October 14, 2019

ULTRAMAN for Ultra Fans


ULTRA Q Series 1 (1966)
Starring Hiroko Sakurai, Kenji Sahara and Yasuhiko Saijo (716 min)

ULTRAMAN Series 2 (1966)
Starring Susumu Kurobe, Hiroko Sakurai, Sandayu Dokumamushi, Akui Kobayashi, Akihide Tsuzawae, and Masanari Nihei (988 min)

Review by Nick Lyons🐶

Tokusatsu fans, rejoice! Mill Creek Entertainment has put out the first two series in the legendary Ultra Series. First up is the 28 episode series from Tsuburaya Productions (headed by Godzilla co-creator Eiji Tsuburaya) Ultra Q. The 1966 B&W monster of the week sci-fi series is heavily influenced by The Twilight Zone and could even be seen as a precursor to shows like The X-Files. The basic premise is that a team (comprised of reporter Yuriko, pilots Jun and Ippei, and sometimes the knowledgeable Professor Ichinotani) investigate strange occurrences and superstitions in Japan which tend to revolve around monsters and aliens such as Gomess (who is a redressed Godzilla), Goro, Ballonga, Peguila, Garamon, Ragon, Namegon and Garadama (possibly the weirdest monster).

If you’ve ever seen a Tokusatsu show (think Power Rangers/Super Sentai) or a Kaiju film (ala the Godzilla series) before, you should know what to expect from the half-hour episodes. Basically, there are men in suit monster battles, destruction galore, know-it-all and or meddlesome kids, and humans in danger. The big difference here is this series has the lead characters investigating mysteries. Sometimes this angle feels underutilized, however, as the monsters are clearly the main draw here. The series is at its best to me when it veers off into strange territory like with the episode “Kanegon’s Cocoon” which involves a greedy kid being turned into a money eating monster. It’s a whimsical change of pace from the norm. However one may feel about the series, it deserves credit for being a big budget (for the time) and ambitious piece of TV history as it spawned a major franchise that continues to endure. Speaking of which, that leads to the second installment in the franchise…

When the meds kick in.
After Ultra Q, Ultraman followed in the very same year. The plot of the 39 color episode series revolves around members of the Japanese branch of the International Science Police Organization (think Thunderbirds) comprised of Akiko Fuji (communications officer), Daisuke Arashi (gunner), Cap (self-explanatory), Isamu Hoshino (junior member), Mitsuhiro Ide (the Q of the group) and the main character Hayata (a pilot). The Science Patrol’s mission is to investigate strange phenomenons and protect Earth from alien threats. While Hayata is out on a mission, he collides with a red orb which actually an alien from Nebula M78 known as Ultraman. The two end up merging as one which enables Hayata to transform into the flying, laser shooting Ultraman when needed. Naturally, the transformation is frequently needed when the Science Patrol encounters monsters and aliens such as Zetton, Gavora, Mummy Man, Kemular, Jirass, Zarab, Red King, Pestar, Dada, Gubila, Baltan and more.

Ultraman is really the gold standard of Tokusatsu hero shows. There’s a reason it continues to endure in various incarnations to this day. It’s simply a fun show featuring epic battles with monsters, numerous vehicles, explosions, adventures, heroism, miniatures, characterization, and mythological exploration (such as the past Ultras and the Monster Gravyeard).

In terms of stand-out episodes, the premiere (“Ultra Operation #1) and the riveting finale (“Farewell, Ultraman”) are really quite exceptional. They’re intense, fast paced adventures with high stakes, drama, thrills, and sci-fi drama. They have everything you could want from Ultraman.

Both sets contain digital copies and fantastic handy dandy booklets containing credits, photos, episode, character, technology and monster guides, and brief histories about the shows and their productions.


No comments: