Ultraman is a huge part of Japanese culture and pretty much has been since the original live action show in 1966. Perhaps Godzilla started the ball rolling, but Ultraman brought us these monsters on a regular basis. In Japan, Ultraman is like our Superman. He’s an iconic hero and a huge part of the pop culture. Since the 60’s he has appeared in many forms, most of them animated. But it is this 1966 series that made a ton of us kids fall in love with him and an entire genre. Yes, there were many from the era: Space …iants featured a giant fighting robot who fought monsters sometimes converted into a spaceship (yes, before transformers were ever thought of); Johnny Socko had his giant robot; and the list goes on. But it was Ultraman that started it. Eiji Tsuburaya, who created the original Godzilla, formed a new company outside of Toho Pictures. Ultraman was pretty much the first thing out of the new shop.
Ultraman was a space being who was chasing an escaped monster. When his spacecraft collided with that of Science Patrol Officer Hayata, he inadvertently killed the young man. To make up for his mistake and also offer Earth a way to fight the endless row of monsters unleashed, he merged his life with Hayata. Now, whenever a monster threatens, Hayata uses his “beta capsule” and morphs into Ultraman. Complete with martial arts moves and an array of ray weapons, Ultraman fights these creatures in hand to hand combat. The downside is that Ultraman’s solar energy diminishes rapidly in Earth’s atmosphere. As he weakens, a light on his chest flashes. A narrator reminds us each time that if it stops, Ultraman will die.
The episodes of this original show were released over 2 volumes. Vol 1 contained 20 episodes while volume 2 contained the remaining 19 episodes dubbed in English.
Unfortunately, these old episodes are not in very good shape. The full frame video is loaded with scratches pretty much throughout. Colors are odd in tone. The orange of the Science Patrol uniforms looks almost painted. Flesh tones are absolutely horrid. Likely this is all that was available. I’ve bought convention boots, and seeing their condition, it’s lucky these DVD’s look this good at all.
The 2 channel mono is pretty bad. Again, I guess it’s an improvement over the boots, but not much here. There’s quite a bit of hiss and almost no dynamic range at all.
The discs come in a box holding three slim cases. There are 2 collector cards featuring 2 monsters. It’s not clear if all the sets contain the same monsters. There is also a “monster encyclopedia” which describes each creature and its strengths and weaknesses.
I grew up on Ultraman and am glad to have the old show, if only strictly for nostalgia’s sake. Because of this, I guess I’m willing to look beyond the condition of the episodes and treat it more like a memory I can at least play once in a while. It’s not like I’m going to be playing them over and over again. It’s good that we do things like this to remember our youth heroes. Because “Should it stop completely, it will mean Ultraman will never rise again”.
Special Features List
- Kajiu (monster) Encyclopedia
- Two collectible cards featuring Ultraman’s foes