Happy Birthday, Ultraman!

Ultraman_AlexRoss

Ultraman by Alex Ross

It was 47 years ago that a strange capsule granted a simple human being the ability to grow to immense size and beat up sweaty guys in rubber monster costumes. Running only 40 episodes, Ultraman is still regarded as a mega cult success and spawned several spinoffs, manga, a toy empire and weird video games. Created by the father of Godzilla Eiji Tsuburaya, the series is one of the most influential and seminal of the kaiju genre which… could be relevant seeing as how a certain big budget monster fighting movie is opening this week.

I lucked out a few years back and found the first half of series one on DVD at a local Target for $5 and fell in love with this gem. Each episode is mainly the same as a threat appears, the hero holds aloft his capsule and transforms into Ultraman… battle ensues… slapstick comedy is inserted by the goofy guy and rubber flies all over a studio backdrop. The opening credits remains one of the trippiest sequences this side of the original Doctor Who. I mean… is that the sound of a spine cracking or an alien insectoid monster licking its mandibles??

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Read more about Ultraman toys at Plaid Stallions!

I ask you, is it any coincidence that Pacific Rim opens tomorrow?

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Recommended!

Ultraman: The Complete Series

Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters: Defending the Earth with Ultraman and Godzill

Pacific Rim: Man, Machines, and Monsters

Ultraman, monster fighter beyond compare

With all of the monsters constantly attacking Japan, something had to be done. Created in 1966 by Eiji Tsuburaya, the father of Godzilla, the answer to the monster problem finally arrived in the form of Ultraman. A powerful vision in red and silver, Ultraman gave the kaiju of Japan a reason to be afraid.

Ultraman_AlexRoss

Ultraman by Alex Ross

The initial TV series if Ultraman underwent several revisions. A sci-fi series similar in some ways to U.N.I.T. from Doctor Who whereby the Earth was protected from the regular attacks of bizarre aliens by an even weirder jump-suited force. Set in the distant future, a well-armed planet-wide defense known as Science Special Search Party utilizes the most advanced arsenal of weapons and vehicles known to mankind. One key member of the global organization called the Space Patrol, Hayata, is abducted by aliens and granted the unlikely ability to grow into fantastic size, thus leveling the playing field against the race of skyscraper-sized monsters.

While Utlraman easily has the most diverse and amazing list of super abilities ranging from super speed to telekinesis to a kind of supreme super soaker ray, he primarily relies on his fighting fists. As Ultraman, Hyata primarily utilizes wrestler-style moves and the occasionally inexplicable blast of energy from a special positioning of his arms. Hyata has a limited but vague amount of time in which to defeat the alien threat, the limit of which is signaled by a flashing light on his chest. However, it’s not fair to really discuss Hyata and Ultraman as if they were one persona as they swap places in much the same way the Captain Marvel and Billy Batson do. While Ultraman is fighting a giant alien monster, Hyata is in some strange limbo.

The program also has some of the trippiest visuals this side of a Doctor Who episode, the least mind-blowing of which is the opening (dubbed in English for this instance).

Syndicated in the US in the late 1960’s on various UHF channels, Ultraman gained a very devoted following in much the same way that Godzilla had before and Starblazers would later on. After 39 episodes, it was thought that Ultraman was gone forever. After sacrificing himself so that his human host Hyata may live, Ultraman disappeared from TV screens. Many a young lad at the time shed a tear for Ultraman who asked for nothing but gave so much. If anyone really thought he was gone forever, boy were they wrong.

Several animated, live action and feature film adaptations followed up to the current day. In fact, Ultraman is the bearer of the Guinness World Record for spin-offs. He also had his imitators, most notably Jet Jaguar from Godzilla vs. Megalon, there is only one Ultraman. A mega star of film, animation, and TV, it should come as no surprise that Ultraman also conquered the video game world.

Sure, each Ultraman adventure is essentially sweaty guys in rubber suits beating each other up over a model city, but it’s also so innocent in its execution that you can’t help but find it charming and somehow… iconic. After seeing cities getting trampled to powder every week and the future of humanity hanging on a thread protected only by Ultraman… you kinda have a spiritual awakening.

Either that or I have to stop drinking Chimay while watching these things.

Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters

Behind-the-scenes hero to anyone who’s thrilled by giant monsters duking it out over Tokyo, Eiji Tsuburaya was the visual effects mastermind behind Godzilla, Ultraman, and numerous Japanese science fiction movies and TV shows beloved around the world. The first book on this legendary film figure in English, this highly visual biography details his fascinating life and career, featuring hundreds of film stills, posters, concept art, and delightful on-set photos of Tsuburaya prompting monsters to crush landmark buildings. A must-have for fans, this towering tribute also features profiles of Tsuburaya’s film collaborators, details on his key films and shows (most available on DVD), and features on the enduring popularity of the characters he helped create.

This fantastic book offers insight to the world of sweaty guys in rubber suits we call monster movies. From the first time we heard that weird trumpet blast from the Lizard King, many if us became Japanese Monster Movie Maniacs, while others just think they’re silly. Nevertheless, they hold a certain mystique that is still hypnotic to this day.

To purchase this great tome of wisdom, click here.