A Beginner’s Gide to Tokusatsu. Part 4,   Ultraman

Article by Orville E. Wright

Part One: Kaiju
Part Two: Sentai
Part Three: Kamen Riders

Hello Again. I am here again with the fourth part of my Beginner’s Guide to Tokusatsu. This part will be the last part of this series. This part will be about Ultraman, the last of the major four genres of Tokusatsu. Be warned, this is the one I know the least about.

As always, the first question is, what is Ultraman. Ultraman is about a race of alien giants, called the Ultramen, who defend the universe from evil, giant monsters and help those in need. However, things get interesting when they get to earth.

The Ultramen have a biology similar to plants, which allows them to take in sunlight and turn it directly into energy. However, earth’s atmosphere blocks a lot of light rays that, while deadly to humans, are necessary for Ultramen. This fact, combined with the high amount of air pollution in earth’s atmosphere, means that no Ultraman can last long on earth. Which would not be a problem, except for the fact that evil aliens are always trying to ether conquer or destroy the earthlings who live there.

There is a loophole. If an Ultraman ether fuses with a human host, like the first Ultraman, or takes a human form, he can survive in on earth for an indefinite period of time. He can then reassume his Ultraman form to fight any alien that tries to destroy the earth.

The first Ultraman series, despite what one might think, was not the original Ultraman. It was actually Ultra Q, or Ultra Question, that aired of January 2 1966 in black and white. It was a Sifi/Horror series similar to the Twilit Zone or the X-Files except with giant monsters. As far as I can tell, the only thing that carried over into the other Ultraman series is some reused monsters, and the mood of the original Ultraman.

The first series actually to have an Ultraman in it was the original Ultraman, which aired on July 17th 1966, two weeks after the end of Ultra Q. It was about Shin Hayata, a soldier working for the Science Special Search Party (or the Space Patrol in English) a worldwide group of scientist/patrolmen dedicated to defending earth from the alien forces.

One day as Shin is on patrol, he sees two glowing orbs diving into earth’s atmosphere. Being the Space Patrol’s best patroller, he goes to investigate. He then accidently collides with one of the spheres and dies. Fortunately for Shin, this sphere contains Ultraman, who takes pity on Shin and brings him back from the dead by turning him into its host. Shin is then given the Beta Capsule, a device that will allow him to become Ultraman in times of need. Such a need arises almost immediately, for the monster that Ultraman was chasing, named Bemular, starts attacking earth. After beating Bemular, Shin goes back to his job at the Space Patrol, only calling on the power of the Ultraman when the Space Patrol runes into something they can’t handle, which happens every week.

One interesting thing about Ultraman is that some of the monsters that appear are actually just modified costumes from Godzilla Movies. For example, the monster named Gomess, who appears in the first episode of Ultra Q, is just the Godzilla costume with horns.

Another cool things is the use of parallel dimensions. At some point in all long-running series with continuous continuity, such as in comics, the writers decide that the story has become too complicated and preform a reboot. Usually this means wiping the previous years of stories from existence, as if they just never happened. No one likes this option. Ultraman didn’t do that. Instead, Ultraman started telling stories about events in other parallel universes, so they could play with the concept a bit more. It is a clever way to do a reboot.

As for places to start, I can say very little, for I have seen very little. the only suggestion I can really make is for the Original Ultraman. It is a rather creepy show at points, but the action is good, and it is a classic. Unlike power rangers, it was just translated straight into English, so it should not be too hard to find.

I have also heard that Ultraman Mebius is a good series, but it is apparently a tribute series, and is not translated in English, so watch it at your own risk.

This has been my Beginner’s Guide to Tokusatsu. I hope you all have enjoyed it. Next time I write, I will be discussing something completely different. Till then my young friend, go forth and enjoy the worlds of Japanese Children’s Entertainment.

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Orville E. Wright, the son of L. Jagi Lamplighter and John C. Wright, is a small Pokémon plush toy brought to life by mad science.