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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Because we are not trying to maintain a daily discussion, we feel we have the freedom to move away from our various TV watching “projects” and watch something else as the mood strikes us. When Tracy returned from her recent vacation, however, we took stock of where we stood and discovered we had exactly 12 episodes each of both Astroboy and UltraSeven to watch, so we’re trying to watch those as daily “double features” and get them out of the way before moving on to Ultra Q which we’ve had since August.

Last night’s episode was a real hoot. The “Crazygon” could retract it’s legs, fly, and attach itself to a large, intergalactic spacecraft. The car-eating robot was sent to Earth by the Pandas (or from the planet Pandas), but if a motive was revealed, I didn’t catch it. The exposition went something like this…

“A giant car-eating robot! It must belong to Pandas!”

“How do you know?”

“It’s just a hunch.”

Great stuff.

So, this is a scene from the Gutts ' attack on Ultraseven. His crucifixion and the toy that followed.
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Tracy of Moon-T said:

So, this is a scene from the Gutts ' attack on Ultraseven. His crucifixion and the toy that followed.
 
 
Wait, Ultraman died for our sins?

I don’t know about that, but the imagery is unmistakable. You can’t really tell from the image Tracy posted, but the “cross” is transparent and hollow, and UltraSeven is inside it. If you look closely, you will see little hols for his head and hands, so it’s really a combination cross/stocks. The image of the toy Tracy posted won’t open for me, but it’s a little diorama of four “Ultra-Brothers” on crosses with two monsters fighting in the foreground.

We’ve had two episodes in a row (after the one with the Gutts from the planet Gutt) with races reminiscent of the Silurians from Doctor Who. (In a perfect example of synchronicity, coincidentally we watched “The Hungry Earth” and “Cold Blood” over the weekend, too.) The first of these two episodes deals with a group of… I guess you’d call them “monster chasers” today, investigating a sighting and arguing about whether or not most monsters are terrestrial or extraterrestrial in nature. One helpful bit of knowledge imparted in this episode is that all monsters love cucumbers. Who’da thunk it?

The race in this episode are aliens, and do nothing more threatening than running through a wooded area near a lake at night. For this, they are attacked and driven from the planet. The race from the next episode, in a closer parallel to the Silurians, are actually from Earth, pre-date humanity, and are bent on reclaiming the surface. Their plot is to capture a nuclear submarine, and use it to attack the surface world.

We’re on the last disc now, so we should be finishing up in a week or so.



Jeff of Earth-J said:

 One helpful bit of knowledge imparted in this episode is that all monsters love cucumbers. Who’da thunk it?

 

 

There's a legendary Japanese monster called a "kappa" which is generally inimical to humans, but which loves cucumbers and can be bribed with them. It's probably a gag on that.

What Jeff failed to mention is that the entire first part of the episode featured the "monster chasers" but the look of them, their weird dialogue and style of creaping through the woods was *spot on* Iron King.

To be fair, I didn’t “fail” to mention it so much as I simply didn’t mention it. (It was very much like “Iron King” though, I do admit.)

The episode we watched most recently featured a “were-ape,” a guy who had been bitten by a radioactive gorilla. No, no… actually, it was the result of aliens injecting altered gorilla blood into a human test subject. Or something. Anyway, our commentary went something like this:

“That looks like the Shaggy Man.”

“Yes, definitely.”

“You don’t know who the Shaggy Man is.”

Tracy thought I said a shaggy man in reference to a generic “shaggy man.” She didn’t know I was referring to an actual DC comics character. This is the character I was referring to:

 

Yesterday my lovely wife surprised me with an audio CD of Ultraman theme music from Japan. This is a pretty comprehensive collection, featuring music not only from Ultraman and Ultra-Seven, but also Ultramen Ace, Taro, Leo, Hero, Tiga, Dyna, etc., etc., etc. It features three or four tracks from each of the series, including three from Ultraman, three from Ultra-Seven, and three from Ultra-Q (which I haven’t started watching yet). Although I’m unfam iliar with most of these tracks, it’s still a great fusion of surf/spy/jazz/orchestra.

Apparently, “Ultra” soundtracks are just as varied as those for other long-running franchises such as Godzilla, Star Trek or James Bond. One can find comprehensive overviews (such as the one I am listening to now), or one can focus on music from a specific season or show. As much as I like the collection I already have, I now feel the need to get CDs of the music I’m most familiar with. Trouble is, a lot of the info is in Japanese, but I can make a few educated guesses and I’m working through it.

Now if I could only find soundtrack music (not just the theme songs) of Jonny Quest and the 1960s Spider-Man cartoon series.

Jeff, I have those.  I got scores for JONNY QUEST and ULTRA MAN via trades with other fans, and I'm the moderator of the SPIDEY-JAZZ Yahoo Group.  We have 3 full CDs we're trading right now, which were assembled via an excrutiating amount of research & work.  (These discs are NOT available anywhere else!!)

http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/spidey-jazz/conversations/messages

I'm not doing straight trades at the moment, due to severe financial problems, but I am taking CASH to cover expenses.

Contact me direct, we can set something up...

h k u j a w a @ c o m c a s t . n e t

 photo bowdown-1.gif

ULTRA Q

We finished up Ultra Seven last week and now we’re about a half dozen episodes into the earliest of the “ultra” series, Ultra Q, which we had been holding in reserve since the release of the DVD set in August. The only thing I really knew (or thought I knew) about this show prior to watching it was that it was in black and white, did not feature a giant protector from Nebula M78, did not feature a regular cast, and was similar to The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits.

Most of those assumptions are correct, but it does feature a recurring cast in most episodes, namely, three reporters who are roughly analogous to Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen from The Adventures of Superman. All of the episodes feature giant monsters and opening and closing voiceover narration in te style of Rod Serling. (The Japanese announcer frequently refers to “the unbalanced zone.”) The episodes frequently seem to wrap up rather abruptly, seemingly so that the narrator can make a few pithy observations.

What this series really reminds me of more than anything, though, is the pre-superhero Marvel Universe, when giant monsters dominated the scene. In this comparison, the coming of Ultraman would be analogous to the coming of the Fantastic Four.

This is really interesting stuff. Good production values all around.

The honorifics “san” and “chan” were used quite a bit on Ultraseven, but Ultra Q tends to use “kun” more often. My Japanese culture expert tells me that “Kun” is familiar and might be used between co-workers, which is exactly how it’s used in this show.

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