Ultraman

From Academic Kids

This article is about Ultraman, the Japanese super-hero. There is an article on the DC Comics super-villain named Ultraman.

ja:ウルトラマン

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Ultraman_logo.jpg
Ultraman logo

Ultraman (ウルトラマン) is a fictional superhero featured in tokusatsu programs.

Ultraman, or Ultraman - A Special Effects Fantasy Series (ウルトラマン - 空想特撮シルーズ - Urutoraman - Kūsō Tokusatsu Shirīzu), a follow-up to the TV series Ultra Q, was produced by Tsuburaya Productions, and was broadcast on Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) from July 17, 1966 to April 9, 1967, with a total of 39 episodes (40, if you count the pre-premiere special that aired on July 10, 1966).

The resulting Ultra Series is one of the prominent tokusatsu genre productions from Japan, along with Kamen Rider, Super Sentai, and Metal Heroes.

Contents

The Ultraman Phenomenon

Standing at 40 meters (132 feet), weighing 35,000 tons, hailing from the Land of Light in the Nebula M78 and fighting monsters that harm the Earth (and saving the occasional innocent monster), Ultraman and his many kin are usually red-and-silver (although several colour variations have been seen in recent years), has glowing yellow almond-shape dome eyes and has various abilities, most notably to fire energy beams from various positions of crossed hands. The Ultras' main weakness is that each being can only stay on Earth in his giant form for three minutes owing to a limited supply of energy. This is marked by a light on the character's body usually called the Colortimer, which eventually begins to blink with increasing frequency as his energy supply dwindles (and turn from blue to red). At this stage, the Ultra must either find a way to recharge or finish the fight as soon as possible, or risk certain death.

Ultraman was followed by many other series. Sequels to the original series are: Ultra Seven (1967, TBS), Return of Ultraman (1971, TBS), Ultraman Ace (1972, TBS), Ultraman Taro (1973, TBS), Ultraman Leo (1974, TBS), Ultraman 80 (1980, TBS), Ultraman Tiga (1996, Mainichi Broadcasting System (MBS)), Ultraman Dyna (1997, MBS), Ultraman Gaia (1998, MBS), and Ultraman Cosmos (2001, MBS). Recently the studio has started reinventing the hero through the "Ultra N Project," the first results of which were the unveiling of Ultraman Noa (the "mascot" of the Ultra N Project - this one does not star in a movie or show) in late 2003, Ultraman Nexus (2004, Chubu-Nippon Broadcasting (CBC)), and the upcoming Ultraman Max (2005, CBC).

The franchise has also been in the theaters, starting with Ultraman Zearth and Ultraman Zearth 2, Ultraman Tiga: The Final Odyssey (1997), as well as Ultraman The Next, a movie that opened in December 2004. The straight-to-video market also saw the release of Ultraman Neos in 2000, as well as special features for Ultramans Tiga, Dyna, and Gaia, who teamed up twice in theatrical features.

Foreign productions include the 1981 Hanna-Barbera co-production Ultraman: The Adventure Begins, an animated movie; Ultraman: Towards The Future (in Japanese, "Ultraman Great"), an Australian 1990 production and Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero (in Japanese, "Ultraman Powered"), produced in the United States in 1993. Ultraman series have also been dubbed into various languages, including English (mostly Malaysian English), Malay, Mandarin and Cantonese. Also of note is the American English dub of Ultraman Tiga by 4Kids Entertainment that aired in 2002. The dub distorted the characterisation and general mood of the series, and achieved limited success.

At present, Tsuburaya Prod. accepts 34 Ultras as official. This figure does not account for Thai-produced Ultras.

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Ultra Seven (background) and the Mother of Ultra (foreground), taken during the Ultraman Millennium liveshow in Bangkok

Series Background

Ultraman's creator was Eiji Tsuburaya from Tsuburaya Productions, a pioneer in special effects who was responsible for bringing Godzilla to life in 1954. The show's predecessor was a series called Ultra Q, a black and white 28-episode series very much like today's The X-Files or The Twilight Zone. When Ultra Q was finished plans were underway for a series that would be even better. The project had many working titles (Woo, Bemular, Scientific Special Search Party: Bemular and Redman), the title character from each project was being designed by veteran designer Toru Narita. Woo was a shapeless monster that was dependent on technology. Bemular (no relation to the monster Ultraman fought in Episode 1) was a birdlike humanoid monster. Redman was a little more like the familiar Ultraman design, but looks more demonic and sports horns (not to dissimilar to his alien foes). Ultimately, the Redman design evolved into a streamlined, less-monstrous looking Buck Rogers-style creature crossed with the typical Roswell Alien design. The characteristic "ColorTimer" was added at the last minute before production began.

The premise of the first series begins when Science Patrol (Kagaku Tokusou Tai) member Hayata Shin was flying his plane and a red sphere of light crashes into his VTOL. The sphere turns out to be a giant red-and-silver being called Ultraman, and feeling remorse for killing the human, he merges his essence with Hayata to revive him. In return, Hayata serves as the human form for this being, and when danger threatens, he raises the Beta Capsule and transforms to Ultraman to save the day.

The Story

In the near future, sinister aliens and giant prehistoric monsters threaten civilization! The only one equipped to handle these disasters is the Science Patrol, a special police force with high-tech weapons and vehicles at their disposal. Led by Captain "Cap" Muramatsu, the Science Patrol is ready to protect the Earth from the ravaging monsters. But when the situation becomes desperate, Hayata, one of the Patrol's members holds the key to our salvation. Fate has given Hayata the ability to secretly transform into an amazing, superpowered giant from space. A being known as Ultraman!

The Characters

The Science Patrol

  • Captain Toshio "Cap" Muramatsu (村松敏夫 - キャップ) - Age 36. The Science Patrol's leader.
  • Daisuke Arashi (嵐 大助) - Age 26. The Science Patrol's rotund tough-guy marksman.
  • Mitsuhiro Ide (井手光弘) - Age 24. The Science Patrol's comical inventor.
  • Akiko Fuji (富士明子) - Age 21. The Science Patrol's radio/communications operator and token female member.
  • Isamu Hoshino (ホシノ・イサム) - Age 11. A little boy, Fuji's friend. Gets to hang out with the Science Patrol (and even wear a uniform later on). Often gets into trouble, and Ultraman would have to save him.
  • Shin Hayata/Ultraman (早田 進/ウルトラマン) - Age 26. The Science Patrol's brave, no-nonsense deputy captain. His life changed forever when Ultraman accidentally crashed into him in his TravelSphere and killed him. To make amends, he merges his own lifeforce into that of the Earthman, thus reviving him. He then gives Hayata the marker-like device called the Beta Capsule, with which he can transform into Ultraman by pressing its button to activate it.

Supporting Characters

  • Dr. Iwamoto - Age 40. A professor from the Scientific Research Center. The Science Patrol's "monster expert". First appears in Episode 5.

Monsters

In alphabetical Order

The Powers of Ultraman

  • Specium Ray - Ultraman crouches slightly forward and crosses his wrists together to his right (his right forearm vertical and left horizontal over it) to shoot from his right hand a light-ray that destroys his opponent.
  • Ultra-Slash - Ultraman fires a saw-like Specium-energy ring from his hand. This ring can slice his opponent in half.
  • Shield Wall - When Ultraman anticipates a ranged attack he cannot dodge or withstand, he can quickly create a wall of energy with his hands moving down in parallel for a shield
  • Telekinesis - With considerable concentration, Ultraman can converge two parallel swirls of energy he fires to lift an opponent away off the ground and attack it there.
  • Flight- Ultraman can propel himself in a controlled manner through the air. Apparently takes little energy to do this as he almost always is able to take off at the conclusion of a fight and get out of site to change back into his human host.
  • Teleport - In dire emergencies when flying to a location would be too slow, Ultraman can teleport to it instead. However, this power has a high energy demand and his colortimer will usually begin to pulse its standard energy warning as soon as he arrives.

Despite these amazing powers, Ultraman has one main weakness: Since Earth's atmosphere filters out his solar energy, Ultraman can only be on Earth for 3 minutes. To signal this, a device in Ultraman's chest called the Colortimer starts out at blue, then starts to blink at 1:00, and then turns red and blinks faster at 2:00. If the Colortimer stops, Ultraman will "never rise again."

Ultraman Specs

There were 3 different Ultraman suits used in the first show:

  • Type A (Episodes 1-13) FRP latex mask, thinner costume and curls on the tips of the feet (like an elf's shoes). The crude-looking almond-eyed mask had a movable mouth. It was obvious that Tsuburaya and his crew wanted Ultraman to be lifelike, though this was deemed "creepy" by those more used to the standard versions.
  • Type B (Episodes 14-29) The first of the bold-breasted Ultraman costumes, and a smoother mask with egg-shaped eyes (as opposed to the almond-shaped eyes of Type A), but with a narrow mouth.
  • Type C (Episodes 30-39) Identical to Type B, but the mask has a wider mouth. Type C has since become the standard look for Ultraman to this day.

ULTRAMAN FUN FACT: While Ultraman rarely talks (like early in Episode 1), he usually shouts and barks in reverberated humanlike cries while fighting a monster. The only phrase we usually hear from Ultraman is "Shuwatch!" which he shouts when jumping into the air to fly. In Japanese pop-culture, "Shuwatch" has been a famous phrase most associated with Ultraman. In the US English-dubbed version, Ultraman is completely mute.

The Science Patrol's Arsenal

  • Jet VTOL (AKA: Jet Beetle) - The Science Patrol's principal craft. (The prop for the Jet VTOL was originally from the 1962 Toho SF epic, Gorath, but repainted for this series.)
  • Mini-VTOL (AKA: Mini-Beetle) - A smaller, triangular version of the Jet VTOL. This was the same vehicle piloted by Hayata when he crashed into Ultraman in the first episode.
  • Submarines S16, S21 and S25 - The Science Patrol's underwater vehicles, which are airlifted by the Jet VTOL one at a time.
  • Underground Tank Pelucidar - The Science Patrol's subterranean vehicle with a huge drill at the front. Similar to the Mole from Thunderbirds. Named after the underground world from Edgar Rice Burroughs' At the Earth's Core.
  • Science Patrol Car - A silver 60s Chevrolet Corvair with the Science Patrol logo on the doors.
  • Supergun - The basic laser gun carried by each Science Patrol member.
  • Spider-Shot - The heavy atomic gun. Arashi's favorite weapon.
  • Mars 133 - A missile gun as powerful as Ultraman's Spacium Ray.
  • QX Gun - This weapon attacks a monster's nervous system.
  • Mad Bazooka
  • Monster Translator - Invented by Ide to translate a monster's language. Often used for the friendly monster Pigmon, who helped the Science Patrol in two episodes.

See Also

The Ultra Series - Complete list of official Ultraman-related shows.

CURRENT EVENTS: Licensing rights dispute

Ultraman's licensing rights outside of Japan were recently the subject of a prolonged legal dispute between Tsuburaya Productions and Chaiyo Productions (also called Tsuburaya Chaiyo Co Ltd) based in Thailand. Sompote Saengduenchai, founder/president of Chaiyo Productions, claims that the late Noboru Tsuburaya (who passed away in 1995), Eiji's son, gave him and his company a rights contract in exchange for a monetary loan. In spite of the fact that the document does not clearly specify what was given to Tsuburaya in exchange for these rights, Japanese and Thai courts accepted this contract as real and bonding. Tsuburaya Productions protested the issue.

After an 8 year battle in the courts of both countries, Sompote Saengduenchai was awarded a somewhat favorable decision on April 27th 2004. Despite numerous factual errors including the faulty titles of the series in the document, such as "Ultra Seven" being called "Ultraman Seven," and Tsuburaya Productions being called "Tsuburaya prod. and Enterprises" (a name the company has never done business under), this ruling gives him merchandising rights for the first six Ultraman series (Ultra Q through Ultraman Taro) and Jumborg Ace outside Japan, and broadcasting rights of said shows within Thailand. However, the decisions in both countries clearly stated that the copyright to all of these programs belongs solely to Tsuburaya Productions of Japan. Furthermore, the decision in Japan emphasized that only Tsuburaya Productions has the legal right to create future Ultraman characters or Ultraman TV shows and films. At the present time, Tsuburaya Productions is still appealing against Chaiyo Productions for the overseas merchandising rights. If Chaiyo loses, Sompote and his son Pirasith (who also runs Chaiyo) could face up to 5 years in prison.

During the time of the legal battle, Chaiyo came up with three of their own Ultras: Millennium, Dark and Elite. They have not been used for purposes other than stage shows and merchandise.

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