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!
This last disc has been real persnickety. Sometimes I had to load it two or three times before it would read. Tonight I had to load it six or seven times, but it finally took. Anyway, the last episodes is titled...
FAREWELL, TARO AND MOTHER OF ULTRA!: The Captain is back this episode, along with the new lieutenant (whose eyes point in two different directions, I just noticed). Kotaro awakens from a prophetic dream in which Mother of Ultra warns him that Saori and Kenichi's father will be killed and there's nothing he can do about it. He awakens to find Kenichi and some other kid, both wearing sailor hats and brightly colored sweaters, standing over him.
Kenichi used to be the featured "kid" every episode; then it was a friend of Kenichi's; then they practically did away with Kenichi altogether and introduced a random kid every episode. Now Kenichi is back, with a friend in tow, and his voice has changed.
Kenichi's friend is also a ship captain, and both their fathers are best friends. An amphibious kaiju attcks the ship of Kenichi's friend's father, killing all hands. The boy blames Taro and ZAT for not saving his father, and he breaks Kenichi's Ultraman Taro doll. Kenichi stands up for Taro, but the boy says Kenichi doesn't understand. the next day, the kaiju attacks Kenichi's father's ship killing all hands. Now Kenichi blames ZAT and Taro.
The amphibian comes ashore and Taro fights it. Suddenly, an "Ultraman" dressed in black and wearing a gold helmet appears and a three-way battles ensures. (The DVD booklet identifies the black-clad Ultraman as "Alien Valky" who is in control of the amphibious one, but you'de never know it from the episode.) Taro defeats the amphibian and Alien Valky disappears.
Later, Kotaro confronts Kenichi on the waterfront and admits to being Ultraman Taro. To prove a point, Kotaro gives up being Ultraman. A strange ritual takes place, apparently on the planet Ultra, in which the other five brothers strip Taor of his power. Back on Earth, Kotaro throws his badge into the bay, but Mother of Ultra appears in a vision and snatches it up. She says now that Kotaro has learned not to depend on Taro, he has learned how to live. (Or something.)
Alien Valky appears, human-size, and they begin to fight. Before too long, however, Valky grows to giant-size. Kotaro luers him away from Kenichi to the nearby fuel yards. In his anger, Valky licks a tank which sets off a chain reaction and practically the whole thing explodes. Just when I thought Valky died of his own stupidity, he walks out of the flames unharmed. He is being sprayed by oil, though, and when Kotaro shoots at him, Valky bursts into flame and burns to death. At that point it's all over except the goodbyes. Kotaro resigns from ZAT, he and the Captain exchange looks and the team sees him off. The last we see of Kotaro, he's wandering off into the crowd.
This Ultraman series was a lot more whimsical than any of its predecessors. I don't know this for certain but, is Doctor Who fandom is any indication, I would be willing to be that kids who grew up on the original rejected this one out of hand. Then, after a suitable "period of re-evaluation" had passed, a line was drawn at some point between series old and new, and Ultraman Taro was considered "classic" Ultraman. In any case, I have updated the initial post at the top of this thread with some of the more recent series, including one from this year that hasn't even aired yet.
Interesting. A :Valky" appeared in the Ultraman manga. I'll have to re-read the last few volumes of that.
I picked up 15 today. I'm still reading it, I just got lazy about posting about it.
I ran out of Ultraman Taro while Tracy is out of town, but I've got some bootlegs someone gave me a while ago that I've never watched. I'm not going to go into too much detail at this time because they're only individual episodes and I'll buy the the complete series when they become available commercially.
ULTRAMAN 80: The main character is Takashi Yamato, a new junior high school teacher. Also new to the staff is Miss Kyoko, the gym teacher. To prove she's capable of being a gym teacher, she does a routine on the parallel bars in front of the student body. (I don't think any of my gym teachers every had to audition like that.)
The organization is Earth Defense Force; they're located underground and called UGM.
The theme song is catchy, and sung partially in English: "Ultraman 80 - He comes to use from the stars"; the rest is in Japanese.
The show itself is dubbed in English... badly, by heavily accented Japanese voice actors. I say "badly" because very little effort is taken to synch up the dialogue with the screen actors' lip movements. Also, the voices don't match the actors, and the translations are sometimes ungrammatical. When watching a subtitled show spoken in a language you don't understand, the acting is always good (as far as you know), but the dubbed voices are pretty bad.
The special effects are very "old school"; it doesn't look much different from Ultraman Taro (1973-74). A monster has not been seen in five years. This corresponds to the end of the previous series (Ultraman Leo, 1974-75) and this one (1980-81). I'm not sure why the monsters went away, and I'm not sure why they've started to return. When it comes time for Takashi to transform into Ultraman 80, he just does. the narrator explains that Takashi is Ultraman 80 and if his secret is revealed he must return to Planet Ultra in Nebula M78. That's all of an origin story he gets.
At the end of the episode Takashi is called into the principal's office, where the UGM captain offers him a job. He must keep his teacher job, too, and not let anyone know he also works for the Earth Defense Force.
ULTRAMAN GREAT: I remember when this one was new (1990). As far as I knew at the time, it was the first "Ultraman" show since the original. It was an Australian production. I was living with a toy/collectables dealer at the time, and saw one episode through him. Instead of collecting it on tape, though, I decided to start with the original series because I am who I am. By the time I completed my collection of the original series, my source had dried up. I would have loved this series then, just as I love it now, 30 years later.
Unlike Ultraman 80 (which was definitely "old school), Ultraman Great is definitely different from the previous series, in the same way season 26 of Doctor Who is different from season 7). The production values remind me a whole lot of Battlestar Galactica to put it in perspective. It is the first "Ultraman" series to be recorded in English, so no over-dubs or subtitles. Unfortunately, that means the quality of acting is obvious, too (again, on par with Battlestar Galactica).
I'm not going to go into great detail about the cast because I hope to get this on commercial DVD one day, but the Captain reminds me a whole lot of Peter Cushing but isn't.
There's nothing in the episode I saw to indicate this show is even called "Ultraman Great." that may have been a later addition, as was "Ultraman Jack" for The Return of Ultraman series. This series seems to be a reboot of the original, with no ties to any of the previous series. The actual title of the series would appear to be Ultraman: Towards the Future, with the first episode titled "Signs of Life."
NEXT: Ultraman Powered
ULTRAMAN POWERED: There are a lot of similarities between this series and the one I looked at yesterday: it has an instrumental theme song; it's in English; the "Ultraman" is identical in looks to the original; there's no indication that he's called anything other than "Ultraman" (i.e., no "Powered"). The production values and special effects are 1980s state of the art; too bad it was made in 1993.
The "team" is led by an African American Captain, and most have punchy, single-syllable last names: Young, Kai, Beck and Sanders. Young and Beck are women; the rest are men. Kai is Asian; the rest are Caucasian.
The kaiju is a classic from the original series, Baltan, but this time an entire race set on invasion. When Ultraman arrives, he speaks to Kai in English and flat out says he needs a host to survive. Kai agrees and Ultraman gives him a beta capsule. the fight scenes are very slow, almost glacial.
ULTRAMAN TIGA: This one is definitely "Tiga." the theme song has English lyrics (or maybe it's just the English version, like the Ultraman we watched in the '70s), but the dialogue is dubbed (again, badly). The acting is so corny, but there's not much can be done with lines like the ones written. The action takes place in the year 2049. the Terrestrial Peacekeeping Commission has brought peace to the world. Seven elite members of the TCP make up the Global Unlimited Task Force, or GUTS. (Waitaminute... that spells "GUTF"...?) The one who becomes Ultraman is Daigo.
Two kaiju are converging on the site of three giant "Ultraman" statues. the monsters destroy two of them, and Daigo is killed trying to save the third. The third one cones to life and defeats the kaiju. Tiga's color scheme changes from silver & red to silver & blue to silver, red & blue for no apparent reason. Instead of a beta capule he transform by use of a "torch." His "Mother of Ultra" is little hologram from a little time capsule 40 million years old, very R2-D2/Princess Leia. Again, state of the art 1980s special effects... in 1996-1997. It'll be worth getting on commercial DVD for the cheese factor alone.
ULTRAMAN THREE: "Ultraman Three" is another version of "Ultraman Tiga" which I own but have never, until now, watched. The one I posted about yesterday was schlocky half hour episode, but this one seems to be a reboot (of much higher quality all around) that lasts a hour (minus commercials). It starts 5000 years ago. A sorcerer is menacing a village by using his powers to control a giant lizard and a giant stone idol (or maybe the idol's controlling him, I don't know). the the action jumps to the year 2038, and a member of the TPC (I'm guessing) is thrown into a time warp which lands him in the village.
This is the character who will become Ultraman (one of them, anyway, as it turns out), but I never did catch his name. There is a woman warrior who carries a "torch" but this one is made of stone. (We find out at the very end of the episode that she is a lookalike for the pilot's sister back in 2038.) We also find out that the pilot is the son of Ultraman (or the son of the guy who turns into Ultraman), but he has no wish to become Ultraman himself. He immediately recognizes the stone "torch" and refers to it as "spotlands" or "sparklands" or something like that. How (or if) this ties into the episode set in 2049 I watched yesterday I have no idea.
There is also a "kid sidekick" named Amu whose haircut and facial expressions remind me of no one so much as a Japanese Matthew Waterhouse. The pilot uses the "spotlands" or "sparklands" or whatever device to become Ultraman. this does not surprise the villagers at all. He is referred to throughout as "Ultraman Three"; the only time "Tiga" is ever used is in the end credits, the only word in English. At the end, it is revealed that Amu, not the pilot, is the "hero of prophecy" and he becomes Ultraman. the pilot flies his ship (which had been sticking out the side of a mountain all along) back to 2038. THE END.
Despite the fact that I had no idea what the hell was going on, I really enjoyed this one. I have no idea when the was filmed, but it was in every way superior to "80" and "Great" and "Powered" and the previous "Tiga": the overall production values, the special effects, the acting, the dubbing... everything. The theme that plays over the end credits is sung in Japanese with no subtitles.
ULTRAMAN TIGA GAIDEN: REVIVAL OF THE ANCIENT GIANT: The differences between the two UItraman Tiga shows I have was bugging me so i did a little internet research (which means I Googled it). Ultraman Tiga was originally a TV show which ran for 52 episodes from 1996-1997. The "Ultraman Origins" one was the first episode. The second one I watched was one of five movies which followed, this one being a 2001 direct-to-video prequel to the TV series. The 2038 setting is 21 years after the events of Ultraman Dyna (1997-1998), the follow-up series to the Ultraman Tiga series, which I have not seen yet. The "pilot" of the second Tiga show I watched is the son of Ultraman Dyna (or his host). I hope that clears everything up.
NEXT: Ultraman Dyna
Ultraman Leo will be released on May 25. We will get that set soon and start watching. Jeff will have episodes to watch the next time to travel to my mom's place in Arizona. He won't have to watch the dubbed stuff.