A SPECIAL EFFECTS FANTASY: The ULTRAMAN Master Post

U40ULTRAMAN premiered fifty years ago on this day. I decided to spend three months watching all 39 episodes of it, and then spent another three months writing about those episodes and posting them on this site. Just to make navigation a little easier, here are links to all the posts in the proper episode order. If you want to read them in the order they were posted (because I watched and wrote about them in a non-linear fashion, as I am wont to do), just use the tag. I’m also watching and writing about ULTRAMAN‘s predecessor, ULTRA Q (which celebrated its own fiftieth anniversary in January).

You can watch all these shows on Shout Factory’s streaming site. And, hey, you can now watch the current entry in the series, ULTRAMAN ORB, on Crunchyroll.

HERE HE COMES, OUR ULTRAMAN: AN INTRODUCTION (3/7/16)
Episode 1: Ultra Operation No. 1 (4/6/16)
Episode 2: Defeat The Invaders!  (3/14/16)
Episode 3: Sally Forth, Science Patrol! (4/8/16)
Episode 4: 5 Seconds Before The Big Explosion! (5/13/16)
Episode 5: Treasure Of The Miloganda (5/20/16)
Episode 6: The Coast Guard Command (5/2/16)
Episode 7: The Blue Stone Of Baradhi (3/23/16)
Episode 8: The Lawless Monster Zone (3/11/16)
Episode 9: Operation: Lightning Speed (4/22/16)
Episode 10: The Mysterious Dinosaur Base (4/4/16)
Episode 11: The Ruffian From Outer Space (3/30/16)
Episode 12: The Cries Of The Mummy (5/9/16)
Episode 13: Oil S.O.S. (3/25/16)
Episode 14: The Pearl Oyster Protection Directive (3/25/16)
Episode 15: The Terrifying Cosmic Rays (4/25/16)
Episode 16: The Science Patrol To Outer Space (3/28/16)
Episode 17: Passport To Infinity (3/16/16)
Episode 18: The Brother From Another Planet (4/18/16)
Episode 19: The Demons Once More (5/18/16)
Episode 20: Terror On Route 87 (5/25/16)
Episode 21: Break Through The Smoke (4/20/16)
Episode 22: The Underground Destruction Work (5/23/16)
Episode 23: My Home Is Earth (3/9/16)
Episode 24: The Undersea Science Base (5/6/16)
Episode 25: Mystery Comet Tsuifon (4/1/16)
Episodes 26-27: Monster Majesty Parts 1 & 2 (5/11/16)
Episode 28: Human Specimens 5 & 6 (3/28/16)
Episode 29: A Challenge To The Underground (4/15/16)
Episode 30: The Snowy Mountain Of Illusions (5/4/16)
Episode 31: Who Has Come? (4/29/16)
Episode 32: The Endless Counterattack (5/16/16)
Episode 33: The Forbidden Words (3/18/16)
Episode 34: Gift From The Sky (4/27/16)
Episode 35: The Monster Graveyard (4/11/16)
Episode 36: Don’t Shoot, Arashi! (5/27/16)
Episode 37: The Little Hero (3/21/16)
Episode 38: The Spaceship Rescue Command (5/30/16)
Episode 39: Farewell, Ultraman! (4/13/16)

ULTRA Q episode 13, “Garadama” & episode 16, “Garamon Strikes Back”

UQ13UQ16

MONSTER OF THE WEEK: The Meteorite Monster Garamon & The Space Phantom Cicada Man

The first thing I noticed in both these episodes is the sheer level of destruction on display – the first has a lake drained, a rural village flooded, and a dam destroyed, while the second sees Tokyo under siege – which seems to be going for the disturbing feeling of a natural disaster, especially since a lot of it occurs before the monster even appears. It’s especially emphasized in “Garadama” because of how little plot there is – most of the episode is taken up by the devastation, then a quick succession of menacing monster and solution, and then some basic human drama (there’s more of it in “Garamon Strikes Back”, where the chase-the-alien plot takes centre stage), giving the whole thing a strange disconnect. These are weirdly dark and foreboding stories, where not even the endings give reassurance – in fact, both end with the promise that disasters like this could happen again.

The very nature of the monster itself works into the off-putting conflation of natural disaster and intelligently-made weapon – a nearly brainless mechanical creature who only follows radio signals, it spends most of the first episode futzing around only because its finding its external direction, a combination of mindless rampaging and sinister control from afar. This is made even more explicit in the second episode, where the monsters are controlled by the now very present sinister forces. Speaking of duality, the first episode has a rural area where the monster’s control is in the city, while the second has the control being smuggled into the country while the monsters devastate the city. The connection between the urban and the rural through technology is an interesting idea, especially when taken in this near-horror direction, where one side unconsciously harms the other, connection without communication – it presents a very wary, cynical view of communications, one that doesn’t even need alien invaders.

Here Comes Your ‘Mon, Vol. III: Friend To All Children

This is where things start getting really interesting. Once they get a lot of the early Pokémon out of the way, they start showing a greater variety – more of the unique ones, the surprises, the weirdos. The stuff that really defines the region/generation. The ones who don’t necessarily have to carry the bulk of the marketing, so they can be whatever. We’ve got a fairly eclectic bunch this time, so I have stuff to write about without repeating myself too much hopefully!

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