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, 46-50
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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TO MEET YOU: Chigusa Kuno is on tour promoting her new album. Gouki is a huge fan, and is excited to learn that Hikaru and Tomoya are childhood friends of hers and can get them backstage. (Chigusa's "hit single" BTW, is the theme song from the first Ultraman Ginga series; she and her backup singers are no Baby Metal.) At the show the UPG crew meets super-fan Tamba, who is the acknowledged leader of all the fans. Tamba is actually Zoa Muruchi (a.k.a. "Metron"), who came to Earth as a spy prior to an alien invasion, but became a fan after listening to Chigusa's music.

Meanwhile, Yapool sends Alien Guts Vorst on an attack mission. He says that normally he would send Sunset agent, that "long-boot-shaped guy", on such a mission. I have no idea what he's talking about or to whom he is referring. Anyway, Guts calls on a kaiju that looks like a buck-toothed anteater whose name I did not catch. Tamba (or whatever his name is) changes into his true form, which looks like a giant crustacean and, in daikaiju form, busts into his dance moves. then the two Ultraman show up, and a free-for-all ensues.

The buck-toothed anteater quickly defeats the giant crustacean, and fights the Ultraman to a draw until their power starts to wane. then Chigusa sings her song acapella, which rallies Tamba/Metron/whatever for the win. Later, at the night club, Tamba dances to Chigusa's music in his crustacean form, and no one notices. 



Jeff of Earth-J said:

TO MEET YOU: Chigusa Kuno is on tour promoting her new album. Gouki is a huge fan, and is excited to learn that Hikaru and Tomoya are childhood friends of hers and can get them backstage. (Chigusa's "hit single" BTW, is the theme song from the first Ultraman Ginga series; she and her backup singers are no Baby Metal.) At the show the UPG crew meets super-fan Tamba, who is the acknowledged leader of all the fans. Tamba is actually Zoa Muruchi (a.k.a. "Metron"), who came to Earth as a spy prior to an alien invasion, but became a fan after listening to Chigusa's music.

Meanwhile, Yapool sends Alien Guts Vorst on an attack mission. He says that normally he would send Sunset agent, that "long-boot-shaped guy", on such a mission. I have no idea what he's talking about or to whom he is referring. Anyway, Guts calls on a kaiju that looks like a buck-toothed anteater whose name I did not catch. Tamba (or whatever his name is) changes into his true form, which looks like a giant crustacean and, in daikaiju form, busts into his dance moves. then the two Ultraman show up, and a free-for-all ensues.

The buck-toothed anteater quickly defeats the giant crustacean, and fights the Ultraman to a draw until their power starts to wane. then Chigusa sings her song acapella, which rallies Tamba/Metron/whatever for the win. Later, at the night club, Tamba dances to Chigusa's music in his crustacean form, and no one notices. 

While all these distraction battles are happening, Yapool is waiting for the perfect body to *hatch* from the dark side of the moon.

I had a great laugh at the giant Tamba alien using his dance moves in battle. 

SPLIT! UPG: Secretary Kamiyama, who has absolute authority over the UPG, arrives to disband the organization and implement a secret plan of his own. Hikaru objects and is placed in custody, and all other officers except Arisa, a protégé of Kamiyama, are barred from duty. 

Meanwhile, Yapool gives Alien Chibull one last chance to defeat the Ultramen. chibull chooses to bring back Volcano Bird Monster Birdon (because that worked so well before). Ultraman Victory has to fight Birdon alone because Hikaru is in custody, but he handily defeats the silly-looking monster. 

Back at former UPG HQ, Kamiyama reveals that a huge cannon has secretly been built into the building itself, it's now ready for use, and he wants Arisa to fire it. By this time, sho has returned to the underground kingdom. The secret cannon is powered by victorium, which severely endangers the kingdom every time it's fired. 

Enraged at Birdon's defeat, Yapool forces Alien Chibull to assume daikaiju size and attack. Tomoya frees Hikaru who becaomes Ultraman Ginga and goes into battle against Chibull. Ginga defeats Chibull and chibull is ready to turn against Yapool, but Kamiyama orders Arisa to fire against a defeated foe who has already surrendered. This further angers Yapool, who steps up his plans to revive Grand Master Lugiel from the "dark side of the moon." 

RESURRECTION OF LUGIEL: I forgot to mention last episode that the Underground Kingdom is on the verge of war with the surface due to the use of the Victorium Cannon. This is similar to the split which occurred eons ago. Dark Lugiel has been resurrected, and spends this entire episode travelling from the Moon to the Earth.

Feeling betrayed by the UPG, Sho attacks, but loses his Shepardon spark Doll, which Secretary Kamiyama uses to power the Victorium Cannon. On Earth, Space Dinosaur Zetton attacks the former UPG HQ (now decommissioned) and eventually becomes Hyper Zetton. Arisa refuses a direct order to fire the Victorium Cannon through Ultraman, whom Zetton is using as a shield. Kamiyama holds a gun to her head, but just then Gouki and the Captain burst in and turning the tables. 

After they leave, Kamiyama himself fires the cannon, but it malfunctions. Apparently, the Shepardon Spark Doll is somehow interfering with the process. Ginga calls on the power of all the Ultraman to create the Power Protective Cosmo Miracle Ray to defeat Zetton. Everyone begins to celebrate. Even "Mana" (Android One Zero) is observing from the top of a nearby hill. Just then, Dark Lugiel arrives, crashes into UPG HQ, and abosorbs the power of both Shepardon and the Victorium Cannon, becoming Vict Lugiel. 

ADVENTURE CALLED LIFE: The battle is on! Hikaru concludes the only way to win is to exceed the three-minute time limit as Ultraman by pushing human boundaries. As he calls on the power of first one Ultraman then another and another, he utilizes powers never seen before, such as the "Hyper Zetton Scissors" to name but one. Arisa's arm is broken in the battle, and "Mana" protects her, while beginning to question her own "life." Queen Kisara has a plan, to send Mana to absorb the Victorium Core, deep in the Earth with temperatures too high for any organic being to survive. while she's gone, Hikaru reveals his secret to his friends in the UPG. When Mana returns with the power, she betrays Earth and flies off to rejoin Yapool. Once on his ship, she flips sides again, revealing that her "betrayal" was just a ruse. As the episode ends, both sides are gearing up for final battle.

BATTLE FOR TOMORROW: This is the BIG series finale. Mana defeats Yapool and returns the Shepardon Spark Doll to Ultraman Victory. with the component parts of the Vict Lugiel amalgam separated, Dark Lugiel emerges and takes control. In a short, vicious battle, he turns both Ultramen to stone, expelling Hikaru and Sho. A mysterious "confectioner" appears on the scene, offering cakes to the children displaced by the battle. Yes, it is Misuzu. she and Hikaru are reunited, while Sho tries to help a pregnant woman who has gone into labor. 

In another city, Chigusa and Kenta are also dealing with the crisis... in their own way. Kenta records Chigusa's live performance and sends it out to her fans. Back at ground zero, Queen Kisara and her subjects arrive on the scene and they donate their own personal Victorium charms to Hikaru and Sho so that they might be empowered to regain their giant forms. Suddenly, the "Elite Squad" arrives, composed of all the villains seen throughout the series. A huge free-for-all  erupts, interspersed with Chigusa's dance routine. 

Hikaru and Sho regain their giant forms and employ the "Cosmo Miracle Especially." (That's the way it was translated; I suspect they meant something closer to "Special Cosmic Miracle.") Mana sheds her first ever tear and sacrifices her life existence to help defeat Dark Lugiel. (Dark Lugiel and Ultraman victory, we learn, were once a single being.) After Lugiel is defeated, Arisa forgives her former mentor and vows to rebuild the city better than it was before, the pregnant woman has her baby, and everyone eats chocolate. Hikaru and sho part ways, vowing to meet again and, in the very last scene, Tomoya successfully uploads Mana's A.I. to UPG's computer system. 

SHOWDOWN! THE 10 ULTRA WARRIORS: Setting the pattern for the rest of the "Ultra" series of the decade, the series is followed by a movie. I didn't take notes, but here's the description:

"The Earth is just beginning to enjoy its hard-earned peace when all of a sudden it is facing renewed threat! With the seven Ultraman warriors being sealed up by the almighty Majin Etelgar all human hopes seem to be lost. At this critical moment, Ultraman Cosmos and Ultraman Zero come to the rescue and together they join forces with the earth defending team UPG to fight the fiercest battle ever seen before."

As the movie opens, Sakuya (the young girl from the Underground Kingdom) has been made a probationary UPG agent. Mana has also been restored by Tomoya and has joined the team. the Ultramen imprisoned by Majin Etelgar are all Ultramen from another dimension. The majority of the movie is one flashy battle after another. I think this would really appeal to a younger viewer, especially since the movie has the option of a dubbed English version. By the end of the movie, Sho too become an official member of the UPG. 

ULTRA FIGHT VICTORY: this is the second movie to spin out of the Ultraman Ginga S series (although, at 38 minutes, perhaps "movie" is too generous of a term). Surprisingly, Tracy opted that we watch this one in Japanese because the English dubs of Showdown! were so bad. (It's not that they were bad per se, but they tried so hard to match the English words with the Japanese lip movements that it led to some awkward sentence phrasing.) It begins with Sho and Sakuya returning to their underground kingdom for a visit. An Ultraman we have never seen before, Hikari, appears and grants Sho additional powers, along with a new transformation device which can be pplayed like a flute (more toys!). then the first (of many) monsters shows up, and things just go bug-nuts. This show/episode/movie/special/whatever-it-is is just total eye candy start to finish. If I'm ever in the mood just to watch something for background noise, I must remember to set this to the Japanese version and turn off the subtitles. Here's the synopsis.

"After thousands of years, a diabolical space emperor named Juda Spectre is about to break free from his dimensional prison. In order to prevent this disaster from happening and to save the galaxy, Earth's amazing superhero Ultraman Victory must use a new secret weapon, a combination sword and flute called the Knight Timbre. However, can the soundwave strength of our Ultraman's Knight Timbre stop Juda Spectre and his army of monsters before it's too late?" 

ULTRAMAN 80

Tomorrow I will begin Ultraman 80. Here is the opening theme song (the first of two).

OPENING THEME

Ultraman 80, Ultraman 80
He came to us from a star

Do you love someone?
That is what it is to be alive

Do you have courage?
A heart that won't lose to any circumstance

The Man who came from a distant star will
Teach us about love and courage

Ultraman 80, Ultraman 80
He came to us from a star

Ultraman 80, Ultraman 80
He came to us from a star

Why do you cry? Wipe your tears
You aren't supposed to be weak

It's the same for anyone, the painful experiences
That everyone has in their hearts

The man who came from a distant star also
Knew the tastes of tears
Ultraman 80, Ultraman 80
Ultraman 80

He came to us from a star

And here is the first end song (again, of two). I couldn't find the lyrics online, but most of them are sung in English, anyway.

ENDING SONG

ULTRAMAN TEACHER: "A new teacher, Yamato Takeshi, joins the staff of Sakuragaoka Middle School. But secretly he's also Ultraman 80."

I posted a reaction to a dubbed version of this episode back on page 25 of this thread. The subtitled version is a bit more coherent, and explains why, for example, the "Earth Defense Force" (of the dubbed version) is abbreviated UGM (it really stands for "Utility Government Members"). There is a slightly different spelling of Ultraman 80's alter ego, the science teacher Takeshi Yamato, and the new gym teacher, Kyoko Aihara, is given a first name. The leader of the UGM is Captain Oyama, and the only other member who has been named so far is the token girl agent, Jono

The first six "Ultraman" television shows spanned 1966-1975, but had been off the air for the last five years. This "real time" gap is reflected in the backstory of the show, but has yet to be explained (if it ever will be). Captain Oyama is the only UGM member who has had any practical field experience dealing with kaiju. The subtitled episode makes clear (something the dubbed version did not do) that Takeshi is an alien, not a human being merged with an alien. 

Takeshi meets Captain Oyama while both are investigating recent kaiju activity and, by the end of the episode, Takeshi has been invited to join UGM on evenings and weekends. (As a former teacher myself, I don't know when he's going to be able to grade papers and make lesson plans.) The school principal is aware of this arrangement, but otherwise it's a secret. 

THE TEACHER'S SECRET: "Tsukamoto, a student in Yamato's class, has stopped coming to school,. Takeshi vows to find out why."

Kaiju: Gikogyler

In this episode, Takeshi and Kyoko play Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright to Tsukamoto's Susan Foreman. Also named this time are the other UMG agents Harada and Tajima. Also, Jono's full name is given as Emi Jono. Both episodes so far have said that, is anyone learns Takeshi's secret, he will have to leave Earth. I'm not sure why, but that's exactly what happens in this episode. Tsukamoto finds out and tells the other students. Although no one believes him, Tsukamoto does know. Takeshi is in trouble with his superior (the vice-principal, I guess) because he's perpetually late. He vows that if he's late once more, he will walk on his hands across the schoolyard, then resign. He runs late and is met by the VP and Kyoko. (Why she's not in her class, I don't know. Maybe she has first period free.) The VP is set to fire him, but his entire class has refused to enter the school until he goes first. For some reason, this ploy works (now they're all late) and Takeshi keeps his job. 

I forgot to mention yesterday that, despite the five-year gap, this show is still very "old school" as far as special effects are concerned. Also, this series seems to have restored the sense of whimsy of the early series without being childish. 

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