Top: The Japanese title card for Ultraman, reading "Ultraman: A Fantasy Tokusatsu Series"
Bottom: Ultraman, left, fights the monster Gyango from episode 11 "The Ruffian from Outer Space"
|Created by||Eiji Tsuburaya|
|Opening theme||"Song of Ultraman" (ウルトラマンの歌 Urutoraman no Uta?) by the Misuzu Children's Choir|
|Country of origin||Japan|
|No. of episodes||39|
|Running time||24 minutes|
|Original run||July 17, 1966– April 9, 1967|
|Preceded by||Ultra Q|
|Followed by||Ultra Seven|
Ultraman (ウルトラマン Urutoraman?) is a Japanese Tokusatsu television series that first aired in 1966. Ultraman is a follow-up to the television series Ultra Q, though not technically a sequel or spin-off. The show was produced by the 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, counting the pre-premiere special that aired on July 10, 1966).
Although Ultraman is the first series to feature an Ultra-Crusader, it is actually the second show in the Ultra Series. Ultra Q was the first. In fact, Ultraman opens with the Ultra Q logo exploding into the Ultraman logo. Ultraman ultimately became a major pop culture phenomenon in Japan. The show's success spawned dozens of sequels, spin-offs, imitators, parodies and remakes.
To distinguish him from subsequent characters named "Ultraman", Ultraman is referred to as the Original Ultraman (初代ウルトラマン Shodai Urutoraman?), the First Ultraman, or Ultraman Hayata; this last is a reference to his host's surname.
Ultraman 's central characters were created by 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 the original Outer Limits.
The Ultraman project had the following working titles/plots:
- WoO (ＷｏＯ Wū?): This story featured a corporeal space creature with two large eyes, who befriended a reporter named Jôji Akita, but the Self Defense Forces, who perceived the alien as a threat, went after them. This was basically the monster version of the British science fiction series Doctor Who (1963), and Woo's personality was also to be comical. The name "Woo" ended up being used for an otherwise unrelated, yeti-like monster, in episode 30 of Ultraman. Later, Tsuburaya Productions would ultimately produce a series dubbed Bio Planet WoO, in January 2006, but this series is very loosely based on the original concept.
- Bemular (ベムラー Bemurā?), then retitled Scientific Special Search Party: Bemular (科学特捜隊ベムラー Kagaku Tokusō Tai – Bemurā?): The main characters are a defense force, with the same Japanese name as the Science Special Search Party (often dubbed as the "Science Patrol"), but disguised as an art/photography team. One of the members, little did anyone (even his teammates) know, gained the ability to transform into a giant birdlike humanoid monster called Bemular (not the same Bemular that Ultraman would fight in Episode # 1 of the actual series), who defends Earth from monsters, aliens and other threats. Unlike Woo, Bemular was a tough and righteous fighter, and he looked very similar in design to the title monster of the 1967 kaiju film Gappa, the Triphibian Monster. Allegedly, the plot was scrapped when it was worried audiences might have trouble telling that one monster was good and the other evil.
- Redman (レッドマン Reddoman?): The title hero of this project slightly resembled Ultraman as he came to be known, but he looked more demonic and had horns. He came to Earth after his planet was destroyed by aliens from Planet X. (Ultra Seven also shared this working title.)
Both Bemular and Redman were designed by Toru Narita, who also came up with the final design for Ultraman based on his Redman design, now resembling a less-scary Buck Rogers-style alien being, mixed with a bit of the iconic "Roswell Alien." The characteristic "Color Timer," more familiar to American audiences as the "warning light" on Ultraman's chest, was added at the eleventh hour.
The first series begins when Science Special Search Party (科学特別捜査隊 Kagaku Tokubetsu Sōsa-tai?) member Shin Hayata is flying his plane and a red sphere of light crashes into his Mini-VTOL. The sphere turns out to be the transport (Travel Sphere) for a red-and-silver giant being who calls himself Ultraman. Feeling remorse for having killed the human, he merges his essence with Hayata to revive him. In return, Hayata serves as the human form for this being, and whenever danger threatens, and the resources of the Science Special Search Party are not enough to counter it, he raises and activates a power-object and artifact called a "beta capsule" and transforms to Ultraman to save the day.
Heroes and Monsters
The Ultraman series used various monster costumes, known as kaiju in Japan, prior to other series such as Kamen Rider and Himitsu Sentai Gorenger. The principals were played by famous monster suit actor Haruo Nakajima, who performed as the original Godzilla. Another Toho actor, Satoshi "Bin" Furuya, was sought out for the role of Ultraman, because of his tall stature and perfect proportions.
Nakajima had an outdoor-sports and martial-arts background, and they decided that Ultraman would not seem alien if he was using earth-bound martial arts techniques. So Ultraman's fighting style was a mixture of grappling, Greco-Roman wrestling, and some Japanese martial arts, which evolved during the course of the series.
Often costumes of famous monsters like Godzilla (as Jirass/Keyra in "The Mysterious Dinosaur Island") and Baragon would be recycled and altered, sometimes with nothing more than spray paint and often while the actor was still inside. Nakajima quipped once that the staggering gait of some of the monsters he portrayed was due less to his acting than to the fumes he had to endure.
Some of the quadrupedal monster costumes could not be shown fully as his legs dragging on the ground would have been exposed, a necessary allowance to maintain balance in the often cumbersome outfits. Also, the expense of repairing the scale cities and landscapes used for battle scenes required economy of movement and meticulous planning.
In the image at the top right from episode 11, The Ruffian from Outer Space, we see a typical confrontation, with Ultraman and the monster Gyango squaring of in a plaza in front of a hi-rise complex which will soon be trampled, and dwarfing the tree line.
The storyline begins in the near future, as referenced from the mid-1960s (in episode 23, "My Home Is Earth," it is definitively established that the series takes place in the early 1990s, via a plaque shown at the end of the episode dated 1993). Sinister aliens and giant monsters constantly threaten civilization during this period. The only Earth organization equipped to handle these disasters is the Science Special Search Party, or SSSP, a special worldwide police force equipped with high-tech weapons and vehicles, as well as extensive scientific and engineering facilities; this organization is called the Science Special Search Party, or the United Nations Scientific Investigation Agency, in the English-dubbed version syndicated in the United States.
The branch of the Science Special Search Party that is focused on in the series is located in Tokyo, Japan. Led by Captain "Cap" Toshio Muramatsu (shortened to "Captain Mura" in the dubbed English-language version), the Science Special Search Party is always ready to protect the Earth from rampaging monsters, but sometimes it finds itself outclassed. When the situation becomes desperate, Shin Hayata, the Patrol's most capable member, holds the key to salvation in the form of a power-object and artifact called the "Beta Capsule," which, whenever activated, allows him to transform secretly into the super-humanoid-powered giant from space, who becomes known to the people of Earth as Ultraman.
Ultraman remains until the threat is neutralized and then flies away to revert to Hayata. (This was shown, twice, by Ultraman firing a ring of energy from his hands that would fly to a safe location, and then energy from it would materialize Hayata even as Ultraman fades away at the same time.) Ultraman's victory is never assured, however, as Ultraman's powers and, indeed, his very life force, come from rapidly depleted, stored solar energy.
At the beginning of each transformation from Hayata-to-Ultraman, the "warning light" on the giant's chest begins as a steady blue color. Yet as Ultraman exerts himself, the "Color Timer," as it is also called, turns red, then blinks—slowly at first, then with increasing rapidity—as his energy reserves get closer to exhaustion. As the voice-over narration reminds the viewer, beginning with episode 2 and for each episode thereafter, if Ultraman ever reaches the point of total energy depletion, he "will never rise again."
In episode 39, "Farewell Ultraman," Ultraman fights an enemy called Zetton, leader of an army of monsters bent on destroying all the Ultra-Crusaders, who employs an unexpected weapon against Ultraman—one which damages his Color Timer/warning light and disables his ability to measure his power supply. As a result, Ultraman stays in his full-size form too long and collapses into a dormant state. Fortunately, despite this loss, the Science Special Search Party's members are able to defeat Zetton on their own.
When Zoffy, Ultraman's superior, comes to retrieve the fallen hero, Ultraman pleads for Hayata's life and offers his life completely, so that Hayata may live as a normal man. Zoffy then says he has brought two life-forces and that he will give one to Hayata. He then separates them, giving Hayata new life, but Hayata seems to have no memory between the time he first collides with Ultraman's ship (in the first episode), and his standing outside Science Special Search Party Headquarters as he watches Zoffy take Ultraman home. This is a rather different finish to the series than stated in the English dub, which states both that Ultraman will return and that Hayata retains his beta capsule as he awaits Ultraman's return.
Science Special Search Party
- Captain Toshio "Cap" Muramatsu (ムラマツ・トシオ（村松 利夫） Muramatsu Toshio?): The Science Special Search Party's leader. He is known as Captain Mura in the US version.
- Actor: Akiji Kobayashi
- Daisuke Arashi (アラシ・ダイスケ（嵐 大助） Arashi Daisuke?): The Science Special Search Party's rotund tough-guy marksman.
- Actor: Sandayū Dokumamushi
- Mitsuhiro Ide (イデ・ミツヒロ（井出 光弘） Ide Mitsuhiro?): The Science Special Search Party's somewhat comical inventor. Although he sometimes feels that Ultraman's intervention makes his role useless, his inventions have occasionally been critical in saving the day such as helping the superhero defeat particularly formidable monsters. He is known as Ito in the US version.
- Akiko Fuji (フジ・アキコ（富士 明子） Fuji Akiko?): The Science Special Search Party's radio/communications operator, and ostensibly their token female member. However, in most adventures, Fuji proves to be the most level-headed and capable member after Hayata.
- Actor: Hiroko Sakurai
- Isamu Hoshino (ホシノ・イサム（星野 勇） Hoshino Isamu?): A little boy who is friends with the local kids. The Science Special Search Party's unofficial mascot, he also tends to visit the Science Special Search Party's headquarters to hang out with the full-fledged members. He often gets into trouble, and sometimes Ultraman has to save him. Later on, his courage during one of the Science Special Search Party's missions allows him to be issued a Science Special Search Party uniform and to go on some of their other missions. He is known as Hoshino Fuji in the US version, which describes him as Akiko Fuji's younger brother.
- Actor: Akihide Tsuzawa
- Shin Hayata (ハヤタ・シン（早田 進） Hayata Shin?): The Science Special Search Party's brave, no-nonsense deputy captain. His life changed irreversibly when Ultraman accidentally crashed into his "Delta VTOL" with his TravelSphere and killed him, destroying both ships. To make amends, Ultraman merges his own life force into that of the Earthman before the brain functions of the latter are irreversibly terminated, thus reviving him. He then gives Hayata the power-object called the beta capsule, a microphone shaped cylinder device, with which he can transform into Ultraman by depressing a red push-button switch on its side with his thumb to activate it. According to Kurobe, there was no audition for the role of Hayata and simply took the role after execs "ordered" him to take it without choice.
- Actor: Susumu Kurobe; Ultraman himself is played by Bin "Satoshi" Furuya
- Ultra Operation No. 1 (Alternate DVD Title: Ultra Operation Number One) (ウルトラ作戦第一号 Urutora Sakusen Dai Ichigō?)
- Blast the Invaders (Alternate DVD Title: Shoot the Invader/Defeat the Invaders) (侵略者を撃て Shinryakusha o Ute?)
- Science Special Search Party, Move Out (Alternate DVD Title: Charge Forth, Science Special Search Party/Sally Forth, Science Special Search Party!) (科特隊出撃せよ Katokutai Shutugeki seyo?)
- Five Seconds to Detonation (Alternate DVD Title: Five Seconds Before The Explosion/5 Seconds Before the Big Explosion!) (大爆発五秒前 Dai Bakuhatsu Gobyō Mae?)
- Secret of the Miloganda (Alternate DVD Title: Treasure of the Miloganda/Secret of Miroganda) (ミロガンダの秘密 Miroganda no Himitsu?)
- The Coast Guard Command (Alternate DVD Title: Coast Guard Orders) (沿岸警備命令 Engan Keibi Meirei?)
- The Blue Stone of Vallarge (Alternate DVD Title: The Blue Stone of Baraj/The Blue Stone of Baradhi) (バラージの青い石 Barāji no Aoi Ishi?)
- The Wild Monster Zone (Alternate DVD Title: The Lawless Monster Zone/Monster Lawless Zone) (怪獣無法地帯 Kaijū Muhō Chitai?)
- Operation: Uranium (Alternate DVD Title: Operation Light Speed/Operation Electric Stone Fire) (電光石火作戦 Denkōsekka Sakusen?)
- The Mysterious Dinosaur Base (Alternate DVD Title: Mysterious Monster Base) (謎の恐竜基地 Nazo no Kyōryū Kichi?)
- The Rascal from Outer Space (Alternate DVD Title: The Ruffian From Outer Space/The Rambunctious One From Space) (宇宙から来た暴れん坊 Uchū kara Kita Abarenbō?)
- Cry of the Mummy (Alternate DVD Title: The Cries of the Mummy) (ミイラの叫び Miira no Sakebi?)
- Oil S.O.S. (Alternate DVD Title: none) (オイルSOS Oiru Esu Ō Esu?)
- The Pearl Defense Directive (Alternate DVD Title: The Pearl Oyster Protection Directive/Pearl Oyster Defense Order) (真珠貝防衛指令 Shinjugai Bōei Shirei?)
- Terrifying Cosmic Rays (Alternate DVD Title: The Space Ray of Terror) (恐怖の宇宙線 Kyōfu no Uchūsen?)
- Science Special Search Party into Space (Alternate DVD Title: The Science Special Search Party in Outer Space/Science Special Search Party to Space) (科特隊宇宙へ Katokutai Uchū e?)
- Passport to Infinity (無限へのパスポート Mugen e no Pasupōto?)
- The Brother from Another World (Alternate DVD Title: The Brother From Another Planet) (遊星から来た兄弟 Yūsei kara Kita Kyōdai?)
- Demons Rise Again (Alternate DVD Title: The Demons Once More) (悪魔はふたたび Akuma wa Futatabi?)
- Terror on Route 87 (恐怖のルート87 Kyōfu no Rūto Hachijūnana?)
- Breach the Wall of Smoke (Alternate DVD Title: Break Through The Smoke) (噴煙突破せよ Fun'en Toppa seyo?)
- Sabotage Terrene (Alternate DVD Title: The Underground Destruction Work) (地上破壊工作 Chijō Hakai Kōsaku?)
- My Home is the Earth (故郷は地球 Kokyō wa Chikyū?)
- The Undersea Science Center (海底科学基地 Kaitei Kagaku Kichi?)
- Strange Comet Cyphon (Alternate DVD Title: The Dreaded Comet Tsuiphon/The Dreaded Comet Twenty-Four) (怪彗星ツイフォン Kai Susei Tsuifon?)
- The Prince of Monsters: Part 1 (Alternate DVD Title: His Majesty Monster, Part 1/The Monster Prince, Beginning) (怪獣殿下 前篇 Kaijū Denka Zenpen?)
- The Prince of Monsters: Part 2 (Alternate DVD Title: His Majesty Monster, Part 2/The Monster Prince, Conclusion) (怪獣殿下 後篇 Kaijū Denka Kōhen?)
- Human Specimens 5 & 6 (人間標本5・6 Ningen Hyōhon Go Roku?)
- The Challenge into Subterra (Alternate DVD Title: Challenge To The Underground) (地底への挑戦 Chitei e no Chōsen?)
- Phantom of the Snow Mountains (Alternate DVD Title: The Snowy Mountain of Illusion/The Phantom Snow Mountain) (まぼろしの雪山 Maboroshi no Yukiyama?)
- Who Goes There? (Alternate DVD Title: Who Has Come?/Who Has Arrived?) (来たのは誰だ Kita no wa Dare da?)
- The Endless Counterattack (果てしなき逆襲 Hateshinaki Gyakushū?)
- The Forbidden Words (Alternate DVD Title: The Forbidden World) (禁じられた言葉 Kinjirareta Kotoba?)
- A Gift from the Sky (Alternate DVD Title: Present From The Sky) (空の贈り物 Sora no Okurimono?)
- The Monster Graveyard (怪獣墓場 Kaijū Hakaba?)
- Arashi, Don't Shoot! (Alternate DVD Title: Don't Shoot! Arashi) (射つな! アラシ Utsuna! Arashi?)
- The Littlest Hero (小さな英雄 Chiisana Eiyū?)
- The Spaceship Rescue Command (Alternate DVD Title: Spaceship Rescue Orders) (宇宙船救助命令 Uchūsen Kyūjo Meirei?)
- Farewell, Ultraman (さらばウルトラマン Saraba Urutoraman?)
- Special film: Revive! Ultraman (甦れ!ウルトラマン Yomigaere! Urutoraman?) (This was a short film produced in 1996; it lacks the English language dubbing of the main series.)
- "Ultraman no Uta" (ウルトラマンの歌 Urutoraman no Uta?, "The Song of Ultraman")
- Lyrics authorship: Kyōichi Azuma
- Music composition: Kunio Miyauchi
- Performing artist: Misuzu Children's Choral Group
In 2006, BCI/Eclipse officially released Ultraman on DVD under license from then rightsholder Chaiyo Productions. These releases featured the original Japanese soundtrack and the English dub. When Navarre folded BCI/Eclipse in December 2008, the series was shuffled over to Navarre's other home video label, Mill Creek Entertainment. In June 2009, Mill Creek re-released the complete series set on September 29, 2009, in a 4-disc set with the same special features. In Japan, there have been numerous releases in numerous home video formats over the last 25 years (from VHS to DVD) on several labels, including Bandai's various home video divisions, including Bandai Visual.
On April 2013, Tsuburaya held a press conference announcing the new Ultra Series show and character, Ultraman Ginga, where they also announced that the original 1966 show will be given an HD remaster treatment in Japan. On July 2013, Tsuburaya released an HD transfer of Ultraman on Blu-ray titled, Ultraman HD Remaster 2.0, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Tsuburaya Productions. Tsuburaya plans to release the series on three separate box sets, each containing 13 episodes. The first box set was released on July 10, 2013, the second on October 25, 2013 and the final set is planned for January 29, 2014.
Harvey Comics Entertainment published two short comic book series based on Ultraman in 1993 and 1994.
Malaysian book ban
On March 6, 2014, the Malaysian Ministry of Home Affairs announced that it had banned the publication of an Ultraman comic book Ultraman: The Ultra Power "due to contents that were detrimental to public order". Social media users later noticed that a page in the book described the character of Ultraman King (from the film Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy) as a god, which in the Malaysian pidgin language Bahasa Rojak is the Arabic word "Allah". The Home Ministry later confirmed that the use of "Allah" was indeed the reason for the ban, claiming that the comparison may "confuse Muslim children and damage their faith". This highlighted the larger ban to prevent non-Muslims in Malaysia from using the word "Allah" despite its common usage in the Malaysian pidgin to refer to any "God", as well as a suit from the Catholic Church of Malaysia over its usage.
- The Ultra Series—Complete list of official Ultraman-related shows.
- Bio Planet Woo
- Ultra Monsters—a list of Ultraman's foes.
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- Ultraman: A Special Effects Fantasy Series at the Internet Movie Database
- Ultraman (character) at the Internet Movie Database