Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Complete Ultraman!


I finally got around to watching the complete season of Ultraman. This series can be found for small money most places, and for that tiny dime is huge entertainment for anyone interested in Kaiju, or the particular version of giant monsters which habitually attack Japan.

The series is a sequel of sorts to a science fiction show called "Ultra Q", which had no superheroic elements. In the first episode the alien Ultraman follows a deadly monster to Earth and is for all practical purposes killed alongside a member of the Science Patrol named Hayata. In an effort to save both their lives Ultraman bonds with Hayata giving him the ability to transform into the giant hero when the need arises, which it does regularly.

Along with Hayata is a nice assembly of fellow officers. Muramatsu is the no-nonsense captain, a father figure of sorts; Arashi is the fiery marksman; Ide is the often goofy but brilliant inventor; Fuji is the lovely token female member and reliable agent; and Hoshino is the kid mascot who pops in and out of the stories.These five core members along with Hayata and several other semi-regulars create a nice cast of fun folks to watch.

Muramatsu, Ide, Fuji, Arashi, and Hayata
Ultraman is very smart in that it keeps the monster fights pretty small and focuses instead on the science fiction elements of the plot before reliably having Ultraman turn up and fight for a few minutes. It's a pretty stock approach to making an entertainment, but it works and they spice it up sufficiently that it only gets dull a few times.

Ultraman
One thing about the show that changes often is the overall tone of the stories. Some are light-hearted children's fables, some are more severe sci-fi episodes, some are somber fantasies, and a few are even quite scary relatively speaking.

My favorite is a beautiful fantasy which features a lovely young girl who loses her mother in the mountains but is able to call upon a giant Yeti-like creature called a "Woo" who comes to her protection. The lovely snowy mountain setting makes this one stand out and the story is elegantly told. Another that stands out is about an unfortunate boy who is killed on the highway in a hit-and-run accident and whose spirit evokes an ancient dragon who seeks justice but who unleashes quite a bit of destruction too.

All the stories offer up a monster. Sometimes they are aliens, sometimes they are legendary beasts, sometimes they are products of man's technology run amok. Always the threat is identified and solved by the end of the episode, as good solid kid's entertainment should do. But a few linger with messages rather heavy for this kind of  TV, or so I'd have thought. 

The monsters sometimes pose a threat to mere commerce, but they are nonetheless expunged, such as the beast which only wants to sleep in the middle of Tokyo's streets, or the creature which seeks to eat as much of the rich pearl trade as possible. There's no shame demonstrated here, as commerce seems central to the Science Patrol's mission.

Godzilla's Fashion Statement
A few of the monsters seem pretty familiar, such as the creature who is for all practical purposes Godzilla with a colorful frill around his neck. Sheer economics indicated the need to re-use as many of the costumes as possible and a few familiar creatures run amok. Even Rodan's distinctive cry gets used in this show, serving as the ring for the Science Patrol phone. 

Most Dangerous Car Known to Kaiju
I loved the fact the Science Patrol with all their clever and sleek jets and VTOL planes drove around in a humble Corvair. My folks had a Corvair when I was a tot and it holds a special place in my memory despite Ralph Nader's shenanigans.

Overall, I found Ultraman a light-hearted entertainment, good stuff and greater food for thought than one might expect from material of this sort.

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5 comments:

  1. I can sum up Ultraman in one word: FUN
    Remembering this from fondly from my childhood, I had to buy the DVDs
    Mine are a Volume1 and 2 Series One.
    The option to hear the episodes in Japanese or English Dub is great.
    The plots are useable, but the "rubber" monsters!
    Again, another Dojo post I relate to.
    Great blog.
    Hope there are many more in 2014
    Best,
    -Sam

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    1. I watched it both in the Japanese with subtitles and the dub and I prefer the former. The tone of the show seemed more consistent.

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  2. About 2 yrs ago I bought the box set that holds the whole series.
    I enjoyed watching it as a kid and it's still a classic to me from rubber suits to tiny model towns. Interesting to find out the english voices were the same for Speed Racer back then.

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    1. Me too. I'm not much of a Speed Racer afficianado, but it was neat to find a connection.

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  3. I Gotta Say...
    This Is Really Wonderful.
    Not expensive. And Just Amazing.
    Do not think twice about buying!
    Love The DOJO 2014
    =Sam

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