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!
DON'T YOU WANNA SEE THE ZERO FIGHTER BIRD MONSTER?: "Saiton's beloved remote controlled Zero Fighter plane goes missing. Is finding it worth an encounter with the monster Balebadon*?"
Kaiju: *Barevadon (another case in which the notes don't match the subtitles)
Saitan becomes obsessed with the Zero after seeing one in an aviation museum. He saves his money for years until he is able to buy a remote controlled model, which becomes his obsession. Meanwhile, his father has recently purchased a black onyx golf club, his obsession. At a competition, Saitan loses control of his model plane and it flies away. His mother, who isn't thrilled with either the (expensive) model or the (expensive) golf club, suggests to her husband that, if they can't find the model, he needs to get rid of his galf club as well, reasoning that it's only fair. I don't see what's "fair" about it, but for whatever reason the father agrees.
Meanwhile, UGM is investigating reports of a giant "space bird" which visits the valley "every 50 or 60 years." They are warned that it is dangerous to go to the valley because the bird is hungry from its flight through space. Saitan and his father meet a fisherman who says thet he saw the model Zero fly into the same valley. Barevadon (or Balebedon, whatever) appears, and Saitan is able to control it with his remote. He believes that his model (somehow) became the space bird. Takeshi uses his "WX-rays" to see that Barevedon/Balebedon has swallowed the model, and that's why Saitan is able to control it. (Don't ask me; I just watch these things.) And no, "WX-ray vision" is not a power we have ever seen before.
Saitan brings the monster in for a landing, then clibs atop its back before his father can stop him. they take off and buzz a private aircraft flying in the area. Then Barevedon/Balebedon tries to eat a crow in flight, but barfs up the Zero model instead. Remarkably, Takeshi and Saitan's father catch it, but the space bird is now flying out of control. Ultraman 80 catches Saitan when he falls, and Barevedon/Balebedon flies off into space without a fight.
Back at home, Saitan agrees that he has become too obsessed with his model and his father agrees he has become too obsessed with golf and they resolve to give up their hobbies. What kind of ending is that?
WOW! THE GODDESS KANNON WAS STRONG!: "Two men seek a treasure buried beneath an ancient statue of Kannon. Why does young Nobuo hear Kannon calling out to him?"
In Edo period Japan, a thief drops his stolen treasure into a quarry rather than be caught with it. Then, before he can retrieve it, an historic earthquake buries it forever. In the present day, two small time crooks think they have figured out where it is. Unfortunately, it is near a statue of the goddess Heiwa Kannon and they will need to use dynamite. Young Nobuo Iwamizu prays to the goddess because he wants to meet Mariko Kurata, a movie star.
That night, the crooks detonate the dynamite and topple the statue of Kannon, which had been guarding the buried kaiju Zuraswimer. Investigating the dynamite blast (which they think is an earthquake), UGM makes a poor showing against Zuraswimer. Ultraman 80 doesn't do much better, until he resets the statue and it turns the monster into a pile of flowers.
Later, UGM brings Mariko Kurata, who was filming a movie nearby, to meet Nobuo. He is so happy to meet her "that his eyes droop, so of course his nickname from then on was 'Droopy Eyes'."
Oh! And the preview for the next episode gives away a major spoiler!
THE FEMALE WARRIOR FROMTHE PLANET OF ULTRA: "UGM investigates a spaceship crash and recovers a beautiful young woman with amnesia. Why do the Rattler aliens pursue her?"
Kaiju: King Galtan, the Rattler Aliens
I have been anticipating this episode for a while now. The packaging of the DVDs shows Ultraman 80 alongside a female Ultra, giving the impression that she's a bigger part of the series than she actually is. I thought she would be the "Visitor from Space" way back in episode 10, but she doesn't actually show up until 43. Even if she's in the rest of the series, that will still be only eight episodes out of 50.
So UGM finds an amnesiac woman wandering around the vicinity of a spaceship crash they are investigating. She is wearing jewelry, which leads one of the agents to suspect she might be a jewel thief. (???) The chief names her "Ryoko Hoshi" which causes Emi Jono to squeal and clap her hands in glee for some reason. ("That's a great name!") She is being pursued by Rattler Aliens, who are described as "nomadic monsters" throughout most of the script. Emi takes Ryoko under her wing, and Ryoko gives her a bracelet.
Ryoko is actually Princess Yulian of the planet Ultra. Galtan, king of the Rattlers, tried to invade but was repulsed. In revenge, he flew to Earth to kill Ultraman 80. The Rattlers mistake Emi for Ryoko because of the bracelet. They take her to a cave and begin to torture her. The bracelet resonates with the earrings Ryoko is wearing, so she and Takeshi are able to track her down. King Galtan throws a spear at Takeshi, but Emi leaps in front of him and is skewered in the back, mortally wounded. Galtan and 80 fight.
80 wins just in time to be there for Emi's last words. He confesses that he is Ultraman 80, and she admits that she kind of knew all along. Before she dies, she makes Ryoko promise to take her place in UGM. Before we started watching this series in earnest, Tracy encountered a big spoiler online. I asked her if this was it, but it wasn't. When I was searching for lyrics to the new theme song online, I came across this spoiler, but it really didn't matter because the preview gave it all away anyway.
We have yet to see Ryoko transform.
FIERCE FIGHT! 80 VS. ULTRASEVEN: "A biker gang assaults a young boy who loves UltraSeven. Now, UltraSeven appears to torment the bikers."
There is a fierce but friendly competition between the soccer teams the Jackies and the Monkeys. Naoto plays for the Monkeys and is a big fan on UltraSeven. A motorcycle gang wearing ski masks under their helmets attacks the Monkeys' practice. The leader of the gang chases Naoto's older sister, Aya, but Naoto distracts him with a well-placed soccer ball kicked to the head. The leader then runs Naoto down, putting him in the hospital.
The Saturn Gang is suspected. The leader of the gang is the older brother of one of the players on the Jackies. When the boy finds the ski mask among his brother's things, he denounces him for what he did. In the hospital, Naoto's tears fall on his small plastic figure of UltraSeven, bringing it to life. Fueled by Naoto's rage, it grows to giant size and pursues the Saturn Gang. They flee through a residential district reasoning that if "UltraSeven" follows and causes destruction, it will be a criminal. 80 eventually talks Naoto down, and the gang is punished.
We haven't seen a female Ultra since Minami was half of Ultraman Ace, but even then Ace was male, Minami was only half of the identity, and she was eventually written out. We have yet to see Ryoko transform into her giant self (which I know of only via the packaging).
We took a couple of more days off from this discussion after Tracy's return from her trip to get caught up on current shows we had recorded. Now we return with...
ALIEN BALTAN'S ENDLESS CHALLENGING SPIRIT: "Masaya tries to hoax his friends with fake UFO photos. Or is he just a pawn of Alien Baltan?"
Kaiju: Alien Baltan
Actually, Masaya Yamano takes photos of a real UFO. It is not until his friends don't believe him that he decides to fake others. This is a fairly straightforward episode, but I also dozed through it. I haven't done that so often since I was "retired" (transitive verb) now that I'm able to take naps in the afternoon if necessary.
REVIVAL OF THE FEARSOME RED KING: "Children on a ski trip find a magic jar. The jar contains the genie Mahjin, who grants every wish."
Kaiju: Red King
Siblings Yokko and Jun find a magic jar and share the discovery with their friends, also siblings, Emi and Satoro. The jar looks just like the one in one of her storybooks, so Yokko recites the magi words akasata-nama, ma-mi-mu-me-mon and the genie Majin appears. Majin is a self-described "neat freak" and thanks the children for cleaning the dirt off his jar. In exchange for granting wishes, He requests that the children clean up litter.
Word gets around and suddenly every child in the city is cleaning up litter, dumping it out, then cleaning it up again for more wishes. Jun cannot make up his mind, but the rule is only one wish at a time. Some of the children engage in dangerous activities trying to clean up trash, such as sweeping leaves from a high roof. Takeshi injures his leg while saving one of the children, and Ryoko heals him with her "medical gun," which heals all illness or injury. Takeshi tells her not to use it anymore because Earthlings have their own ways.
Four mean boys steal the magic jar and debate which monster to wish for, settling on Red King. They only wanted an action figure, but Mahjin misunderstands and brings the real thing. Ultraman 80 is badly injured in the fight. Ryoko is about to use her medical gun, but 80 signals her not to. He wins on his own, and they later decide that a medical gun is like a magic jar. And Jun never did get a wish.
Only four episodes left in this series.
This often happens... when I get near the end of something I tend to slow down.
BE CAREFUL OF THE EVIL GLOVE!: "Tadashi throws away his baseball glove after he loses a game. Does the glove resent Tadashi?"
Something resembling the northern lights appears over the skies of Japan. Meanwhile, a young boy makes errors in a ball game and blames his glove. He throws the glove away, but he mother won't let him back into the house until he retrieves it. when he tries, the glove is struck by ultraviolet light from the phenomenon and comes to life. Eventually it takes on giant form and Ultraman 80 must intervene. Ryoko devises the strategy which defeats it: infrared light. She still has yet to transform to giant size, and for some reason, her uniform doesn't match UGM's.
THE SPEED RUNNER FROM DEATH MOUNTAIN: "The Marathon Kid comes down from the mountain to race. But when he grows angry, he becomes the monster Idatenrun!"
Masao is favored to win the marathon competition between junior high schools, but he drops out of training when his mother becomes ill and needs an operation. The "Marathon Kid" is a mountain legend who loves to run, to watch others run and to run in competition. He is good natured, but becomes a kaiju when angered. The unscrupulous principal of one of the schools "recruits" him to run for his school and dubs him "Shinigama Sota." The other students riducule him for being a hick from the mountains, however, and he transforms to Idaterun and destroys the school. That's not the end, though. Masao's mother gets her operation and he decides to compete after all. The principal seeks revenge on Shinigama Sota, though, angering him. Ultraman 80 distracts Idatenrun while Masao wins the race.
Interesting. "Shinigama" is very close to "shinigami", or "death god".
Yes, when the name was chosen it seemed to hold some significance, but it wasn't made clear. At one point, someone asks, "Is there really a 'Death Mountain'?" and someone else said, "that's another name for [?] Mountain."
From here: "Idatenran's name comes from the combination of Idaten (韋駄天) and the transliteration for the English word 'run'. Idaten is the Japanese name for the Buddhist mythology deity, Skanda, who is known for chasing down speedy demons to recover stolen relics."
80'S GREATEST PINCH! TRANSFORM! ULTRAWOMAN: "Two monsters work together to overwhelm Ultraman 80. Can Yulian transform and save him?"
Kaiju: Pluzma and Minuzma
This is the episode I had been anticipating all along: the introduction of a female Ultra (i.e., "Giant of Light"). Judging from both the exterior and the interior packaging, I assumed she should have played a more significant role that being introduced in the second-to-last episode. The two monsters are obviously intended to be male and female. Pluzma has horns for nipples, which shoot electric bolts (which is a sentence I never thought I'd write). Ryoko shouts "Yulian!" when she transforms, so I guess her heroic name is "Ultrawoman Yulian." Pluzma and Minuzma beat 80 pretty badly, but he still refuses to let Ryoko transform because if they were both killed, Earth would be defensless (which makes no sense if you think about it). she disobeys and transforms anyway, thereby saving the day, but thematically the episode is disappointing.