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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This gives a good definition of what an "idol" would mean in this context.

Yes, that's it exactly.

THE HATER OF DREAMS: The Ultraman Toro Spark Doll was stolen by Tomoya two episodes back and is still being held by him (in a bird cage). Tomoya controls the Jean-Killer robot; he does not transform into it. As the episode opens, it is a space ship in low Earth orbit.

Hikaru, Misuzu and Chigusa are discussing the previous episode when Kenta walks in and they all clam up. (He is the only one of the three who doesn't know that Hikaru becomes Ultraman Ginga and Chigusa became Ragon.) Missed that they are keeping secrets from him, he storms out of the school. Hikaru follows, but they are both abducted by Alien Valky and transported aboard the Jean-Killer spaceship. There, Valky and Tomoya make it appear that Kenta is in control, but that ruse doesn't last for long. Soon, when they are back on Earth, Valky causes Ultraman Tiga Dark to appear.

To be continued...

THE BATTLE FOR DREAMS: Tomoya is a privileged rich kid and everything comes easily for him, he doesn't even have to try. Consequently, he has no dreams of his own. His father refuses to leave his company to a son who has no dreams, so Tomoya has decided to dedicate his life to smashing other people's dreams. Chigusa, for example, dreams of becoming an idol; Kenta, a photographer; Misuzu, a famous cake decorator (?); and Hikaru, an adventurer. Tomoya dismisses these dreams as they would all be easy for him to attain.

Hikaru convinces Tomoya that his dream is to defeat Ultraman Ginga and challenges him to a fight. Telepathically, Ginga tells Tomoya the story of his own childhood. (In flashback, we see the first ever depiction of an "Ultra" as a pre-adolescent.) Young Ginga tells Father Ultra that his goal is to grow up to be just like him, and Father Ultra storms off in anger, leaving Ginga confused. Mother Ultra explains that Father Ultra became so angy because he expected Ultra to aspire to be better than he himself. 

Tomoya takes this story to heart and, instead of transforming into Jean-Killer, transforms into Jean-Nine. Just then, Alien Valky and Tiga Dark return, and Jean-Nine teams up with Ginga to defeat them, using such weapons and techniques as Jean-cannon, Jean-buster and Jean-stardust. Working together, they drive off Valky and Tiga Dark, but we're left unsure as to whether Tomoya has really reformed.

The "Spark Dolls" take a much more active role in this series than they do in Orb or X or Geed (and I'm not referring to just those little untranslated skits at they end). they take active roles in the plots, and move about just as a child would play with an "action figure" (which is funny, because they have almost no "points of articulation"). 

Tiga Dark shoots Tomoya and Hikaru, and Spark Doll Taro, with a dark, smokey beam. The boys jump out of the way but Taro gets hit. He falls over with smoke rising from his head and a small mushroom cloud bursts. In the next scene, the plucky band of good guys are gathered around Taro.

This was a laugh out loud moment for me! 

Tracy disputes certain aspects of some of my summaries. For example, Misuzu aspires to be a "confectionist." (It was Tomoya who downgraded it to "cake decorator."). 

MONSTER COMPETITION: Hikaru, Misuzu, Chigusa and Kenta go to the mountain in search of six Spark Dolls Taro detected. They decide to split up. It's obvious the Hikaru and Misuzu want to be paired together, but neither one speaks up about it and Chigusa picks Hikaru, leaving Misuzu with Kenta. (Kenta is now in on Hikaru's secret, BTW.) Tomoya refused to accompany them saying he was busy, but Misuzu and Kenta soon find him searching on his own.

Meanwhile, a little bat-like alien named Icarus is also searching for the Spark Dolls at the behest of an unknown master. All of the groups have enjoyed some success. Alien Icarus is a shape-changer, and assumes the form of Misuzu in order to get Hikaru and Chigusa to let her hold the dolls they have found, but something is off about her and they run away.

Soon, the three encounter the other group and the two Misuzus collide. One accuses the other of being the imposter, but the collision has caused his disguise to slip, revealing bat-ears and a beard, so it is a simple matter to determine which is which. The five young people tie Icarus and interrogate him, but he refuses to divulge who he's working for. He slips his bonds and combines the power of all six Spark Dolls at once to become the baddest kaiju of all, Tyrant. 

Hikaru transforms into Ultraman Ginga, but Tyrant fights him to a standstill. Then Alien Icarus' master stands revealed as Dark Zagi, wh o makes Tiga Dark look like an alter boy. Tomoya transforms into "Jean Fight Two Dash" and he and Ginga defeat the other two and recover the Spark Dolls. 

Tracy disputes... Yes. She does.

Taro decided he was going with Misuzu. Both groups needed to be able to track down the Spark Dolls. 

She aspires to be the greatest confectionery chef.

Yes, Taro picked Misuzu then Chigusa picked Hikaru (but Taro and Misuzu did partner up with Kenta).

And I put "confectionist" is quotation marks because spellcheck rejected it; the correct term, as Tracy points out, is confectionary chef (a glorified "cake decorator" as tomoya puts it). 

THE CLOSED WORLD: This episode begins with a recap of the series up to this point. More emphasis is placed on the adults than has been so far. Ms. Shirai, the school's former principal, still maintains an office at the school even though it is closed. (Makes me wonder whether she sleeps there as well and if she still draws a salary.) the monk from the shrine is Hikaru's grandfather. (I knew that, but haven't mentioned it until now.) the bicycle cop learns Hikaru's secret in this episode.

Once the story itself gets under way, Hikaru and the rest are drawn into a distorted space-time dimension, where Ultraman Ginga fights a boxing match in a "ring" with "ropes" of high tension wires. The Ultraman Taro Spark Doll serves as referee, and in the stands are hundreds of PVC Spark Dolls. They are setting up a storyline which will run the rest of the series, lots of foreshadowing. At the end of the episode, they are all still in the closed world. 

I would have liked this episode when I was in elementary school (the "closed world" concept, anyway); I was a big fan of Land of the Lost

Is his favorite game Ultraman Jenga?

Is his favorite dance the Ultraman Conga?

THE STOLEN GINGA SPARK: The primary school and the mountain (both named "Furuhoshi") are still in the distorted space/time zone. In this episode, we learn that Misuzu's dad and some of his work colleagues were swept into it as well. Misuzu has a somewhat distanced relationship with her father. He is a real estate agent who is in the process of buying Furuhoshi school in order to tear it down and build a resort. 

Also trapped in the zone is a disgraced boxer who was the childhood friend of the bicycle cop. when they were kids, they patterned themselves after a detective and a boxer on a popular television show. The one progressed only as far as an ordinary beat cop, but the other rose to the top as a champion boxer, but then fell in disgrace in a gambling scandal. He's there as a red herring for this episode's kaiju.

The real kaiju is Misuzu's dad's junior partner. He sneaks into Hikaru's room and steals the Ginga Spark (the device which allows Hikaru to transform) at the behest of another alien. When the alien uses the Spark to transforn the businessman into a kaiju, there is nothing Hikaru can do about it. Misuzu goes to the temple to pray for the power to help Hikaru, who has rescued her so many times. A second spark device appears, and she transforms into the kaiju Red King. 

Meanwhile, Chigusa and Kenta get the Ginga Spark from the alien and give it to Hikaru. Working together, Hikaru/Ginga and Misuzu/Red King barely manage to defeat the kaiju. Misuzu transform back to human, just as a black-clad Ultraman appears when Ginga is at his lowest ebb. 

To be continued...

THE JET BLACK ULTRA BROTHERS: Ultraman Black is immediately revealed at the top of the episode to be Misuzu's father. After beating on Ginga for a while, he transforms to a second form based on UltraSeven, Seven Black, who is particularly brutal. Misuzu arrives on the scene and stops her father from killing Ginga. Meanwhile, Hikaru's grandfather, whose name is Hotsuma, is having a "tea party" with the Taro Spark Doll. Misuzu's father's female assistant has struck out on her own hoping to find a way out of the distortion zone. She soon meets the fuzzy alien who had a hand in transforming the other assistant in the previous episode. She is transformed by the alien into a beetle-like kaiju, but Hikaru is too badly beaten to do anything about it.

Misuzu, Chigusa and Kenta use a Spark to transfer into a single creature, a giant idol with three faces. (I think Tracy has a picture.) As the three vie for control, the idol staggers around aimlessly. The idol, Jasyulin, moves and sounds like Curly Howard (or maybe a chicken). they fight a delaying action until Hikaru has recovered enough to become Ultraman Ginga. Telepathically, Seven Dark tries to tempt Hikaru to "the dark side" but, with the help of Jean Nine, Ginga is able to defeat Misuzu's father.

Finally, the little fuzzy alien possesses Misuzu.

To be continued...

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