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Ultraman is Here

John on July 18, 2006 at 11:25 am

ultraman.jpg

When I was four my parents divorced. My mom got custory of my sister and me (always the case in the early 70′s I’m told), but she had to work during the day. So we stayed with my grandmother at her house in Washington DC.

I have a lot of good memories of those days. One of the things I remember is watching WDCA 20 in the afternoon. I was usually allowed to watch from about 1PM to 3PM. My favorite shows were all Japanese imports. There was Speed Racer, Kimba the White Lion, Johnny Socko’s Flying Robot and my absolute favorite, Ultraman.

science_patrol.jpgIf you never saw Ultraman as a kid, you missed out. This was a show produced in 1966 involving a team of orange-jumsuit clad agents called the “Science Patrol.” They had a cool headquarters that looked a bit like the bridge of the Enterprise. Their job was to protect Earth from monsters that were constantly appearing (usually in Japan).

The show itself was created by Elia Tsubaraya, the man who created the special effects for the international hit Godzilla back in 1956. If you’re under 35 years old, none of this is ringing any bells, but you may be familiar with the Beastie Boys “Intergalactic” video, which contains a kind of tribute to Ultraman.

The Story

In the first episode of Ultraman the heroic pilot Hayata is killed when his rocketship crashes into a ball of light from another world. This ball of light turns out to be the ship of an intergalactic policeman of sorts. This powerful visitor shares his life force with Hayata, allowing him to live on and, whenever things get dire, to transform himself into Ultraman.

The formula of the show is pretty simple. Every week Earth is invaded by a new monster. The Science Patrol does its best but in the end only Ultraman can save the day. This took the form of an exciting 3 minute fight. Usually, Ultraman ended the fight by using his special laser hand-weapon called the “specium beam.”

Adding to the suspense was the fact that Ultraman only had a few minutes to polish off his opponents before the “timer light” on his chest would begin blinking to signal that he was low on energy. Every week the narrator would announce that “should Ultraman’s timer light go out, he would never rise again.” As kids’ entertainment it just doesn’t get any better. Here’s a sample, courtesy of You Tube.

YouTube Preview Image

ultramanland.jpgUltraman was quite popular in the US and parts of South America, but it was a huge hit in Japan and other Asian countries. I read somewhere once that Ultraman is the #2 most recognizable character worldwide after Mickey Mouse. He even has his own theme park in Japan, though it’s a decidedly smaller affair than Disneyland.

Well, as you can see from the image at the top of this post, Ultraman has finally made it to DVD. The show has been released several times in Japan but never in the US. The major reason was a lawsuit over who had international rights to the character. The suit went to the Japanese Supreme Court twice and finally was resolved in favor of a Thai company called Chaiyo (those interested in the full story can go here). It’s unfortunate that Tsuburaya lost the rights to the show. Still, after 20 years of waiting for them to do something with it, Chaiyo has finally made it happen.

Today is a long awaited day that brings back good memories of my childhood. I’ve already picked up my copy.

SCOTT ADDS:

Please join with me in prayer for John and all others afflicted with this strange obsession!

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Category: TV |

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