Friday, July 21, 2006

 

ULTRAMAN

Ultraman (ウルトラマン - Urutoraman) is a fictional superhero featured in tokusatsu programs.
Ultraman made his debut in the tokusatsu SF/kaiju/superhero TV series, Ultraman, or Ultraman - A Special Effects Fantasy Series (ウルトラマン - 空想特撮シリーズ - Urutoraman - Kûsô Tokusatsu Shirîzu), a follow-up to the TV series Ultra Q.
The show 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, counting the pre-premiere special that aired on July 10, 1966).
Although Ultraman is the first series to feature an Ultra-being, this is actually the second Ultra Series. Ultra Q was the first.

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 the following working titles/plots:

Woo (ウー - Û): This story had a corporeal space creature with eyes, who befriended a reporter named Jôji Akita, but the Self Defense Forces, who perceive him as a threat, were after him. This was basically the monster version of the British science fiction series Doctor Who (1963), and Woo's personality was comical.
NOTE: Tsuburaya Productions has produced a new series, Bioplanet Woo, which will make its TV series debut in January 2006, according to many tokusatsu magazine articles and photos. It is very loosely based on the above concept.
Bemular (ベムラー - Bemurâ), then retitled Scientific Special Search Party: Bemular (科学特捜隊 ベムラー - Kagaku Tokusô Tai - Bemurâ): The main characters are a defense force (with the same Japanese name as the Science Patrol) 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 (this is 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 looked very similar in design to the title monster of the 1967 kaiju film Gappa, the Triphibian Monster).
Redman (レッドマン - Reddoman): The title hero of this project slightly resembled Ultraman as we know him, but he looked more demonic and had horns. He came to Earth after his planet was destroyed by aliens from Planet X. (Needless to say, Ultra Seven shared this working title as well.)
Both Bemular and Redman were designed by Toru Narita, who came up with the final design for Ultraman based on his Redman design, now resembling a less-scary Buck Rogers-style alien being (with a bit of the iconic "Roswell Alien" as well). The characteristic "ColorTimer" (the "warning light" on his chest) was added at the eleventh hour.
The premise of the first series begins when Science Patrol (Kagaku Tokusou Tai) member Shin Hayata was flying his plane and a red sphere of light crashes into his Mini-VTOL. The sphere turns out to be the transport (TravelSphere) for 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.

Monsters and Heroes:
One outstanding feature of the Ultraman series was the use of various monster costumes, often wildly imaginative, that would later influence other series such as Gatchaman and Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. The principles were played by famous stunt actor Haruo Nakajima, who played the original Godzilla. His apprentice, Bin Furuya, started out as Ultraman. Nakajima had a martial arts background and used it to create a sense of drama in order to be dramatically effective in costumes that had little potential to show emotion. For the first episodes, and this is clearly evident in the action sequences, simple wrestling was done that gradually evolved into more complex fighting that would later be reflected in anime productions (dramatic windups, extravagant gestures prior to unleashing an energy attack, bellicose roars and threat displays, etc.). Often costumes of famous monsters like Godzilla or Gamera would be recycled and altered, sometimes with nothing more than spraypaint 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 costumes could not be shown fully as his feet would be exposed, a necessary allowance to maintain balance in the often cumbersome outfits. Also, the expense of repairing the scale cities and landscapes used for battlescenes required economy of movement and meticulous planning.

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.
Played by Akiji Kobayashi
Is renamed "Captain Mura" in the US version.
Daisuke Arashi (嵐 大助) - Age 26. The Science Patrol's rotund tough-guy marksman.
Played by Sandaiyu Dokumamushi (as Iyoshi Ishii)
Mitsuhiro Ide (井手光弘) - Age 24. The Science Patrol's comical inventor.
Played by Masanara Nihei
Is renamed "Ito" in the US version.
Akiko Fuji (富士明子) - Age 21. The Science Patrol's radio/communications operator and token female member.
Played by Hiroko Sakurai
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.
Played by Akihide Tsuzawa
Shin Hayata/Ultraman (早田 進/ウルトラマン) - Age 26. Also spelled "Hiyata" at many other sites and sources. 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.
Played by Susumu Kurobe; Ultraman is played by Bin Furuya

Supporting characters
Dr. Iwamoto - Age 40. A professor from the Scientific Research Center. The Science Patrol's "monster expert". First appears in Episode 5.
Played by Akihiko Hirata (Occasional substitutes for Hirata: Played in Episode 33 by Hisaya Ito and Episode 36 by Bin Morizuka)
Ultraman's Special Powers
Specium Ray - Also known as the "Spacium Ray." Ultraman crouches slightly forward and crosses his wrists together to his right (his right forearm vertical and left horizontal in front of it), thumb edge of his hands facing his body, to shoot from the outer edge of his right hand a light-ray that destroys most opponents, either by creating an explosion or a fatal burn. The beam can be reflected (see Baltan II) but loses intensity once reflected. The beam can be negated by similar energy (see Mefilas). Very few creatures are immune to the Specium Ray, such as Keronia and Zetton. (This weapon was used on nearly all opponents.)
Ultra-Slash - Ultraman fires a saw-like Specium-energy ring from his hand. This ring can slice his opponent in half. Only a Baltan Barrier can block the ring, although Gubira was lucky enough to catch a ring on his nose, rather than be sliced by it. (Used against Redking and Baltan II, among other opponents.)
Electrical Immunity - When attacked by Neronga, Ultraman evidences immunity to electrical or lightning attacks. Not all Ultra-beings have this immunity.
Temporal Stasis Beam - By focusing energy from his left hand into a spiral energy beam around his right arm, then directing the energy at a target creature, Ultraman can induce a temporal stasis, in effect paralyzing the target. This is a rare power, and was only used when the specium ray failed. (Used against Keronia.)
Remote Disintegration - Possibly involving a variant use of his specium energy, Ultraman can cross his wrists with the thumb edge of each hand facing his chest, much like the Specium Ray position, but with both hands at 45 degree angles, forming an "X." This gesture is followed by moving the hands apart, and accompanied by a "kiyi." The result is similar to that of the Specium Ray, and the target explodes. One theory holds that Ultraman is able to teleport specium energy within a stationary target, bypassing any shell or skin that is resistant to the ray. It may help to immobilize the target first. (Used against Keronia.)
Temporal/Spatial Warp - Ultraman can counter temporal/spatial attacks or can damage opponents by spinning rapidly in an upright position. The attack is remote, and does not involve beams, but it can rip space on a local level, cause remote explosions, or create immobilizing rings of force. (Used against Bullton successfully; used against Zetton, but Zetton interfered with the attack.)
Shield Wall - When Ultraman anticipates a directional attack he cannot dodge or withstand, he can quickly create a wall of energy by tracing a rectangular pattern, and this wall of energy not only blocks the attack but can reverse the effect. (Used against Geronimon.)
Telekinesis I - Using narrow beams from his index fingers, Ultraman can suspend objects in mid-air. (Used against Redking.)
Telekinesis II - With considerable concentration, Ultraman can converge two parallel swirls of energy originating from his palms to lift an opponent off the ground and repel it. This power also may involve a remote attack, as it was followed by explosive destruction of the target. (Used against Keelar.)
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 sight to change back into his human host. Book sources indicate this is possible due to special jet boots.
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 Color Timer will usually begin to pulse its standard energy warning as soon as he arrives. A peculiar symptom of Ultraman's preparation for teleport is his manic laughter. This power also forces Ultraman to leave behind Hiyata's body, which cannot transport with him. The body remains comatose until Ultraman is in a proximity sufficient to re-merge with Hiyata. (Utraman used this power to return to Earth from Planet X, in order to combat an invading Baltan force.)
Water - Ultraman can direct a high-pressure stream of water from his fingertips by touching his hands together. This may not actually be water from Ultraman's body, but rather a forced condensation of water in the atmosphere channeled into a stream. (Used to destroy Jamila, whose body was water-soluble, and to extinguish the fires caused by Pestar.)
Dynamic Size Change - Ultraman can control his molecular structure, phasing from human-size to giant-size. He places his hands in front of his chest at 45 degree angles, thumb edge facing inward, and then sharply gestures outward. This is not the same as his transformation from human form as Hiyata, but it is similar. (Used to counteract the Dada's micronizer ray.)
Enhanced Vision - Ultraman's vision extends into a wider electromagetic spectrum than that of humans, at least into infra-red and ultraviolet, and probably further to include gamma rays and x-rays. (Used to spot the Baltan spaceship in Earth's atmosphere at night, and the Dada when it attempted to remain invisible.)
Beta Capsule Transformation - Ultraman's cohabitation within Hayata's body is not entirely unlike the religious or spiritual concept of possession. However, Ultraman does not attempt to control Hayata's decision-making. Hayata's mind and spirit are permitted to control his body under ordinary circumstances, but it is likely, as evidenced by many close calls to Hayata's life, that Ultraman can intercede in some way to protect Hayata's body. Ultraman can change from human form to his normal form as long as a sufficient energy source is triggered in the vicinity of Hayata's body. The Beta Capsule acts as a convenient catalyst, and can be triggered by rough contact or a fall, and not just by Hayata's control. Still, it is unlikely that the device would do anything if too far from Hayata's body. Without a sufficient triggering energy source, Ultraman's spirit is trapped within Hayata, and cannot assume its normal form. The Beta Capsule remains after the transformation, and may adhere magnetically to Ultraman's body to prevent its loss, but the details of this are not clear. Still, a sharp blow from Gomora (or Gahora, in the English version) was sufficient to knock the Beta capsule loose from Ultraman. Ultraman does not have to appear precisely where Hayata was standing, but usually appears very close to that location, and often in a similar pose. For instance, in one occasion when Hayata was the top of a building in a city during a mission where a monster was attacking it, the beta capsule fell out of its hiding place and landed on a ledge below. With Hayata needing to transform immediately and having no way to reach the device safely, the Science Officer took an extraordinary gamble: he threw himself head first off the building and managed to grab the capsule and activate it as he fell. As a result, Ultraman appeared on the ground safely on his feet with the help of his transformation power. Hayata's body seems to be incorporated temporarily into that of Ultraman when Ultraman appears. In one episode, it is revealed that Ultraman changes back to human form by beaming a spiral of energy from his hands to a point on the ground. Once Hayata's body materializes within this spiral, Ultraman's body vanishes.
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 Color Timer 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." Some sources have given 2:10 as the mark where the Timer begins to blink. Obviously at this point, Ultraman typically must defeat his foe as soon as possible and return to his human host. However, Ultraman occasionally has been able to recharge to extend his operating time.
Ultraman rarely talks, and when he does, it seems to be telepathic. Early in Episode 1, he has a discussion with Hayata in this manner, and in the final episode he and Zoffy have a similar discussion. Ultraman usually shouts and barks in reverberating humanlike cries while fighting a monster. Although he has several grunts of exertion, or "kiyis," he has one extremely iconic phrase: "Shuwatch!" (シュワッチ), which he shouts when jumping into the air to fly. In Japanese pop-culture, "Shuwatch" or 'Shoowatch' has been a famous phrase most associated with Ultraman.

The Science Patrol's arsenal
Jet VTOL (AKA: Jet Beetle) - The Science Patrol's iconic principal craft. Frequently just called the "VTOL/Beetle". (The prop for the Jet VTOL was originally from the 1962 Toho SF epic, Gorath, but repainted and probably modified for this series. It should be noted that the Gorath prop was slightly pointier than the rounded VTOL.) Up to three are seen. A hydro-rocket mod is later built for it, allowing it to go into space.
Mini-VTOL (AKA: Mini-Beetle) - A smaller, triangular version of the Jet VTOL. It is actually a STOL with no VTOL capabilities, but is still called as such. This was the vehicle piloted by Hayata when he crashed into Ultraman in the first episode. Generally not used to attack monsters, as it lacks firepower and carrying space.
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. Appears to have its own incidental music when it is first used.
Science Patrol Car - A silver 1963 Chevrolet Corvair with the Science Patrol logo on the doors. Appears to be specially built somehow.
Supergun - The basic laser gun carried by each Science Patrol member. The barrel flips out from the handle, then fires a wave of what looks like electricity. Three of them can be combined for a "triple shot", which is powerful enough to take down a (revived) monster). Returns for an episode of Ultraman Dyna.
Spider-Shot - The heavy atomic gun. Arashi's favorite weapon. Clearly more powerful than the Supergun, and has at least two different settings.
Mars 133 - A "laser" gun that works on the same principal as Ultraman's Spacium Ray - and is thus mortally effective against Baltans. Name is read "Mars ichi-san-san" (one-three-three).
QX Gun - This weapon attacks a monster's nervous system. Stands for "Quickly eXtinguish Gun".
Mad Bazooka Freakishly large cannon occasionally brought out by Arashi when the Spider-Shot just isn't enough.
Spark 8 Attachment for the Supergun. Invented by Ide, and used by him. Fire rapid shots. The effect is best described as a gattling gun that 'erases' parts of a monster from existence. Judging from its only usage, it is easily the most effective handheld weapon the Science Patrol has, yet is only used once, against Geronimon.
Monster Translator - Invented by Ide to translate a monster's language. Used for the friendly monster Pigmon, who helped the Science Patrol in two episodes. A more modern version is invented early on in Ultraman Tiga.

Monsters
In alphabetical Order
Aboras
Antlar
Baltan
Banila
Bemular
Bullton
Chandrah
Dada monster
Dodongo monster
Dorako
Gabadon
Gabora
Gamakujira
Geronimon
Gesura
Gigas
Goldun
Gomora ("Gahora" in the US)
Greenmons
Gubira
Gyango
Hidora
Jamila
Jirass
Keelar
Kemular
Kemur
Magla
Mephiras
Meklas-Zarab
Neronga
Pestar
Pigmon
Ragon
Red King
Seabouz
Skydon
Telesdon
Zanbolar
Zaragas
Z-Ton (Read Zet-ton).
Licensing rights dispute
DVD release
The American company BCI Eclipse has announced that they will release the entire Ultraman series on DVD with extras. The first half of the series is currently scheduled for release on July 18, 2006, with the remainder scheduled for October.Because of a licensing rights dispute, BCI Eclipse was not able to work with Tsuburaya Productions, the creator and copyright owner of Ultraman, who also own the master negatives to the series. Instead they acquired licensing through Thailand-based Chaiyo Productions.

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