I’m not talking about that blue spandex clad emo swanning about on Earth 3, oh no! I’m talking about the Power Rangers’ missing link; silver and red spandex-clad Ultraman!
Ultraman made his debut in the 1966 suitmation series, Ultraman, with the show’s main characters cooked up by Eiji Tsuburaya, of Godzilla fame. In this futuristic vision of the not-so-far-off 90s, the earth is plagued by giant monsters and aliens on a weekly basis, and rarely more than one at a time. The planet counteracts these invasions with the men in orange, otherwise known as the Science Special Search Party, or Science Patrol.
Ultraman himself is a giant alien that comes to earth and promptly crashes his travel sphere into the jet of Shin Hayata, Deputy Captain of the Science Patrol, and kills him. Compelled by contrition, he resurrects Hayata by merging their life forces. As a result, Hayata becomes the human host for Ultra Man, using the beta-capsule artifact to transform into the hero when the earth is under attack.
Ultraman’s fighting style is an amalgamation of wrestling moves and martial arts, which he combines with his repertoire of super powers. His only downfall is his power source; he is nourished by a finite supply of solar energy for the duration of each metamorphosis which depletes as rapidly as gas in a Chevy with a leaking fuel injector. A light gauge on the goliath’s chest alerts him, and – due to an overlooked design flaw – his enemies, when his resources are low by shifting from a steady blue to a flashing red. This usually gives the hero around 3 minutes to get his ass whooping done and dusted.
The original Ultraman series aired between July 1966 and April 1967, with a total of 39 episodes; the last of which, entitled Farewell, Ultraman saw the separation of Ultraman from Hayata as he returns to his home planet, The Land of the Light in Nebula M-78. A single further episode was added in 1996, to commemorate the series’ 30th anniversary, following the Western cannon in which Ultraman remained coupled with Hayata.
The Ultra series has continued since then with a number of different Ultramen. Here’s a look at the Original Universe series from its inception to infinity, and beyond – which takes us to 2007.
Ultra Seven (1967 – 1968)
Hailing from the same planet as Ultraman, whilst on a mission to map the Milky Way, Ultra Seven happens across Earth where he saves the life of a young man. Whilst he is unconscious, the Ultra Warrior resists the urge to sodomise him (probably) and transforms himself into the man’s doppelganger. Christening himself Dan Moroboshi, he joins an organisation called the Ultra Team, comprising of six agents that defend the Earth from those pesky kaiju. Moroboshi’s secret alien identity is the seventh honorary member, earning him the name ‘Ultra Seven’.
The Return of Ultraman (1971 – 1972)
Featuring ‘New Ultraman’ or ‘Ultraman Jack’, race-car driver Hideki Go dies whilst trying to rescue a boy and his dog during an epic monster battle on Earth. A nearby alien – Ultraman Jack – witnessing these events, revives Go, just as the original Ultraman rescued his human counterpart. Go is now host to the super being and joins the Monster Attack Team to protect the planet from those ever frequent monster attacks.
Ultraman Ace (1972-1973)
In yet another monster attack, the Ultra Brothers – consisting of the original Ultraman, his boss Zoffy who appeared in the first series to take him back home, Ultra Seven, Ultraman Jack and the most recent addition, Ultraman Ace – once again meddle in Earthly affairs when a man and woman are killed trying to save a wide eyed kitten in a boot. Or was it a group of children? Ultraman Ace imbues the cadavers with his essence and gets two hosts out of the deal. It later transpires that the womanly half of the duo was actually a native from the moon and she relinquishes her Ultra-Ring to her partner when she has to leave to re-join her people. The series ends with Ultraman Ace leaving Earth for The Land of the Light. He reappears sporadically in later series to assist fellow Ultramen in their battles.
Ultraman Taro (1973-1974)
In a change of pace for the series, a man is killed in a freak kaiju accident – that involved neither fluffy bunnies nor helpless children – and the Ultra Brothers take his body to their planet, whereupon Ultraman Taro’s essence is assimilated with his own by the Mother of Ultra, and he becomes host to the sixth Ultra Brother. He joins an Earth defence agency called ZAT, but ultimately severs his link with Ultraman Taro.
Ultraman Taro makes appearances in future series of Ultraman, as well as the reboot –Ultraman Story – featuring an alternate origin, depicting a young Taro growing up.
Ultraman Leo (1974-1975)
Ultraman Leo’s home planet lies in Nebula L77 and, like Ultraman Seven, he can take human form at will. His alter ego is gym teacher, Gen Otori, who manages to squeeze in time for a second job as a member of the Monster Attacking Crew, led by Dan Moroboshi (Ultraman Seven). Otori loses his position at MAC when the organisation is destroyed later in the series, and divides his time between saving the Earth in his Ultraman form and hanging out with kids, schooling them in the art of pleasure under the guise of self-defence. Okay, just self-defence. He eventually suffers death at the hands of evil villain Commander Black by being gruesomely hacked to pieces, but is ever so kindly roused from eternal sleep and glued back together again by Ultraman King and slays the dastardly devil. Job done, he takes a well-deserved holiday and decides to go globe-trotting.
Ultraman 80 (1980 -1981)
Another Ultraman that doesn’t need a human host, Ultraman 80 comes to Earth after a short period of monster-free bliss. The attacks are starting again and his human incarnation, science teacher Takeshi Yamato, soon signs up to this series’ Earth defence agency – the Utility Government Members, who, for some unfathomable reason, are willing to accommodate his busy schedule, allowing him to work Sundays and evenings, to fit around his teaching timetable. Ultraman 80 was the first Ultra Warrior to embrace the experience of being human, and this is portrayed through his School of Rock Jack Black style relationship with his students and harbouring a crush on fellow teacher, Kyoko Aihara. At the end of the series, Ultraman 80 departs Earth for his native planet.
Ultraman Mebius (2006-2007)
40 years after the first Ultraman appeared, Ultraman Mebius is sent to Earth by the Father of Ultra. Adopting the human alter ego, Mirai Hibino, he assimilates the appearance of his own son’s human form as a way to honour the sacrifice he had made on the trip to Earth to save his father’s life.
Still wet behind the ears himself, Hibino joins this series’ monster initiative, CREW GUYS. Unfortunately they’re just as green as he is, as following the original series’ canon, Earth has been a monster-free zone since the 80s. All members of GUYS, with the exception of one – Ryu Aihara- are killed. Ultraman Hikari makes his debut in this first episode and leaves the Knight Brace artifact with Mebius as he leaves the planet.
As with the original Ultraman, Hibino uses an artifact to transform into Mebius – the Mebius Brace – but he was the first to acquire evolving forms.
Ultraman Mebius Brave – Ultraman Mebius episode 18-35
Mebius morphs into this form using the Knight Brace left by Hikari. It’s short-lived, running between episode 18 and 35, as he ultimately returns the Knight Brace to Hikari.
Ultraman Mebius Burning Brave – Ultraman Mebius episode 30
It just goes to show that you really can get by on a little help from your friends, as the collective concern of Hibino’s friends for his safety grants him this transformation ability in episode 30.
Ultraman Mebius Phoenix Brave – Ultraman Mebius episode 50
In the final episode of the series, Hibino, Ryu and the agents of GUY, merge their souls together to create Ultraman Mebius Phoenix Brave.
Mebius had a final metamorphosis, but this appeared outside of the series, in the movie Ultraman Mebius & Ultraman Brothers during a confrontation with the beast U-Killersaurus Neo. It took all of the Ultra Brothers’ powers combined with Zoffy to reach the pinnacle of awesomeness known as Ultraman Mebius Infinity. So here’s a peek.
And that brings us to the end of the Ultraman Original Universe series. Pick up that ukelele and play me out fella!
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