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!
THE MONSTER MADE BY A BOY: "A hospital reports a monster sighting to UGM. But when UGM arrives on the scene, the monster is nowhere to be found."
That capsule summary doesn't give a very good indication of what this episode is about. The "monster" is more a "will o' the wisp," a ball of green flame. I don't know quite how they achieved the effect, but it was quite well done, very convincing. The boy this episode is Kenichi, who's there for an operation. the operation is necessary to save his life, but they drill home (3X) that the expected survival rate is only 15%. The boy is understandably scared, but it probably doesn't help that his mother goes around crying all the time.
Kenichi builds his own monster out of clay and adds & ends: parts from a transistor radio, a clamp, his father's old cigarette lighter (which Kenichi repaired and put in his monster's mouth). Unfortunately, the radio parts are too heavy and tend to fall out of the monster's chest. Takeshi randomly muses what would happen in the clay monster were to be animated by the boy's own fear and despair. Kenichi accidentally leaves his monster outside at the beach. (The hospital is by the sea, and Kenichi is apparently free to come and go as he pleases.) The nurse tells him that their should be plenty of time to retrieve it the next morning because his surgery is not scheduled until the afternoon.
Overnight, the will o' the wisp creature inhabits the clay doll. The next morning when Kenichi approaches it, it begins to move. The boy is frightened and begins beating it with a stick. It grows to the size of a man just as Takeshi arrives on the scene. He fires his "riser gun" at it, knocking it into the sea. It grows to gigantic size and Takeshi must transform into Ultraman 80. Later, after the monster is defeated and Kenichi's surgery is a success, Jono matter-of-factly explains that the green flame thing was actually the soul of a monster, and that sometimes a monster's soul will wander about after it has been killed trying to inhabit something else. This is the seventh Ultraman series in sequence and I've never seen that before, but whatever.
This episode has a new opening credits sequence; that is, new video but the same theme song.
I CAUGHT A WEIRD FISH!: "Osamu buys a strange fish on his way back home from the beach. He puts it in his saltwater tank at home, and it begins to grow."
Osamu is in a friendly competition with his friends over who can catch the biggest fish. He doesn't catch anything that day, but there are vendors on the beach selling live fish for unsuccessful fishermen to pretend they caught. Osamu buys a particularly ugly one, but the fact that it outgrows its tank overnigght is only part of the problem. the main threat is that its mother, which looks like a cross between a catfish and Spawn (Jack Kirby's, not Todd McFarlane's) wants it back. Ultraman 80 keeps it occupied without really harming it until the baby fish can be returned.
At the end of the episode, the baby fish swims out to its mother. It is obviously the fish model on a small boat. Both Jeff and I thought that would be a fun radio controlled toy.
THE 99TH YEAR DRAGON GOD FESTIVAL: "Every 99 yeras, the dragon gem must be polished at the Dragon God Festival. But this time, strange forces work to steal the gem."
Kaiju: Fire Dragon (which is more of a description than a name)
Mitsuo is a young boy who is set to become the caretaker of the Dragon Temple. Two suspicious guys, one with lipstick on his face and the other who looks like the Japanese version of tor Johnson, are out to cause trouble. When they try to steal the dragon gem, the three-headed fire dragon (which doesn't look as much like King Ghidorah as you might think), is revived.
I took a few of days off from this discussion for a couple of reasons. First, I was burning myself out and needed a break. Second, Tracy is out of town for a week or so and said I could move on with Ultraman 80, but not Star Trek: Discovery or Dark Shadows.
GO FOR IT! STAG BEETLE WINTERING TEAM: "UGM is on high alert due to an inversion that causes mirages. But the monster Guwaganda attacks, fueled by a young boy's anger."
The episode begins with a weather report, delivered by the UGM weather girl to the agents. Apparently, an
"inversion" is blowing in from Asia and is expected to cause mirages. It sounds an awful lot like a common cold front to me, but maybe weather has different effects in Japan.
A young boy named Acchan has found a stag beetle and is committed to enabling it to live through the winter. He calls into the "Kids' Hotline" radio program, a call-in show in which a panel of experts answers questions from their listeners. Acchan calls in and finds out that it is possible, as long as he keeps it warm. At school, an older boy named Yama bullies Acchan into letting his take the beetle home for the night to show his cousin, who is visiting from out of town. That night, after Yama has fallen asleep, his mother finds the beetle and puts it outside.
the next day at school, Yama returns the dead beetle and Acchan wishes Yama was dead. He buries the beetle on a hillside under a tree. That night, Yama's mother sends him out to find some wild yams for mugi-toro (barley rice with a grated Japanese mountain yam on top). He digs right where Acchan buried the beetle and uncovers a giant claw. The monster Guwaganda emerges from the ground, empowered by Acchan's anger, and begins attacking the local residents, but they believe it is a mirage.
Ultraman 80 appears on the scene but, as powerful as he is, he cannot over come human emotion, even a child's. Somehow he knows the link between Guwaganda and Acchan and shoots him a look. Acchan says he forgives Yama, which depowers Guwaganda enough to give 80 the advantage. The giant Beetle returns to normal size and digs back underground. Later, UGM members, Acchan and Yama dig up the beetle, and it comes to life. the boys declare themselves the stag Beetle Wintering Team and vow to get the beetle through the winter,
ALIEN BALTAN'S TERRIFYING ZOO OPERATION: "Children who won a contest get to tour UGM. Baltan appears to exploit the jealousy of a boy who didn't win."
Kaiju: Alien Baltan
Kobayashi and Junko are the students who won the contest; Masao ("Morita" to his classmates) was the one who lost. Baltan takes over Masao's form, leaving him in his underwear (for some reason). The disguised Baltan makes his way to UGM HQ with the message that Kobayashi's mother was in an accident and is in the hospital. Without verifying the story, Cap sends Yuriko (the weather girl) to take him to his mother. Meanwhile, "Masao" is allowed to join the tour in Kobayashi's place.
On the way to the hospital, Yuriko and Kobayashi see the real Masao standing by the road in his underwear. She radios in with the information, but Takeshi is already taking "Masao" for a ride in the Silver Gull. (Junko stayed behind because she and Kobayashi already had a ride in the Space Mammy.) Alien Baltan reveals his true identity, they both switch to their giant forms and fight.
In the preview for this episode (at the end of the last one), Alien Baltan was said to have fought the original Ultraman, Shin Ultraman and Ultraman Joe. I have no idea who "Shin Ultraman" and "Ultraman Joe" are, but a case may be made that either of them could be Ultraman Jack from the Return of Ultraman series. Other than that, I'd have to go back and verify which of the Ultramen fought Alien Baltan.
The only "Shin Ultraman" I can find reference to is the upcoming movie. "Ultraman Joe" seems to be an alternate name for Ultraman Joneus .
"For the first time Ultraman Joneus appeared live in the 1979 film. In the film however Ultraman Joneus is referred to as Ultraman Joe."
Hmm... could be. "Shin Ultraman" probably refers to The Return of Ultraman, then. I know Baltan has returned since the original series (he's the one with the big claws and distinctive laugh), but I don't remember which series. The name "Ultraman Jack" wasn't assigned to the Ultraman of Return until well after the fact.
THE ECHOING VOICE OF FATHER ULTRA: "No one believes Futoshi's father really saw a monster. Does a monster really lurk near Nakatsudai?"
About six months prior to the beginning of the episode, a truck driver saw a monster step out of a black cloud and ran his truck off the road, killing his partner and injuring himself. He himself died of his injuries a few weeks later. Now his son has written a paper about his dad, but none of his classmates believe him and taunt him by calling him "Lying Futoshi." His only friend is Ecchan, a girl in his class. An older boy is particularly mean to him. Even the widow of his father's partner is mean to Futoshi's mother.
Both boys enter a kite contest. Futoshi builds an Ultraman kite, the other boy has a kaiju kite. the object of the contest is to disable your opponents' kite by cutting the strings. After three and a half hours, only the two boys' kites are left. Suddenly, a black cloud appears. Lightning strikes the kaiju kite, and the spirit monster Ghosdon possesses the kite and it becomes a daikaiju.
When UGM arrives, Takeshi is forced to parachute to saftey but is struck by the lightning generated by Ghosdon. He remains stunned until the Father of Ultra arrives to give him a pep talk. Ultraman 80 defeats Ghosdon, and all the people now believe that Furoshi's father was telling the truth.
I'M A MONSTER YOU GUYS!: "Some kids find a UFO. One of them swallows it, and them transforms into a monster."
Kaiju: Monster Tetsuon
Some boys are playing baseball when a small UFO (about the size of a Frisbee) crash lands and disintegrates, leaving behind a "seed" that looks like a hardboiled egg yolk. Tetsuo, who is not a very good athlete or a particularly good student, eats it (as one does). He later takes a nap in a field and awakens as "Monster Tetsuon." As a monster, Tetsuon has enhanced physical and mental abilities as well as telekinesis. He enters a costume contest and wins a movie camera. He immmediately becomes popular with his friends, who begin filming a "TV show" for him to star in.
But eventually, all of his good fortune backfires. He had been helping his friends with their homework, but they reject him because they don't feel as if they're learning anything. They no longer let him play baseball because they can't compete against him. And the contest reclaims the camera when it comes out that he wasn't wearing a costume.
After he has learned his lesson, Takeshi transforms into a miniature version of Ultraman 80, flies down Tetsuon's throat and retrieves the seed, immediately returning him to normal. This comic episode had no real threat, just a lesson to be imparted, that only hard work produces results.
With this episode, Ultraman 80 gets new opening and closing credits.
I can't find the lyrics right now; maybe I'll transcribe them later.
THE SUMO BOY FROM THE MOUINTAINS: "The Sumon spirit Sumo Boy has appeared, wishing only to wrestle. But if angered, he becomes the monster Jihibikiran."
Sera (the UGM PR guy) is attending a Sumo wrestling training camp. Some local children nearby chant into the woods for Sumo Boy to appear. "Sumo Boy" is a local legend. Many years ago, a young boy became so good at Sumo wrestling that the locals became jealous and threw him off a cliff to his death. He reappears every "10 or 20 years" wanting only to wrestle all comers. After 100 matches, he disappears again. But, if he becomes angry, he turns into a "tremor monster." Sumo boy defeats all of the wrestlers in the camp, then falls under the wing of two unscrupulous individuals who want to make a prifit off of his matches.
Knowing the danger if Sumo Boy becomes angered, Takeshi and Emi try to talk him into returning to the mountain, but her refuses until his 100th match. With just one to go, the crooks get him to "wrestle" a safe filled with 100 gold bars. Whuile attempting to break into the estate, Sumo Boy is shocked by the electric fence and becomes the daikaiju Jihibikiran. Ultraman 80 challenges him to a final match, and Jihibikiran accepts. the match is played mainly for laughs, and when its over Jihibikiran goes back to the mountain.
If you're like me, you've been champing at the bit for the lyrics of the new themes so you can sing along.
SECOND OPENING THEME:
Go out there, Ultraman
Don't be afraid of whatever comes
Ultraman 80 will stand by your side
If anyone calls him
Ultraman 80 will always answer
Hang in there, everyone's Ultraman
Go out there, Ultraman
SECOND CLOSING THEME:
The stars shine in the night sky
The Earth shines like the stars as well
Let's live together forever
Any person is an earthling
The tomorrow will always await for you
Tomorrow there will be something good
Note also that I have rewritten the initial post to modify the list with other series.
Tomorrow's episode title asks a question to which the answer is definitely YES!