stage of his plan. Yapool releases the kaiju Vakishim, then possesses Gouki in order to gain access to UPG HQ where he seals Hikaru behind a dimensional barrier, then he sets out to find Sho. He finds him in a park, but a pregnant woman is injured during their fight. Gouki fights back against Yapool's influence long enough to get the woman to a hospital. Meanwhile, Taro suggests to Hikaru that he create a barrier within a barrier, and expand it until the outer barrier is breached. 

A few more odds and ends: Hikaru passes the bulky device he wears on his arm to dial-up Ultramen off as an alarm clock. All along the UPG field agents have been using "charge guns" while on missions. These guns have ten foot-long cords which plug in to a panel in the hood of their vehicle. 

THE FORGOTTEN PAST: A mysterious young woman named Hiyori is following Sho. Hikaru draws her out into the open, and she claims to be a member of a group of Sho's race which was driven off Earth into another dimension. Sho knows nothing about this, and Hiyori accuses Sho's clan of wiping the memory from their own minds. Sho contacts the Queen, finally named Kisara, but she doesn't know, either, and she has been ruler for "several generations." (The underground kingdom is officuially known as "Underground World" (not very imaginative translated into English), and the race is known as "Victorians." The Victorians' loyal kaiju, Shepardon, however, seems to remember, but cannot speak. 

Eventually they learn of the secret history of the Victorians. After Hiyori's clan was driven from Earth, the remaining Victorians wanted to forget the conflict ever happened and purged it from their collective minds in hope that history would never repeat itself. Hiyori steals Sho's Ultlance and transforms herself into the monster Gomora. Hikaru meets Queen Kisara (via hologram), and asks him to defeat Hiyori/Gomora and get the "Victory Lancer" back without fighting. 

Ultraman Ginga is forced to fire a Strium blast at her, but when the smoke clears, Shepardon has thrown itself in the way and blocks the shot. Then Android One-Zero arrives in the form of Fire Golza, and a violent battle ensues. Fire Golza rips off Gomora's tail, beats her with it, then sets her afire. As Hiyori/Gomora falls, she tosses the Ultlance to Sho and a vicious four-way battle ensures between Ultraman Victory, Ultraman Ginga, Shepardon and Fire Ginga. 

After the good guys have won, they all (including Hyori) share a chocolate bar in friendship. I'm sure this show sold a lot of toys, but Tracy points out that they probably marketed and sold a lot of chocolate bars as well. 

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